Putin and Biden skirmish over Ukraine negotiations
At a 1 December 2022 news conference with French President Macron, the Washington Post reports, the following statements were made by President Biden on the possibility of negotiations to end the Ukraine war:
I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. If that’s the case, in consultation with my French and NATO friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Mr. Putin to see what he has in mind. He hasn’t done that.
The non-paywalled Reuters report adds this further comment by the President:
There’s one way for this war to end, the rational way: Putin could pull out of Ukraine, No. 1. It appears he’s not going to do that. He’s paying a very heavy price for failing to do it.
Not surprisingly, RT, the Russian state-controlled international news network, is reporting that Biden’s purported condition for beginning peace talks — that Russia leave Ukraine — is “unacceptable”.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov then seemingly added a Russian pre-condition for talks:
The US still does not recognize the new [formerly Ukrainian] territories that joined the Russian Federation, and certainly that makes the search for possible grounds for discussion much more difficult.
This kind of tit-for-tat public posturing reinforces the need for a high-level facilitation mechanism — independent of the parties but with good access to them — to quietly identify real opportunities for potential progress toward a negotiated outcome.
Has the US “reaped all the advantages the Ukraine war has to offer”?
This latest Russian and American sparring is happening against the backdrop of an astonishing analysis in [paywalled] Bloomberg.com, and summarized in Russia Matters as follows:
Key U.S. officials have begun to wonder whether the U.S. has already reaped all the advantages the Ukraine war has to offer.
The Bloomberg article, in our view, merits close scrutiny, personifying as it does the consequences of a war-fighting strategy led by those not actually doing the fighting.
Entitled Ukraine’s Victories May Become a Problem for the US (Hal Brands, bloomberg.com, 27 November 2022), the sub-head reads:
Washington has been a big winner from Russia’s fiasco, but a lengthy stalemate could become a huge burden.
According to Bloomberg, the Ukrainian Kherson triumph
was met with mixed messages from US President Joe Biden’s administration on a very sensitive subject: whether the Ukrainians should begin peace negotiations with Russia.
Within the administration there are two very different views:
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, argued that the Kyiv government should seek a settlement before the conflict becomes a stalemate like World War I.
Other US officials pushed back, saying that Washington would never force Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to negotiate or make concessions.
According to Hal Brands, there is “real uncertainty about four critical questions”:
- Is Ukraine headed for further gains or a grinding gridlock?
- How likely is escalation and how much risk is too much?
- Will the pro-Ukraine coalition hold together in the face of an economically punishing winter for Europe? and
- Does a protracted conflict help or hurt the US?
In today’s analysis we look at the fourth question and its implications:
Does a protracted conflict help or hurt the US?
Brands begins this part of the analysis with a telling comment:
If this war has imposed terrible costs on Ukraine, it has been a strategic windfall for Washington.
American gains include:
- Russia’s military reduced to rubble;
- NATO expansion and the strengthening of its defences;
- China facing greater resistance in Western Pacific as Japan, Taiwan, and Australia hasten their military preparations; and
- European nations reconsidering their ties with Beijing.
But key American officials now wonder whether the US has already “reaped all the advantages the Ukraine war has to offer,” worrying that:
As time passes, the cost [to the US] may get higher — in distraction from other regions [like Taiwan], in scarce munitions consumed, in vulnerability to crises that break out elsewhere.
The very frankness of this analysis underscores the horrifically asymmetrical impacts of the anti-Russian coalition’s war fighting strategy — with only one country doing the fighting and dying — and with European partners facing acute energy shortages over the winter while the leader of the western coalition — the US — can focus on its “strategic windfall” and can “reap” the considerable “advantages” that the Ukraine war “has to offer”, without the considerably greater downsides faced by the rest.
CANADA’S LONG-AWAITED INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY
For an excellent summary of its main elements by the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy (IPD), click here.
As the IPD notes, the lengthy plan outlines “interconnected strategic objectives” that frame engagement over the next decade based on “five pillars”:
- peace and security, trade and supply chain resiliency, people-to-people ties, green and sustainable development, and a more proactive diplomatic profile and footprint in the region.
In a backgrounder on the strategy’s financial commitments, Ottawa promised $2.3 billion in largely new financing to fund the plan’s initiatives until 2027, when a review will “return with an update that will cover initiatives and resources for years 2027-2032.”
IPD notes that:
the most significant line items in the strategy’s budget include $492.9 million for the Canadian Armed Forces presence in the region as well as $750 million for FinDev Canada to support “high-quality” infrastructure in line with the G7 Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. (This is the G7 response to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, albeit at much lower levels of financing.)
On economic engagement, the strategy emphasizes:
opening Southeast Asian markets, diversifying supply chains, achieving an Early Progress Trade Agreement with India as a “critical partner,” and reinvigorating “Team Canada” trade missions deployed to the region.
Diplomatic initiatives include commitments to:
appoint a special envoy to the Indo-Pacific, establish a new post to liaise with the U.S. in Hawaii, implement the Strategic Partnership with ASEAN, and add China analysts to Canada’s missions at the UN, EU, and NATO.
China as a “disruptive global power”
The new strategy characterizes China as a “disruptive global power” that is seeking
a more permissive environment for interests and values that increasingly depart from Canada’s.
As a result, Canada vows to
work closely with its partners to face the complex realities of China’s global impact…
At the same time, the strategy maintains that
the collective challenges we face, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and nuclear proliferation, are too important to tackle in isolation.
We must remain in dialogue with those with whom we do not see eye-to-eye. Where we can, we will pursue mutually beneficial collaboration, anchored in our commitment to protecting the safety of Canadians and the strategic interests of Canada.
