When Russian missiles struck Kiev on February 24, 2022, people around the world were shocked by a Russian invasion of Ukraine. How could it be that the Russian Federation, a nation we have come to admire and have great respect for, and whose charismatic leader Vladimir Putin whom we had seen as a defender of Europe, betray the European community and do the very thing that we never expected him to do: to launch a full scale invasion of one of our own European nations?
The bombing of Kiev in Ukraine by Russian forces. Europe has not seen an unprovoked full scale invasion of one of their nations since WWII. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters.
On a superficial level, it appeared in the mainstream media that the US had suffered from weak leadership had been doing nothing to stop the buildup of Russia from invading Ukraine, but underneath lay a complex military strategy in its long-term strategy to deplete the Russian Federation of all its resources. In actuality, United States leadership was nothing but weak and never has been.
However, the US and NATO had long been planning for this Russian invasion, and had most likely been patiently waiting for its actualisation. This Russian invasion of Ukraine on the 24th of February has single-handedly catapulted and reinstated NATO’s dominance into the 22nd century, and also ensured the continual rise of the United States as the foremost military power in the world.
Background and Threats to NATO Dissolution
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is an intergovernmental alliance that was established in the aftermath of WWII in order to implement a system of collective security which had two prime objectives: one was to counter Russian communism and the second was to prevent another world war transpiring in Europe.
In recent years, NATO has come under close scrutiny and criticism for its foreign interference in the Middle Eastern regions, and many analysts and politicians have wondered about the necessity of NATO in an era where communism was no longer a threat, and which also marked the decades long end of Iron Curtain, with the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and the reunification of West and East Germany. People in the European Union were in no danger of a world war, and people were free to move across Europe in an open-borders scheme. There was no danger to European peace, and surely, Russia was no longer the threat it had been in the Soviet era since it was now reformed and part of our landscape of mutual trade and globalisation?
However, the dissolution of NATO would potentially end nearly a century of collective security in which NATO had prevented wars on the European front but which in recent years, has largely been seen as obsolete in an era of globalisation and relative peace on the European continent. As NATO struggled to find its relevance in the present and redefine its objectives there were two distinct threats that could enact NATO’s possible dissolution:
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s growing popularity in recent years could also be analysed as a direct threat to NATO objectives, despite that in previous decades, US President Clinton and President Bush had become closer to Mr. Putin in order to assess the potential viability of Russia potentially joining NATO. Although the result of those relationships eventually became strained when Mr. Putin had made several social faux pas, some by insulting President Bush's beloved dog during a pivotal time in which the Bushes had spent time with Mr. Putin at their vacation residence in 2007, had Mr. Putin been successful, Russia today could be part of NATO.
Former President George W. Bush with President Vladimir Putin in the summer of 2007. Mr. Putin had been invited to the Bush family holiday home in Kennebunkport, Maine and the two men had spent time fishing and getting to know each other. This holiday was a pretext for US assessment of whether Russia could be a reliable partner that could potentially join NATO. Photo by AP.
However, after this strained relationship became evident between former President George Bush and Mr. Putin, there remained one clear deterrent to NATO: If Mr. Putin were to successfully manage to build closer alliances with Europe, there would be a very likely possibility of Mr. Putin leading a future European army that would include many members of the European Union, which could displace and eventually make NATO obsolete.
These had been the preeminent threats to NATO’s possible dissolution, however, in recent events, NATO has found its revival of its primary objective, as a protector and guardian of European security and it appears that the Russian Federation no longer poses a threat to its dissolution, as Russia’s ties with the EU has been severed by their invasion of Ukraine, making NATO a necessary and important organisation for collective European security.
In the following, I’ll examine how the United States and NATO have dismantled the Russian Federation’s influence in Europe and also what China can expect in the coming future.
Ukraine as Bait: The Trojan Horse
“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak. If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War
“All warfare is based on deception. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected. It is through the dispositions of an army that its condition may be discovered.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War
For months, the United States had been subtly and skillfully provoking the Russian Federation, by taunting Ukrainian and Georgian membership into NATO, yet ultimately stalling on their memberships for years, even decades on end. The United States also made public announcements that they would not become involved in the Ukrainian conflict and if Russia should attack, and that they would not send in American soldiers. The Ukrainian army would certainly be no match for the Russian army and it painted them as an easy target.
