Macron and Scholz’s efforts to find a negotiated settlement between Kiev and Moscow have seemingly backfired due to a poor understanding of the situation.
European politics has become a comedy show of sorts in recent days when we observe how France and Germany’s leaders are tackling the problem of the Ukraine war – which they badly want to end – and also President Zelenskyy, who western elites are seeing more and more as part of the problem, rather the solution.
Recently these two leaders spoke with Zelenskyy and urged him to begin peace talks with Putin. His response, according to social media, was that “there’s nothing to negotiate and no one in Moscow to negotiate with..”.
The French and German presidents, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, are barely hiding the fact these days that they need Zelenskyy to start peace talks with the Russian president. The problem with that is their own oxymoronic logic which goes with the idea that they want peace. But at the same time, they also want a stronger Ukraine to emerge from it, which they can claim as theirs when the dust settles.
In many ways, some military pundits might compare this to the British attack on Arnhem in the Netherlands during WWII, where their soldiers took on too much and dreamt too big. A Bridge Too Far was a Hollywood movie which summed up the zealous adventure which failed to push the German positions back and take the bridges.
It’s a similar story to what these EU giants are setting out to achieve with the Ukraine war.
Zelenskyy is and always has been the real stumbling block when it comes to kickstarting peace talks. And nothing much has changed of late, except that US President Joe Biden is starting to panic in Washington as it is clear the egregious amount of money which was previously shovelled to Ukraine is going to slow down in 2023, due mainly to Republicans controlling the House and an election race kicking off.
This will leave him ambushed by blue-collar workers asking him how he blew 100 billion dollars on a country they can’t find on a map while a growing cost-of-living crisis takes more victims, puts more families on the streets and kills more of the old.
Biden and his allies have warned Zelenskyy that time is running out and that the latest tranche of cash has to get real results. Their thinking is that if he can make more gains on the battlefield, this will stand him in good stead for negotiating later on. The nightmare scenario for Biden is that the 2024 presidential elections are fought on a single issue – Ukraine – and that this will reinstate Trump or anyone else officially nominated by the Republican Party. The Americans take a slightly different view of the timeline and what they expect compared to the EU.
It’s more of a drawn-out torture for Macron and Scholz, whose mishandling of Zelenskyy is comical.
Vexed by this recalcitrant attitude, Zelenskyy was offered an incentive which, when viewed in a clear light, gives analysts and observers a clue as to how the West managed to impale itself in Ukraine and how Western sanctions are actually punishing EU citizens more than Russians.
Scholz and Macron offered to supply Zelenskyy with even more weapons plus a gilt-edged offer of NATO ‘defence pact’ if he starts peace talks with Putin. How could Scholz and Macron think these incentives would help negotiate peace with Putin?
And given Putin’s position now, it would take a miracle anyway to negotiate with Zelenskyy with or without these ‘incentives’.
For Ukraine, even if we are to humour the West in its optimism, there is a window of opportunity to make a small impact on the battlefield, perhaps at the end of summer if the 100 tanks promised will arrive. But this is a very optimistic viewpoint, given that even the tank crews will be rookies and the 2000 km ‘border’ between Russian and forces is too large for these tanks to have any real impact.
The truth about the tanks’ hyped-up story is that they will only be used in a defensive capacity. And that’s even if they arrive, as some analysts are very sceptical that Biden will even send the 30 or so promised M1 Abrams. Many believe it is just one more smokescreen created by the American President, who knows that this latest batch of military aid is probably the last.
Given that, Kremlin will no doubt seize the window of opportunity to go ahead with a spring offensive with new tanks rolling off the production lines. A key fact about tanks: the West has a shortage and an extended delivery period. Russia doesn’t, as it produces around 200 a year. And now, with China and Iran piling in with more assistance in the form of buying Russian energy, ditching the dollar and, if reports are to be believed, providing military hardware to add to Russia’s arsenal, it’s little wonder why there is panic setting in both the US and EU leaders.
Macron and Scholz are waiting for the first card to fall on the continent, which will almost certainly be the UK when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will have to scale back spending on Ukraine before the next winter sets in around November in the UK. Around about the same time, western leaders will likely be struggling to explain to voters how poor people are going to get it in the neck even more as the tank plan has backfired big time when Russia showcases its ‘tank buster’ robotic mini tanks, which are already arriving in Donbas.
And for the Leopard IIs and Challenger tanks? Who will buy them after this PR disaster? More money and jobs lost in the West. The Macron-Scholz peace plan definitely needs a rethink.
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