There are three main circles of conflict that will form the strategic world map until the middle of the 21st century – the conflict over Eastern Europe, Middle East, and the Pacific Ocean with many dramatic developments that would change the balance of power at the international level.
Bogus threats, which the two super powers raise against each other, will leave countries that have no form of alliances to be weak. Since the histrionic development of Western Europe in the 19th and mid-20th centuries to the global power map, all major world wars have become almost European wars, including those of colonial supremacy and ascendancy, wars of colonial rivalry, and continental power.
After the end of the Cold War, Europe seemed to be on its way to a long era of unprecedented peace and prosperity until the eruption of the Ukrainian conflict in 2014.
Recent events in Eastern Europe seem to signal a return of the crisis between Russia and Ukraine as long as the issue of Eastern Ukraine is not resolved so far even after four years of conflict. Europe has now “a new concern” to resolve its strategic choices as European states are between the hammer of tensions in Eastern Europe on one hand, and the escalating political escalation between the US and Russia amidst political, economic and military rivalries between Moscow and Washington.
Military sources confirm that the US has deployed winged and ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe amidst intentions to deploy more than 5,000 Western troops in the continent with a number of tanks, armored vehicles and other military equipment. This of course means more military presence in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as Poland.
Russia is not Soviet Union and will not be able to bear the burden of a new Cold War, but it is difficult to imagine a major Russian decline due to mere economic and financial pressuresShehab Al-Makahleh
The upper hand
On the other hand, though the Ukrainian army has a large military force compared to other Eastern European countries, its army cannot be compared to the Russians, which has the upper hand in Ukraine now.
As a result, Kiev is moving in full coordination with the West, especially with the US, to maintain the balance of power in the region and not lose more of its territory to Russian allies. In other words, Kiev does not make any move without American approval.
The so-called “Operation Atlantic Resolve”, 2018 in Eastern Europe aims to give a signal to Russia to stop intervening in Eastern European affairs, especially in Ukraine. The substantial movement of heavy military vehicles to be located in strategic sites in Eastern Europe and the Baltics are another signal to Russia.
More than 3,300 American soldiers of the 1st armored brigade and 1st Cavalry Division with more than 2,500 pieces of equipment sound a strong message to Russia and a show of force near Russian borders with Europe and to comfort American allies in Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states.
Reasons behind US-Russian tension in Eastern Europe
The tension in eastern parts of Europe has increased recently. One of the reasons behind the escalation of tensions in Eastern Europe as stated by the western states is Russia’s continuous rejection of Western troops in Ukraine and in Eastern Europe, with Moscow blaming the West for instigating the conflict and fueling it by Russian borders, which would lead to NATO intervention to support Kiev.
The second is the recent activities of the Russian-backed opposition forces in the ceasefire zones. The third is the increase of Ukrainian military activity in return for increased military activity of the opposition.
Moreover, Washington is working to provoke Russia by proposing the dispatch of UN peacekeepers to the disputed region of Donbass in order to provide the appropriate conditions for the Ukrainian government to restore control over the opposition region. Most importantly, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a law regarding the “re-integration of Donbass”, which Russia considered a dangerous escalation in southeastern Ukraine.
Moscow considered that Poroshenko’s signature on the law effectively annuls the Minsk agreements and prepares for war as the law does not refer to any sorts of talks or direct dialogue with the authorities of the two “unrecognized republics”: The Donbass and Lugansk.
US interests in Eastern Europe
Moscow considers Washington directly responsible for all the provocative actions of the Ukrainian government. However, the main reasons behind the US interest in playing an important role in any conflict in Eastern Europe would be – First, the increase the sanctions on Russia which have affected some sectors in the Russian Federation.
Second, the US seeking to distract Russian forces by deploying western forces near Russian borders to affect its military presence in Syria for the sake of the American. In other words, the presence of NATO forces by Russian borders to force Moscow take the decision to withdraw from Syria and the Middle East.
To ensure sufficient dues to the finance the military budget of the NATO in Europe has been a pretext to check the readiness of European partners to cover the military campaign expenses as the drills are in Europe, not in the US, which means that it is in the interest of the EU states more than it is for the US.
In this regard, the US sent few weeks ago a naval destroyer to the waters of the Black Sea which is of great strategic importance to Russia. The US forces had carried out operations in the Black Sea waters to enhance their capabilities. That was another message to Russia, which started flying its jets over the Baltic, the Black Sea and the North Pole as well as the Mediterranean Sea to counter these signals by showing Russian forces are ready for all options.
Given the impossibility of a World War III in conventional form, Washington finds itself forced to resort to eccentric means to exercise more pressure across the European continent in order to contain Russia and its strategic Eurasian integration. This cannot be achieved unless the borders of Russia become volatile, less secure and less stable.
Russia is not the Soviet Union and will not be able to bear the burden of a new Cold War, but it is difficult to imagine a major Russian decline due to mere economic and financial pressures, no matter how much the Russian financial crisis is worsening.
On the other hand, the West hopes the pressure on Moscow will lead to collapse of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity in the end, or to force him to negotiate about Ukraine after his country gets weaker under the sanctions. It is certain that optimism levels that prevailed in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War is also coming to an end.
Shehab Al-Makahleh is Director of Geostrategic Media Center, senior media and political analyst in the Middle East, adviser to many international consultancies. He can be reached at: @shehabmakahleh and @Geostrat_ME.