Amid the public storm in America over the fall of Kabul, it is important not to lose sight of other looming crises around the world—some of them potentially much more dangerous than Afghanistan. For if the US political elites were so surprised by the speed of the Afghan state’s collapse, that was largely because the US media stopped paying attention to developments on the ground in Afghanistan once most US forces withdrew and Americans stopped dying there in large numbers.
Of these potential crises, one of the most menacing is the armed standoff between the Ukrainian military and Russian-supported separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. Limited numbers of Russian troops (lightly disguised as “volunteers”) are stationed in the Donbas region, and Russia has deployed large forces in southern Russia to defend the territory against any new Ukrainian offensive. However, Russia has not annexed Donetsk and Luhansk (the two Ukrainian provinces that make up the Donbas) or recognized their independence.
Since the Ukrainian revolution and the Donbas rebellion of 2014, successive Ukrainian governments have vowed to recover the Donbas—by force if necessary. Despite a ceasefire in 2015 that suspended full-scale war, probing attacks and retaliations by both sides have led to repeated clashes, as in March and April of this year. Successive US administrations have expressed strong support for the Ukrainian side and for future NATO membership (so far blocked by Germany and France), though they have stopped short of promising to defend Ukraine militarily.
The Taliban victory may create a new and perilous dynamic. America’s defeat in Afghanistan could lead Russia (and China) to act more recklessly, just as America’s defeat in Vietnam emboldened the ambitions of the USSR in Africa and Central America. On the other hand, the political humiliation suffered by the Biden administration could lead it to try to recover its domestic and international prestige by responding recklessly to Russian actions.
Read the full article in The Nation.