The Evolution Of Key Players’ Perceptions Across The Course Of The Ukrainian Conflict

The Evolution Of Key Players’ Perceptions Across The Course Of The Ukrainian Conflict

By Andrew Korybko

Hindsight is 20/20 as the clichéd saying goes, ergo the importance of reviewing prior assessments of every key player’s perceptions and associated assumptions about their interests ¾ of a year after the global systemic transition unprecedentedly accelerated as a result of this proxy war. The present piece should thus imbue the reader with a better understanding of where everyone stands at the moment, how their respective positions came to be, and what they might do next.

The Ukrainian Conflict was provoked by the Anglo-American core of NATO clandestinely crossing Russia’s national security red lines in that country and thus prompting the Kremlin to militarily defend their integrity there in order to avoid being blackmailed by them. It was since opportunistically exploited by that aforementioned axis to reassert their declining hegemony over Europe, which thus resulted in the ongoing proxy war that they’ve artificially perpetuated after sabotaging last spring’s peace talks.

The key players in the top proxy struggle of the New Cold War between the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the jointly BRICS– & SCO-led Global South of which Russia is a part are those two aforesaid countries and NATO’s EU vassals. Nevertheless, the worldwide consequences of this event have also led to China and the rest of the Global South being directly affected by everything that’s unfolded, thus explaining the pertinence of including their interests in any comprehensive conversation about that conflict.

The present piece will focus on how each of their perceptions evolved throughout the course of this proxy war, which will enable the reader to better understand their respective policy calculations in the present, thus facilitating more accurate forecasting about what could possibly come next. The three phases that’ll be explored are the pre-conflict one, the initial stage of the proxy war, and Russia’s partial pullbacks in Kharkov and Kherson Regions, following which some final thoughts will be shared.


Pre-Conflict American Perceptions

The US arrogantly believed that Russia would strategically capitulate to the Anglo-American Axis’ clandestine crossing of Moscow’s national security red lines in Ukraine, hence why it didn’t order NATO to scale up its military-industrial complex’s (MIC) capabilities ahead of time to prepare for this conflict.

Pre-Conflict Russian Perceptions

President Putin expected the US to accept Russia’s security guarantee requests for reforming the European security architecture in order to resolve the Western Eurasian security dilemma and thus accelerate America’s explicitly stated plans for militarily containing China on the other half of Eurasia.

Pre-Conflict European Perceptions

Western European countries didn’t realize how serious Russia was about defending the integrity of its national security red lines in Ukraine, nor did they understand just how much the AAA clandestinely crossed them there, while Eastern European countries sought to opportunistically manipulate tensions.

Pre-Conflict Chinese Perceptions

The People’s Republic built its grand strategy on the presumption that a major conflict between Great Powers was extremely unlikely, hence why it didn’t predict any large-scale military action by Russia in Ukraine (at most it might have forecast a limited intervention) and resultant proxy war with NATO.

Pre-Conflict Global South Perceptions

The developing world took peace between members of the developed world for granted, planned to play the American and Chinese superpowers off against one another in order to get the best deals, and never countenanced that the food and fuel imports upon which they’re dependent would be disrupted.


Initial American Perceptions Of The Conflict

The US’ contingency plan of having Ukraine stop Russia with anti-tank missiles in the seemingly unlikely scenario that it militarily intervened there failed to achieve its goal, after which policymakers gambled they could reassert their hegemony over Europe by perpetuating the conflict into a proxy war.

Initial Russian Perceptions Of The Conflict

The special operation can be constructively critiqued on twenty points in hindsight, the most relevant at this part of the present piece being that: the Kremlin didn’t truly expect to commence that campaign; it thus wasn’t as prepared as it could have been; and it therefore prioritized political goals.

Initial European Perceptions Of The Conflict

The EU was shocked by what happened and seemed to expect a swift Russian victory, hence why its Western European members were reluctant to militarily commit to supporting Ukraine while its Eastern European ones were eager to do so for precisely that reason, thus hamstringing the bloc’s response.

Initial Chinese Perceptions Of The Conflict

China was just as shocked as the EU was and also seemingly expected a swift Russian victory, not least because its grand strategy couldn’t survive the global systemic disruptions catalysed by an extended conflict without radical adjustments, yet Beijing also didn’t publicly back Moscow either just in case.

Initial Global South Perceptions Of The Conflict

The global systemic stability that developing countries took for granted was instantly shattered, thus exposing most of them to hitherto unprecedented risks with respect to the commodity imports upon which they were dependent, yet India saw an opportunity to become the world’s top balancing force.


