Chinese people keep ear to the ground during Russia-US showdown
Seven days have passed since the Russia-Ukraine military conflict broke out. It’s uncertain how the situation will evolve. Many people are asking: What impact will this crisis have on the world and how will it influence China? The conflict itself will bring a huge impact, but it is the outcome that will really reshape regional patterns.
The strategic nature of the Russia-Ukraine conflict is Russia’s strong reaction to NATO’s eastward expansion that squeezes Moscow’s security space. Putin’s goals are supposed to be limited because Russia’s national strength is strong enough to bolster the country to “resist” the Western suppression, but not enough to allow it to engage in an all-around confrontation with the US and the West. Nonetheless, this is not simply a matter between Russia and Ukraine, but a showdown between Moscow and NATO. It also poses challenges to Washington’s power. Therefore, the outcome of the conflict will have an influence on the whole of Europe, or even the world.
If Moscow wins, and Putin gains the desired result of Ukraine’s neutrality, thus eliminating the hidden danger of the former Soviet republic joining the Western system, it will mean Moscow’s success in pushing back Washington’s step-by-step suppression since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It will also be indicative of weakening the US hegemony.
Of course, this ongoing military conflict has made Europe frightened. The continent will rely more on the US’ protection and become more hostile to Russia. So, Russia’s victory will also be limited. It’s unimaginable that the military conflict will usher in a new era of Russian expansion in Europe in which Putin will seize the former Soviet Union republics and former Warsaw Pact countries one by one. Russia’s national strength cannot support it to have such a confrontation with NATO, nor can the Russian people.
Because of its limited national strength, the challenges Russia poses to the US and the West will only be confined to a narrow range. A Russian victory can only change the way the US and the West treat Russia and make it more difficult for Washington to exert hegemony in the future, but it cannot overturn the entire international order.
It will be a different story if the military conflict in Ukraine drags on for a long time and the Ukrainian people carry out nationwide resistance with external material and spiritual support. Ukraine, the second-largest country by area in Europe, will become a quagmire for Russia and eventually drag down Russia’s will to continue its military operation. Such a result will bring a bigger impact. From the perspective of Russia, it will almost certainly lead to political instability in Moscow, or even trigger a color revolution and other unpredictable internal political reactions.
How to morally define the second outcome of the military conflict is one thing, but at the global strategic level, it will consolidate US hegemony. The conflict will unite the US and the West and the second outcome scenario will demonstrate the strength of their unity.
From the above analysis, it can be seen that both Russia and the US “cannot afford to lose” the conflict. For Moscow, it’s even “a matter of life and death.”
The current situation in Ukraine shows that the progress of the Russian military is slower than what most people estimated. The situation seems to be unfavorable for Russia. But it’s too early to assert that Russians are facing a dilemma on the battlefield with insufficient forces. It needs to be noted that Russia has basically gained air superiority over the entire territory of Ukraine and its encirclement of cities such as Kiev is also taking shape. So far, the Russian military has maintained their confidence to win the war and they believe they can choose how to gain victory. They are a little hesitant between realizing military goals and preventing civilian casualties. They are very cautious about using heavy weapons as they don’t want to offer excuses for the West to accuse them of bombing civilian areas.
Russia hasn’t yet carried out a nationwide war mobilization. It would be painful to do so. But I think it will choose a war mobilization instead of withdrawing troops from Ukraine before reaching its goals.
It’s a matter between Russia and Ukraine whether there will be a blitz or not. But the Russia-US rivalry is doomed to be attrition warfare that includes sanctions. Therefore, the results of the military conflict in Ukraine will not only be reflected in the battlefields and negotiation tables. The results will also depend on whether Russia can withstand the comprehensive sanctions the US and West have imposed on it. The West has agreed to kick Russia out of SWIFT and suspended various economic and cultural exchanges with Russia. Let’s see what these measures really mean and whether Russia will be backed into a corner. It’s a test of the limits of the US and Western sanctions.
The final results of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict will have a profound effect on all aspects of international relations and even reconstruct the international environment. The Chinese people know well that this influences China’s national interests. Therefore, Chinese society has been highly concerned about the situation in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia. The attention we have paid to this war is quite different from our interest during the Iraq war.
It needs to be pointed out that many Chinese people have viewed Russia as a sand table. Everything that happens is regarded as having a special relation to China. The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 taught Chinese society a lesson. It served as a dose of political vaccine, the effects of which are lasting today. Putin has staged a showdown with the US and the West. What does this mean? The Chinese people are watching and waiting.
Author: Hu Xijin, Global Times