year of living dangerously

news analysis

In the year since Russia launched its “special military operation” in Ukraine, the international arena has become more complex and dangerous.

Despite the combined power of the Western powers, led by the powerful NATO alliance, Russia managed to acquire and hold large swaths of territory.

Meanwhile, Europe had to contend with a severe energy crisis. Especially after a mysterious force destroyed a strategic gas pipeline last year.

As the West doubles down on support for Kiev, fears of a escalating conflict, and even nuclear war, are rising with no sign of a peaceful resolution.

Gas leak at Nord Stream 2 seen from a Danish F-16 interceptor in Bornholm
A gas leak from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as seen from a Danish F-16 interceptor near Bornholm, Denmark on September 27, 2022. (Danish Armed Forces Command/Forsvaret Ritzau Scanpix/via Reuters)

Pipeline Sabotage: “Don’t Cross the Line”

As the conflict enters its second year, it remains unclear, at least to the public, who destroyed the Nord Stream pipeline that carried much-needed Russian gas to northern Europe.

Last September, a pipeline burst in Swedish and Danish waters, creating widespread energy shortages and associated inflationary pressures.

The Swedish and Danish governments quickly concluded that the data breach was an act of sabotage. But the investigation was abruptly halted due to officials’ concerns about “national security.”

Moscow called the breach an “act of terrorism”, arguing that it had evidence of British complicity in the attack.

Since then, the Western press has largely ignored the question of who was behind the most costly sabotage in history.

“How are the multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects that ensured Europe’s energy security destroyed? Why don’t European capitals say anything about it?” Political Anna It was a question that List’s Stanislav Pritchin repeated to the Epoch Times.

Earlier this month, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh published a report on Substack suggesting U.S. responsibility for the incident.

Citing an anonymous source, Hersh claimed the Biden administration planned the attack before Russia invaded Ukraine a year earlier.

When asked about the explosive allegations, a U.S. National Security Council spokesman called Hersh’s report “completely false.”

The Russian government has since called for an investigation into the allegations, but Western countries have downplayed or completely ignored the issue.

Pritchin, a senior fellow at Russia’s Institute of World Economy and International Relations, said only “a handful of countries” were able to carry out the attack.

“The United States remains the most likely candidate,” he said. “Hirsh’s article seems to support this theory.”

For Moscow, the dismantling of the Nord Stream pipeline and the lukewarm response by Western capitals signaled “no rules,” according to Pritchin.

“That means nothing is off the table,” he said. “No more red lines.”

moldova rocket debris
Missile wreckage in a field in the village of Larga, northern Moldova, January 14, 2023. (Ministry of Interior of Moldova via AP)

Transnistria: ‘Dangerous escalation’

As the first anniversary of the war begins, fears of a escalating conflict in Europe are growing. This includes a potential ‘second front’ in Moldova, Ukraine’s southwest neighbor.

Earlier this week, Moscow claimed that Kiev was planning an attack on the Russian-controlled Transnistria region in eastern Moldova.

This small region was separated from Moldova in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since then it has been controlled by Russia and is home to an estimated 1,000 Russian troops.

A narrow enclave along Moldova’s easternmost point, Transnistria shares a border about 280 miles long with Ukraine.

This week Moscow claimed that Kiev was planning a “false flag” attack on Ukrainian territory. They said Ukraine intended to use it as a pretext to attack Russian forces in Transnistria.

Russia’s Defense Ministry issued a statement stressing its readiness to respond “to imminent provocations”.

Moldova’s pro-Western government denied the allegations and promised to “promptly inform” its citizens “in the event of a threat to the country.”

Earlier this month, Moldova’s President Maia Sandu, who wants her country to join the EU and NATO, accused Russia of plotting to foment a coup to overthrow the government.

Sandu did not provide evidence for this claim, which was reportedly based on information provided by Ukrainian security services.

According to Pritchin, Transnistria has recently come to the fore as Kiev and its Western allies are “looking for weaknesses”.

“Transnistria is geographically isolated from Russia,” he said. “Also, due to their relatively low numbers, Russian forces deployed in the region could be seen as easy targets.”

Pritchin believes that attempts to open a “second front” in Moldova or Transnistria pose serious risks to European security.

“It will be a very dangerous escalation,” he said, “because Russia has no choice but to respond.”

President Putin of Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual speech to the Federal Assembly in Moscow on February 21, 2023. (Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Kremlin via Rueters)

Nuclear Talks: ‘No Hope for Negotiations’

A year-long war between Russia and Ukraine, and even the West, has also fueled fears of nuclear war.

This week, Moscow suspended its participation in the New START nuclear treaty with the United States, which sought to limit both countries’ nuclear arsenals.

US officials condemned the move, but the Western media, in typical fashion, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being involved in a “nuclear brink.”

A month earlier, Washington accused Russia of violating the terms of the treaty by refusing to inspect nuclear weapons facilities.

Putin responded by noting that both the United States and NATO had described Russia’s defeat in Ukraine as a “strategic goal.”

“And do they think we can inspect nuclear weapons sites?” he asked, describing the West’s demands as “ridiculous.”

Putin continued to insist that NATO allies are “actively helping” Kiev to target Russian airbases that host nuclear-capable long-range bombers.

According to Pritchin, Putin’s decision to suspend the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons shows that Moscow has “lost hope of meaningful negotiations with the West.”

In late 2021, Moscow sought to secure pledges from the US and NATO that Ukraine would not join the Western Alliance.

However, according to Pritchin, the Russian proposal was “totally ignored by the Western political system.”

“Since then, Moscow has felt that it has no effective means of exchange, cooperation or even dialogue with the West,” he said.

“This is especially true for the United States,” he added, adding that “the United States has supported Kiev unconditionally with money, weapons and political support.”

Epoch Times photo
On Tuesday, April 29, 2014, pro-Russian activists waved flags of the Republic of Donbass to crowds celebrating the capture of the administration building in the center of Luhansk, one of the largest cities in Ukraine’s troubled east. shake. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlyanichenko)

Moscow: the war started in 2014

As Western observers mark the first anniversary of the war, it is worth noting that, from Moscow’s point of view, the conflict with Kiev began in 2014.

That year saw the outbreak of the “Maidan Revolution” in Ukraine, a Washington-backed uprising that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych from power.

Yanukovych was soon replaced by the West-friendly Petro Poroshenko, who began the process of bringing Ukraine into the EU.

The sudden change of government, which Moscow saw as a “coup,” sparked a popular uprising in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region.

Comprising Donetsk and Luhansk, the Russian-speaking Donbass region shares historical and cultural ties with Russia.

According to Russian and pro-Russian Ukrainian sources, Kiev’s new pro-Western government responded to the uprising in eastern Ukraine by indiscriminately shelling the Donbass region.

In late 2014, the Minsk Protocol, brokered by France and Germany, was signed with the ostensible purpose of reaching a ceasefire between the warring sides.

But last December, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that the Minsk Protocol was simply intended to “give time” for Kiev to arm itself before an anticipated clash with Russia. .

“For Western political establishments, the Minsk talks were nothing more than a means to further their geopolitical objectives,” Pritchin said.

He went on to say that unrestricted Western support for Kiev was a “strategic mistake” that helped throw Russia into China’s arms.

“Russia-China relations will become increasingly important,” concluded Mr Pritchin.