The West, especially Europe, will soon be forced to accept a new Russian reality, explains Scott Ritter in The American Conservative. Russia’s new pipelines that skirt around Eastern Europe will remove much of Ukraine’s leverage in relations with the Russians. Ritter suggests that now is the time to reevaluate Russian relations to prepare a new way forward because “The status quo, moreover, plays exclusively into Russia’s hand.” Ritter writes (abridged):
Unlike its one-way battles with Iraq, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS, where air supremacy was guaranteed, not only would the airspace over and around Kaliningrad be heavily contested, the Russians would not be passive targets.
Russia has the ability to strike back at America and its European allies with a full spectrum of capabilities that would degrade command and control, neutralize air bases, and change the reality on the ground as thousands of Russian tanks and armored vehicles advanced with no viable U.S. or NATO ground combat response.
The issue of Kaliningrad is itself a direct extension of the conflict in Ukraine. Poland and the Baltic States have used the Russian annexation of Crimea and related intervention in Donbas to create the perception of an overarching Russian military threat to Eastern Europe in particular, and NATO as a whole, that is unmatched by reality. Simple cause-and-effect analysis shows that Russia’s military build-up in its districts that border NATO has been reactive in nature and primarily defensive in character.
So long as the U.S. and Europe embrace the unrealistic demand of Russia’s withdrawal from Crimea and corresponding surrender on the economic and political realignment of Ukraine with the West, Moscow will be compelled to maintain the status quo
The status quo, moreover, plays exclusively into Russia’s hand.
By the end of the year, the Nordstream-2 gas pipeline will come online, linking Russian natural gas supplies with the German and, by extension, European economies. In addition to making Europe more dependent upon Russian gas supplies, the Nordstream-2 makes older pipelines running through Ukraine redundant. Russia will most likely stop transporting gas through these pipelines, starving Ukraine of the billions of dollars in transit fees that sustain its economy.
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