Biden in Europe

US President Joe Biden is on his visit to Europe to rally the European leaders to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war in Ukraine is now one-month old and it has not only caused widespread devastation in the country but has also confronted the dominance of the US its most formidable challenge since the end of the cold war in 1990. So Biden’s visit to Europe is very consequential in nature. Europe has been most worried about its energy supply in the wake of the US-led sanctions on Russia, one of the major global producers of oil. Though Europe now wants the Gulf kingdoms to compensate for their boycott of Russian oil supply, it will take time before the former are in a position to increase the production. Besides, Arab kingdoms are seeking long-term contracts as generating more oil will need more investment into the infrastructure.

But for the west or the US-led world order, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is nothing short of an existential challenge. Even a negotiated settlement let alone the Russian victory will re-order the world and shift the balance of power away from the US. So, for the west, the war basically is not about Ukraine, at stake is its own dominance of the world.

Meanwhile, the war is causing a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine. Millions of people have fled the country and they are painting a horrible picture of the state of affairs prevailing back home. Considering that the west has shown no sign of backing down let alone make calls for negotiations to address mutual concerns, the war is looking set to continue.

Russia too has shown no signs of being mellowed by the sanctions. But the war so far seems to have not gone according to Putin’s calculations. Russia appears far from taking control of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. West has, meanwhile, armed Ukrainian forces with the latest weaponry which is believed to be mainly responsible for stalling Russian advance.

The coming few weeks would be crucial. It needs to be seen whether Russia makes more advances or suffers reverses from the territory it has captured so far and this would determine how each side would calibrate its response. Though Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has called for direct talks with Russian President Putin, the latter is in no mood for such a meeting. West has also been cautious not to join the war directly, so as not to expand the conflict which could culminate into a nuclear exchange, a frightening scenario that could bring about doomsday for the world. This makes it urgent for the world powers to climb down from their hubris and work together to find a way out of the ongoing war. But going by the tough postures adopted both by the US and Russia, such an outcome looks unlikely in near future.

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