As Russia is launching a new phase of war, will eastern Ukraine fall? What is the West's last resort if the war further escalates? With US airlines dropping mask requirements for passengers, is this a bold move? Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.
As Russia is launching a new phase of war, will eastern Ukraine fall?
Well, first of all, they said they were going to launch the new phase like a few weeks ago. What gives? It's like weeks for the new phase but yeah, they're now really moving into military escalation across the Donbas. Remember, this is the territory that the Russians have declared, recognized as independent. It's about two-thirds more than the territory they had occupied from 2014 until just before the war started, February 24th. And yeah, the Russians clearly have learned some lessons from mistakes that were made in the last eight weeks of the war. They've got new leadership on the ground. They've sent some additional troops, but they also have poor morale. The troops have been depleted and the Ukrainians have an awful lot of military capability. I'll tell you, I think it's very unlikely that east Ukraine will fall by May 9th, which is when Putin wants to make his announcement of victory on Victory Day. I think eventually yes, it's more likely than not that eastern Ukraine will fall, but this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. And that's a very sad thing.
What is the West's last resort if the war further escalates?
Well, I mean the biggest thing that the West can do is Europe can cut off all of the remaining energy that they're getting from Russia, which is continuing to fund the war. And the problem is that that's going to happen anyway. I mean if the Russians use chemical weapons or, God forbid, or if the Russians decide that they're going to engage in just scorched earth across major Ukrainian cities like they have in Mariupol. Maybe it happens faster. If they don't, then it happens over another year, two years. But if you're Russia, does that really change the way you think about your relationship with the West or your behavior on the ground? It probably doesn't. So, I mean, short of the West actually engaging in the war directly, a no-fly zone or troops on the ground, there's really very little additional that they can do. And that's part of the reason why it's unlikely that the Russians are going to change their behavior in any way here. It's hard to come up with a deterrent effect.
With US airlines dropping mask requirements for passengers, is this a bold move?
No, it's not a bold move, it's a stupid move in the sense that it was made arbitrarily by a Trump-appointed justice on the ground in Florida. It's a horrible way to actually decide that you're suddenly getting rid of a mandate. I personally think that the implementation of the mandates has been pretty arbitrary. It's been badly enforced. It's not N95 or KN95 masks, people wearing bandanas for Christ's sake. And they're on an hour-long shuttle to Washington DC and they're having drinks while they're barely wearing masks at all. So, it doesn't feel very effective to me. And in that regard with all the vaccines we have, this is not something that I'm worked up about. I'm kind of glad they're gone. I understand that given how nuts everyone has been over the pandemic the last two years and how politicized it's gotten that people are angry. But no, I don't think it's a bold move. I think it's just one more thing that shows that the United States does not have its political shit in order if you don't mind, because we are just so politically divided and dysfunctional. It's yet one more example of that.
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