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Vladimir Putin has been in office as Russia's president or prime minister for more than two decades.
Meeting of global elites ended with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz calling for cooperation on climate change, hunger and war, as activists swarmed the streets; he also ratcheted up criticism of Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine.
Russia & Central Asia
‘The simplified system will allow all of us to clearly see that Russia is here not just for a long time but forever,’ Moscow-appointed leader of Kherson said; but Kyiv called the plan ‘criminal’ behaviour.
The Russian military said more Ukrainian fighters who were making a last stand in Mariupol have surrendered, bringing the total who have left their stronghold to 1,730, while the Red Cross said it registered hundreds of them as prisoners of war.
Peace pleas directed at the Kremlin must be extended to Washington: its ‘mission creep’ tendencies and hostility towards Beijing – whose influence with Moscow might have made all the difference – threaten to extinguish hopes of a near-term diplomatic solution in Europe.
Americans’ support for Ukraine and Nato’s revival have put Republican champions of Putin’s nationalist agenda on the losing side of an ideological war. As they attempt to cover their tracks, expect more misinformation and anti-China rhetoric.
While the US and its allies are united in supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russian authoritarianism, cracks below the surface are spreading. Right-wing attacks on minority groups such as the passing of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill are a sobering reminder that democracy must be fought for at home too.
The Ukraine war and pandemic have hardened the consensus on the need for economic decoupling and deglobalisation. In a world split into the US and China blocs, however, Western multinationals, small companies and millions of consumers would all pay a hefty price.
While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine bogs down, one of Vladimir Putin’s most ardent supporters is also showing signs of weakness. Recent developments suggest a waning appetite among Republicans to keep standing with Donald Trump.
From the heyday of the British Empire to the present, sea powers have set the global order and land powers have contested it. While China has traditionally been a continental power, its capabilities at sea have grown in recent years. Choosing to side with Russia would be a step backwards into the land power paradigm.
The US is convinced that Russia will be politically and economically impotent, European nations will return to their place under America’s wing, and the threat of sanctions will keep China in line. But what if both Russia and China call the US’ bluff?
China has a huge vested interest in global stability which ensures its people’s prosperity. While Beijing clearly needs to keep relations with Moscow on an even keel, it will not risk attracting economic warfare from the West.
Whether posing on horseback or with a gun, Putin has long portrayed an image of hypermasculinity that has helped to legitimise his repressive policies against women and minority groups at home. Now, with the invasion of Ukraine, the strongman narrative is being played out on a global stage.
Should China ditch Russia, it would lose a strategic partner, and it would only be a matter of time before the US resumes its antipathy. Instead, China is choosing to stick to its principles – no-first-use of nuclear weapons, non-alliance and no pursuit of spheres of influence.
The war in Ukraine has brought the geopolitical importance of the Arctic region, previously thought to benefit from a disconnect from security concerns, into focus. China has made significant investments in the Arctic, but could find itself cut off from regional decision-making if it chooses to side with Russia.
Putin’s war against Ukraine has turned China’s triangulation gambit – joining with Russia to corner the United States – on its head. Not only will continuing to support Russia result in sanctions that thwart China’s economic development goals, but it also risks Xi’s own place in history.