With threats and counter-threats flying between U.S.-NATO negotiators and Russia’s leadership, it is possible the players are talking themselves into war over the Russia-Ukraine border crisis.
Mr. James Farwell, author of The Corporate Warrior, discussed the potential for a miscalculation by the players in the Ukraine crisis resulting in a shooting war in a recent article he co-authored for The National Interest. The authors said, “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to invade Ukraine and President Joe Biden’s threat to sanction Russia in response cast into high relief the danger of human miscalculation in causing a war neither side wants.”
In an exclusive interview with Mr. Farwell, Liberty Nation posed the following question: “You raise the specter of a miscalculation by both sides in the current Ukraine conflict leading to more menacing open hostilities. Do you believe there is confidence in the Biden administration’s decision-making to diminish that likelihood?”
“The Biden administration is very cautious about armed conflict. Administration skeptics are less concerned that it would stumble into a war than being unable to stop Russia from seizing control of Ukraine. It has so far bet the farm mostly on sanctions. Yet the behavior of NATO partners like Germany raises serious concerns about the ability to impose the sanctions it has thought about, such as ejecting Russia from the SWIFT system.”
As Liberty Nation has explained previously, the SWIFT network is the electronic financial system whereby nations carry on international banking transactions. Therefore, to be prohibited from using SWIFT would significantly curtail Moscow’s trade with other countries.
“What in your view is the potential for a strategic miscalculation regarding the intentions of each side in this conflict,” LN asked Farwell. He replied, “There is a real risk of miscalculation, as the parties may talk past one another. Americans are too often guilty of mirror imaging – believing the other side thinks like we do. The Russians don’t.”
Whether purposeful or the results of “talking past one another,” the consequences of open warfare between Russia and the U.S. with NATO allies would be perilous for all. Breitbart News reported that Congressman Ted Budd (R-NC) wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expressing “extreme concern” about the government’s plan to rescue Americans stranded in Ukraine should Russia invade. That’s a valid worry, as the Biden administration’s track record for smooth evacuations is not sterling.
On the diplomatic front, according to Fox News reporters Brooke Singman and Benjamin Hall on January 26, Blinken announced that the U.S. had “delivered written responses to demands made by Russia, saying it will be up to the Kremlin on how they want to proceed amid heightening tensions between Moscow and Ukraine.” However, the document will not be released to the public because “we think that diplomacy has the best chance to succeed if we provide space for confidential talks,” Blinken said.
A Reuters’ report quotes Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s challenge to the U.S. “If we do not receive a constructive answer from the west on our security demands, Moscow will take appropriate measures,” he warned. With 100,000 Russian combat forces on Ukraine’s border, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the definition of “constructive” is or what “appropriate measures” are.
Does that mean invading Ukraine? As Daniel Hoffman, Fox News contributor, cautioned, “He [Putin] could blockade the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. He could also use his Spetsnaz guys, special forces guys – and they’re inside Ukraine already – to topple this Zelensky government. That’s also an option.” Meanwhile, the world waits to find out what the Kremlin thinks of the West’s written response to Moscow’s demands.
If there is any light at the end of this threat-versus-threat tunnel, it comes from the Russian state media. “At the moment, there’s no sense the enemy is at the door and that we’re starting a war soon … That’s not happening at all,” said one analyst quoted by Reuters. But, before anyone gets overly optimistic, Reuters also pointed out, “In their reporting on Ukraine, Russian state media say Western ‘panic’ is fueling the tensions, along with U.S. troop reinforcements to the region and arms supplies to Kyiv – not the presence of around 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine’s border.” This narrative is the staple of what is being fed to the Russian populace by Moscow’s media outlets.
Even with instant communications via television or social media, it isn’t hard to imagine that mixed signals and misunderstood messaging could bring on a shooting confrontation. Policy mix-ups such as the one President Biden recently created with his “minor incursion” comments destroy public confidence. Under such conditions, misjudgments by either side seem all too possible. Again, Biden’s comment that Russian troops on Ukraine’s border “could mount the largest invasion since World War II” creates the image of hundreds of thousands of soldiers storming Ukraine’s frontier. Cooler rhetoric is required to avoid any miscalculations. Otherwise, Washington is playing right into the Kremlin’s misinformation narrative.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
~ Read more from Dave Patterson.