“The real leverage point here is China,” Gen. Robert Spalding, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told The Epoch Times on March 3. “It’s not really the Russians, because the Russians could not do what they’ve done without the tacit approval of China.”
“China basically told the Russians ‘don’t invade during the Olympics.’ They knew they were going to invade. They just didn’t want it to upstage the Olympics.”
Spalding noted that the CCP was not joining sanctions issued by Western nations. He added that Russia’s dependence on the CCP to carry out its war on Ukraine raised a vital question: Whether the West had the economic fortitude to impose related sanctions on China.
“The question here is whether or not we’re going to actually put economic sanctions and isolate China for their support of Russia,” Spalding said.
He added that China was acting as a “relief valve” for Russia, providing a much craved-after cash flow even as the rest of the world was trying to turn the tap of Putin’s war machine off. On the first day of Russia’s invasion, the Chinese regime lifted restrictions on wheat imports from Russia, and has since said that trade with Moscow would continue as normal.
Meanwhile, the United States and its allies in Europe and elsewhere have announced a slew of sanctions on Moscow, including banning some big Russian banks from the SWIFT global payments system and limiting its central bank’s access to $640 billion in foreign currency reserves.
For his part, Spalding doubted whether the West could unite on punishing CCP leadership for its support of Russia. He said that Western elites relied too heavily on Chinese business ties to allow for such action to take place.
“The Chinese Communist Party has done a great job of basically enlisting the elites of the free world,” Spalding said. “A lot of their wealth is tied up in this relationship with China.”
“If you want to essentially get a nation to do what you want, you have to put pressure on the elites of that nation. And, essentially, that’s what China has done by entwining themselves into the fortunes of the elites. They’re able to then push on them and lean on them, and this is the problem.”
Spalding said that the belief that business ties to the CCP needed to be maintained at any cost was undermining democracy throughout the world, and that America’s dependence on China was encouraging authoritarianism at home.
“People say, ‘Oh, well, we can’t cut ourselves off from China, because they make everything now’,” Spalding said. “Well, that becomes a real problem if the requirement to continue to receive those goods is that you transform your society from one of a democratic society to … more of an authoritarian society.”
“That’s the compact we’ve made with these regimes. And, unfortunately … if we’re not willing to confront that, and the pain that comes along with that, then we’re going to slowly slide into this abyss where … authoritarianism will win, and you will see authoritarianism continue to grow throughout the world.”
As the West dithers about sanctioning China for its role in the invasion of Ukraine, meanwhile, Spalding noted that the violence in Ukraine continues to escalate.
There are now reports that the Russian military is intentionally bombing civilian infrastructure. And Russian actions over the first week of the invasion have led to accusations that it is actively committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Despite the apparent horror of current events on the ground, Spalding says that things will likely only get worse from here.
“People forget what the Russians did in Chechnya,” Spalding said, referring to Russia’s largely indiscriminate bombing campaigns during the Second Chechen War from August 1999 to April 2000, which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians.
“I suspect we’re starting to see that a lot of the same tactics that eventually were used in Chechnya to level cities are going to be used by the Russians,” Spalding said.
To prevent future slaughters, Spalding said that it was vital the United States and its allies recognize the threat posed to the international order by growing alliances between authoritarian states.
“This is a long-term effort that really hinges on whether the free world recognizes that China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other authoritarian regimes have to be confronted and have to be isolated economically, or this is going to consume the world,” Spalding said.