Ukraine fight will weaken both US and Russia, China is the winner

Published on Mar 02, 2022 07:00 AM IST

With US-NATO staring at Russia for the time to come, China will get a free pass in the Indo-Pacific, perhaps even allowing its PLA to indulge in some adventurism regarding Taiwan.

Cooking the autocratic broth: Global sanctions will take time but take toll on Russia under Putin. Chinese ruler Xi will be the ultimate gainer.
Cooking the autocratic broth: Global sanctions will take time but take toll on Russia under Putin. Chinese ruler Xi will be the ultimate gainer.
By, New Delhi

On February 27, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, while discussing the Ukraine situation with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock over the phone, lectured her on why Russia’s security concerns must be addressed in the “context of NATO’s five consecutive rounds of eastward expansion”.

A close confidante of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Wang said that the Cold War was long over and that it was, therefore, important that NATO reconsider its positioning and responsibilities. He bluntly told the German Minister that China was not in favour of sanctions against Russia as it would lead to a lose-lose situation.

Also Read | Russia underestimated Ukraine’s resistance: US

The game-changing events of February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, have ensured that the Cold War is back in Europe with the US-led NATO leading the charge against Moscow and its allies. The security situation in Europe is further complicated with Russian proxy Belarus amending its constitution by removing the word neutrality and allowing the placement of Russian nuclear weapons (read tactical nukes) on its soil. With US-NATO staring at Russia for the time to come, China will get a free pass in the Indo-Pacific, perhaps even allowing its PLA to indulge in some adventurism regarding Taiwan.

The scenario where China joins hands with Russia to tackle the US-led NATO will again benefit the former; it will put India in a tight spot due to its military hardware relationship with Moscow. A Russia-China alliance will hit Indian security as 60% of India’s supply and spares of the existing military hardware still come from Moscow. Given that past Indian governments were more interested in purchasing military equipment from abroad and less in indigenous development, India will take a long time to decouple this buyer-seller relationship with Russia. The number of arms purchases scandals in the past clearly show why purchasing weapons in foreign currency was a preferred option. To add to Indian concerns, Pakistan could join the Russia-China alliance.

Another scenario that appears plausible, and which will again benefit China is a further weakening of US President Joe Biden after the November 2022 Congressional elections. With Democrats expected to hand over the majority in Congress to Republicans after the November elections and given the former’s wafer-thin majority in the Senate, the Biden administration will not be able to push any legislation and become further toothless. Russia, on the other hand, will weaken after the economic sanctions start to bite in the coming months, giving rise to criticism of the Putin regime. With both US and Russia suffering, China will be in pole position to become the unchallenged superpower of the world. Russia may even be forced to sell its gas and oil to energy-hungry Beijing on the latter’s terms for its own economic survival.

Also Read | Indian student killed in Ukraine grocery queue

The only scenario where China may find itself at risk is if there is a regime change in Russia with Putin being replaced by a pro-west President. As economic sanctions take years to bite, the only way this happens is if Putin is humiliated in the Ukraine war at the hands of Volodymyr Zelensky and his band of brothers. Given the firepower that Putin has at his disposal, the scenario of the Russian army being defeated by the Ukraine army (even with Europe’s backing) is quite bleak at this very moment.

The above scenarios make it quite evident that Russia’s Ukraine war will only help the rise of China into an unrivalled superpower with Washington and Moscow fighting each other to death.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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