Russia’s end game

Haitham Nouri , Friday 13 Jan 2023

How long can Ukraine and developing countries endure the Russian war?

Russia s end game
Ukrainian rescuers work on a site following a Russian missile strike on a local market in Shevchenkove village, Kharkiv region (photo: AFP)


The US has unveiled a $3.75 billion aid package to Ukraine following the $40 billion it provided in mid-2022 to help Kyiv in its war with Moscow, which has lasted for nearly 11 months.

Despite all the aid Ukraine has received, it could not bring Russian advances to a halt nor convince Moscow to sit at the negotiating table to come up with a political solution that would spare the world more suffering.

With the advent of the new year, news outlets and think tanks have written extensive articles about the war which has affected the entire globe, Russia being a main source of food, energy, and arms for the developing world.

“The war will not end until Russia achieves its goals – the real ones, not the targets being publicised,” said Moddather Al-Tayeb, a professor of political science in Khartoum. “The Western media draws a cartoonish picture of a country that did not study the war it ventured into. This is not the case with Russia. In my opinion, it is the Russians who want to prolong the war to exhaust Ukraine and western Europe.”

Many observers, including Ahmed Al-Khamisi, an Egyptian expert on Russian affairs, expect Russia will carry out a massive attack in the spring. According to Western reports, 50,000 Russian conscripts will be ready to engage in the near future, while 250,000 others are undergoing training.

“This is a huge number for a country such as Ukraine,” Al-Khamisi said, adding that “Ukraine has a population of 44 million, a quarter of whom are Russian, another quarter of mixed nationality, while a large portion of the population does not want to engage in war with a superpower.”

According to the European Union’s statistical website, the Ukraine population was estimated at 44 million in 2020, becoming the ninth largest European population.

Some 10 million Ukrainians fled to neighbouring countries when the war broke out, which “weakened the Ukrainian resistance front,” said Al-Khamisi. “If Russian reserve units are engaged in the war, Ukraine will not last long. More importantly, however, the West will not continue to support Ukraine. With the increasing numbers of fleeing Ukrainians, Kyiv will fall into Moscow’s hands. It will be like going back to the Soviet Union model, but informally.”

The West do not wish to see Ukraine defeated in the war, for how long can we all do without Russian gas, oil and coal, considering that Moscow provides the European Union with over 40 per cent of its energy needs?

“The country that depends most on Russian oil is Germany,” said Al-Khamisi. “If the EU has so easily done without Russian energy now, why did it not take this step decades ago to deprive Moscow of hundreds of billions of euros?”

Russia has made a fortune exporting energy, food, arms, and raw materials, enabling it to fund its mega projects after it suffered from domestic chaos and international humiliation in the 1990s.

“No political solutions can be seen on the horizon. Russia feels that without disarming Ukraine and ending fascism there, it will have completely lost the war,” said Al-Tayeb. “The power of the nationalist movement in Russia cannot be overlooked. This current supports all the moves of Vladimir Putin. The Russians did announce a period of calm to mark the holiday season, but there is no real mention of peace talks. On the other hand, Ukraine cannot sit down to negotiate after it lost more than 15 per cent of its lands. Meanwhile, the Russians have not said enough about their end goals.

“However, the world cannot endure this war for another year. Poor countries import their food primarily from Russia and Ukraine. Moreover, the war has led to skyrocketing prices of food and energy in a world suffering from drought and climate change that may lead to famine,” Al-Tayeb went on to say.

It is expected that millions of people in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and South Sudan) will be subject to famine this year, while many poor countries may suffer outages due to soaring energy prices.

These conditions and others are enough to drive the international community to try to end the war.

A version of this article appears in print in the 12 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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