The escalation of the psychological war between the United States and Russia on the subject of Ukraine is fast approaching a point where a peaceful exit from a crisis with wide ramifications could be impossible, according to a CNN analysis.

US President Joe Biden, backed by the full symbolic power of the Western alliance, is embroiled in a confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is using Ukraine as a hostage to try to force the US to renegotiate the established outcome of the Cold War. No one is blinking. Doing so may be impossible, given the huge political stakes they have both bet on.

The world’s top two nuclear powers are dueling in the most tense test of will since the fall of the Soviet Union. A Russian invasion of Ukraine could trigger the largest clash of ordinary conventional armies in Europe since World War II. At stake for Americans is the credibility of the West, perceptions of global US power, and the possibility of secondary consequences — for example, a crisis in rising energy prices.

To try to ease the situation, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Geneva on Friday.

But right at the beginning of the meeting, Lavrov told Blinken that Moscow “does not expect progress” from these talks, but expects “answers to its proposals.”

The United States maintains its refusal to accept the concessions demanded by Putin, which would seriously compromise NATO. And the US threats of unprecedented sanctions against Russia, if it invades Ukraine, and the attempt to give Putin a way out did not work. Instead, the Kiev government says Russia has almost completed the build-up of forces that would allow for a large-scale invasion.

The Kremlin leader, who has 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, is keeping the world waiting, with his usual technique of unbalancing his opponents.

Some analysts believe that the Russian leader is bluffing and that he created the threat of invasion in order to be on an equal footing in the talks with the USA. Others see an attempt to destabilize Ukraine or a show meant to increase its popularity in the country.

But Putin can also feel weakness in the United States and division in Europe, and he sees that if he wants to destroy Ukraine’s hopes for a pro-Western future, now is the time.

“The only thing I trust is that the decision is entirely, exclusively, a decision of Putin,” Biden said at a White House news conference.

“No one else will make that decision; no one else will influence that decision. He makes that decision, “he said.

Ukraine is very important to the Russian leader. For the former KGB officer, the demise of the Soviet Union was a historic disaster. He interpreted NATO’s expansion to the east as the humiliation of a great civilization. It explains why it has demanded concessions that Biden can never accept – including ensuring that Ukraine never joins NATO and calling for the withdrawal of Western troops and armaments from former Warsaw Pact states such as Poland and Romania. , which they consider a threat to Russia’s security.

Over the past decade, Putin has sought to recreate Russia’s old sphere of influence over former Soviet states such as Ukraine. The scheme resulted in the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine’s sovereign territory, in 2014. Putin also supported the suppression of political protests in Belarus and Kazakhstan. Given its own autocratic regime, it is also clear that a thriving, prosperous, Western-oriented democracy in Ukraine is intolerable: it could become an example for Russians tired of its long reign, corruption and repression.

Another stake in Putin is tarnishing the prestige of the West, and especially the United States. This is also where his efforts to influence the US elections come into play. The presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who is running for president, is now leading an attack on American democracy that coincides with Putin’s goals. And Biden is weakening internally now that Trump has made sure he is seen as an illegitimate president by millions of citizens. Putin could never have hoped for such a result.

On the other hand, Joe Biden has spent weeks trying to unite Western allies, whom Putin is trying to divide, in order to adopt a package of sanctions that would effectively separate Russia from the Western economy. That’s why Biden’s remarks at a news conference on Wednesday were so damaging that he acknowledged that not all Western leaders agree.

But it is true. French President Emmanuel Macron, for example, this week called for a European channel for Putin, giving the Russian president a divisive opportunity to exploit.

One of the most curious aspects of the US approach to the crisis in Ukraine was the alarmist rhetoric of the United States regarding an imminent invasion and leaks of information about the accumulation of Russian troops. It is difficult to say whether the administration will provide political coverage to show that it was not taken by surprise if Russian tanks cross the border.

Washington could also step up its threat to force Europeans to agree to sanctions. For example, the United States has long disagreed with Germany over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was built to transport Russian gas to Western Europe. The new government in Berlin has now signaled that it will stop the flow of gas if Russia invades Ukraine.

Sometimes, however, it seems that the United States has almost provoked Putin to catch statements about a probable invasion – including those of Biden on Wednesday. Such a tactic could increase the pressure on the Russian leader, but it is a huge risk.

Editor : M.B.

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