President Biden has surprisingly been the voice of calm and empathy during times of chaos. However, the team behind him include Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a mastermind PSYOPS military strategist who was part of the team that took out Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Photo by Leah Millis, Reuters.
The manner of the Afghanistan pullout had also been widely criticised, although, for the most part, the US had reached all its objectives in Afghanistan and there was no need to continue its presence there. However, media spin of these events made it appear that the Biden administration was weak and ineffectual, and that the US was a declining superpower when in reality, the United States was gaining strength on many fronts, in commercial, in trade, in foreign policy, and in its single-handed dominance in the distribution of the controversial nanovaccines produced by American companies all over the world.
The US often uses psychological operations (PSYOPs) in the media in order to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of governments, organisations, groups, and individuals to lead them to believe that the US had a weak and ineffectual leadership and was a declining power when in fact, it was the opposite and growing in strength.
These circumstances set the perfect trap for the Russian government to make a move towards invasion of Ukraine, an invasion which would almost be too easy to resist. For months, the US used its social media campaign in order to enact a PSYOPs operation and utilise reverse psychology on the Putin regime, “not to invade Ukraine”. The Biden government sent out multiple press releases and videos that if Russia were to invade Ukraine, there would be “severe consequences”, but also that the US would not get involved in the conflict. These messages sent a signal to the Russian administration that it would be almost too easy to invade the Ukraine.
The effectiveness of "reverse psychology". Dominant personalities, such as President Vladimir Putin, have been studied to do the very thing they are told not to do.
We must consider the difference in cultural values in the mentalities of both the Russians and Americans and how they affect our behaviours. Americans tend to view rejection as motivation to try harder and try new methods and not take it personally, whilst Russians tend to embrace more of the pessimistic Asian mindset in which rejection was final and could not be altered. Hence, the successive rejections from the EU, NATO, and being ejected from G8 from 2014 were a series of signs to the Vladimir Putin regime that they were slowly being phased out of European and American circle of influence and membership in everything that had mattered to them.
However, when the invasion of Ukraine actually materialised, the US government was not surprised at all, and ready for Russia’s strike, but the majority of Americans and Europeans in the population were shocked. This was not the Vladimir Putin we knew. Here was Vladimir Putin, a man whom we admired and was rapidly growing in popularity; who was widely admired by the Western public despite being vilified in mainstream media; who was seen as a protector and defender type who could possibly lead the future formation of an European army, do the very thing that we didn’t think he was capable of, attack and invade one of our own countries.
Vladimir Putin with President Joe Biden at the US-Russia Summit in Switzerland last summer. Americans and Europeans alike were shocked when Vladimir Putin bombed Ukraine on Feb 24, 2022. He had been growing in popularity in Western media and was not thought of as a threat to Europe, but as a figure who would uphold and defend European security, not as someone who would threaten nuclear war against them. Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko, AP
Americans and Europeans have not witnessed war on our own lands for many decades, and it came as a shock to the global world that such a well-liked and charismatic man would suddenly turn on us and launch a full scale invasion one of our own nations in Europe. Although NATO has been involved in many wars in the Middle East, for the Western world, the Middle East is for the most part, psychologically not part of our everyday mindset and and a region in which there has existed many decades long ethnic and religious clashes before our presence there, whereas Europe was in a period of peace with open borders which had not seen an unprovoked attack and invasion from a neighbouring nation since WWII.
When President Putin was close to possibly invading Ukraine in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea, and the events in the Donetsk and Luhansk had been rapidly unfolding, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately flew to Moscow and engaged in dialogue with Vladimir Putin for 6 hours without translators, as the two share fluency in both Russian and German languages and Mrs. Merkel masterminded the Minsk Agreements ceasefire that would save Russia from an uncertain future, if they had invaded Ukraine at that time.