And the new strategy document also recognizes that
China’s economy offers significant opportunities for Canadian exporters.
Other key elements of the strategy include:
- stronger military ties with Japan and South Korea, including investing in more military assets such as a new frigate to augment annual naval deployments to the region and
- increased investment in intelligence capabilities “to enable close collaboration with our Five Eyes and regional partners”.
Getting China right — the stakes for the Canadian economy
In the view of Ceasefire.ca:
The good news about the new strategy is the fact that the word “friend-shoring” — that is, a form of economic protectionism where democracies seek to build their supply chains solely through each other’s economies — is entirely absent from the document.
Instead, as noted above, there is an explicit recognition of the “significant opportunities” that China’s economy offers Canadian exporters.
But as the Executive Director of the Canada China Business Council (CCBC), Sarah Kutulakos, warned in a recent article, Canadian business “cannot go it alone”:
Canada has many bilateral dialogues with China, all of which have been frozen for nearly four years, meaning that we can’t communicate our dissatisfaction on any issues, from Taiwan to trade.
This prevents us from fighting for fair treatment in China for our companies, which are losing ground to competitors from like-minded Western countries.
Except for certain high-tech supply chains, US trade with China continues to grow. And China has surpassed the US to become the EU’s largest trading partner in goods. So, it is critical that Canada stay engaged, lest we risk falling behind.
One of the easiest — and for the business community, the most important — is the resumption of the Canada-China Economic and Financial Strategic Dialogue, which will help both governments address a growing list of commercial challenges, many of which can easily be crossed off the list if such dialogue takes place.
We welcome Canada’s commitment, in the new strategy, to pursue bilateral dialogue with China, including reviewing all available “mechanisms and structures” and improving the Trade Commissioner Service of Canadian exporters.
We turn again to Sarah Kutulakos:
Speaking out on issues is important, but even more important is speaking with China on these issues.
For the full article, see Why Canada Needs Dialogue With China, Especially When We Disagree (peacediplomacy.org, 21 November 2022).
China’s initial response to Canada’s new Indo-Pacific strategy
First asserting that the content on China in the strategy released by Canada is “dominated by ideological bias” and hyping of “the so-called China threat,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian continued:
The Canadian side has said on many occasions that it attaches importance to its relations with China and would like to improve and grow the relations with eyes set on the future.
The Canadian side needs to honor its words, show sincerity and goodwill, seek common ground while reserving differences, adopt reasonable and practical policies towards China, and deliver its commitments with concrete efforts.
New IPD report seeks to identify common ground within Canada on our China policy
For a wide-ranging and thought-provoking series of essays on redefining Canada’s relationship with China in a way that is “neither naïve nor overly alarmist,” see Canada & China in an Age of Great Power Rivalry: Addressing Challenges, Resetting the Relationship (peacediplomacy.org, 23 November 2022).
Senator Yuen Pau Woo writes in the foreword:
The essays collectively challenge the current conventional thinking on China and offer a pathway for Canada to construct a new approach to bilateral relations that is as clear-eyed about China’s place in the world as it is about Canada’s.
Underlining the fact that, for the past four years, most of the Canadian political focus when it comes to China has been on “competition and challenge,” the Senator reminds us that, in our ongoing engagement with that country:
The four C’s [Coexist, Cooperate, Compete and Challenge] are a useful reminder of the multiple objectives and approaches that must be part of any strategy, and the need to maintain balance among those objectives.
For a PDF version of the IPD China Strategy Project Report, click HERE.
QATAR WORLD CUP UPDATE: WOMEN’S FOOTBALL
For a comprehensive look at how Qatar has used its hosting of the FIFA World Cup to promote greater societal support for women’s football, see Women’s Football in Qatar – The State of Play in the 21st Century (www.living 2022.com, 5 November 2020).
The article concludes:
As Qatar progresses towards a more inclusive society, hopefully, women’s football in Qatar and the women’s national football team will also advance to greater success.
For an extraordinary documentary on the street girls from Bangladesh who competed in the Street Child World Cup, see The Women of Football: Qatar’s Other World Cup Close Up (Aljazeera.com, 6 November 2022).
Note that this documentary is one of a series by Al Jazeera showcasing women’s football throughout the World Cup in Qatar.
Text of Paul Meyer lecture on nuclear threats and Canada’s disarmament diplomacy now available
Recall that last week’s blog post highlighted a then-upcoming lecture by former Canadian Disarmament Ambassador Paul Meyer, on the occasion of his receipt of the 2022 Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention (CNWC) Award for Nuclear Disarmament Leadership.
We are pleased to include a PDF version of his lecture HERE.
Another excellent Anti-Personnel Landmine Treaty film
For an excellent short video, this time outlining the essential role of demining and mine risk education in former conflict zones around the world, see Needle in a Scrapyard: Canada and Demining (The Memory Project), which premiered on 1 December 2022.
The chasm between intelligence analysis and policy decisions
The recording is now available — by clicking HERE — for the webinar jointly hosted by the Canadian International Council (CIC) Middle East Study Group (MESG) and the Security and Intelligence Study Group (SISG) on the critical — but fraught — relationship between intelligence analysis and policy creation.
RI President and webinar moderator Peggy Mason comments:
This webinar takes as its starting point the catastrophic intelligence failures that underpinned the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq by the George W. Bush administration and carries that analysis all the way forward to Ottawa’s lack of preparedness for the so-called Freedom Convoy.
Photo credit: Government of Canada (consultation page for Canada-China Free Trade Agreement).
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