Ukraine has been the center of two conflicts, the military and diplomatic, for nearly a decade. We’ve all seen the military conflict; Leopard Tanks and Kinzhal Missiles fight it. It’s the one that grabs all the headlines that many Americans follow. But while the military battles garner our attention, the Diplomatic conflict will likely have a lasting impact on America’s future.
As long as this remains a “regional conflict,” it is not likely that this part of the War will significantly impact our day-to-day lives.
The same cannot be said about the Diplomatic War that revolves around the Ukraine Conflict. This part of the War has already impacted our lives and promises to do much more in the future. These diplomatic maneuvers have already contributed to a Global Re-Alignment that affects the Dollar, the price of oil, and international trade.
While it’s easy to spot the two armies in the military conflict, with their distinctive Blue and Yellow flags for the Ukrainians and the Red, White, and Blue flags for the Russians, it’s not easy to recognize the “diplomatic armies.”
That’s because this Diplomatic War is being fought not on a physical battlefield but in the genteel atmosphere of the boardrooms in Moscow, Brussels, and Washington, DC. Commanding the Russian “Diplomatic Army” is that familiar figure, Vladimir Putin. At the same time, the combined forces in opposition were Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Joe Biden, President of the United States.
While it could be said that Russia has been the aggressor in its military incursion into Ukraine, it was, after all, the first to cross into Ukraine’s Territory. On the Diplomatic Battlefront, the Euro-Americans fired the first shot.
It may surprise you to learn that Sanctions against Russia began in 2014, eight years before the incursion by the Russians into Ukraine. The sanctions were in response to the election and subsequent annexation of Crimea by Russia. Crimea has an ancient history of at least 500 years before the Birth of Christ. In modern times, Crimea became part of Imperial Russia when Catherine The Great conquered the Ottoman Empire in 1783. From that time forward, Crimea was associated with the Russian and subsequent Soviet Empire until the fall of the USSR in 1992. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Crimea became an independent Republic for three years. But then, in 1995, Crimea came under Ukrainian rule.
After 18 years under Ukrainian control, sentiment in Crimea was for independence from the Government in Kyiv. In 2014 Crimea held a referendum, asking whether Crimeans would like to remain with Ukraine or join the Russian Federation. The results were nearly unanimous; fully 97% of Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation.
Ukraine immediately objected to the election, and the sanctions were on.
The first moves in the Conflict in Ukraine were diplomatic, with the European Union canceling a long-planned EU-Russia Summit. Next, the formerly G-8 Group of advanced economies became the G-7, as Russia was summarily ousted from the International Association. Since then, the Euro-Americans have steadily increased the diplomatic sanctions imposed on Russia, and most recently, by the Eu’s revoking Visas for Russian officials and business people to the European Union. Historically, this diplomatic action often leads to all-out military conflict – conventional War.
After eight years of steadily increasing economic and diplomatic sanctions by the Euro-Americans against Russia, we come to the critical two days that transform a diplomatic struggle into the most significant military conflict since World War II.
Here then, is the timeline for these most critical 48 hours.
Putin’s Speech To The Russian People
On the evening of February 21, 2023, President Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian people. In a one-hour speech, Putin outlines the history of the Ukraine region and how it has had a close relationship with Russia for millennia. He then describes the current threat that Ukraine’s increasing alliance with NATO has to the Russian Federation. Putin points out the strategic military capability that NATO would gain should Ukraine join the coalition and how Russia would be completely vulnerable to a nuclear attack launched by NATO from Ukraine. He notes that in 1991-92 James E. Baker, and George HW Bush, had promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand east.
At the end of the speech, Putin points out that the Regions of Donetsk and Lugansk have sought independence from Kyiv and that Russia will recognize these two regions as independent.
Nothing in Putin’s speech could be viewed as a declaration of War. Yes, the Russians had amassed thousands of troops on their border, but at this point, no one had crossed that “Red Line.” At this point, it was a situation much like North and South Korea. China recognized the North, while the US recognized the South, and in between, thousands of troops stand battle-ready, but after more than half a century, there is still a truce. The armies stood down so the diplomats could bring peace.
Biden’s Response 24 Hours Later
On February 22, 2022, just after two in the afternoon, President Biden responded. To say that he was listening to a different speech is to put it charitably. Biden begins by saying:
“To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine.”
Was Biden conflating the recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk as Russia taking over those territories? It is admittedly a fine point. But on this day, February 22, there was an opportunity for the American President to talk. Russia was not in Ukraine on February 22; the invasion would not occur until February 24, two days later. The initiative for War or peace was entirely with the US President. But instead of reaching for the olive branch, Biden chooses to increase the sanctions again. To visibly demonstrate to Russia that America was not going to negotiate. Biden took the hard line, which has become the hallmark of his Administration in this conflict.
Biden goes on to say:
“This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine …So, let’s begin to — so, I’m going to begin to impose sanctions in response, far beyond the steps we and our Allies and partners implemented in 2014. And if Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further as — with sanction.”
True to his word, Biden imposed steadily increasing sanctions. And not just the halting of commercial interchange, Biden went on to seize financial assets. Initially, $30 billion in assets was owned by Russian individuals, Oligarchs as they were labeled, and eventually, $300 billion that the Central Bank of Russia owned. As one Russian Banker said: We’ve been struck by a financial nuclear bomb.
It was apparent to even the most casual observer that Biden was launching the most aggressive financial, economic, and diplomatic sanctions at his disposal.
What’s critical to remember is that the American President’s aggressive words occurred 24 hours BEFORE Russia invaded. We may never know if that invasion could have been averted if Biden had offered to negotiate instead of raising more sanctions. But it’s a question worth pondering.
Remember, Biden spoke on February 22, and Russian troops crossed into Ukraine two days later on February 24, 2022.
February 21, 2022: President Putin’s Speech To The Russian People.
February 21, 2022: Russia signs a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republic.
February 22, 2022: President Biden Responds in Speech to the United States.
June 29, 2022: US Treasury issues Press Release detailing Russian Assets detained and seized by the US over the past 100 days.
Photo: Presidents Obama and Putin at the 2013 G8 Summit. The next year Crimea voted to align with Russia. The US promptly moved to oust Russia from the Organization, and the Group of Seven we know today was born.