2022 — Year of Major Power Conflict Over Ukraine

Russia says Europe must think about the real prospect of turning their continent into a field of military confrontation like that which existed at the height of the Cold War, writes Scott Ritter.

Defender of Ukraine Day celebration, Oct. 14, 2017. (Ukraine Ministry of Defense, Wikimedia Commons)


By Scott Ritter
Special to Consortium News

The United States, wrapped in its self-made cloak of so-called “American exceptionalism”, is loath to undertake any action that can be construed as weakening its geopolitical posture or strengthening that of an adversary, actual or potential.

Under normal circumstances, such a foundational approach toward negotiations would be seen as logical and necessary. Of course, defining “normal conditions” is very much a subjective exercise in Washington, DC. What American diplomats embrace as the status quo ante is seen in many corners of the world as the United States taking what it wants, when it wants, how it wants, regardless of the cost such actions impose on the rest of the world.

How else can one explain the actions of the world’s sole remaining superpower in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union thirty years ago, and the subsequent end of the Cold War?

The bombing of Belgrade, Serbia in 1999 (the only time a European capital has been so attacked since the end of the Second World War) void of any legal authority recognized under international law?

The invasion of Iraq, using a manufactured pretext, in open violation of international law? Two decades of illegitimate occupation of Afghanistan under the false premise of nation building?

The destruction of Libya in the name of illegal regime change?

The eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), despite verbal assurances from various senior NATO diplomats and leaders that this would not happen?

The dissolution of foundational arms control agreements, such as the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) and Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaties, in a manner which failed to conceal America’s desire to deploy missile defense systems and offensive intermediate-range missiles on the European continent that directly threaten Russian national security?

The Last Chance for Peace?

Putin-Biden virtual summit on Dec. 7. (Presidential Executive Office of Russia)

This list of complaints does not reflect exaggeration or fabrication. The points raised are reality-based, founded in fact, and incontrovertibly true. Moreover, they serve as the foundation for a pair of draft treaties submitted by Russia to the United States and NATO last week which the Russians claim represent the last chance for peace in Europe.

Students of diplomatic history will note, accurately, that rarely do parties engaged in serious negotiations open with a gambit that includes complete, ready-for-signature draft treaties. Serious negotiations are defined by the principles of cooperation and compromise between equal partners to the treaty under discussion.

Usually take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums appear only after armed conflict between nations where one party has emerged decisively victorious over the other. Any diplomat from either the United States or one of its NATO partners would be right to note that neither the U.S. nor NATO have been defeated by Russia.

Moreover, by placing all its demands up front, Russia has weakened its hand by allowing NATO to pick and chose what, if any, of these demands might be open to potential compromise, where NATO will refuse to yield, and where NATO will push back with demands of its own. Simply put, by publishing its demands in draft treaty form, these experts contend, Russia has seriously weakened its hand.

The problem with this point of view, however, is that it is founded on the belief that what Russia is proposing is an old school diplomatic negotiation. It is not. One need only refer to the list of perceived sins, outlined above, to understand that Russia believes it has already yielded as much as it possibly can to what it believes is an overly aggressive, anti-Russian agenda being actively implemented by the U.S. and NATO.

These grievances are not assembled by reviewing decades of Russian diplomatic commentary, but rather by viewing one speech, given by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Russian Defense Ministry, earlier this week. The status quo ante, Putin has declared, is no longer acceptable. The U.S. and NATO must be open for the need to change, or else Russia will be compelled to change them on its own.

As Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko recently stated, “We [Russia] are making clear that we are ready to talk about switching over from a military or a military-technical scenario to a political process” that will strengthen the security of all parties involved. “If that doesn’t work out,” Grushko added, “we signaled to them [the U.S. and NATO] that will also move over to creating counter threats, but it will then be too late to ask us why we made these decisions and why we deployed these systems.”

Grushko appeared to be referencing the U.S. decision to deploy a new generation of hypersonic intermediate-range missiles known as “Dark Eagle” onto German soil sometime next year. Implicit in Grushko’s comments are the notion that a) Russia has a military response, most probably hypersonic intermediate-range missiles of its own, in mind, and these systems are ready for immediate deployment.

