Sunday, March 20, 2022

An Audience of One


Friends, as Russia squirms in Ukraine, and as its military struggles to secure its objectives, Westerners cheer, and not without reason, especially if the Cold War, which was "off", is now on again.  But let's be clear: most Westerners were always going to root against Russia, and most of us will, when this conflict ends, inevitably conclude that "we" won and "they" lost.  Self-congratulation and self-righteousness are, after all, Western specialties.  That part of the story of the Russia-Ukraine war is already "baked in".  What isn't certain, however, is how the world as a whole will react, and especially the one country that is by far the most important audience for the current conflict: China.  China, naturally, is watching events in Ukraine very closely.  China, presumably, is rooting for Russia, by and large, mainly because anything that bloodies the nose of the West is seen as a win for the PRC.  Moreover, if the West shows weakness, it will open new avenues by which China can spread its influence.  China, though, is undoubtedly chastened by the strong Western and global reaction of outrage against the Russian invasion.  More importantly, the unprecedented sanctions levied almost instantly against Russia, combined with the freezing of its sovereign assets, must make the Chinese think hard about the likely reaction to any potential future act of aggression committed by them.  This conflict, though, is far from over.  Just because Russia is seen as struggling now doesn't mean that, when the conflict wraps up, the Russian won't have pushed on to victory, or "victory", whatever that means.  What's more, the Chinese, and much of the world, will be looking very hard for signs of Western indecision, disunity, and general weakness.  They won't have to strain themselves too greatly to find such signs, either.  In the end, I propose, the Chinese and their fellow travelers in the Third World may well conclude that the West threw everything it had, politically, diplomatically, and economically, at Russia, and yet Russia battered its way to something resembling victory/vindication.  And, if so, look for the Chinese to learn the appropriate lesson: that the West's bark is worse than its bite.

Along these lines, check out these early signs that the Chinese are inclined to lean towards Russia, and to view the Western campaign against Russia as excessive and dangerous:


Much has been said about the corrupt nature of Ukraine's democracy/kleptocracy already, but check out this story.  11 parties are to be banned in Ukraine, because of their alleged ties to Russia.  Hey, I'm beginning to see why the Democrats, in particular, like this guy Zelensky: they aspire to ban the political opposition too! 


  1. Dr. Waddy from Jack: I think there are significant differences between China's concerns and those of Russia and that they will be critical in China's assessment of Russia- Ukraine.For Russia, Ukraine is a rockbottom fundamental security concern (an unendurable problem which MUST be solved now, at almost any price) Taiwan may not present such a basic threat to China. Much of China's declared determination to once again rule Taiwan stems from its own fundamental resolution, which is to undo all the offense done it by the West, Japan, Russia and the West again. They want restoration to them of everything taken from China in its time of weakness BUT, all in good time and time and history have been argued to be seen with much longer range in China than that of the West. What China may see now in Ukraine-Russia is a risk not worth taking for Taiwan or Vladivostok just now.

  2. Dr.Waddy from Jack: With frustration and human and economic cost, I fear Russia's determination is hardened. If they were to compromise (or to face military defeat)the suppurating sore of Ukraine would continue to plague them. They might well not trust proposed Ukrainian and/or Western guarantees. They may well have had good reason to count on (and in doing so been bitterly disaffected)what they regarded as triumphant Western guarantees against Nato's advance to their very borders. They may be now consequentlh resolved to use ALL presumed necessary force, ALL! And widespread excoriation and sanction may understandably reinforce their conviction that they stand alone as "as usual". The consequences of that Russian resolution could be truly fearful and might dissuade China from a similar course.

  3. Dr. Waddy from Jack: I trust from articles I read in the creditable journal Commentary in the Soviet era that some Soviet military thinkers held that a general nuclear exchange was winnable. Can it be that this view yet obtains in consequential Russian thought or even in planning? Might it be a factor now!?

  4. That's a good point, Jack. Russia fears NATO and the West. China doesn't remotely fear Taiwan.

    I agree: the fury of Western condemnation, and the extremity of our sanctions regime, may raise the stakes for Russia (and its rulers) to the extent that they have NO CHOICE but to fight on to victory in Ukraine, regardless of the price. It shocks me that there is NO DIALOGUE right now between Russia and the West. We seem determined to push Russia to the wall.

    Might the Russians imagine that the use of nukes against the West could result in Russian victory? I doubt the Russian people would ever find that strategy appealing, but Putin might. Nuclear war could, as a matter of fact, increase Putin's power (in a zero-sum context). Moreover, he'd be well-positioned to survive, even if the rest of us wouldn't! My advice is to dust off your copy of "Dr. Strangelove" and view it as an instructional guide...