Russia’s top envoy to the United States has warned that the sweeping sanctions campaign pursued by President Joe Biden and his allies has backfired, instead hurting the US’ economy and international prestige during a dangerous period of global instability.
Moscow’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, told Newsweek that “the situation in Ukraine is critically tense” nearly four months since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a war against the neighboring nation in the wake of failed security talks between the Kremlin and the West.
Today, Antonov warned, “More and more countries are getting involved in the cycle of events in Eastern Europe” and “the negative consequences of the crisis of European security in various manifestations are rapidly spreading around the world.”
He cautioned the situation had the potential to develop into a clash involving the nations that possess the vast majority of the world’s nuclear weapons.
“The short-sightedness of the United States is also seen in the current circumstances,” Antonov said. “Driven by the desire to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia, the local elites are raising the stakes in escalating tensions by pumping up the kyiv regime with weapons. Is not it clear that this is the road to a direct military confrontation between the major nuclear powers, fraught with unpredictable consequences?”
And on the economic front, he said Washington’s vulnerabilities were already emerging at a time when US inflation soared to a four-decade high and the national average price of gas has surpassed an unprecedented $5 per gallon.
“The plans to strangle our country with sanctions do not work either,” Antonov said, “The thoughtless imposition of restrictions only aggravates the situation in the US economy. Thus it turns out that in an anti-Russian fever, Washington is ready to shoot itself in the leg and dance simultaneously. It looks absurd.”
“Moreover,” he added, “the actions by the Americans will not affect the determination of the Russian Armed Forces to fulfill the tasks set during the special military operation to protect the population of Donbass, as well as the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine. “
Ukraine and its international supporters, including the US, have rejected Russia’s justification for the conflict, and the Biden administration has sought to lay the blame squarely on Putin for instigating the war as well as the havoc it has wrought on international markets.
Speaking at the Major Economic Forum on Energy and Climate, Biden asserted that “Russia’s brutal and unprovoked assault on its neighbor, Ukraine, has fueled a global energy crisis and has sharpened the need to achieve long-term, reliable energy security and stability.”
“And with Russia’s war driving up inflation worldwide, threatening vulnerable countries with severe food shortages,” the president added, “we have to work together to mitigate the immediate fallout of this crisis.”
But as Biden’s Democratic Party prepares for a competitive midterm elections season, surveys of US perceptions of the economy paint a daunting picture.
One poll published Friday by the IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index showed that 53 percent, a majority, of those in the US felt the country was already in a recession. And while the effects of sanctions are readily felt in Moscow too, many Russians report more inconveniences than hardships at a time when US consumers were struggling to make ends meet.
On a diplomatic level, the conflict has led to a virtual rupture in relations between Moscow and Washington, bringing new uncertainties to the international order. But Antonov said the crisis had roots that predate his country’s February 24 incursion into Ukraine and date back to Washington’s long-standing attempts to dominate other countries’ affairs.
“The global nature of what is happening shows that the roots of the current conflict are not in Ukraine,” Antonov said. “This is the decline of the American-centric world order. To be more precise the collapse of the US attempts to sustain a hegemonic role and proclaim itself as a ‘guiding star’ for all countries.”
He argued that this approach dates back to the earliest days of the Russian Federation declared from the rubble of the Soviet Union. He accused “the American ruling class” of having “made a series of grave miscalculations” in the aftermath of the Cold War that “boil down to one thing: ignoring the role of our country as a backbone factor of the world order.”
And while Antonov contended that Russia only grew stronger after subsequent crises in its history, he said that “US authorities decided to dispute this obvious fact and started to aggressively impose ‘democratic’ values on us, even though those ideals are often alien to Russians. ” In this quest, he said US leaders “began to interfere in Russia’s domestic policy and pose national security threats to us, coming closer and closer to our borders.”
The expansion of the US-led NATO military alliance has emerged as a leading issue of US-Russia tensions over the past three decades, especially since Putin first came to power at the dawn of the 21st century. Most countries once part of the former Soviet-aligned Eastern bloc have since joined the Western coalition, agreeing to host troops and weapon systems of the US and its allies in response to concerns of aggression from a resurgent Russia.
These frictions reached a boiling point eight years ago as an uprising in Kyiv brought to power a government seeking to distance itself from Moscow and forge new ties with the West. Around this same time, a Russia-aligned separatist insurgency erupted in the Donbas region and Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in an internationally disputed referendum.
As efforts to settle the conflict repeatedly stalled, Russia began amassing troops along Ukraine’s borders last year and called for a reorganization of Europe’s security order to roll back NATO activities in the former Soviet sphere of influence. When the US and its Western allies refused these demands, Antonov said this was “the last straw.”
As the West struggles to inflict enough pain on Russia to convince Putin to reverse course on Ukraine, Antonov said that “it’s time to get used to the idea of the impossibility of building a world order in which all countries must follow Washington’s instructions, and where Western values are above the law.”
This new order, he said, would be based on “polycentrism,” with growing roles for countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and other parts of Asia. Many countries in these regions have not shared the West’s appetite to take on Russia and have instead adopted more neutral stances.
Antonov also said there would be a central role here for the UN Security Council, whose permanent members have been increasingly divided into a Western camp composed of France, the United Kingdom and the US and an Eastern one constituting China and Russia. The split has made progress on major international issues such as Ukraine impossible due to rival veto powers.
When it comes to US policy toward Russia, Antonov argued that Washington “should stop entertaining illusions about the ‘defeat’ of our country” and instead “must acknowledge that there is no alternative to pragmatic relations with Russia.”
“We are great powers that bear special responsibility for peace on Earth. We are the ones that strategic stability depends on,” he asserted. “Without the coordinated efforts of both states, it is impossible to solve the problems of terrorism, the proliferation of WMD, climate change, the fight against epidemics and food security. We are doomed to cooperate.”
And Ukraine, he said, would prove “a litmus test that will show the readiness of Western states to take into account Russian concerns.” In this regard, “further progress towards the stabilization of European security will depend on the outcome of the crisis settlement process in Ukraine,” according to Antonov.
“Today, in fact,” Antonov said, “the question is whether we can together build a multipolar world order based on equality and taking into account the interests of all states, regardless of their power and potential.”
And though he warned the threat of a wider confrontation remained real, he said this was not in the interests of any party, especially given the sprawling second-order effects of the current conflict.
“Nobody is interested in confrontation. Everyone needs stability,” Antonov said. “This is particularly apparent against the backdrop of the current turbulence, when even supply chains failures have a food crisis and triggered chaos in energy markets. And this is just one example.”
He also said the assurances that Moscow sought in the lead-up to the conflict were still open, though the deal may differ given the onset of the war and the West’s response.
“Let me remind you that no one has removed the Russian draft agreements on security guarantees from the table,” Antonov said.
“Of course,” he added, “after the special military operation will be over, their content will have to be adapted to the realities.”