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USA vs Russia & China: The Coldest War Threatens

The world powers urgently need to work together. After all, Russia and the US are now talking to each other. It is difficult to say whether this will help in the Ukraine conflict.

At the beginning of 2022, a look at the "world muddle" 

Two trouble spots, Ukraine and Taiwan, could turn out to be preludes to war. Vladimir Putin's Russia Nostalgically suffers not only from the collapse of the Soviet Union, but from the collapse of the Petrine Empire; The Kremlin rulers opposed the exaggerated expansion of NATO's sphere of influence with an equally exaggerated national Russian imperial policy.

China makes its authoritarian capitalism the foundation of a global claim to power. The United States, torn internally since Donald Trump and not since the civil war, and robbed of its constitutional and social stability and thus also its ability to shape global politics by destructive forces, has lost its reliability.

Europe's unity, however, is riddled with crippling diversity of national goals, interests, and even values.

Mutual suspicions, bitterness and caustic remarks undermine the trust between the powers and thwart their cooperation - and this at a time when existential challenges such as the corona pandemic and above all climate change urgently require cooperation. 

Biden Assures Ukraine's President

The important thing, however, is to avoid potential cold or hot wars at all costs. That means: to curb the pursuit of bare interests as well as the "politically sterile, because unsustainable questions of guilt in the past".

Fortunately, there is at least one glimmer of hope at the beginning of the year: after months in which US President Joe Biden and Russian President Putin looked like the statesmen who slipped sleepwalking into the First World War in 1914, people are now talking to each other again.

The two of them talked on the phone for 50 minutes, talking about the Russian troop concentrations on the Ukrainian border and Putin's demand for security guarantees. Diplomatic negotiations are now set to begin in Geneva on January 10th. The NATO-Russia Council, in the icebox since the annexation of Crimea, has also been convened for January 12th, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will meet on January 13th.

The question is: Can the unraveling of the muddle of the world succeed at least in our part of the world?

One thing is very clear: if Putin took steps to invade Ukraine, this would have far- reaching consequences. There would be war - not the great East-West conflict, but a Russian-Ukrainian conflict. And beyond that there would be the coldest war imaginable, the heavy costs and consequences of the invasion: economic sanctions, breaking off of economic relations with the West, ending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as well.

Russia Ukraine War

It is difficult to say what will come of the upcoming negotiations. Strong Western voices have admitted that NATO has also made serious mistakes with its eastward expansion policy.

Ukraine must be able to arm itself, and severe sanctions are justified if Putin allows his troops to march in. But he thinks it makes sense to give Putin a diplomatic way out if he steps back from the abyss. He envisions a stronger US engagement in the negotiations of the Minsk Process, a mutual withdrawal of the military from the border and a readiness for talks about the European security architecture. However, he does not want to go into the central Russian demand.

It is one thing not to accept Ukraine into NATO, but quite another thing to exclude its membership forever: "Diplomacy must not be confused with surrender."

Firstly, deterrence not only includes the nuclear component and constant presence in the Baltic states and Poland, but also the issue of arms deliveries. "Strengthening" Ukraine's defensive power shouldn't be a taboo for the government in Berlin, especially because of the German credibility gap on the subject of Nord Stream 2. Germany shouldn't be on the sidelines.

US, China And Russia

Second: Under no circumstances should the alliance simply dismiss the Russian proposals in the current dangerous situation, but rather present comprehensive and concrete counter-proposals. Possible elements: renewal of the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter within the OSCE. 

Reaffirmation of the NATO-Russia Founding Act. Reinforcement of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 (which guarantees sovereignty to Ukraine, among others, in return for renouncing nuclear weapons). Strengthening the OSCE Mission to Ukraine. 

Arms control negotiations on nuclear and conventional weapons systems and confidence-building measures. Talks about the mutual renunciation of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure and militarily relevant facilities. Use of the NATO-Russia Council as a joint crisis management center.

It is a Herculean task to create security from Russia and security with Russia. It is now being talked about. A first glimmer of hope, after all.

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