Putin’s Dilemma — Editorial 1
America was determined to stop Nord Stream 2. But for different reasons than most people think. People assume that it wished to stop it because it meant America could find a lucrative market for its Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). That was undoubtedly a positive result from America’s perspective. But that was not the main reason that America wanted to stop Nord Stream 2.
It had to be stopped because, the fact that Europe could develop a functional commercial relationship with Russia, implied that Europe no longer saw Russia as an existential threat.
That could only lead to further trading and commercial agreements between Russia and Europe with the clear implication that NATO and the US were no longer essential for the security and development of Europe. The implementation of Nord Stream 2 would have meant that a new commercial and trading block was coming into existence in the form of Europe and Russia and Asia that would be independent of the US.
A problem had to be manufactured that would stop this significant step in the ending of US hegemony. And so, the right of a large country on the borders of Russia to become a member of NATO and to host NATO missiles (which would be a clear threat to Russian security) was devised.
The Europeans were clearly unhappy with this scheming. Although in 2013 they had schemed to pull Ukraine into the European sphere of influence, by 2022 they had no interest in letting Ukraine join NATO. But they were not prepared to publicly state that there would be no further expansion of NATO.
Yet again a weak Europe allowed its national interests to be subordinated to the needs of American hegemony. Instead of proclaiming loudly and clearly that NATO should close itself to further membership, President Macron from France and Chancellor Scholz from Germany, went to Moscow and told Putin in private that Ukraine would not be allowed to join NATO while they were governing France and Germany. Putin was understandably unimpressed.
He decided therefore to recognize the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as independent states. If these states requested his help to defend themselves against attacks by the Ukrainian State he would provide it.
It remains to be seen whether Putin’s move is a good one. It is certainly clear to the entire world that Putin is not prepared to let the security of Russia be impaired in any way. And it would be impossible now for Ukraine to be allowed to join NATO since its borders are in dispute. So to some extent Putin has achieved his objective.
However, Putin’s move has the unsatisfactory result that it has locked Europe firmly into the American camp. The immediate effect is that the Europeans will be dependent on imports of American LNG but the long-term geopolitical effect is more important. It has for now ended the commercial integration of Russia with Europe. This represents a definite victory for US foreign policy.
But therein lies Putin’s dilemma. The European leaders have never been able to see their own interests outside of the interests of American hegemony. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union they have consistently backed the US in its destruction of functioning states like Iraq, Libya and Syria. After long conversations with the leaders of France and Germany Putin may well have decided they could not be trusted to guarantee Russian security and has acted accordingly. For Russia this had become an existential issue and if the result is a neutral Ukraine and a discredited NATO that is also a major victory for Russian foreign policy. Putin had no choice but to act and did so considering what was to be the lesser evil. It remains to be seen whether Europe will ever be able to determine its own interest outside of the interests of American hegemony.
For a paragraph on Ukraine and nuclear weapons see here