Former Chancellor Angela Merkel understood Mr. Putin's psychology and she understood the fear and paranoia that had been a part of his life whilst the two had lived simultaneously but separately in the then authoritarian part of the Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, when Germany had been divided between East and West.
Mrs. Merkel had saved the Russian president from an unknown NATO fate in 2014, but the growing tensions were only temporarily put on hold, in the meanwhile, Russia’s span of global influence would soon grow under the charismatic leader, Vladimir Putin, in the following years, much to the dismay of the US government.
”It is US policy that psychological operations will be conducted across the operational continuum. It must be understood that psychological operations are conducted continuously to influence foreign perceptions and attitudes in order to effect changes in foreign behavior favorable to US national security objectives.” -Frank L. Goldstein, Colonel USAF and Benjamin F. Findley Jr., Colonel USAFR, Psychological Operations: Principles and Case Studies
However, the United States is unsurpassed in psychological warfare, and its campaign to lure the Russian Federation into an invasion of a European nation was percolating at the forefront, in order to rid itself of a danger to European security and also to elevate NATO status, and in recent events, it ultimately came to pass after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, leading to the unanimous approval, revival, and renewed trust and faith in NATO.
Consequences of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
If we are to understand Russian cultural psychology, we must first examine its close development with the Mongol Empire. Although seemingly disparate cultures, the Mongols invaded the Russian cities in the 13th century and seized Kiev (1237-1242) and Moscow (1238) by pure unadulterated force. The Mongolians were akin to modern day super soldiers who showed their strength and might with their prowess in tactical skills and unprecedented power in war. Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire, was an ancient version of the alpha male, who grew up in poverty amongst warring tribes that were constantly battling one another, and used his intelligence and negotiation skills to unite disparate tribes which would become the ultimate fighting machine of the Mongol Empire, very similar to the leadership style of Vladimir Putin in Russia today. Genghis Khan's grandson Batu Khan, or Tsar Batu in Russian historiography was the most important precursor to the formation of the Russian Empire. The contemporary development of modern day Russia is in many ways derived from its pugilistic, protectionist and feudalistic Mongolian heritage.
"Putin expected an easy win here, but the reality has been quite the opposite...he's descending into something that I personally have never seen before." -Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin’s essay on the “Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, which he published in July of 2021, describes the 18th century development of the Russian Empire as descendants of Ancient Rus. He focuses on the commonality of “slavic people” and reiterates a necessity for “slavic people” to unite, namely Russians, Ukrainians and Belarussians. However, one of the most problematic features of the article, despite being eloquent and well-written, is that it actively promotes the development of an “ethnostate”, the very kind of promotion of an ethnostate as the Nazis and other fascists had claimed in which Europe had been seized by two successive World Wars in the early and mid 20th century when nations had been actively divided and promoted their own type of nationalism and ethnic identity as the superior race. This is ultimately at odds with the modern world in which multilateralism is the prevailing ideology.
The Russian Federation’s recent threats to Finland if they were to join NATO only reinforces the notion of Russia as a threat to entire European security
If we also look deeper into the possible motivations of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, we can also assimilate that many war profiteers on the side of Russia have much to gain from a war with Ukraine, in addition to the seizing of land and resources that would temporary align with Russia’s current political interests.
As Europe is rapidly transitioning towards green energy away from fossil fuels, the fossil fuel oligarchs who have enjoyed vast amounts of wealth must ultimately understand that their privileged days of profit are numbered, and this Ukrainian invasion ensures one last chance to enjoy high oil and gas profits before the green energy transition in Europe is finally complete. Even if we were to closely examine Nord Stream II, it was a venture more advantageous on the side of Germany than to Russia. Nord Stream II would temporarily give Germany and the rest of Europe a cheap and plentiful source of gas until their transition to green energy would take place. It also gave Russia an opportunity for closer relations with the EU, something Former Chancellor Angela Merkel had gifted and put in place for Vladimir Putin before she had left office.
German hydroelectric power plants. Germany set a new target for 100% renewables by 2035 due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in order to become completely independent from Russian fossil fuels. Photo by Voith Hydro.
