There is much hope in Russia and parts of the West that Republican majorities in both the House and Senate will lead to a decline in support for Ukraine in the NATO-Russian Ukrainian war and that there is a new awareness in Washington of the dangers of the present war, evidenced by reported talk feelers. It is regretful that these hopes are almost surely destined to be dashed. The only path to peace talks is through a long drawn out quagmire or one of the parties to the war gaining a clear and strong upper hand under which the losing side must begin talks in order to avoid a far worse outcome for itself.
A Republican victory will not have any direct influence on the course of the war or U.S. and Western support for the war in the short- to mid-term. This is true for several reasons. First, the Republican Party has a long tradition of being anti-Muscovite; a tradition that did not have trouble making the transition from the USSR to post-Soviet Russia. The Republicans are culturally anti-Muscovite and deeply tied into the military-industrial conflict, U.S. defense and intelligence departments, and Washington think tank circles that tend to support the war. Historically, all this has been truer for the Republicans than the Democrats until the Obama Administration. With the Clinton administration’s inauguration of NATO expansion and the Obama administration’s attempted revolution from above carried out through an unprecedented politicization and weaponization of the FBI and intelligence services during ‘Russiagate’ in order to maintain power indefinitely, the Democrats have developed a nascent Party-state rooted deeply in a new Russophobia that melds somewhat seamlessly with the old Republican anti-communism-turned-new cold war.
Many in Moscow and elsewhere have misinterpreted remarks made by Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asserting that a Congress controlled by his party will be more cautious (though not necessarily more stingy) in providing military and financial aid to Kiev specifically by instituting controls on Ukrainian corruption and misuse of American and other Western assistance. McCarthy did not mean that the GOP would attempt to reduce or even limit assistance to Kiev, and his statement may also have been an election ploy that will be abandoned when the new Congress sits in January.
Others are putting their hopes for a ceasefire or peace settlement in former President Donald Trump running and winning the presidency after the Republican boost from victories in the mid-terms. But it is vital to remember that Trump’s claims that the NATO-Russian war in Ukraine would never have happened if he were president is predicated on his claim that he would threaten Putin with such damage that Putin would never have thought of invading Ukraine, regardless of US, NATO, and Maidan Ukraine’s various provocations and threats to Russian national security. The Trump option offers little hope for a resolution of the Ukrainian conflict or the larger NATO-Russia confrontation that caused it, unless Trump’s public statements are bluster, and as president he would conduct a more subtle policy of carrots and sticks.
Another dubious exit path lies in a supposed new awareness in Democrat-run Washington of the present war’s dangers; an awareness seemingly evidenced by reported talk feelers between Washington and Moscow. The recent leaks regarding alleged Biden administration pressure on Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to demonstrate a willingness to engage Russian President Vladimir Putin in negotiations could be a DemParty-state pre-election ploy to soften the widespread impression among Americans that Washington has been careless in letting the war proceed and in fact escalating the war through its and NATO’s ever deepening involvement through weapons supplies, military training, special forces deployments, intelligence support, tactical and strategic command and planning expertise, and loose talk of nuclear weapons use. The reported pressure on Zelenskiy has not been substantiated and also could be intended only for domestic consumption and mitigating the impression of the administration’s dangerous incompetent brinksmanship by supplying arms to Kiev while ignoring the diplomatic track with Moscow. This would also undercut Republican pre-election statements that a Congress under a GOP majority will control and monitor military and financial aid to Kiev, which has been misperceived by some here and in Russia as a call to cut off aid. Indeed, as election day approached Washington announced a new tranche of weapons supplies to include NASAMS air defense systems. At the same time, Zelenskiy rejected any negotiations with Putin and announced a new mobilization.
Reports that NSC head Jake Sullivan has been engaged for some time in behind-the-scenes talks with Putin’s key foreign policy and security advisors Yurii Ushakov and Nikolai Patrushev were leaked at the same time and may very well have been intended to bolster the image of emerging negotiations, with which these talks were immediately conflated by many. However, these latter discussions appear to have been unrelated to a war resolution and limited to conversations on how to limit the risk of a miscalculation and nuclear confrontation between Washington and Moscow as a result of the ongoing conflict. It appears they were not focused on the Ukrainian war per se or ways to begin ceasefire or peace talks. It is U.S. policy, after all, that there should be ‘no talk about Ukraine without Ukraine.’ An attendant rumor is that a peace deal could involve a Russian withdrawal form part of the recently annexed region of Kherson, presumably to south of the Dniepr river, but Putin is unlikely to give back territory unless he receives in exchange an ironclad, written treaty on Ukraine’s neutral, non-NATO status, which would take months to arrange.
This is not to say that this winter, which will be a dismal one from Vancouver to Vladivostok, will not produce new talks. The Sullivan-Patrushev discussions could evolve into ceasefire discussions leading to a peace treaty even if they originally did not discuss peace talks, but the Republicans will have little to nothing to do with such progress. Crumbling Western economies, Biden’s crumbling completion of the Obama-Clinton revolution from above, and the destruction raining down on Ukraine and political risks facing Putin will do that. In particular, Ukraine risks the nearly complete destruction of its energy grid, stranding the army with limited mobility and ultimately fuel and other supplies and forcing mass evacuations of citizens west, depopulating Ukraine east of the Dneipr. Meanwhile, Russian forces’ exposed position in Kherson and Putin’s refusal to see truly massive Russian casualties that could undo political stability require avoiding a Ukrainian offensive into what is now Russian territory in the Russian view. Finally, in Washington and Brussels something akin to political common sense and survival dictates ending this war as Europe freezes or at least de-industrializes and falls into a deep recession or depression.
Perhaps, if the West cannot see its way to push talks, then one of the ‘rest’ (non-West) – China, India, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia — may utilize the above catastrophes and bring Kiev, Washington and Moscow to the bargaining table.
By the way, I vote Republican but do so without illusions. The Republicans might stop the DemParty-state’s revolution from above, but they will be in no hurry to make peace with Russia or put an end to NATO expansion, which has brought us this terrible war, aspects of which in turn can be blamed on Biden until 2024.
EUROPE BOOKS, 2022
MCFARLAND BOOKS, 2021
MCFARLAND BOOKS, 2018
About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, www.canalyt.com. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu
Dr. Hahn is the author of the new book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored five previous, well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group.