The magnitude of Western defeat in Ukraine is higher than expected
by Salman Rafi Sheikh on 07 Apr 2024 0 Comment

Europe is in a state of desperation; the continent is losing in Ukraine despite the ‘mighty’ strength of NATO; and European leaders are now vowing for a ‘stronger’ response, including via sending their own forces to combat Russian military forces in Ukraine. Will this decision, if it is ultimately taken, bring any meaningful change to Ukraine’s slow fall is, however, a moot question.


What makes it a moot question is the scale of Ukraine’s fall and the depletion of Western stockpiles of weapons and ammunition that it is already finding hard to refill. Russia, on the other hand, is already outpacing its rivals in the West as far as the production of more – and better – weapon systems is concerned. A report in The Guardian noted that “Russian arms production worries Europe’s war planners” primarily because they cannot match this level of military preparedness and the sheer ability to sustain the fighting for two to three years.


The EU’s leader, Josep Borrell, recently noted after two years of high-intensity supply of weapons from EU allies, mainly from existing stocks, European states’ existing stocks are now depleted and “the conflict has evolved from a war of stocks to a war of production”, which, as the said report shows, Russia is clearly winning.


This information is now public, reinforcing, alongside some recently leaked Pentagon documents, the reality of Russian dominance in Ukraine. Propaganda notwithstanding, these leaked documents show that the Pentagon believes that Russian losses in Ukraine have been far less than losses publicly stated by US officials. For example, as opposed to various publicly stated estimates, Russia is said to have lost around 200,000 troops.


But the Pentagon documents from February and March 2024 put the figure at around 17,000 only. Such is the scale of propaganda and the magnitude of the fear surrounding the collapse of the NATO expansion agenda that the West is now taking steps to hand over seized Russian assets to Ukraine to fund their war on Russia. They’re probably running out of enough money too!


The situation, according to a French newspaper’s investigation – which also claims to have consulted many official reports – is “critical”, with many French military officials ridiculing the idea of sending French troops to Ukraine, where the French army of “cheerleaders” can hardly fight a battle-hardened Russian military. But France is not an exception here. Most European military forces share this state of affairs, with very little active hardware or few troops to offer. Surely, Europe cannot send in everything, since it will leave the continent itself unprotected.


But it is highly unlikely that Russia will attack Europe, although a European provocation might change this scenario. However considering the fact that Russian military operations in Ukraine were /are driven by the Western imperative of expanding NATO, Russian success in preventing this expansion serves the purpose. For the West, however, a Russian victory in Ukraine is fretful for different purposes. They publicly talk of a Russian victory leading to a wider war in Europe, but the reality is that a Russian victory will stamp the end of Western hegemony in global politics since the end of the Second World War. The West will no longer be an all-powerful ‘centre’ of the world.


Geopolitically, the West will be unable to dictate global politics, as it has been able to in the past several decades. Economically, the US dollar might lose its financial hegemony, primarily because a Russian victory in Ukraine will also indicate Russia’s ability to bypass the Western-dominated financial system. If the West can no longer control the global financial system, it automatically creates the space for alternative systems to flourish and acquire central significance. Such a scenario bodes very well for the imperatives of a new, alternative international order.


For the West – especially, the US, the self-declared leader of the ‘free world’ – this is a deeply troubling situation. Washington’s 2024 Annual Threat Assessment shows this anxiety reaching critical levels. It says: “Moscow will continue to employ all applicable sources of national power to advance its interests and try to undermine the United States and its allies … [challenging] the US primacy within” the global system.


Making other admissions of failure, the report also says that the Russian economy continues to grow and that, despite Western sanctions, Moscow’s oil trade is far from diminished. The report accepts that “Moscow has successfully diverted most of its seaborne oil exports and probably is selling significant volumes above the G-7–led crude oil and refined product price caps, which came into effect in December 2022 and February 2023, respectively – in part because Russia is increasing its use of non-Western options to facilitate diversion of most of its seaborne oil exports and because global oil prices increased last year”.


Because Russia is able to maintain its “energy leverage”, according to 2024 Assessment, it means it is not facing any problems vis-à-vis financing its military operations in Ukraine. In fact, the report also accepts Russia’s ability to increase public spending despite the ongoing conflict.


This is the Western assessment after financing the war on Russia for two consecutive years. Logically, such assessments infuse a sense of fear and desperation, which has led some leaders in Europe to push for sending NATO troops to Ukraine. While it may only be a threat, it does show an extremely heightened sense of defeat and a clear sense of the beginning of the end of the “Western century”.


Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”. Courtesy

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