However, for Russian oil and gas oligarchs, the manipulated scarcity of their natural gas resource and its subsequent high demand would elevate these commodities to extraordinarily high prices making them much more profitable in the short run, as we had witnessed during the gas crisis of the past winter in which such corporations as Gazprom recorded a 400% year-on-year record breaking profits. Nord Stream II would make gas plentiful and abundant to Europe, but would not garner as much profit as if Russia would trickle gas and manipulate its scarity to Europe in order to attain high prices. And most of all, a war with Ukraine would ensure to raise these profits even higher.
In regards to Mr. Putin’s motives, he must’ve certainly been influenced by his innermost circle, many of whom are oil and gas oligarchs and they could’ve potentially exploited Mr. Putin’s romanticised historical narrative of a reunification of Russia with Ukraine which had probably been on Mr. Putin’s mind since the 2014 annexation of Crimea, in order to suit their financial interests. However, we cannot also assume Mr. Putin was entirely naïve to the financial gains from his innermost circle due to the manipulation of scarcity of their fossil fuel exports.
Also on the side of NATO, there is much to gain from Russia’s aggression and invasion of Ukraine, as many military contractors had been suffering from a downtrend during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and now that President Biden has recently ended the occupation of Afghanistan, many military contractors no longer had a guaranteed source of revenue despite the recent surge in the export of weapons in the last year and this revival of NATO’s primary objective as a deter against Russia ensures that these private military corporations working with NATO will continue to profit for many years to come.
After an initial slump in defense contractor revenue during the pandemic, weapons and arms sales surged in the past quarter leading up to the Russian Ukrainian invasion.
As a consequence, the Russian Federation is now put in between a rock and hard place. They have lost trust of the European Union, their largest client base and they must now solely depend on exports to China for economic support. If the war in Ukraine is prolonged, it could be Russia’s undoing, as it would deplete all of Russia’s resources. ⅔ of Russian exports are fossil fuels in which the entire nation is dependent on. As a counteroffensive measure, the United States could also flood the market with fossil fuel products to drive down the price of oil and gas to further deplete the Russian economy. It is also looking clear that Europe will be looking towards America to supply them with gas, hence in the next few years, the fossil fuels industry in America is set to boom and reach new highs whilst Russia’s corporations will most certainly significantly decrease.
Switzerland broke a 200 year stance of neutrality and joined the economic sanctions on Russia. Photo from the world drafting federation.
Although economic sanctions would limit Russia’s ability for funding, they would still have access to cryptocurrencies and recently, the Bank of Russia tested XRP in order to bypass the SWIFT system. However, XRP has several key limitations: firstly, XRP is not an entirely decentralised platform as it is centralised with regard to protocols and acceptance onto the network, and also controlled by banks hence being susceptible to the same exact limitations, and secondly, XRP does not have a cap on total units issued, hence not a good store of value, and there exists strong potential for the US to manipulate XRP to create an artificial hyperinflation of Russian currency via XRP, completely banishing the wealth of Russians. An alternative to SWIFT is China's Cross Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) which settles payments in the Chinese Yuan and 23 Russian banks are already part of this system. The downside is that it would make Russia much more dependent on China as ever before, having no other alternatives and creating a situation for Russia to become a potential vassal state to Chinese interests.
Russian ruble plummets 41% just 24 hours after sanctions are imposed. One Russian Ruble is currently less than one US cent.
All in all, the invasion of Ukraine has several dire consequences for the Russian Federation and if this war were to continue for a prolonged period, it is entirely possible that in just a couple of years, the modern day Russians who enjoy an open, privileged European lifestyle in Moscow and St. Petersburg may find themselves to be penniless in an economic state of hyperinflation and their lifestyles could be reverted back into the days of the pre-Gorbachev era, when Russians stood in queue to receive a single egg and piece of bread, which would ultimately lead to Revolution and the dismantling of the United Russia Party that could topple Vladimir Putin’s administration from the inside.