Post-Pullback American Perceptions Of The Conflict

The US spun that development as a “victory for democracy” in order to entrench its newly reasserted hegemony over Europe, yet NATO’s clear MIC limitations by that time meant that it had to temper expectations about the proxy war’s end game, ergo signals suggesting its interest in a ceasefire.

Post-Pullback Russian Perceptions Of The Conflict

The special operation is now aimed at defending Russia’s newly reunified regions after NATO’s Ukrainian proxies pushed back some of Moscow’s prior military advances, yet the emerging stalemate can still result in a strategic victory for the Kremlin, hence why a ceasefire is speculatively being explored.

Post-Pullback European Perceptions Of The Conflict

The Eastern European countries discredited their Western European peers’ earlier reluctance to militarily support Ukraine, though the latter are now wondering whether the economic consequences of this proxy conflict were truly worth it as the bloc braces for a major winter crisis.

Post-Pullback Chinese Perceptions Of The Conflict

The global systemic disruptions caused by nine months of the NATO-Russian proxy war derailed China’s superpower trajectory and thus compelled it into seeking a New Détente with the US in an attempt to buy time for its new National Congress to comprehensively recalibrate their country’s grand strategy.

Post-Pullback Global South Perceptions Of The Conflict

India’s pragmatic policy of principled neutrality resulted in it growing twice as fast as China, becoming the voice of the Global South, being recognized by the US as the irreplaceable balancing force in the New Cold War, and thus turning into a globally significant Great Power.


The evolution of key players’ perceptions across the course of the Ukrainian Conflict reveals that events connected to this proxy war and its global systemic consequences emerged organically and not as part of some “master plan” hatched by any given party. The Anglo-American Axis mistakenly took for granted that it could clandestinely cross Russia’s national security red lines in Ukraine without provoking a military response, ergo why the Golden Billion’s MIC was unprepared for this prolonged proxy war.

Truth be told, Russia also didn’t expect to be forced into this scenario but felt like it had no choice if it intended to retain its sovereignty over the long term like any self-respecting Great Power would want. As for the EU, it was caught off guard by the Ukrainian Conflict, though its Eastern European partners sought to exploit it and everything leading up to that game-changing event. Concerning China, it built its entire grand strategy on the expectation that no major conflict between Great Powers would unfold.

That was a sensible assumption but was ultimately proven wrong, after which the People’s Republic scrambled to recalibrate everything that it planned into the distant future. The Global South as a whole has been plunged into crisis by the socio-economic and political consequences of the commodities crisis unleashed by the Ukrainian Conflict, with the exception of India, which is the only country to emerge from everything more confident and stronger than before it all began. In sum, here are five takeaways:

1. The NATO proxy war on Russia through Ukraine was the opportunistic result of the Anglo-American Axis’ miscalculation concerning Moscow’s response to their crossing of its red lines in that country.

2. Russia impressively managed to achieve some tangible on-the-ground gains in the face of increasingly fierce NATO-backed but Ukrainian-fronted resistance to its military goals.

3. The EU’s prior East-West divisions have more or less been smoothed over by the successful reassertion of Anglo-American hegemony over the bloc but serious economic concerns remain.

4. China was unexpectedly thrown into its most vulnerable grand strategic position since its rapprochement with the US began half a century ago and is struggling to adapt to this reality.

5. The Global South is bracing for a chain reaction of crises that could have far-reaching political consequences for themselves and all stakeholders, but India successfully averted this scenario.

The common thread connecting the insight shared in this analysis is that it everything epitomizes complexity theory in practice wherein initial conditions disproportionately shaped the emerging outcome of complex processes such as those unleashed by this unexpected proxy war. Nobody accurately predicted all the consequences that were catalysed by the Ukrainian Conflict since not a single person truly understood each key players’ perceptions ahead of time, nor could they have.

Hindsight is 20/20 as the clichéd saying goes, ergo the importance of reviewing prior assessments of every key player’s perceptions and associated assumptions about their interests ¾ of a year after the global systemic transition unprecedentedly accelerated as a result of this proxy war. The present piece should thus imbue the reader with a better understanding of where everyone stands at the moment, how their respective positions came to be, and what they might do next.

The emerging military strategic dynamics of the Ukrainian Conflict strongly suggest a stalemate, though Russian-Western relations are irredeemably destroyed even if a ceasefire is ultimately reached. By contrast, Chinese-US ties have never had a better chance of improving, though only if both sides can reach a series of mutually acceptable compromises. As for the other key players, the EU will remain strategically subservient to the US, the Global South risks chaos, while India will continue rising.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Voice of East.

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Categories: Analysis, Geopolitics, International Affairs

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