History will show that the Ukrainian war marked the beginning of the end of the Russian state.
Over the last two decades, Vladimir Putin and his cronies, a criminal conspiracy masquerading as the Russian government, have looted the Russian economy, destroyed the Russian middle class and have plunged millions of pensioners into poverty. For their grand finale, they are setting the stage for the eventual disappearance of Russian sovereignty—either by the dissolution of the Russian state or by the transformation of Russia into a Chinese vassal.
The prospect of de facto Chinese control of Russia’s vast resources and territory should give the United States cause for concern. Such an outcome will eventually lead to the creation of a Eurasian superstate; the likes of which has not been seen since the Mongols swept across the Eurasian plain in the 13th century. All the more reason to ensure that Beijing does not accelerate Russian dependence by allowing Chinese companies to flout the sanctions regime.
It is imperative that the United States and its allies step in and sanction those Chinese companies that flout the sanctions that have been imposed on the Russian government and Russian companies. Sanctioning Russia while allowing Chinese companies to flout those sanctions with impunity will lead to the worst possible outcome for the United States and its allies.
Four weeks into the Ukrainian war, the conflict is going very badly for Russia. Gone is the prospect of a quick collapse of the Ukrainian military and an abandonment of Kyiv by the Zelenskyy government, paving the way of a pro-Russian government of national unity. Instead, the Ukrainian military rallied and posted a tenacious defense. In some cases, even going on the offensive.
Instead, the Russian military has shifted to terror tactics of shelling and aerial bombardment of Ukrainian cities—a strategy that will do little to advance the war effort, given the Ukrainian resolve to resist the Russian invasion, and ensures that Ukrainians will harbor a multi-generation hatred of Russia, while the rest of Europe will harbor a multi-generational distrust of the Kremlin’s intentions.
In the meantime, the Russian military has suffered staggering losses of men, equipment, and materials. The much-vaunted Russian air force has failed to sweep the sky over Ukraine of opposing air power, and the Russian advance has consistently been bogged down by logistical problems that are more characteristic of a third-world force than what is supposed to be a military superpower.
The strategy of “rubbleizing” Ukraine’s cities will create a nightmare of urban warfare for Russian troops should they choose to invade the cities. It’s questionable, given the progress to date, if the Russian armed forces have the military strength and logistical reserves to surround all of Ukraine’s principal cities—especially Kyiv.
Even if they were to do so, they face the prospect of fighting another Stalingrad or a replay of the Warsaw ghetto uprising—only this time it will be broadcast across social media in real time. Indeed, from Russia’s perspective, it is hard to see how the outcome could have been any worse.
It’s hard to see how any of these actions will change the progress of the war given the Ukrainian resolve to resist. Indeed, all they will do is further inflame Western public opinion against the Kremlin.
At this point it is imperative that the United States takes the lead in identifying an off-ramp that can bring the conflict to a speedy close. Russia is now a pariah state, the Putin government toxic. Even if a peace agreement is reached, and/or Putin is eventually replaced, it will be years before Russia can expect to normalize relations with the United States and the European Union.
Moreover, the danger of dependence on Russia’s energy exports has been driven home to the EU. Europe will aggressively diversify its sources of energy away from Russia.
On the other hand, neither is it in America’s and the EU’s interest to push Russia into China’s open arms. Make no mistake, amid the chaos and destruction of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is Beijing that is emerging as the big winner.
By enabling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing has ensured the Kremlin’s long-term dependence on Chinese support while at the same time positioning itself as an unofficial interlocutor between the United States and Russia.
China has little interest in a speedy resolution of the conflict in Ukraine. The longer the war continues, the more incensed public opinion in the West will be and the more dependent Moscow grows on Beijing’s support. China has an agenda here also. It’s not only about securing long-term supplies of Russian energy and minerals or replacing Russian influence in Central Asia.
How long will it be before China raises the delicate matter of those “unfair treaties,” starting with the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1769), that were foisted on the Qing Dynasty by Czarist Russia between the 17th and 19th centuries, which saw thousands of square miles of Chinese territory transferred to Russia?
I have noted elsewhere that Russia has three possible outcomes: integration with the West, vassalization by China, or dissolution. The first outcome seems unlikely in the short term, even if the Russian people eventually succeed in excising the malignant cancer that is the Putin regime. The most likely outcome now is for Moscow to become an economic vassal of Beijing, or to try to go it alone until economic collapse leads to the breakdown and dissolution of the Russian state.
The United States and its allies need to ensure that the economic and political isolation of Russia does not play out in China’s favor. It is imperative that Chinese efforts to assist Moscow in evading sanctions are met with equally steadfast U.S. and EU sanctions on China and its companies.
The Ukrainian war will lead to the widespread devastation of Ukraine’s cities and tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of civilian casualties. Ukraine, however, will survive. Russia will not!