2022: The year a regional conflict sparked a new world order

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS — It was former German Chancellor Angela Merkel who let the cat out of the bag. The Minsk Accord peace agreements between Russia and Ukraine signed in 2014, with European nations France and Germany as its guarantors to ensure that the deal was respected, was seen as little more than a way to “give Ukraine time” for military buildup against Russia, Merkel told Zeit magazine last month. Silly Russians probably thought that a peace deal actually meant securing peace — not just using it as a pretext for buildup to war. If having Ukraine take on Russia was the ultimate goal, as Merkel suggests, then it got exactly what it wanted.

Until the conflict between Russia and Ukraine went red hot in February 2022, it had been viewed by the Western public as little more than a regional conflict a world away. Since civilian casualties were mostly limited to the Russophone Ukrainian population as Western weapons that flooded into the zone — and into the hands of Western-backed neo-Nazi fighters, according to Western press reports — global concern and empathy was scarce. For years, there had been little pushback from Russia to a buildup of military hardware and fighters along its border.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin responded militarily, some analysts thought that it would blow apart the transatlantic alliance — if only because Europe’s economy is far more entwined with Russia’s and ultimately couldn’t bear the cost of Washington’s ambitions. What very few counted on was that Europe would choose blind ideology over pragmatism to fall in line with Washington. The fools actually sanctioned their own gas supply — because it was Russian. Later, they sanctioned their own oil supply for the same reason. As cost of living and energy prices skyrocketed across Europe, and threats of blackouts and deindustrialization loomed, European leaders told the plebeians to take shorter showers, use lap cats for heat, and wear multiple turtlenecks.

U.S. President Joe Biden visited Europe back in March and promised to replace Russian gas. What he didn’t say was that the price would be jacked up, and far more expensive than Russian fuel. After running around the world knocking on doors asking, “Got gas?”, European leaders had no choice but to settle for an over-reliance on the U.S. market. Ironic, considering it was Washington that had warned them about being too dependent on Russia.

Having successfully convinced Europe to divorce Russia, Washington then seized the opportunity to pry it away from its largest trading partner — China — again using the argument that it’s better to be reliant on friends in Washington (the phenomenon is literally called “friendshoring”) rather than big bad authoritarian Beijing. In 2023, we’ll find out if the EU gets a divorce from China, as well.

In the meantime, Europe recently passed its ninth package of sanctions against Moscow — since the first eight worked so well. The problem with thinking that you can embargo and isolate one of the world’s top gas stations — which is ultimately what Russia is — is that everyone needs it. Which is why it goes to show how clueless European elites are when the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, seemed surprised to learn that nations outside of the Western world didn’t share its views on Russia or its interest in sanctions.

Europe’s greatness was built on cheap Russian energy. In 2023, we’ll see how great it is without it — particularly when they run low on Russian gas reserves that they rushed to fill before they cut the umbilical cord. It may get them through one winter, but not two. The year 2022 may go down as the year that Europe went from being a powerhouse to a vassal.

The conflict has ultimately bifurcated the planet into East and West, with globalization giving way to regionalization. The battle heading into 2023 between the two hemispheres will be for the hearts and minds of Africa and Latin America. The U.S. is trying to seduce African countries with investments while at the same time threatening sanctions for dealing with U.S. adversaries like China and Russia. And in light of U.S. sanctions on Russian oil, it didn’t take long for Washington to run over to Venezuela to offer an oil deal to President Nicolas Maduro — the same Maduro for whom the U.S. State Department is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to his arrest and conviction for “narco-terrorism”. Perhaps just ask one of the executives at Chevron who signed the deal with Chavez’s government where he is?

And to think that it all started with an off-radar skirmish on the Russia-Ukraine border.