Two years ago, on February 19, 2021, at the 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference, President Biden addressed the global community for the first time. He defined the partnership between Europe and the US as the cornerstone of all that the West hopes to accomplish in the 21st century, just as it did in the 20th century. He said, “I know — I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined — determined to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership.”
Already, there is a lot to be said about the Turkey-Syria earthquake. There will be much more in the weeks and months ahead. Neither the dust will set settle, nor the grief, and anger will go away soon. But one can perhaps wait until the victims of the disaster are laid in their final resting places. All I wish to say for now is that Türkiye is eternally grateful to those rescue workers from abroad who joined the Turkish teams in a heroic effort to deal with the tragic consequences of this catastrophe. And I also would simply draw attention to the glaring contradiction between saving lives in Türkiye and Syria and the year-long bloodshed in Ukraine.
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited France, Italy, Britain, Canada, and the US. In the background was the war in Ukraine, China’s growing military might, North Korea’s becoming a de facto nuclear power, and Japan’s “National Security Strategy”, made public on December 16, 2022.
G7 met in Elmau, Germany, on 26-28 June 2022. The communiqué issued following the meeting stressed G7’s condemnation of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and reiterated that G7 will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.
The communiqué expressed concern about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strong opposition to any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion that increased tensions. It said there is no legal basis for China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea. It underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encouraged a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.
On April 27, at a meeting with the Council of Lawmakers, President Putin accused the West of always pursuing a policy of containing Russia. He said no one could imagine the creation of an “anti-Russia” on historical Russian territory. He claimed that Ukraine was pushed into direct confrontation with Russia and the Ukrainian people were allotted the destiny of “expendable material.” He said,
On April 5, 2022, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that assertions of “war crimes” are a pretext to torpedo the ongoing negotiations at a time when some light, however dim, has appeared at the end of the tunnel. Then, elaborating on the talks held in Istanbul on March 29, 2022, he said:
“For the first time ever, the Ukrainian side has put on paper that it is prepared to declare Ukraine a neutral, non-aligned, and non-nuclear state, and to refuse to deploy weapons from foreign states on its territory or to conduct exercises on its territory with the participation of foreign military personnel, unless they are approved by all guarantors of the future treaty, including the Russian Federation. The security guarantees envisaged by the treaty are a step toward everyone realizing that the negotiations need to completely rule out NATO’s eastward expansion, primarily to Ukraine, and to ensure indivisible security in Europe.”
The following was my summing-up of the Ukraine conflict seven years ago:
“News from Ukraine and Ukraine-related developments are not encouraging. The Minsk cease-fire remains fragile. Political and economic difficulties facing Ukraine show no sign of abating. The Government does not appear strong and determined enough. There has been no progress on the level of autonomy to be recognized to the separatist regions. The conflict between “federalization” and “decentralization” continues. Ukraine troops are now being trained by American officers. Russia’s naval deployments and air activity are becoming increasingly reminiscent of the Cold War. NATO is holding joint exercises in Poland, Lithuania, the US in Georgia. The Treaty on Alliance and Integration between Russia and South Ossetia has been submitted to the State Duma for ratification. The flow of immigrants and asylum seekers from Ukraine into EU countries is on the rise… The West continues to see Mr. Putin as an unpredictable leader determined not to allow Ukraine to chart its future. He says that he wants as close interaction as possible with the US, based on equal rights and mutual respect of interests and positions of each other. Both the West and Russia seemingly desire to put the Ukraine conflict behind and move forward but words and deeds do not match.” [i]
On January 26, the US and NATO delivered their written responses to Russia’s security demands in Eurasia. A day later, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the media that the responses offer grounds for serious talks only on matters of secondary importance; that there is no positive response to the main issue which is continued NATO enlargement towards the east and the deployment of strike weapons that can pose a threat to Russian territory.
In mid-December 2021, Russia handed the West two draft documents, “Agreement on Measures to Ensure the Security of the Russian Federation and Member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization”[i] and “Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Security Guarantees”[ii].
In their phone call of December 30, Presidents Biden and Putin agreed to the sequence of Strategic Stability Dialogue starting on the 9th and 10th in Geneva, a NATO-Russia Council (NRC) meeting on the 12th, and an OSCE meeting on the 13th. The three sets of talks are now behind.
With the New Year and Christmas celebrations behind, the world is back to the realities of the day. And the new year’s first surprise was the turmoil in Kazakhstan.
In their phone call of December 30, Presidents Biden and Putin had agreed to the sequence of Strategic Stability Dialogue starting on the 9th and 10th in Geneva, a NATO-Russia Council conversation on the 12th, and an OSCE meeting on the 13th.
Thus, during the past week, Secretary Blinken and senior officials of the US State Department were engaged in intensive telephone diplomacy with Washington’s allies and friends across the globe to secure a broad front against Russia in Ukraine. The readout of Deputy Secretary Sherman’s call with Georgian Foreign Minister Zalkaliani said, they “emphasized the need to uphold the right of sovereign nations to choose their own security arrangements and support Georgia and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of continued Russian aggression and discussed how to enhance peace and security in Europe.”