Watching to see if a Russian humanitarian aid convey destined for Ukraine would mark the beginning of the end for the Ukraine Crisis, or Russia’s opening move in a much larger military campaign, crescendoing tensions are only being driven by uncertainty. At the moment, the true purpose of the humanitarian aid convey and why Russia resisted submitting the convoy to the full authority of the Ukrainian government is the largest source of that uncertainty and the focus of the conflict. On the one hand, several Russian leaders of the pro-Russian separatist movement have been resigning from their posts while Putin himself has been toning down his rhetoric. On the other hand, claims on behalf of Ukrainian and NATO officials that a column of Russian military vehicles were spotted and targeted by Ukrainian forces have once again elevated the likelihood of a Russian invasion and far more punitive sanctions against Russia by the West.
As such, it is important to look at how Putin might value Russia’s membership in the International Community. If Putin views the benefits of a globalized economy and stable, well-integrated International Community to be greater than Russian dominance over the economies of the world, he will eventually seek to end the Ukrainian Crisis and heal relations with the West. If Putin’ pride and arrogance, which are traits he likes to associate with the more influential US and the rest of the West, drive him to reclaim Russia’s Cold War status as the world’s other super power, he will seek to divide the world and attempt to isolate the West. Because China and the Putin government share a mutual philosophical base thanks to Communism, the provocative actions of Russia generate greater scrutiny of Chinese policies and the treatment of its neighbors.
Chinese dominance, where Chinese interests are pursued at the expense of the interests of other nations and the many Peoples of the world, is one of our greatest fears. Validating these fears is China’s rapid emergence as a global power, its increasing willingness to exert its influence, ongoing territorial disputes with countries like Vietnam and Japan, and increased ties with Russia. One long running concern of the Chinese-Russian relationship, which this writer has previously discussed, centers on a potential alliance where China and Russia would seek to create their own sub-global economy with nations shunned and/or neglected by the West. Such a dynamic would create massive shifts in global power toward China and Russia, which have far less regard for personal freedom and other individual interests. China’s long standing view that it needs to manage the decline of the United States only fuels Western fears over a potential resurgence of a Cold War world defined by communism and capitalism.
That said, China has also continually expressed its desire to maintain stability throughout the globe in order to achieve its short-term and long-term interests. This, of course, hinges on the de-escalation of international conflicts, the continual recalibration of economic and diplomatic ties, strong demand for Chinese goods and investments, and sufficient, well-priced resources to feed China’s industrial complex. This means China cannot afford to isolate the West. Looking at the price of commodities, for example, a loss of access to natural resources, goods, and capital from the West would mean far higher prices for China, which would help drive increasing civil unrest within its boundaries at a time when the world is inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions. Meanwhile, China generally acts as a capitalist state would, e.g. pursuing its economic interests with shunned countries, as well as Western powers, despite criticism. Consequently, Russia’s attempt to divide the world is bad for China and supporting such efforts would be even worse for China.
Furthermore, it is important to recall a very important lesson learned from World War II. The Nazis were seeking to dominate the world for themselves, but they needed allies and they needed complacency. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hitler lost the complacency of the American People, which was a particular problem given Germany had just strategically broken the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939. While Hitler needed the support of Italy and Japan, he would have eventually needed to eliminate these two inferior races in order to secure German dominance of the world. Russia may need China today, but it will eventually see China as an adversary to be eliminated. Given China’s increasing reliance on Russian crude and natural gas, Putin may well have the means to subdue China should it be pursued to go along with Russian plans and help weaken the West by isolating itself from the rest of the world.
Recognizing the United States views its often adversarial relationship with China as part of the need to compete on a global scale and American dominance is more about maintaining our ability to suppress domineering powers in a potential conflict than an actual attempt to dominate other nations, China should see the International Community fostered by the United States, which China has greatly benefited from in recent decades, is far more conducive to all Chinese interests than Russia’s global order, which would be more akin to a technologically advanced version of the Nineteenth Century. In other words, the US wants to see the Chinese People succeed, as well as all the Peoples of the world, despite America’s pursuit of its national interest to maintain its superpower status. As such, it would be wise for China to distance itself from Russia’s divisive behavior in tangible ways in order to avoid increased anti-Chinese sentiments/actions and seek to curb Putin’s drive for Russian dominance.
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