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Melkulangara Bhadrakumar

US Climbs Escalation Ladder in Ukraine

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In all probability, the message conveyed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov from his American counterpart Antony Blinken via Israel’s new foreign minister Eli Cohen concerned the Ukrainian missile attack on Makeyevka (Donetsk) on New Year Day at 12.02 am killing 89 Russian conscripts.
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Ukraine War Tolls Death Knell for NATO

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The defining moment in US President Joe Biden’s press conference at the White House last Wednesday, during President Zelensky’s visit, was his virtual admission that he is constrained in the proxy war in Ukraine, as European allies don’t want a war with Russia. 

To quote Biden, “Now, you say, ‘Why don’t we just give Ukraine everything there is to give?’ Well, for two reasons. One, there’s an entire Alliance that is critical to stay with Ukraine. And the idea that we would give Ukraine material that is fundamentally different than is already going there would have a prospect of breaking up NATO and breaking up the European Union and the rest of the world… I’ve spent several hundred hours face-to-face with our European allies and the heads of state of those countries, and making the case as to why it was overwhelmingly in their interest that they continue to support Ukraine… They understand it fully, but they’re not looking to go to war with Russia. They’re not looking for a third World War.”

Biden realised at that point that “I probably already said too much” and abruptly ended the press conference. He probably forgot that he was dwelling on the fragility of Western unity.

The whole point is that the western commentariat largely forgets that Russia’s core agenda is not about territorial conquest — much as Ukraine is vital to Russian interests — but about NATO expansion. And that has not changed.
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Conflict in Ukraine is Doomed to Escalate

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The meet-up location of NATO foreign ministers on November 29-30— Bucharest — was where ten years ago, former US President George W. Bush persuaded America’s transatlantic partners that Ukraine and Georgia should one day join their military alliance. The foreign ministers duly “reaffirmed” that decision yesterday and left it at that.
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The West Bullies Iran, Again

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The manner in which Tehran handled its drone deal with Russia has been somewhat clumsy. The fact that the first ‘leak’ on this topic originated from none other than President Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan should have alerted Tehran that something sinister was afoot. 

Instead, for whatever reasons, Tehran went into a flat denial mode. And now in a turnaround, we are given to understand that Iran’s denial was factually correct, albeit not wholly true in content. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has acknowledged that the “drone part is true, and we provided Russia with a small number of drones months before the Ukraine war.” 

The minister added the caveat that “This fuss made by some Western countries, that Iran has provided missiles and drones to Russia to help the war in Ukraine — the missile part is completely wrong.” 

Howsoever good Iran’s drone technology might be, it has not been a game changer for Russia in the war in Ukraine. Russia’s own missile capability is surprising even the western experts who had predicted months ago that it was “running out” of its inventory. In fact, the missile strikes may continue until Ukraine collapses and the West has no meaningful interlocutor left in Kiev’s rubble.
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Who’s Afraid of US Troops in Ukraine?

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Very innocuously, the Biden Administration has ‘sensitised’ the world opinion that American troops are indeed present on Ukrainian soil in Russia’s immediate neighbourhood. Washington made a “soft landing” with an unnamed senior Pentagon official making the disclosure to the Associated Press and the Washington Post. 

The official gave an ingenious explanation that the US troops “have recently begun doing onsite inspections to ensure” that Ukraine is “properly accounting” for the Western weapons it received. He claimed that this was part of a broader US campaign, announced last week by the State Department, “meant to make sure that weapons provided to Ukraine don’t end up in the hands of Russian troops, their proxies or other extremist groups.” 

In effect, though, President Biden is eating his own word not to have ‘boots on the ground’ in Ukraine under any circumstances. There is always the real danger that the clutch of Americans on tour in Ukraine may come under fire from the Russian forces. In fact, the US deployment comes against the backdrop of intense Russian missile and drone attacks currently on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. 

Plainly put, wittingly or unwittingly, the US is going up the escalation ladder. So far, the US intervention involved deployment of military advisors to the Ukrainian military command, supply of intelligence in real time, planning and execution of operations against Russian forces and allowing American mercenaries to do the fighting, apart from steady supply of tens of billions of dollars worth weaponry.
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Ukraine War is ‘Biden’s war’ Now

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The most obvious explanation to the mysterious air dash of the UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace to Washington on Tuesday could be that he was canvassing for the support of the Biden Administration for his pitch to succeed Liz Truss as Britain’s next prime minister. But another plausible explanation can be that the secret, hurried trip marked a defining moment in the conflict in Ukraine, which is showing all signs of turning into a full-fledged war. 

To be sure, the Biden team cannot but be worried that London is drifting into chaos and the Conservative Party’s faction leaders scurry around like headless chicken looking for a substitute to Truss who stepped down on Thursday. 

The British economy is disintegrating and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt anticipates that a cut on the defence budget is inevitable. That is to say, the Deep State’s fun and frolic in Kiev is no longer affordable. The UK is heading for hard times, the rubric of Global Britain looks delusional. 

Enter President Biden. The reports from Moscow suggest that Russians have hard intelligence to the effect that Washington has demanded from President Zelensky some spectacular performance on the battlefield as the midterms in the US on November 8 is round the corner.
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A perfect storm in US foreign policy

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The old adage is that a good foreign policy is the reflection of the national policy. A perfect storm is brewing on the foreign policy front in America triggered by the OPEC decision on Thursday to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day, which will on the one hand drive up the gas price for the domestic consumer and on the other hand expose the Biden Administration’s lop-sided foreign policy priorities. 

At its most obvious level, the OPEC decision confirms the belief that Washington has lost its leverage with the cartel of oil-producing countries. This is being attributed to the deterioration of the US’ relations with Saudi Arabia during the Biden presidency. But, fundamentally, a contradiction has arisen between the US interests and the interests of the oil producing countries. 

Contradictions are nothing new to the geopolitics of oil. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed two major “oil crises.” One was man-made while the other was an interplay of historical forces — the Yom-Kippur War of 1973 and the Iranian Revolution of 1979. 

In the downstream of the Yom-Kippur War, the Arab nations weaponised oil and proclaimed an oil embargo on western nations which were perceived to have supported Israel in the war. The result was that the price of oil rose nearly 300% in less than 6 months, crippling the world’s economy.
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Russian regrouping in Kharkov will speed up Battle of Donbass

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The New York Times has disclosed that the US shared vital intelligence with the Ukrainian military and took part in the preparation of the latter’s current “counteroffensive” near Kharkov. No matter the Biden Administration’s motivations in publicising its role in what western media is celebrating as a success story — presumably, with an eye on domestic politics in America — it could be factually correct. The media leak puts the dramatic happenings in the past 3-4 days in proper perspective. 

There are two ways of looking at the surge by the Ukrainian military: one, Kiev has inflicted a heavy defeat on the Russians and forced them to retreat, or, the American intelligence finally got wind of the unobtrusive thinning out of the Russian frontline in Kharkov that had been going on in the recent weeks as part of a larger re-deployment of military formations, and shared the intelligence with Kiev, who of course gleefully acted on it. 

The New York Times report effectively confirms the latter reading of the situation, which has been the stuff of hearsay and whispers so far. 

Indeed, there has been hardly any fighting as such in Kharkov region during this Ukrainian surge, and the Russian focus was, unsurprisingly, to pull out the residual forces in the frontline under the cover of heavy artillery fire. The Russian operation ensured that there was no significant casualty. The new frontline that was being steadily put together in the recent weeks (or months) along the Oskol River has crystallised.
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