Godzilla's partnership with King Kong?
What they do, not what they say is what matters. Also, whose side is Modi on?
So sorry for my nearly week-long, hiatus. Family moving chores last week, were not as easy for old-timers as I had hoped. So, despite a few aches and pains, it’s time to get back to the keyboard. I hope everyone’s week was the opposite and far better than expected.
Today, I want to talk about Xi’s visit to Moscow, to talk with his, “best friend, Putin.” What’s this all about? What does it mean going forward for Ukraine, global stability, other major players like India, NATO, ASEAN etc.? In my opinion, this meeting, though its details will not be known entirely, has the potential to be a major, game-changing event for everyone.
Putin bit off far more than he could chew when he began his, unprovoked and genocidal invasion of Ukraine. His resources are dwindling at a rate that spells abject disaster for Russia unless Xi, can “stop the bleeding” with weapons, technology, financial assistance and more. Xi, also in a deep hole of his own making, needs a friend in order to give his “China Dream strategy” any chance at all of surviving his catastrophic leadership. He is laser-focused on his so-called “dream.” Actually, what he’s chasing is global domination that converts all nations into tributary supporters of him, as emperor.
To date, both leaders have demonstrated a distinct penchant for being feckless, strategically. Neither understand the world outside of their own nations any better than most Westerners understand Russia and China. Their threat to global stability and progress comes as much from their incompetence and overestimation of their own power, as much as it does from their overt threats.
Putin’s military is the definition of incompetent and corrupt, and Xi’s is fully untested. Both rely on similar weapons systems, mostly of Russian design, and which have proved themselves disastrous failures in Ukraine, against top tier systems. Putin’s arrogant assumption that NATO and the RBIO (rules-based, international order), would not rally to Ukraine’s support was a strategic miscalculation ranking with Russia’s humiliating defeat by Japan, in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. Xi’s untested military, should it take on a major conflict at this point in time, would be just as humiliated as China was, when taking on Vietnam in 1979.
Pooh, what Xi is called behind his back in China, and his bromance with Putin leaves the civilized world with several potentially dangerous scenarios. There’s only space in today’s piece for a couple of these potential threats.
An alliance, formal or otherwise that shares weaponry and military aggression is the most obvious threat. Although at the moment, Russia is in begging mode, they will get back on their feet eventually and owe Xi an enormous “favor.” Combine this with Xi’s focus on Artic commercial resources and access, is a pretty tasty carrot that Putin currently has and Xi wants.
Neither Putin nor Pooh care at all about human rights and so long as their elites can still eat, will pursue aggression to further their selfish desires. Putin wants to restore Soviet era control over regions and Xi, global hegemony. Both have tunnel vision for these pursuits and nothing that stands between either fantasy is safe.
Another issue that concerns me more than the military threat is that strategic balance will change drastically. By this I mean that 3 of the 4 most important nations regarding security and stability are on the same continent and all have expansive ambitions: Russia, China and India. Modi is a wild card and from my perspective, unworthy of trust.
Xi’s strategic miscalculations regarding global trade and COVID, drug the entire planet into a severe downturn. This downturn still lingers. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated this instability far worse, especially regarding energy sources. The ripples of the energy instability have repercussions for manufacturing and eventually disrupts, downstream markets.
Should India and China continue to prop up Putin’s war by way of cheap oil purchases and in other economic sectors, this gives these 3, supersized leverage over other markets. This is precisely the type of leverage that Xi eeploys all along the BRI/ Belt and Road Initiative. In fact, it’s one of the three defining characteristics of Chinese aggression.
Coercive and predatory economic leverage
Human rights violations on a massive scale
At the moment, far too many geo-political experts see Chinese and Indian cooperation on some level as unrealistic, but I disagree and for the following reasons:
Xi and Modi are working together to keep the Russian economy afloat, for their own selfish purposes.
Xi and Modi are both large scale human rights violators.
India and China share about 60+% of their weapons systems with Russian systems and are dependent on them.
India and China are primary manufacturing and technology providers.
Anything that they do together, and with similar strategic objectives have the potential to fully undermine the global economy.
Who needs weapons if they can destroy the economies of their adversaries?
This is the short list and there are endless examples to support these primary points.
I’ll offer a summary here without going into a deep dive on these points. Each is worthy of a white paper and in fact, all of these factors should be explored by national security strategists in-depth, along with contingency planning.
As we follow Pooh’s visit to Putin this week, let’s be clear that any elevated partnership is dangerous. This is more dangerous if Modi, falsely claiming “non-aligned” status continues his pro-Russian posture. Whether he agrees or not, he is already a partner of sorts with Xi due to his financial assistance to Russia via fossil fuels, grain, technology and other items. Beyond this, Xi and Modi are absolutely partners is assisting Putin to evade sanctions. One of the more immediate threats of a China that provides military technology and manufacturing to these incompetent sectors of the Russian logistical systems, is that it ups the ante for the war in Ukraine.
By “upping the ante” I mean that it runs the risk of drawing the globe into a greater shooting war. Since both Putin and Xi are both committed to committing any manner of atrocities in order to achieve their goals, while simultaneously tanking a global economy, any such conflict would require a massive, global response. Is this a high probability? At the moment no. If either see a serious degradation to achieve their objectives threatened, the threat grows significantly. Putin is quite literally fighting for his survival, and Xi facing a complete implosion of his China dream, the calculus becomes high risk.
Both India and China have far greater than regional hegemonic aspirations. The war in Ukraine provides them both an opportunity, other than their original strategies. Any increased cooperation by two or all three is a serious threat to global stability. We should have learned our lesson in 1945, that leaving aggressors freedom to operate and maneuver immorally, endangers us all.
The only answer to any or other threats is the primary focus of the US NSS, National Security Strategy, collective action to adhere to global rules, law, policies and norms. I applaud the current administration’s focus on this unity. It’s paying off for Ukraine and in fact, just may save us all from a larger, global conflict.