What the US and China agreed on and who will replace Putin
Xi Jinping and Volodymyr Putin before the start of negotiations in an expanded composition in Moscow, March 21, 2023 (Photo:Sputnik/Alexei Maishev/Kremlin via REUTERS)
The war in Ukraine has changed the future security architecture, approaches to building the international security system, and the attitudes of all influential players
After the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the leading powers of the world had an interval to accept that a reorganization of the international security system was inevitable. Now, they seem to have realized it, and after this realization comes the understanding that it is possible to come to this conclusion too late. That is, it is necessary to seize the initiative in this game. I think that all the trips and negotiations going on are connected to this. Even though some of them do not seem to be related to building a new international security order, they nevertheless are. However, conversations are going on.
The questions are often asked - what did Xi's visit to Mr. Putin bring, what did each man get, and why did this happen at all? Well, firstly, I want to say that neither one nor the other achieved their desired result. Xi did not receive Putin's unequivocal assent to his so-called peace plan, and Putin did not receive unequivocal support from China for his so-called "Special Military Operation."
I've read a lot of very good expert opinions which describe in sufficient detail, with knowledge of the matter, why all this has happened. And when it comes to the latest visit, China's previous steps must be taken into account.
It is their promotion of these peaceful principles. And after that, China began to move actively. The first act was their mediation of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. I have read lots of expert commentaries on this. But in all of them, the United States has disappeared from sight. Did the U.S. have nothing to do with it? One gets the impression that they really didn’t, and that the Saudi-Iranian breakthrough was done against their wishes. But I have a different opinion – that they simply have not advertised their participation in these negotiations. And that's why I have these assumptions.
First, the United States is quite good at counting up its capabilities and resources, and assessing them against their desires. This cannot be taken away from them. And having calculated the costs that they are incurring in helping Ukraine in the war against Russia, and adding here the potentially massing of resources for a direct (in the event of a Taiwan crisis) clash with China, they saw that they did not have enough forces to conduct military operations on two fronts.
The maximum that they can afford is one and a half theaters of war. That is, in the event of a Taiwan crisis, the United States would be forced to take a direct part in the confrontation with China (a full-scale theater of military operations) and half of a theater of military operations in Ukraine. Here, they are not participating in this war on their own, but are providing great support to their partner, Ukraine. This is a sort of theater and a half. And the emergence of another unforeseen theater of war, or even half a theater of war in the Middle East, is something that the United States really does not need.
Thus, I think that they not only gave their consent to China to pursue a policy of peacekeeping or mediation in the Middle East, but even likely stimulated this work by China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
But all this of course is not simply done, but some advantages can be gained. As a bonus, the United States could ask (not demand, but ask diplomatically) China to put pressure on Russia and refuse to provide it with direct support. Political support, in words - for God's sake - is something they are quite tolerant of, but direct support with weapons is something they would not want. And, in the end, Putin did not receive this support.
The Americans could offer China (or ask China) to influence Iran in terms of freezing its nuclear program. Such results are not yet visible, but they may appear. This must be monitored carefully. Moreover, the fact is that both China and the United States are interested in Saudi Arabia increasing its oil production. Saudi Arabia itself refuses to do this, although it is taking partially reciprocal steps. Here lies a provisional consensus of all parties. The process is dynamic, the events are interconnected, and there are many negative and positive factors that affect the entire process. We will see how this process goes, but I think that the prerequisites for it were as I have laid out.
A stitch in time saves nine, as they say. A statement timely made, steps taken punctually, the delineation of guidelines, and the timely bringing in of partners - all this is exactly what is being done now. Not directly while the restructuring of the security architecture is underway, but preparations are underway. Approaches, new principles, and methods are being sought. What form they will finally take, we cannot say, but only presume.
In addition to the fact that there will be a strengthening of regional alliances like the EU and NATO, there will be a trend of strengthening sub-regional coalitions, including in the European space. These include the Visegrad Four, the Lublin Triangle, a defensive alliance of coastal states (proposed by Great Britain) in the form of a London-Warsaw-Kyiv-Baltic republic. The role of such coalitions will grow, because they are more compact formations where it is possible to achieve unity of opinion on a variety of issues. They can be formal or informal, with free entry and exit. If this is implemented, then the Visegrad Four, which includes Hungary, can be freely transformed into some kind of trio, without Budapest’s participation. And then Hungary will be left on the outside looking in.
Unfortunately, such regional coalitions do not have enough strength and resources to promote any of their initiatives. This is possible within the framework of large unions, and this moment will bind these coalitions into more serious alliances.
How it will look like, and how the restructuring will go (if it goes) in this direction, we will see. This issue is very difficult both at the national level (since it is all connected with sovereignty) and at the coalition level when it comes to finding general rules and procedures that suit everyone.
Returning to the topic of relations between the US and China, I will say that at this stage, direct military confrontation is not beneficial for these countries. Both sides are interested in eliminating any misunderstandings and disagreements with soft power through negotiations – not necessarily top-level ones, but perhaps through, say, influential businesspeople. The United States expressed this wish to China, and as I see it, China listened. Putin will not get his desired result.
United States does not yet have a vision of how to deal with Russia and the Putin regime.
Unfortunately, the United States does not yet have a vision of how to deal with Russia and the Putin regime. Therefore, one can judge matters by the American determination to provide or not provide us with certain types of weapons, namely airplanes, long-range missiles, and so on. It depends on the vision of Russia’s future that the United States has. Victory is victory, but what will happen to the defeated? I think the US is very afraid of a Russian collapse, and it is not only them. Not because it is scary, but because it is not known how it will end up. What will happen to its nuclear arsenal, and what will happen on the territory of ⅙ of the Earth’s landmass? If conflicts start there, they can easily spread to other territories (to Asia), and the process will unfold unpredictably. They are afraid of this process happening out of control. It is better now to think about how to make it controllable, and not to abandon the final option of Russia’s collapse. If Russia survives, then it will be horror forever, instead of a terrible end. It is a question of political will.
The ICC warrant for Putin's arrest was issued due to the fact that the cup of patience is already so overflowing that it is beginning to spill out. This was the first drop. The order is a signal to Putin himself in which they say, “look, you’ll be punished.” This is a signal to the entire international environment that "you guys are dealing with a toxic person, and it's better not to mess with him." It is a signal to other dictators in other countries that they can expect the same fate, even worse and faster. If they have already been able to take a swing at Russia, then it will be felt even more so in less powerful states. This plays into the hands of today's Western coalition as an incentive to stick to the sanctions already imposed and expand them. The United States has a vision of how to end the war in Ukraine. How strategic that vision is is another matter. The vision is that Russia will not win the war. But this vision does not elaborate on what Russia itself should be like after the defeat. That's what it's all about. That is, the United States has a vision of how to win the war, and in coordination with our General Staff, this vision is being worked out. In accordance with this vision, weapons are being supplied at a certain rate and volume. Beyond that, I have big doubts that there is any kind of consensus on what to do with Russia.
I think that in Putin's entourage, and in the international environment, Navalny is being prepared, surprisingly. After a while, he will become just like Putin. Navalny is ready to fall into the same brine and end up pickled just the same.
Until Russia itself changes, until it falls apart, until all these seams that bind the subjects of the federation by force are untied, there will be nothing good there. The so-called Russian people have a birth curse, a genetic trauma or a genetic code. That is, they are simply not ready to leave their comfort zone and start thinking differently, as it is too traumatic for them. They cannot cross this threshold in any way. And until this happens, leaders like Putin will be born and come to power there.
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