Most of us have come to expect that anytime Putin gives a speech, nothing good will come out of it…and his one-year war anniversary address to parliament was riddled with bad news.
Putin announced that Russia has formally withdrawn from the START Treaty, the original major strategic arms reduction treaty that served as the only legal and diplomatic basis for US & Russian relations to exist.
With that gone, we’re edging our way back to the early cold war days and we shouldn’t expect any meaningful conversations to occur until the military position in Ukraine shifts one way or another.
On top of Putin backing out of the START Treaty, he justified his war on Ukraine by saying he was reclaiming ancestral lands, which is basically rule #1 for why you SHOULDN’T go to war. For anyone in the western world who was still on the fence about Russia, they won’t be anymore.
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Hey, everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado. It is the 21st of February, Tuesday. You’ll be seeing this on the 22nd. The big news today is that Putin gave his one year war anniversary speech in front of the Russian Duma, which is the Russian parliament. Well, it was pretty obvious he was pretty cheesed off about a whole lot of things. But the two big takeaways.
Number one, Russia has now formally withdrawn from the START treaty. Now, the START treaty dates back to the very, very late days of the Soviet Union, the very early days of the post-Cold War system, based on how you draw the lines. I believe it was ratified in 1990, and it is the original major strategic arms reduction treaty. And it is the core of not just the entire disarmament and nonproliferation regime, in my opinion, but also the core of the entirety of the American – Russian diplomatic relationship. Because if you can’t agree that you can share a planet, then everything else is kind of the details. And, and so there was a start one and a start two and a start three and a start four and various agreements, not just in the nuclear field, but conventional weapons that had to do with the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty that regulated how many tanks each side could have. And all of them drew back to START. And the Russians have now withdrawn from every single one of them, with one exception, which was the intermediate range missile treaty, which the U.S. pulled out of. And so now the entire basis, legally and diplomatically for the entirety of the bilateral relationship is gone.
And we have not seen relations at this level of hostility since at least 1983, when we had a nuclear scare over Berlin. But honestly, we’re really edging back into the early Cold War days of the early 1950s, when Stalin was building up nuclear armaments at breakneck speed in order to try to achieve parity with the United States in the post-World War two environment and the early days of containment. So while Russia is at best a third rate military power, it is not a paper tiger. It is more like a rabid tiger with a really bad case of gangrene. And it can do a lot of damage on its way down.
But now all diplomatic relations are basically in the crapper. And there is no reason to expect the United States and the Russians to have any sort of meaningful discussions on anything until such time as the military position in Ukraine breaks very firmly one way or another. As you guys know, if you’ve been following me, the soonest that might happen is May and June, when we get a huge number of Russian conscripts come in facing off of a substantial amount of weaponry that has come in from the West. The balance of forces is very clearly with the Russians in that, but logistical supply is very clearly with the Ukrainians on that one. So it is in its own way a very, very fair fight. And until we have movement on the ground in a substantial way in Ukraine, we should not expect anything to come out of diplomacy between the United States and the Russians. Nor are the Europeans showing any sign of backing down either.
Over the last few days, we’ve had the Munich Security Conference, which brings together thinkers on defense issues throughout Europe and the wider world. And everything was all about the Ukraine war. And when the Europeans showed more spine and more resolve, especially from people in the European sphere that have a history of being pro-Russian or pacifists or anti-American. I mean, they were – whoo – no zealots like the converts – taking the firmest position where Ursula von der Leyen, the chief of the E.U., said she can’t even imagine a future where the Russians don’t pay for the entirety of the Ukrainian reconstruction. And the EU’s foreign policy chief came out and said that the entire EU needs to put funds, especially joint funds, towards the operation and the expansion of ammunition lines. And this is a guy who basically a few years ago said that NATO was a relic and just that we needed to move on. So everyone in the Western world is kind of on board here. While, the Russians have drawn some very clear lines about what sorts of conversations can even happen. And it doesn’t look like very much.
The second big thing that Putin said is he has no intention of backing down from the war because Russia is fighting very clearly for their, quote, ancestral lands. This is one of those things that pops up in all of the war crimes tribunals and all of the war crimes treaties as something you do not go to war for. Now, I think everyone in the world has already pretty much made up their mind about which side they’re on. I mean, we’ve literally had torture centers registered in the dozens with a few of them allegedly even for children. And so anyone who was going to make a moral stance on this already has. But having the Russian leader basically, quote, what is not allowed under international law as the primary justification for what he’s doing, it does kind of underline things and crystallize things, at least for the Western world. Not nearly as big as what’s going on with the START treaty, though, because, you know, getting nukes out of circulation, this is a good thing.
Alright. Well, hopefully I will have a little bit more cheery things to say in the future, but for now, that’s all I got. Talk to you guys later.