In other words, there will be no period of gradual transition, only instant cause-and-effect consequence. Europe, Grushko said, must think about the real prospect of turning their continent into a field of military confrontation like that which existed at the height of the Cold War.

‘A Serious Threat’

Putin at his annual press conference in Moscow on Thursday. (RT/YouTube/Screenshot)

Drawn out negotiations are not in Russia’s interests, only short-term outcomes, either produced through what would amount to the unlikely diplomatic capitulation on the part of the U.S. and NATO or compelled by Russia through force of arms. A lengthy period of negotiations would allow, for example, NATO and Ukraine to implement the ten major military exercises that are currently planned for 2022, exercises which Russia believes only encourage Ukrainian anti-Russian belligerency.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov opined that the planned drills are little more than a cover for Ukraine to attempt to resolve its internal problem by using force. Russian military experts, like Konstantin Sivkov, agree. “The drills that Ukraine is conducting with NATO are a serious threat,” Sivkov told the Russian newspaper Izvestia, “since they are directed at working on conducting a war against Russia. Additionally, they may serve as a cover for the deployment of a force grouping. Their arrival may end up with them not leaving.”

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov likewise has made it clear that any effort by NATO to legitimize its interest in Ukraine, or further Ukraine’s interest in joining NATO, was a non-starter for Russia. “When Mr. [NATO Secretary General Jens] Stoltenberg says loudly and rather arrogantly that nobody is in the position to violate the principle of the Washington treaty [NATO treaty],” Lavrov told the press recently, “which keeps the door open to any potential aspirant eager to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, he should remember that we are not a participant in that organization, that we are not signatory to that treaty, but that we are signatories to a broader regional Euro-Atlantic document, which contains the principle of the indivisibility of security.”

Russian Red Lines

Expansion of NATO. (Creative Commons/Wikipedia)

Russia will not yield on the issue of INF systems being deployed to Europe, NATO force deployments near the Russian border, or Ukrainian membership in NATO. So why present the draft treaties in the first place? Because Russia is positioning itself for a post-war reality where it will need to demonstrate to the rest of the world why it had no options other that direct military intervention in Ukraine. There should be no doubt that if and when Russia decides to move militarily on Ukraine, it will be a one-sided fight the likes of which have not been seen since Desert Storm in 1991, when a U.S.-led coalition rolled over Iraq. Ukraine will be destroyed as a modern nation state. This is a statement of fact.

The dire consequences that President Joe Biden, NATO, the EU, and the G-7 have promised in retaliation for any Russian military action against Ukraine are illusory—no nation can survive the inevitable blow-back that will accrue if such measures are enacted, especially against Russian energy. Russia, simply put, can survive being disconnected from SWIFT (the international system of communication protocols that link banks) that either – but neither Europe nor the United States can survive without Russian energy.

Therefore, Russia has presented NATO and the U.S. with draft treaties, ready for signature. The outcome, from the Russian perspective, is a fait accompli; it is up to the U.S. and NATO to determine the mechanism of their defeat, either diplomatic or, in the language of the Russians, “military-technical.”

Russia is operating on its own timeline, one that seeks a rapid resolution to these issues. While Russia has agreed to direct talks with the U.S., and multilateral talks with NATO and the OSCE, these talks will not be allowed to drag on.

Should the U.S. not agree to the Russian demands outright (never going to happen) or a reasonable counterproposal (highly unlikely), and should the U.S. go forward with its plans to deploy the Dark Eagle hypersonic missile system to Europe (prompting a Russian response to deploy weapons systems of its own that place the totality of Europe under the immediate threat of annihilation), then the outcome is a foregone conclusion—Russia will destroy Ukraine militarily.

Welcome to 1983, the year of the Able Archer NATO exercises that nearly prompted a Russian nuclear response.

Moreover, Russia may very well deploy hypersonic weapons into the Caribbean, either in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, or a combination thereof, to counter the threat to Moscow posed by U.S. systems in Europe.

Welcome to 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile crisis, when the Soviet Union responded to U.S. nuclear missiles in Italy and Turkey.

Russia is engaging in such precipitous behavior because it legitimately believes it has no other option. “We have nowhere left to retreat,” Putin lamented to his generals, when speaking of NATO expansion in Europe.

