Camelia Entekhabifard
Editor-in-chief of the Independent Persian.

Ukraine, a War of Reputation between Russia and the US

Before the eyes of the shocked people of the world, the catastrophe of the war in Ukraine expands further every day. From destruction of cities to a million people losing their homes in less than two weeks to thousands of people being killed, the people of Ukraine are going through a massive human tragedy — one that’s affected by the strong presence of two superpowers, Russia and the United States.

For Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the war in Ukraine is about more than keeping the NATO expansion in check. For Putin, the war is to keep the prestige, power and credibility he has gained in 20 years. To keep this credibility, which has now become a question of dignity, there is nothing he won’t do in this war.

On the other side of the conflict, for the United States, there is an opportunity to rebuild its lost leadership role that has faced countless challenges in recent years. The US wants to regain its dignity and reputation.

The US’s consistent failures in the last 20 years has brought it irreparable harm. The US failed in its war on terror. China is seeking to invade Taiwan. North Korea continues to test ballistic missiles, with nuclear warhead capability, and has an active nuclear weapons program that the US has never been able to contain. Despite all the sanctions, the North Korean leaders are yet to stop their military nuclear program.

Iran and its nuclear program, plus its arming of terrorist militias in the region and the way it threatens its neighbors, also shows the US lacks its previous deterrent power. It is not able to stand up to new powers such as Russia and China.

The US started the war in Afghanistan with the aim of defeating terrorism but started negotiating with terrorists after 20 years. With its untimely exit, it gave up the country to the Taliban while terrorism, not just in Afghanistan, but on a global scale, remains the biggest security threat.

The US failed to fights dictators, in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Its military activities in Yemen against the Houthi militias were a failure and it totally disappointed its strategic partners.

Despite all the defeats and failures that challenged the political and strategic power of the US, it appears that the Ukrainian crisis has given a fresh opportunity to the Biden administration to overcome its previous weakness and regain its reputation.

The active diplomacy of the US vis-à-vis the Ukrainian crisis shows a strategic change for them.

Biden keeps sending his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, around the world to show that Washington's active diplomacy can challenge Putin and it’s not an empty claim.

On March 5, Blinken visited Ukraine and met the foreign minister there. The US was showing off to Putin its active diplomacy and telling the world that it can be a leader in crisis situations.

Asking for the Congress for an emergency budget to help the Ukrainian people was also done with the same goal; just like the generous aid given to Afghanistan after 2001.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget asked the Congress for an emergency 10 billion dollar to give Ukraine humanitarian, security and economic help, some of which will go to the US’s Eastern European partners. Biden aims to lead the war.

Since the US and Russia are now fighting a war of dignity and reputation and challenging each other’s military capabilities on Ukrainian territory, there is every reason to fear a total war on a global scale. The fear of a nuclear confrontation is one not just for Ukraine, Russia and the US; it makes all the world insecure and directly affects the lives on earth.

Increase in the price of oil around the world is a financial effect of this confrontation. But as the war expands, it can bring new security threats to countries aligned with the US or Russia.

As we watch a country collapse and go to ruin, and as the peoples of Ukraine experience death and destruction, I am not sure if we can take Western slogans about how much they care about democracy and human rights seriously.

If the democracy that the West suggests for Ukraine and seeks to bring about is the same model used in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Libya, it will only bring about destruction, misery, civil war and terrorism.

To defeat Saddam Hussein, the West united. But the "democracy" given to Iraqis was actually a civil war and growth of terror groups followed by giving up the country to the Iranian regime.

The "democratic mode"’ for the Syrian people was restoration of the rule of Bashar Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran.

Libya is not doing much better either. All we can see there are terrorist and dangerous groups threatening people’s lives and properties. Many wish Moammar al-Gaddafi, the previous dictator, was back.

Is the Western world looking to defend human values and democracy in Ukraine? Time will tell. But the continuation of war will take more victims who have to pay for the supremacy-seeking of the two big superpowers in East and West by their lives and property.

The people of Russia are another victim of this conflict. The families of soldiers who have died in the war don’t back Putin’s aggression and military operation and have to pay with their livers for the cost for Putin keeping up his image — and also be under international pressure from all sides.

Putin is doing all he can and fighting with all his power for what he is best known for: power, invincibility, dream of restoring the reach and capabilities of the USSR and his own credibility.

Biden should not only do something to make up for the US’s failures in regional wars and its war on terror — but to bring back the US’s credibility and reputation and some popularity for himself.

A president who is not popular with his people and whose social behavior, physical weakness and old age has made him the butt of jokes inside and outside the US now has a grand opportunity to make up for his weakness. The American people have liked countering Russia and Biden’s actions can put him and the Democrats on the top of this wave.

Ukraine might be different from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and even Yemen or Iraq but as Kelly Cobiella, a MSNBC correspondent, said, it’s a different war because it involves different people.

She said that Ukrainians were different with the Syrian displaced in that they were “Christian and white.” A CBS commentator also said that this wasn’t “a place like Iraq or Afghanistan” but a place that’s “relatively civilized and relatively European.” In simpler words, they didn’t expect the same fate as people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

These statements could also show the opinion of Western rulers. We have to see how the Americans will run this different European war and how different the fate of Ukraine and Ukrainians will be compared to non-European and Muslim Middle Easterners.