'Ukraine is Pawn in America's Chess Game,' Australian Scholar Says
© Sputnik / StringerUS troops in Lviv, western Ukraine.
© Sputnik / Stringer/
As the Western media claims Russia is an "aggressor" willing to "invade" Ukraine, Kiev has been receiving more and more financial and technical assistance from the US, UK, and NATO.
Joseph Camilleri, emeritus professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne and one of Australia's leading international relations scholars, explains why the US has been so preoccupied with Ukraine and how Western speculation about the "Russian threat" could backfire in the long run.
Sputnik: If it's up to Russia, there will be no war; Moscow does not want war, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. So, why does the US continue winding up their allies? What's their primary goal here? Could it prompt a backlash?
Joseph Camilleri: The United States, which is playing the leading role, is very anxious to protect its interests right across Europe, right to the doorstep of Russia and does not wish to give ground on any of those issues, which the Russian side has raised in its formal letter to the United States administration. I think they want to protect that position and they want to, in a sense, put the Russian side on the back foot. That's what they're trying to do. And the question is: how will this situation be handled by both sides so that nothing unpleasant happens in any part of Europe. That's the problem.
We don't know what's proposed. As you know, they have been saying that they're going to do this, that and the other if there is an incursion by the Russian side into Ukraine. Russia has said it has no intention of doing that and therefore none of those threats should come to pass. But nevertheless, the fact that it has happened, that those threats have been made, creates a tense situation. And I think the backfiring is that it prevents a proper dialogue and a constructive relationship to occur in Europe, and this can have wider implications beyond Europe. And I think that is a great danger.
Sputnik: How could the overhyping of the alleged ‘Russian threat’ backfire and hurt the West in general and Europe in particular?
Joseph Camilleri: I think it could backfire in terms of greater instability in Europe, and that will be of no benefit to either Western Europe or Eastern Europe, Ukraine included, and it could backfire in the sense that it creates greater tensions outside of Europe as well. That is to say, in places where Russian-American dialogue is necessary for the resolution of conflicts, whether it's in the Middle East or elsewhere, or in relation to the Iran nuclear issue. In the absence of a proper dialogue, we run the danger of no possibility of easing these conflicts, let alone a resolution of them.
What is an appropriate response on the part of the West, an appropriate policy position? At the surface there would appear to be a common view. But I think if you probe a little beneath the surface, there are very substantial differences of view and differences of approach. And I think this will come to the fore. The fact that President Macron has gone out of his way to argue that we need to continue a dialogue with Russia is, I think, just one small indication of this. I'm sure Germany would not wish the Nord Stream gas pipeline to be endangered as a project. But probably under current pressure from the United States, has been willing to say that it may be willing to do just that in certain eventualities.
I think there are tensions between Europe and the United States, and I think both France and Germany, probably France more than Germany, but nevertheless both of them are very keen to strike a more independent position on a number of issues. I think in part, you could argue that the United States is using this current situation in order to reassert its leadership or dominance within NATO and therefore over Europe. But I don't think that is a sustainable long-term position.
Sputnik: Lavrov said the US is not so much interested in Ukraine, as it is in scaling up the hysteria around the crisis, and intends to turn to the Chinese issue after that. What's your take on that? How can Russia and China confront the US together?
Joseph Camilleri: I think the US is interested in Ukraine in the sense that Ukraine is the final nail, so to speak, it's the final prize that they would like to have in the end. The other major prize they would like to get, if it were possible, is for Ukraine either to join NATO or to be on the verge of joining NATO. And so I think it does matter to them.
It's a pawn in a chess game that they're trying to play, but I think by doing it in the way they are, it may well in the very near, very near future bring China and Russia even closer together in this strategic partnership.
So I think we'll have to wait and see whether it goes in that direction or not. But that would be a high probability, in my view, that that may well happen in the months and years ahead if the current tensions between the two major nuclear powers are not resolved or at least kept in check.
I think Russia and China have already been confronting the US; they have already been doing it to some extent. And I think they certainly do it at the United Nations when on many issues, they adopt a common position and make it much more difficult for the United States or some of its allies to push particular positions. I think basically up to this point in time, Russia and China have, if you like, worked a kind of division of labour, where Russia has the main call when it comes to European affairs, and China plays the leading role when it comes to Asia-Pacific affairs. But maybe over time, they might go one step further and try and adopt a more detailed common position on a wider range of issues. And so the next 6 to 12 months would be very interesting to follow to see whether something like this emerges.