There will be many in the U.S., scared and confused by the Russian actions, who will seek to cast the blame for war and the rumor of war on Russia and Russia alone. But the reality is, this crisis has been a long time in the making, and the nation which is most responsible for building a history of minor conflicts which, in their aggregate approach critical mass, is the United States.

2022, it seems, will be a year of major power crisis and conflict.

Happy New Year.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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14 comments for “2022 — Year of Major Power Conflict Over Ukraine

  1. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    December 25, 2021 at 10:15

    The need of the day is to prevent the world from sliding towards war via the Ukraine mess. Fortunately both Russia and the USA do not want a war especially directly but their covert forces do not mind using their proxies to open some kebab stalls around the Maidan Square ! The sane minds in Russia sure can entertain the motley looneys crooning incoherently in Washington. So, a BIG war breaking out in 2022 ? Nah, that would be a tall order given current realities !

  2. mgr
    December 24, 2021 at 14:22

    One would hope that the EU will have more common sense than to allow NATO to drag it into a needless conflict with Russia that has been created by the US for its own purposes. In fact, it is more than time to dump NATO altogether and let America, the world’s premier war mongerer, deal with its own interminable conflicts. If anything, America should be place in quarantine by the world to prevent its madness from spreading any further.

  3. Robert Emmett
    December 24, 2021 at 11:59

    Tit for tat territory

    You skin my dog
    I’ll drown your cat
    Double-down on every threat
    Pull out your wallet $ shakeit
    How long before you no longer fake it
    Every bluff called ‘til nobody can take it
    for granted anymore

    Slam & Lock every door
    Drape the windows
    Get ready to reset that doomsday clock
    to as close as possible to impossible

    Or make any other pathetic gesture
    to which the keepers of the global ante
    take leave to pay zero fucking attention

  4. Tony Kevin
    December 24, 2021 at 11:38

    Importantly, Russia is not/ not issuing ultimatums here . It is drawing red lines which is not the same thing at all. And this is new.

    The tone of Putin’s initial speech and final remarks after Shoigu is new , and much sharper . Ritter has this right. Thanks, Scott for an excellent commentary and Consortium News.

    Shame to be writing this on Christmas Day . But then, it is not the Russian Christmas . Which is still two weeks away . There is a message from Putin there too , if we are smart enough to read it . His timing of this event is saying : the West does not set the rules of when we do things .

  5. Walter
    December 24, 2021 at 10:10

    Historical analysis of imperium yields conclusion that the imperium in not capable of retreat. Not capable of retreat in a foundational and constitutional (small “c”) structural sense. It simply cannot retreat. The implication is obvious.

    It may be worthwhile to recall that the Land Power “attacks through”, and has plainly announced that the centers of command and control (now where’s that? eh?) will, well, disappear immediately if Russia is attacked.

    It might be prudent for people to move away from those centers, and they’re not only in Europe.

    It may be that great intellectuals in imperial ruling class expect a nice war to enable them to postpone sine die any pesky election problems. They’re dreaming. Attack through. Think about it. Through to precisely, where?

  6. stephen kelley
    December 23, 2021 at 21:09

    to anyone who has followed this subject since at least 2014, it is obvious that we (the u.s.) are the ones who have fomented this crisis. but listening to the nightly news you would believe that exactly the opposite was true. boy, talking about turning reality on its head!!

  7. Jeff Harrison
    December 23, 2021 at 19:49

    These days, Washington is the world’s worst agent provocateur who tends to spew nothing but agitprop. I’ve long said that the US would continue to be the world’s bad boy until one of two wheels came off our cart. One is our control of the world’s financial systems by way of the US$ and two is by way of military defeat. The people running the US/UK/EU/NATO are too arrogant and stupid to know when to back off. We are headed for war.

  8. Richard Steven Hack
    December 23, 2021 at 17:21

    Another concise and accurate appraisal of the situation.

