THE tide in the war in Ukraine is starting to turn. This is bad news for America and its Nato allies and means President Vladimir Putin of Russia's waning international reputation and influence could grow in the next year or two.
With further successes for Russian forces, China increasingly asserting its voice in the world, Brics+ expanding and sentiment gradually turning against Israel and its allies in the war in Gaza, one can predict a significant shift in the international balance of power.
If Donald Trump is elected US president in November, which looks like an increasing possibility, it will expedite this.
“Russia is no longer losing the war, or the terrain it seized, and so Ukraine is definitely not winning it,” says CNN's international security correspondent and experienced journalist regularly on the ground in Ukraine, Nick Paton Walsh. This American news network is one of Kyiv's strongest supporters.
Walsh's view is supported by most Western military experts and eastern Europe specialists.
Israel's bloody war in Gaza, possibly facilitated by heavy financial and military support from America, also has a negative impact on Ukraine.
Ukraine surprised Putin when it halted the invasion on February 24, 2022, preventing Russian forces not only from occupying Kyiv but also inflicting sporadic setbacks. However, Russian forces have since adjusted their tactics and significantly increased the number of soldiers and military hardware.
Putin appeared shaky last June after being challenged by his old ally and founder of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, but has since strengthened his position in the Kremlin and the country. Prigozhin is now dead after his plane was shot down.
If Kyiv continues to lose ground, it will not be the fault of the Ukrainian military and civilians.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has been clear from the start: Ukraine has the will and the people to stop Putin, but without Western support in weapons and money it is powerless. His foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, recently reiterated this to the West: you don't have to lose a single life or send a soldier; we will fight the war against Russian imperialism for you. But you must empower us to do it.
Initially, America, Britain and Europe complied, but domestic politics in the US and Ukraine fatigue in Europe are seriously undermining this. The Republican Party has just blocked a proposal in Congress for further support to Ukraine.
Donald Trump's Maga movement is becoming increasingly pro-Putin. Yesterday's interview with Putin by influential television personality Tucker Carlson, watched by millions via Twitter/X, YouTube and Carlson's website, will further boost this sentiment.
Carlson has nearly 12 million followers on Twitter/X. Trump has already indicated that he is considering Carlson as a vice-presidential running mate.
Like Trump, the former Fox News host has repeatedly expressed his admiration for Putin and made negative comments about Zelensky. He is being treated like an international celebrity by Russian state media during his visit to Moscow, with cameras following him everywhere and reporting on where he stays, eats and charges his phone.
Carlson, in a previous video announcing his interview, said he wanted to talk to Putin because no Western journalists ever want to interview the Russian president. More than 60 million people had watched the video by Wednesday.
Many of America, Britain and Europe's leading journalists immediately challenged him on this.
The writer and contributor to The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum, said: “Many journalists have interviewed Putin, who also makes frequent, widely covered speeches. Carlson's interview is different because he is not a journalist; he's a propagandist, with a history of helping autocrats conceal corruption.”
Christiane Amanpour dismissed Carlson's statement as “absurd” and said she and many other journalists regularly ask for an interview with Putin. CNN's Abby Phillip exposed his lies: ‘That's a lie': Abby Phillip calls out Tucker Carlson's Putin announcemenT.
Carlson neglected to mention that among the many journalists in Russia's prisons, there are two Westerners, Evan Gershkovich of the Wall Street Journal and Alsu Kurmasheva of Radio Free Europe, and that more than 1,000 Russian journalists have had to leave the country.
One of them, Yevgenia Albats, said on Twitter/X yesterday: “Unbelievable! I am like hundreds of Russian journalists who have had to go into exile to keep reporting about the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine. The alternative was to go to jail. And now this SoB is teaching us about good journalism, shooting from the $1,000 Ritz suite in Moscow.”
Putin is playing the Trump base like a violin and reinforcing all their prejudices; about LGBTQ rights, the family as the basis of the community, migration, identity, religion, law and order, the liberals allegedly being paedophiles, and more:
The world's richest man and owner of Twitter/X, Elon Musk, is also getting closer to the Maga base these days, and Carlson thanked him the day before yesterday for airing the unedited Putin interview on Twitter/X. Here was his harsh criticism of American journalists doing interviews with Zelensky:
The European Council on Foreign Relations' senior researcher, Gustav Gressel, describes the possible negative scenario in Ukraine as follows:
“Trump becomes the presidential nominee, and increasingly anti-Ukrainian rhetoric dominates US discourse. In Congress, Republicans want to see Biden fail under any circumstances and refuse to accept horse-trades to keep the supply lines to Ukraine open. Europeans still send arms, but they lack the production capabilities and reserve stock needed to make up for the US. They fail to agree on long-term funding in the European Peace Facility, or to conclude large, long-term contracts for vehicles or ammunition, meaning the production capability of the European defence industry barely changes. At the same time, European defence-industrial cooperation with Ukraine faces difficulties.
“Ukrainian forces thus find themselves increasingly short of the shells and missiles they need just to maintain even defensive action. The Russian armed forces exploit this situation to increase the pressure on Ukrainian lines. Russian breakthroughs can only be contained by Ukrainian forces retreating. This pressure prevents Ukraine from properly rotating its forces in the front, leaving it unable to pull brigades from line duty to train and reconstitute them. By the end of 2024, most Ukrainian brigades are tired and exhausted.
“In the absence of US deliveries, Ukraine runs critically short of surface-to-air missiles and air-to-air missiles for its fighter force. Russia exploits this by quickening the pace of strategic bombing against Ukrainian cities. Shahed drones probe local air defences, with conventional fighters following up by joining cruise missile attacks. These bombing campaigns impede Ukraine’s plans to resurrect its defence industry and replace Western combat systems with domestically produced systems. The increasingly grim outlook convinces many Ukrainians to flee. By the end of 2024, 10 million Ukrainians have fled to the EU, with numbers rising. The cost to Europeans of hosting refugees far outweighs the cost of assisting Kyiv militarily.
“At the end of the year, Trump defeats Biden. Panic grips Europe, and many European capitals halt deliveries to Ukraine altogether, funnelling military supplies into their own armed forces in expectation of a US withdrawal from Europe and imminent Russian attacks on their own countries. The war in Ukraine is seen as lost by most in the West, although Ukraine itself keeps fighting against the odds.”
A former senior official in the Trump administration and Russia specialist, Fiona Hill, warned in her latest book and again in an interview with Politico that America's domestic politics and growing authoritarianism there and elsewhere could mean Ukraine's downfall.
“Ukraine has become a battlefield now for America and America’s own future — whether we see it or not — for our own defensive posture and preparedness, for our reputation and our leadership. For Putin, Ukraine is a proxy war against the United States, to remove the United States from the world stage.
“The problem is that many members of Congress don’t want to see President Biden win on any front. People are incapable now of separating off ‘giving Biden a win’ from actually allowing Ukraine to win. They are thinking less about US national security, European security, international security and foreign policy, and much more about how they can humiliate Biden.”
♦ VWB ♦
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