Global Implications of U.S. Failure in Ukraine

The failure of the Biden administration to exhaust and destabilize Russia by fighting a proxy war to the last Ukrainian, let alone to effect its internal disintegration coupled with civil war and external isolation, will have world-historic consequences. It marks a colossal failure of the post-Cold War neoconservative strategy of global hegemony, and that cabal’s propensity to treat U.S. technological power and military supremacy as a substitute for coherent strategy.

The recognition of failure is by now both open and abundant. On Nov. 17 Richard Haass, until recently chairman of the arch-establishmentarian Council on Foreign Relations, coauthored with Charles Kupchan an article in Foreign Affairs (“Redefining Success in Ukraine”) calling for a new strategy. The authors noted that the failure of the Ukrainian summer counteroffensive coincided with the decline of political willingness on both sides of the Atlantic to continue providing military and economic support to the Kiev regime:

These circumstances necessitate a comprehensive reappraisal of the current strategy that Ukraine and its partners are pursuing. Such a reassessment reveals an uncomfortable truth: namely, that Ukraine and the West are on an unsustainable trajectory, one characterized by a glaring mismatch between ends and means.

A week later Haass declared, “Even if we give everything we need to give or want to give to Ukraine, it still won’t lead to success”:

What I argue, therefore, is the United States needs to have some very direct conversations with Ukraine, with President Zelensky. Talk about reducing their emphasis on liberating land, and put emphasis on holding onto what they’ve got … Any time in life there’s a big gap between what you’re trying to do and your ability to do it, you’ve either got to increase your means or lower your goals. I think here, the only realistic option as a tactial measure is to lower our goals.

On Dec. 13 columnist Lee Hockstader warned in The Washington Post that the danger in Ukraine isn’t stalemate, it’s defeat. In a related vein, three days later Jan Oberg, director of Sweden’s Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, wrote that after “Part One” in Ukraine, with the promise of NATO expansion and wooing, came “Part Two,” with its militarization and proxy war—but no membership of NATO, which would commit Western troops to Ukrainian soil and cost NATO lives. According to Oberg, “now comes Part Three, the abandonment and Ukraine on desolation row to be fixed by a faltering EU.”

There are three grand-strategic consequences of the failure of the Biden administration to defeat Russia in Ukraine. (The rest of the “West”—NATO/EU, the Anglosphere, Japan completely pliant to the grouping’s hegemon, and thus irrelevant to the wider picture.)

First and foremost, Washington’s failure in Ukraine is a major blow to the concept and practice of globalization which was based on the political, economic, financial, social, cultural, and moral principles promoted by the ruling class of the United States. The process already has been undermined by the advent of BRICS-led de-dollarization and by the COVID-prompted disruption of global supply chains. It is not premature to say that, with the political and military failure in Ukraine, globalization à laméricaine is over. To put it succinctly: most of the world loathes the rainbow flag and all it stands for, and now knows it will not prevail.

The second is the discrediting of the notion that America can achieve and maintain complete military and technological superiority over any likely adversary. The first Gulf War made America dizzy and dangerous. Being able to resort to lethal force with little cost encouraged its casual and ultimately criminal use, notably against the Serbs and in favor of the Muslim Bosnians (1994-95) and Albanians (1999). Wanton and invariably catastrophic interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya soon followed.

Having goaded Ukraine onto the collision course with Russia, the Biden administration has provided it—directly or through its satellites—with vast quantities of weaponry, ordnance, training, intelligence, and money. Nevertheless, it has failed to achieve its stated objectives.

The arsenals are almost empty, the pool of Ukrainian cannon fodder exhausted, the scope for renewed offensive operations effectively nonexistent. The military-political failure, however explained, is manifest and remarkable. In a faraway corner of Eastern Europe, in a land utterly irrelevant to America’s security and well-being, the U.S. administration has lost. On the global plane, as a result, China and Russia will have neutralized the would-be hegemon’s power edge. The rest of the world, primarily the misnamed Global South, is taking note.

Last, but not least, the EU has followed the U.S. obediently and self-ruinously. It is emerging from the Ukrainian fiasco economically insolvent, and politically and socially fragile. This applies first and foremost to Europe’s manufacturing powerhouse Germany, closely followed by Italy, France, and Benelux. The political backlash is already evident in the awakening of patriotic and sovereigntist parties and movements all over the Union, including the remarkable rise of support for the long-demonized Alternative for Germany (AfD). Sooner or later, even in the ever-so-docile Germany, the issue of the destruction of Nord Stream II will come to haunt that monstrous operation’s masterminds. In 2024 political winds all over Europe will be blowing to the patriotic right, further eroding support for what is increasingly seen as an unnecessary and—especially for the Old Continent—ruinous war in Ukraine.

The failure of the neoconservative-neoliberal duopoly in Washington to maintain the myth of its full-spectrum military dominance—as evidenced in Ukraine—may have several beneficial consequences. Coupled with the effects of de-dollarization, it is likely to force a gradual retreat from the obsession with global empire—not because the ruling class will come to its senses, but because it will have no choice in the matter. This in turn may lead to the revival of strategic thought, understood as the art of balancing ends and means in pursuit of rationally defined national interests and contingent objectives.

In the aftermath of the conflict in Ukraine, without the blunt tool of military supremacy and without the associated conviction that the world just longs to be rainbow-flagged and transgenderized, the U.S. “foreign policy community” will come to a dead end. It is already devoid of strategy and fresh ideas, not to mention the cultural and moral resources of yore.

After Ukraine the decision-makers in Washington, D.C. will face a choice. They will have to choose between the acceptance of America as a great power among other great powers competing and/or cooperating in a multipolar world, and perseverance in pursuit of the insane and immoral “benevolent global hegemony” (cf. Messrs. Kagan & Kristol).

Sadly, the Beltway “elite” would rather risk nuclear annihilation of the planet than accept that the notions of exceptionalism and indispensability are arrogant, soul-eroding delusions. They are both insane and evil, a mortal threat to the true America and to the rest of the world alike.

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