    I believe Putin presented these draft treaties at this time mostly because of Ukraine. I was not aware that Ukraine was going to participate in NATO exercises inside its borders, let alone *ten* of them in 2022. I believed Putin’s intelligence network inside Ukraine had informed him that the CIA and the neocons had convinced Zelensky that his only option was to start another war on the Donbass. Zelensky is between a rock and a hard place. He has maybe 10-20% approval rating, the hardliners want him to seize the Donbass and the oil transit fees are going to be cut off next year. So he’s out of time. Either he makes a move on Donbass or he gets kicked out – and whoever replaces him will be much less cordial to Russia.

    What is happening is the CIA and the neocons are controlling Zelensky. Putin even referenced this in his speech, IIRC. They are telling him one thing while in reality they are planning to sacrifice Ukraine in a war against Russia in order to further their agenda of demonizing Russia, keeping the EU poodles under the thumb of the US, and likely just to salve their own hatred of Russia.

    The Ukraine war is a done deal. It will happen either in January/February or in the summer. With the Ukraine forces bogged down in trench warfare for the last 10-11 months, it will be impossible for them to function and still less so the longer the stalemate goes on. Zelensky has to move now or very soon.

    Fortunately the US and NATO will not become involved because the military leaders in both recognize Russia’s overwhelming advantage in Ukraine and on its borders. This is another reason why the CIA and the neocons will cause the war to happen, regardless of anything Biden might say or do or want – they know it won’t expand out of control.

    Personally I think Biden is on board with this event. Nothing he says can be taken for truth, as his so-called “diplomacy” with China has demonstrated repeatedly over the past year. Either that, or he has zero control of his own administration, and the State Department and the neocons and the intelligence agencies operate to undermine anything he wants.

    In any event, things are going to heat up in Europe way beyond anything we expected at the beginning of 2021.

  9. David Otness
    December 23, 2021 at 16:57

    My comment on Gilbert Doctorow’s blog:
    The U.S. leadership as manifested in cut-out clown characters like Trump and now Biden/Harris continues the arc of failure begun under Clinton Inc and his policies as laid down by what must be referred to as the “deep state” consisting of the usual suspects in their Wall Street-financed doctrinal think tanks. They have all been toiling away toward this goal, this stand off situation, and now that they’ve gotten the world to this precipice: “Oh-Oh, didn’t think about this one” being an actual most logical conclusion to their D.C. basements’ doughty efforts. Drunk on momentum and hubris, only now do they perhaps realize they have strayed too far from the cave mouth and its warming protective fire.

    Treating the Russian peoples like untermenschen over these past decades, insulting them at every turn, (Obama’s boycott of the 75th Anniversary of the end of The Great Patriotic War,) the mass renunciation of the true sacrifices these people made (especially in light of WW II having been a Western-engineered war just as its predecessor WW I.)
    False hubris, testosterone-thought as underlying principle of conduct, the West has shown itself through all of this as being as trustworthy and responsible to potential momentous outcomes of history as two unsupervised six-year olds left alone in an old dirt-floored garage with a can of gasoline and a book of matches. Then there’s the decaying dynamite over in the corner, its suppurating nitroglycerine ready to “add fuel to the fire.”

    Cut-out clowns and nuclear tiddlywinks. I remain gobsmacked at the lack of vision and purpose for the betterment of humanity that eludes these id-bound creatures of aggrandizement and ill will toward Peace on Earth.

    Such is the testament and legacy of Allen Dulles and his ilk ever-haunting our present down to this very day.
    It’s the largely unacknowledged monsters and their contribution to the continuity of the genocidal-collective suicidal tendency history they initiated that remains our collective burden to overcome.

    “I will break the CIA into a thousand pieces!” Said one who dared and gave all to make it so.


    Patrick Armstrong (mentioned in Doctorow’s piece) has this (Dec 23) to offer for solid analysis of what hath been wrought.
    His Dec 21st piece is very illuminating and to which Doctorow provides links.


    Finally, there’s this: “NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard”


  10. rosemerry
    December 23, 2021 at 16:25

    Russia is blamed for “aggressive” behaviour which either has not occurred or is a reaction to US?NATO actions. We hear about poisonings,murders, election interference, which all the official and “free media” echo without evidence. We get “Russia annexed Crimea” without the previous US overthrow of elected Ukrainian Yanukovich, the existing pact about Crimea with Ukraine for the port, the referendum in Crimea showing overwhelming desire of the Crimeans to rejoin Russia.
    “Troops massing on the Ukrainian border” 100km inside Russia at an existing Russian base.
    Ignoring of Minsk agreement 2015 agreed to by Kiev and never attempted, for discussions with Donbass for special status. Picking a starting point and ignoring the previous parts gives a false story. Claiming NATO is defensive and is not targeting Russia is a sick joke.

