The Russian war on Ukraine will affect global strategy and alter the political and security landscape in the Indo-Pacific region for decades to come, according to defense and security experts.
“It will change the world.”
Matsuda said that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping shared a point of view with Putin, and that both believe the West is in decline and ultimately useless for their aims.
He said he's concerned that Xi’s beliefs will become more extreme, as Putin’s apparently have, with increased age and isolation, and because the Chinese leader personally emulates Putin.
“I think that their worldview might become more and more extreme,” he said.
“The personal dictatorship is very dangerous,” he added, noting the amount of control that Xi personally holds over China.
Matsuda said that while Xi may emulate Putin in his ruling of China, he's likely taken aback by the Russian military's struggle to make progress in Ukraine amid stiff resistance, which might cause Beijing some reputational damage due to its support of Russia.
“This time, Xi Jinping is kind of disappointed by Putin because the Russian military’s performance is so bad. ... Xi Jinping bet on Putin’s gamble, but it was not successful,” Matsuda said.
PartnershipXi may be concerned that China is being encircled by U.S. influence in Japan and Korea, and through security partnerships such as the AUKUS trilateral security pact between the United States, Britain, and Australia, Matsuda said.
For that reason, Xi likely was looking to use Russia's war in Ukraine to divert allied resources away from the Indo-Pacific region and toward Europe, and resist U.S. diplomatic and economic pressures.
The CCP also committed to purchasing natural gas with rubles and opened the door for Russia to join Chinese banking systems to help ease the brunt of Western sanctions.
The Struggle for TaiwanThe CCP maintains that the island of Taiwan is a breakaway province and must be united by force, if necessary, with the mainland. The island has been self-governed since 1949, however, and has never been controlled by the CCP.
Tensions over the possible invasion of Taiwan by the CCP have raised fears of a war between nuclear powers, as it's possible that the United States would join a war to defend Taiwan’s continued de facto independence.
During a recent discussion of the war in Ukraine and its implications for the Indo-Pacific hosted by the Center for a New American Security, a defense-focused think tank, experts addressed the issue of how Ukraine was shaping Indo-Pacific strategy and the difficulty of gauging just how the struggles of the Russian military in Ukraine were coloring Xi’s plans for Taiwan.
“My own instinct is that he would be reminded more clearly than before about the risks of what a potential invasion entail.”
To that end, he said it's vital that the United States ensure that Taiwan has enough military capabilities to convince Xi that a fight wouldn't be worth the outcome.
“The only way that you reinforce deterrence between China and Taiwan is that you make certain that [Taiwan’s] defensive capabilities are increased,” Tellis said. “Whether those capabilities are increased unilaterally or through the assistance of the United States. That’s the only thing that holds balance.”
Building a robust sense of “Taiwanese nationalism” and a “capacity to resist China” were the two variables that could realistically increase the cost to China in the event of a war, he added.
“Irrespective of what Xi thinks, objectively we simply make it harder for him to pursue unification through force,” Tellis said.
He said the United States now faces a global challenge in maintaining its support of the international liberal order in the face of CCP and Russian aggression.
To that end, he said the ability to deter China and Russia, and balance the peace throughout the Indo-Pacific, could prove to be the test that makes or breaks the United States' status as the most powerful nation on earth.
“It impacts our vision of how we see our own role in the world,” Tellis said.
“If we don’t do it right, then I think our status as a superpower itself becomes open for debate.”