Analysis: An end to bloodshed in Ukraine never seemed further away
Rhetoric from US and Russian officials is heating up. The fighting on the ground is getting more vicious. And the battle being waged using tools of economic warfare shows no signs of slowing down.
The events of the past few days have clarified that the chasm between Moscow and its adversaries is widening, dimming the prospects for diplomacy. Ukraine and its western backers appear to be losing what little patience they have with Russia as it continues to forge ahead with an invasion that, if successful, threatens upend the post-World War II global order.
The US and European Union have already enacted several rounds of sanctions meant to hurt the Russian economy as punishment for the invasion, but a new effort to send much-needed weaponry to Ukraine is gaining steam. Representatives from 40 countries gathered at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany this week to help organize and coordinate the delivery of weaponry.
Those listening in the Kremlin likely see Austin’s statement as proof that Washington and the West are looking to box in Russia and prevent it from, as Putin has long promised, reemerging as a global superpower as it was during the Cold War.
“It looks like they’re not really interested in negotiations, and those that are calling for Russia not to win and calling on others to defeat Russia and to break to destroy Russia, which is what they’re doing by pumping Ukraine with weapons and lots and lots of weapons,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday. “If this continues, it doesn’t look likely that the negotiations will be productive.”
Moscow’s efforts at economic warfare are now going beyond tit-for-tat sanctions. The Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom said Wednseday it will shut off natural gas shipments to Poland and Bulgaria, ostensibly because the two countries refused to pay in rubles. In effect, it means that Russia is now weaponizing energy exports.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the move a “direct attack,” while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it “blackmail.” Both leaders said officials had been preparing for this scenario.
“It is clear that at the moment the natural gas is being used more as a political and economic weapon in the current war,” Bulgarian Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said.
Russia shows few signs of backing down despite the West’s more aggressive posture. Lavrov even warned that warned that the risk of nuclear war “is real, and it cannot be underestimated.”
The decision to better arm Ukraine could ultimately help it win the war. But with Russian troops being shot at with Western weapons, Putin may not be inclined to sue for peace.
CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood, Kevin Liptak and Alex Marquardt contributed to this report
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