The Kremlin’s Hesitancy and Prevarication Is a Road to War

The Kremlin’s Hesitancy and Prevarication Is a Road to War

Paul Craig Roberts

The Kremlin emanates confusion.  The Kremlin is doing its best to appease the West, and the West won’t let them.  Just consider the matter of Russia servicing its foreign debt.  The West has done everything possible to prevent Russia from servicing her debt, and Russia has done everything possible to turn its money over to the same West that has stolen $300 billion of Russia’s foreign reserves and is pummeling Russia with sanctions, blockades of one part of Russia to another, of massive insults, designating the Russian President Putin as a war criminal that must be tried in an international tribunal, and now a Finnish mayor  on Russia’s border is advocating a NATO military base in his town even though NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that nuclear weapons might be deployed in Finland and Sweden. 

One would think that if the Kremlin insisted on servicing Russia’s small foreign debt, the Kremlin would at least pay the interest out of its stolen foreign reserves, thus setting its creditors against the sanctions.  

A clued-in government would simply say to the West, “thank you very much for repudiating our debt for us.”  

Europe has made it publicly clear that it intends to be 100% independent of Russian oil and gas within 3 years, and in the meantime intends to cap the price of Russian oil at half its current price.  So why is the Kremlin continuing to supply Europe with energy, without which European industry simply must close down, when Europe intends to punish Russia by spurning her energy while cutting its price?  Has it not yet occurred to the Kremlin that it is the energy that the Kremlin is  supplying to Europe that is making it possible for Europe to flood Ukraine with weapons?  The Kremlin’s policy seems designed to demoralize Russia’s armed forces. 

Why hasn’t the Kremlin terminated all energy flows to Europe?  Why does the Kremlin sell the West the energy with which to carry on its war with Russia?  JPMorganChase says if Russia cut its oil exports by five million barrels, the oil price would rise to $380 per barrel. 

Why doesn’t Russia do it?  Europe would immediately and totally collapse. The conflict in Ukraine would instantly end.  The Kremlin could tell the Europeans that energy would reappear when Europe exits NATO.  As I have previously written, the Kremlin holds all the cards but is not competent to play them.

What explains this stupidity?  Russian soldiers are dying and the Kremlin is supplying the enemy with energy.  I believe that the problem is that the Kremlin has a mystical belief in legalism.  The Kremlin, playing goody two shoes, is trying to impress the West by showing how Russia, unlike the West, respects contracts and agreements with her enemies even when she is at war with them.  It is extraordinary that the Kremlin thinks this makes any impression on the West other than a demonstration of Russian stupidity and weakness. 

Consider Lithuania’s blockade of Kaliningrad, a part of Russia separated from the main geographical part of Russia.  Russia complained but has done nothing. The governor of Kaliningrad said that Moscow could collapse the Lithuanian economy by counter sanctions on goods coming in and out of Baltic states. “Russia could make half of the Lithuanian economy disappear,” he said. Instead, the Kremlin emanates more confusion and hesitancy which invites more provocations.

The Kremlin back-peddles so much that the West simply does not take Russia seriously.  How many times have we heard Foreign Minister Lavrov and other high ranking members of the Russian government, including Putin, say that the West is seeking to destroy Russia, that Russia will never again trust the West, that the West keeps no agreements that it makes with Russia?  So why is Kremlin spokesman Peskov publicly moaning that western leaders are not interested in achieving peace in Ukraine through dialogue and negotiations.  Does the Kremlin really want another worthless Minsk Agreement, another agreement not to move NATO to Russia’s border?  Has the Kremlin already abandoned the reason it sent military forces into Donbass–to deNazify, demilitarize, and neutralize Ukraine?  Is what Russia was going to do by force now to be negotiated?

Maybe the Western whore media is correct.  Ukraine is winning. 

My patriotic readers are probably wondering why I am chastising the Kremlin for setting Russia up for defeat, not of course in Donbass but on the wider scene.  Whose side is Roberts on?  I am on the side of avoiding a wider war that will end in nuclear war.  Both Washington and the Kremlin are making mistakes that will result in nuclear war.  Washington pushed by neoconservative ideology is intent on hegemony and in pursuit of hegemony crosses Russian red lines.  By not enforcing her red lines, Russia encourages more provocations.  In effect, as I have explained, Russia’s tolerance of provocations results in more provocations.  Washington no longer believes that there are any Russian red lines.  This is a mistaken belief, but it is an operative one, and it is the Kremlin’s fault.

There was never any prospect of Russia’s intervention in Donbass being limited. Washington forced Russia’s intervention for the purpose of a widening  war. Now both Washington and NATO are combatants in the war and are subject to the military retaliation that the Kremlin announced would be the fate of those who intervened.  But there is no retaliation, not even a shut-off of energy supplies to Europe.  Consequently, the West again stuck its fingers into the Kremlin’s eyes by putting Finland and Sweden in NATO.  The inclusion of two historically neutral countries in the alliance formed against Russia increased NATO’s presence on Russia’s border by 832 miles.  One of the reasons Russia intervened in Donbass was to neutralize Ukraine so that there would not be NATO bases on Ukraine’s border with Russia.  So now the situation for Russia is there will be NATO bases along 832 miles of the Finnish-Russian border.

The Kremlin’s low-key, almost nonexistent, response to extreme provocations has encouraged all sorts of provocations from countries that Russia, if it had the will, could destroy in a wink of an eye.  Turkey has seized, allegedly, a Russian flag ship with Ukrainian grain. Turkey has decided that the intended recipients can go hungry while Turkey sells the ship’s release to Russia or reestablishes its damaged relations with the West.  NATO announces that other former parts of the Russian empire, such as Georgia, are being prepped for NATO membership.  Washington is undermining the Russian/Kazakhstan alliance. There are new US sponsored disturbances in Uzbekistan, and so on.

The Kremlin has overlooked that the breakup of the Soviet/Russian empire created new countries whose leaders Washington can purchase to cause difficulties for Russia. The gullible, trusting Russians fell for this, and now Washington can come at them on many fronts in proxy combat.  Russia, having been brainwashed by American neoliberal economists, does not know how to fight in the economic arena.  All Russia has is her military, and so far the Kremlin only permits its use in a limited and constrained way. The consequence will be a demoralized Russian military.

To the West this seems like a lack of Kremlin nerve and determination, and so the West thinks it can break Russia’s will by piling on provocations.  I think that the West is mistaken, but the West is encouraged to push harder by Russia’s unwillingness to put down a hard foot that would make the West realize that there really are Russian red lines.

At this time Russian red lines appear to Washington as mythical creatures like the legalisms in which the Kremlin foolishly believes.


Is the Kremlin Deaf?


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