Ukraine as the Red Herring, All Eyes on Siberia
It has been said that due to rising seas levels and the melting of polar ice caps that temperatures around the world could alter northern regions into more habitable areas of industry.
One such area is Siberia, located in Russia, which is one of the most resource rich landmass on Planet Earth in which Russia has a significant advantage. However, the Russian Federation has not done much to take advantage in developing this region, and it is sparsely inhabited although Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had recently announced a plan to develop smart cities in Siberia.
No longer the icy tundra, Siberia's permafrost is melting from climate change. Siberia is set to become the most wanted resource-rich region in the world. Photo by Katie Orlinsky, NatGeo Image Collection.
In the near future, within as little as 30 years, Siberia has been hypothesised as becoming the most wanted region in the world, the new centre of capital, and currently many nations are interested in its development, including South Korea, which has floated the idea of “leasing” the Russian land in order to rapidly develop its economic and technological sectors, updating these Siberian regions into the modern world.
However, with the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is entirely possible that if a potential WWIII should further develop, that NATO could cut off these Siberian regions from Russia, leading to the amputation of Siberia from the Russian Federation as its future resource.
This would lead to a comprehensive American and European development of the Siberian regions, which would become the new Eurasian centre of education and technology and a mass migration event from climate change would bring the people of the Americas and Europe directly into Siberia.
An Opportunity for China: The Peacekeeper
President Xi Jinping has often been vilified in the media as a tyrant and dictator who has oppressed the Uyghur Muslims of China. The various disappearances of various Chinese entrepreneurs for months at a time have also raised suspicions of the Western world in which freedom of speech and democracy are held to the highest standards.
The Freedom Trucker Convoy in Ottowa, Canada amassed widespread global support whilst Prime Minister Trudeau had been criticised for taking on authoritarian power not representative of a democracy. Photo by David Chan, AFP/Getty Images
However, in recent weeks, the global world has also witnessed the oppression and violence against protesters in Canada at the Freedom Trucker Convoy, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau enacted the controversial Emergency Act in order to attain absolute authoritarian control over the rights of the Canadian people as video footage emerged of police officers trampling on innocent protesters, violence against journalists, along with the freezing of Canadian citizens’ bank accounts and the confiscation of the $10 million CAD the Trucker Convoy had raised in a GoFundME campaign to public outrage. However, citizens weren’t only the targets, so were the pets of citizens and the Trudeau government also made an announcement that any cat or dog present at the protest would be taken into custody and killed within 8 days if the protester did not pay for their release, of which they would ultimately be unable to due to their locked bank accounts. These seemingly blatant abuses of power by a democratically elected leader of a Western nation shocked the world and Mr. Trudeau has been compared to Adolf Hitler on social media.
President Xi Jinping at the UN Leaders Summit on Peacekeeping. Currently, Mr. Xi Jinping has an opportunity to become the peacekeeper in the Eurasian regions of Russia and Ukraine. As a friend of President Putin and committed to a lifelong alliance, Mr. Xi has the power of persuasion to prevent a nuclear WWIII. Photo by CTGN America.
President Xi Jinping, therefore finds himself in this precarious and also opportune situation in which he is caught between the vilified Russian aggression against Ukraine and recent events in Canada in which the world has witnessed flagrant abuses of political power.
Here at this point in time, Mr. Xi has a perfect opportunity to reshape his public image in order to gain favour with Western nations in order to further promote China’s Belt and Road Initiative, along with acting as a potential peacekeeper in the Russian/Ukraine conflict. Due to ubiquitous suspicions that China is planning a similar invasion of Taiwan as Russia had committed in Ukraine, President Xi can lay these fears to rest by making an unprecedented call for peace and the formal recognition of Taiwan as an independent nation. This single action alone could change the global perspective of China as a nefarious and land-grabbing nation that is not to be trusted and instead reinvent China’s image towards more of a democratic, multilateral nation that is in line with the socially liberal philosophies of European society. Gaining acceptance into European society would become the greatest advantage China could attain in order to facilitate its Silk Road 2.0, Belt and Road Initiative and also to become the future number one energy provider of the European Union.