  11. Realist
    December 23, 2021 at 15:35

    Clearly neither Joe Biden and Kamala Harris nor Donald Trump have the intellectual or emotional facilities of dealing with this crisis which is mostly one of their creation, and that of their immediate predecessors. Nor do any of their subordinates who are mostly just pawns of the fascistic great neocon conspiracy. Sad to say it may well take America’s first coup d’etat in its history to evade total global nuclear annihilation. I’m not talking “civil war,” as the contestants there are focused mainly on chronic domestic turmoil.

    Someone like General Milley (or maybe someone else in the military or some civilian whom the military backs, perhaps it might even be a prominent member of the very real American oligarchy) had better explain truthfully to the spooks, war profiteers, vainglorious generals and other insider elites slobbering for a major war why no one can win this one with Russia, especially not partnered with China, and especially not with the nukes they would ultimately be “forced” to use to prevent the humiliation of defeat. Someone needs the courage to explain to this cohort of latter day barbarians that picking a fight, especially with both other major nuclear powers on the planet simply cannot be a winning proposition and that he is ready, willing and able to displace the extant fools supposedly in power using, you know, a coup just like they had previously arranged as a surprise for Russia in the Ukraine. How this faction rules and how long they would remain in power and to what the country would ultimately transition simply cannot be said right now. However, it may be the only bridge to a “later on” since Ritter seems to believe that there is no talking sense to the imbeciles currently in charge of things. Perhaps 2022 sees the end of the old, increasing irrational and vicious, order and the emergence of a new “novus seclorum ordo,” or a “new new order” to borrow the meme from Futurama.

    Yes, these are the thoughts that the neocons are forcing me to have and publicly admit. Seriously, the world is now at the end game. There are no more moves or bluffs left to make in Washington’s baseless and futile quest to crush Russia and later China. I really wish Europe would rebel against their insane masters in Washington, but I have given up on those craven fools.

    • GBC
      December 23, 2021 at 17:29

      As always, great insights from Ritter. My fear is that the fools and incompetents in our foreign policy blob will, as the author says, refuse to accept Russia’s eminently sensible offerings. In which case, the US and NATO continue to blunder along in arrogance and stupidity, and we force Russia’s hand so that it has no choice but to invade Ukraine. What does the US do then? Accept yet another embarassing “defeat”, this time because our actions fail to match our aggressively foolhardy rhetoric? The Neo-Con blob will be clamoring for a fight, one which could easily go “nucular”. Because “saving face” is so much more important that rational decision-making when you’re an empire in decline. We can only hope the Germans can succeed in pulling NATO (and the US) back from the brink. Dog help us.

  12. Piotr Berman
    December 23, 2021 at 15:34

    “The dire consequences that President Joe Biden, NATO, the EU, and the G-7 have promised in retaliation for any Russian military action against Ukraine are illusory—no nation can survive the inevitable blow-back that will accrue if such measures are enacted, especially against Russian energy.”

    It is not like mass starvation, but lean times. The question is if political system will survive without serious modification. You can blame Russians in well controlled mass media, but questions will seep into public discourse. Why we turned to be weaker? Our military expenditures were supposed to make us invincible!? Was it a colossal waste? What went wrong? Perhaps not as severe as in the aftermath of WWI and mass disillusionment and loss of confidence, but something in that direction.

    Armed conflict with a loss, and pictures of smiling Putin are something that, at long last, our leaders want to avoid. At least some of them. Others sing “No retreat baby, no surrender.”

  13. December 23, 2021 at 12:38

    Ritter is right. We are the provocateur in the case of Ukraine by facilitating a coup and calling the outcome a victory for democracy. The other cases he mentions are of course true as well. Will we receive our comeuppance? Let’s hope not but that the emergence of countervailing force will steer America on a better path for us and the rest of the world. The world just doesn’t need any more twisted deep staters or puffed-up generals.

Comments are closed.