It seems that normalcy will soon come back to Europe, without a war, despite all the efforts the US and its Western allies have used to push Russia to the wall. The Western rumours that have been spread lately by the media about the timing of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, about which Vladimir Putin said, "it seems I am the only one who did not know about it", were designed to embarrass Putin among his European partners, on the one hand, and to push Putin not to use Ukraine in his security equation with the US and NATO, on the other.
All these Western efforts have come to backfire in favour of Russia, which recently announced the partial withdrawal of its forces from the Russia-Ukraine border, as a reaction to the new Ukrainian position that excludes its partnership of NATO, just as what several European leaders think. The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced that he and his country will not bear alone the consequences of a Russian invasion of his country while the US, its European allies and NATO stand by watching, if they choose to sanction Russia as a reaction to its invasion. Zelensky finally reached the conclusion that the delay of Ukraine's dream to become a member of NATO might be exactly what Putin planned for, by moving the Russian forces towards Ukraine's border, and spreading tension in the region.
What Russia wanted from Ukraine, during this time, was just to abandon its efforts to become a part of NATO. Russia achieved this goal by moving its military forces near Ukraine's border. There is no need for Russia to wage a war against Ukraine now, compared to 2014,, when it seized the Crimea Peninsula and its main port on the Black Sea, which is strategically important to Russia, as it constitutes its way to the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, Russia has succeeded, since that time, to create an unstable situation in East Ukraine by supporting the separation of Donetsk and Lugansk provinces in the Donbass region from the central government, and threatened to recognise their independence amid Western rejection, without being directly involved in a war with Ukraine.
Russia does not hide its security policy in Europe, which is to limit the spread of NATO towards the East, in order to protect its influence and security in nearby neighbouring countries, the former countries of the Soviet Union. Russia considers this as its main strategic goal in that European area. For two decades, Russia has fought for this goal, using its advantage of having a heritage and historical legacy in the neighbouring countries by its demographic, cultural, linguistic extension and influence on these countries. That is why Russia loosely defines the concept of citizenship and considers the protection of its citizens abroad as one of its main tools to achieve its strategic goal in Europe. Russia uses the protection of its citizens abroad as a pretext for its intervention in the neighbouring countries that it might use as a hard power, if necessary, something that happened in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.
Although Russia does not keep all of the former Soviet Union countries under its absolute dominance, it nevertheless succeeds in imposing its security vision on these countries, as well as on the western European countries. The evolving Ukraine crisis since 2014 has attested to that. Russia uses several tools to keep its influence on the former Soviet Union countries and to contain the expansion of NATO among them. The tools range from soft power to hard power. The treaty of Collective Security and Eurasian Economic Union are examples for soft power that Russia uses to keep its influence among its neighbouring countries, in addition to economic and security aid, while invading Ukraine and Georgia are examples of hard power.
The United States of America did not make any gains from the current Russia-Ukraine crisis up to now, despite all its efforts to fuel and exploit the crisis. Washington is trying to aggravate the relationship between Russia and Western European countries, especially Germany, in light of the convergence of interest between the two countries. This is clearly reflected in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project that might lead to more cooperation projects in the near future, not only in the economic fields but also in political and security fields, which Washington does not want. The convergence between the two superpowers, Russia and Germany, will not work in favour of Washington and its unipolar position and, if we go back in history, this kind of alliance between Russia and Germany also did not work in favour of the western world, too.
Russia has strengthened its relationship, not only with Germany but also with France, which supported the reactivation of the European relationship with Russia in 2019, in addition to Turkey, which defied the US to obtain the Russian S-400 missiles which inflamed a crisis between allies. Today, Russia is a part of the European system, although not officially, and one of the main reasons for the division within Europe. The Russia-Ukraine crisis reflects the transition of the current international system from an unpopular American system, which the US tries to sustain, with but no hope, to a new multi-polar system. Washington has to contend, not only with the rise of China but also with the influence of Russia, as well as with some European powers. There is no war between Russia and Ukraine now, but war is likely to erupt at some point in the future because of the disruption of the international order which can yield wars.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.