New Cold War: Russia has "permanently" broken relations with EU & US
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: As we head to the weekend, we are sadly into the second week of this Russia war in Ukraine, and no end in sight.
Of course, if you're in Russia, you're not supposed to call it a war. It's actually illegal to call it a war. It's a special military operation. If you call it a war or otherwise, describe fake news on the war as is considered by the Russian government, you face up to 15 years in prison. The level of brutality that the Russians are exerting upon innocent Ukrainians who have done nothing wrong, other than elected an independent and democratic government and want to determine their own future, as well as the brutality that the Russians are increasingly exerting against their own Russian citizens is horrifying and has met with revulsion with most of the world. There was a General Assembly, UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian invasion and four countries in the world voted with the Russians, Eritrea, Syria, Belarus, and North Korea.
It is an astonishing level of opposition, strong opposition and strong opposition that is willing to pay a serious price in order to be in strong opposition that we're seeing from countries around the world. Here's the problem. The Russians, yes, they will win militarily. They will be able to capture Kyiv. They will be able to remove Zelensky from power in Kyiv, but I see no circumstance under which Putin emerges from this crisis in anything but a dramatically worse position, both politically inside his own country, economically, in terms of how Russia is doing, as well as geopolitically and Russia's position, particularly as it relates to European security. There is no circumstance under which I can see that Putin wouldn't have been radically better off if he just hadn't invaded Ukraine.
And on the one hand, you can say, that's good because it means he's losing. And you want someone to lose when they take an action like that. On the other hand, not only does this come at the expense of millions and millions of Ukrainians who will be uprooted from their homes and thousands and thousands who will die, but also it's very hard to see a climbdown because if Putin loses no matter what, and Putin understands this isn't a democracy. He's not voted out of power. He loses, he very easily, that's the end of him. You can see how he will intend to continue to escalate. And that makes this environment closer to a worst case scenario. And I don't mean nuclear war, World War III. I mean worst case compared to where we were two weeks ago, before the war started with where we are now, almost everything points towards escalation. There are negotiations going on between Russia and Ukraine. They have agreed in principle on providing humanitarian corridors for Ukrainians to leave war zones.
But of course, that's one of the only things they can agree on for completely different reasons. For the Ukrainians, because they want to protect the Ukrainian people and they care about them and for the Russians, because they want it to be easier for them to take over these cities and they don't want the blow back, but that doesn't lead to an outcome that brings the two countries closer together. Doesn't facilitate further negotiation at all. The Russians are miles apart from anything that could lead to at this point, a cease fire, or climbdown. Now once the Russians take Kyiv and removes Zelensky from power, then you can imagine a cease fire, but it's hard to imagine a cease fire that could lead to Russia's reintegration into the global economy, or could lead to any reduction of these sanctions because Russia's position will have been remove and overthrow the Ukrainian government, occupy large pieces of Ukrainian territory plus all of these Ukrainians that are dead. You can't bring any of that back.
So I fear that for the foreseeable future we are looking at a new Cold War and indeed a new iron curtain behind which, it is we're not doing a lot of business. We're not traveling. We're not doing a lot of student exchanges. We're not engaging with each other. We are decoupling. Now this is not autarky for the Russian economy, because of course they will still be very closely linked and increasingly closely linked to China, which will soon be the largest economy in the world. And given that reality and China's basically at technological parity with the United States and they can buy a great deal of Russian oil and gas once they build the gas infrastructure over time, won't take that long. Certainly you can buy a lot of Russian food.
Plus you've got countries like India and the Gulf states and Brazil, other major economies that will continue to work with the Russian irrespective of what happens in Ukraine. So it's not like Russia's becoming North Korea, but Russia's relations with Europe and the United States I think are broken for good, permanently. It's hard to see them come back. And so, as I think about what we're likely to see over the coming weeks, I do think we're going to see military escalation. We're going to continue to see a proxy war, and we're going to continue to see the Russian economy implode, which will put more pressure on Putin. And what happens to Putin? Now silver lining, yes, the Europeans are much stronger. EU, UK relations are stronger. US, EU relations are stronger. And frankly, even for five minutes at the beginning of the State of the Union speech that Biden gave you could squint and pretend that the Americans had a functional democracy.
Even in the US there's general agreement that the Americans are doing the right thing and that Putin is the problem here, not Biden, not Trump, none of that, it's Putin. It won't last, but nonetheless. But going beyond, that are there any silver linings from the global perspective? And right now, at least the answer for that is no.
It's Friday. I hope everyone enjoys themselves this evening, relaxes over the weekend. We clearly have a lot of work to do together and I'm here for it, but that's where we are as of today. And I'll talk to you all real soon.
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