Ukraine War Goes On

UKRAINE’S President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday his forces would not yield “a single centimetre” in battles for the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, where Ukrainian forces are moving into a southern town with tanks. This is one of the four areas that Russia claimed it annexed in September. The Ukrainian military and Russian proxies have been engaged in combat there since 2014, the same year that Russia took Crimea’s southern region.  Russia has certainly suffered some reverses in the war in recent weeks but Russian president Vladimir Putin has shown no sign that he is backing down. Nor has he shown any willingness to seek a negotiated settlement to the conflict. On Tuesday, Putin disclosed 50,000 reservists called up under Moscow’s partial mobilisation drive are now involved in active fighting in Ukraine.

If anything, Putin’s approach shows – as does that of the west – that the war is set to go on for now. Neither is willing to blink as the geopolitical stakes are too high. The US-led western military alliance NATO has so far ensured that Ukraine forces put up tough resistance to the advancing Russian army. The US and major European countries have supplied Ukraine with generous military aid to better defend itself against Russian aggression. The West has also got Russia’s neighbours like Finland and Sweden to join NATO.  The development has further riled Russia which opposes the expansion of NATO right up to its borders, a position that became the trigger for its invasion of Ukraine.

At the root of the war is the growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing. It is the fight for control of the new world order. On a grander scale,  war is the latest twist in the ongoing great power duel as America faces one of its severest tests as the world’s sole superpower. Some western experts have already written the epitaph of America’s unipolar moment. In that sense, it would be interesting to see who blinks first in this great power war of nerves. And that could decide the new superpower of the world.

But America, despite its recent setback in Afghanistan, its failure to have its way in Syria, and its difficulties in pushing Russia out of Ukraine, remains the world’s No 1 power. Its GDP and defense expenditure remains several times higher than its nearest competitor China. That said, we are at an interesting moment in history. The outcome of the current maneuvering by the US and China – two superpowers – will determine the new global geopolitics if not the new superpower of the world.

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