It is also of importance that China gives up its ambition of creating a “world-class military” that surpasses the US. These actions are seen as threatening to US security and NATO, and will ultimately hinder and oppress Mr. Xi’s objective present in the Belt and Road Initiative. Mr. Xi must remember that the US and China had enjoyed a relative symbiotic relationship for many decades before China began plans to develop a military to counter US power. If China is to continue to rise as an economic powerhouse, Mr. Xi must consider doing so through its soft power and not its military power.
However, whether or not Mr. Xi's willingness to make compromises on these points are up for debate, although according to the Ancient Chinese military general and philosopher, Sun Tzu would probably advise Mr. Xi, as written in the Art of War that, “to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” And what better way to attract Taiwan to China’s side by officially recognising Taiwan and building trading routes that would benefit Taiwan directly? And what better way to promote the Belt and Road Initiative in all of Europe by working together with the US and making more comprehensive measures to align its interest with NATO?
President Xi Jinping has always been critical of foreign intervention in other nations’ sovereignty and has always promoted peace but he must also consider the legacy he will leave behind when he eventually leaves office as his successor might be eventually pulled into a potential future war with the United States. Laying the foundation now to ensure China’s future will require compromise with its European counterparts, even if it means recognising Taiwan and reconfiguring the Belt and Road Initiative to make it attractive to both NATO and the United States. This could be the safeguard measure to ensure that China becomes the energy provider of all of Europe in the near future.
NATO’s Leadership into the 22nd Century
In summary, Russia's full scale invasion of the Ukraine has solidified NATO’s leadership and have cast all doubts about its formation. Like it or not, NATO is here to stay, more unified and stronger than ever after the revival of its primary objective, to protect the collective security of Europe and North America.
What we can expect in the future is the permanent and growing presence of NATO stationed in all the European member NATO nations, and also the expedited entry of Scandinavian nations, such as Finland and Sweden into NATO.
A significant increase in NATO membership and its subsequent funding from member nations after the Russian invasion of Ukraine will also ensure the continued stature and elevation of the United States as the primary military power in the world.
Germany recently accounced a 100 billion EUR increase in its military budget to fund NATO. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the General Meeting of the Bundestag on Sunday, February 27, 2022. Image from DW.
The threats that could’ve accelerated NATO’s dissolution had been clear from the onset: Had Russia focused on building a closer alliance with Europe and eventually joined the European Union, this would’ve ultimately altered its current path. The Russian Federation, if it had begun to take steps to become a member nation of the EU, could’ve built its presence with the formation of an EU military to rival the US, limiting NATO powers, and eventually leading to NATO’s dissolution.
During the World Economic Forum in Jan of 2021: Klaus Schwab, Founder of WEF had asked President Putin what his plans were for the EU and if he would like to build a closer relationship with the EU? This gave Russia an opportunity to build trust and confidence with the EU nations, which could've eventually led to another bid for EU membership and the formation of a European army that would’ve ultimately replaced NATO
However, that is ultimately not the path that Russia decided to take, and instead it focused on re-living its glory days of the USSR, in which it regretted the decisions of its former leaders which led to its dissolution, but which ultimately also created a better standing of living for contemporary Russian citizens, centred in Moscow, in which Russians currently enjoy the liberal freedoms of a European lifestyle.
President Putin must ask himself now, what is the greater cause? To secure the future of young Russians or to secure the future of Russian oligarchs? Is Mr. Putin willing to become the face and martyr of a developing World War III in which a zero sum game of nuclear devastation is certain as NATO allies strengthen against him? Or is there another way? Could Mr. Putin and his administration possibly repair their relationship with the European Union and also with the US?
It is clear that it will be young Russians who will bear the brunt of this conflict, the Russian soldiers who are barely 20 years old fighting in a war they don’t quite understand, but who are willing to die for their country. President Putin must ask himself if this invasion of Ukraine and its acceleration towards a nuclear WWIII is worth sabotaging the future lives of young Russians? A war that young Russians did not ask for and did not want.
By Sierra Choi
Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the author, and may not necessarily be reflective of the people or organisations mentioned.