Beijing hopes to raise its geopolitical stake in the Ukraine conflict

Beijing [China], February 2 (ANI): China will benefit if Russia invades Ukraine and precipitates a drawn-out conflict with the US and its Western allies (though a direct military confrontation is unlikely), China stands to benefit, as noted by Channel News Asia.

America will need to divert strategic resources to confront Russia, and its European allies will be even more reluctant to heed US entreaties to join America’s anti-China coalition.

But if US President Joe Biden defuses the crisis by acceding to some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands, China will likely end up worse off strategically.

While Putin will reap the benefits of his coercive diplomacy, and Biden will avoid a potential quagmire in Eastern Europe, China will find itself the sole focus of America’s national security strategy, as analyzed by Channel News Asia.

Further, after Putin has skillfully exploited the US obsession with China to re-establish Russia’s sphere of influence, the strategic value of his China card may depreciate significantly.

For Putin, capitalising on Biden’s fear of being dragged into a conflict with a secondary adversary (Russia) in order to extract critical security concessions is a risky but smart move.

But ordering an invasion of Ukraine — and thus effectively volunteering to be America’s primary geopolitical adversary, at least in the short to medium term — is hardly in the Kremlin’s interest.

Crippling Western sanctions and the high costs of fighting an insurgency in Ukraine would almost certainly weaken Russia significantly and make Putin himself both domestically unpopular and more dependent on Chinese President Xi Jinping, as analyzed by Channel News Asia.

Strategic uncertainty aside, China’s rulers know that explicitly supporting Putin will almost certainly antagonise the European Union, which is now China’s second-largest trading partner.

In Chinese policymakers’ strategic calculation, it is vital to prevent the US from recruiting the EU into its anti-China coalition.

Ukraine’s independence and security are crucial to the EU, and Chinese efforts to aid and abet Putin would trigger a European backlash. At a minimum, the EU could make China pay by restricting technology transfers and expressing more diplomatic support for Taiwan.

China’s leaders are realists and know that they can do little to influence the outcome of the current crisis in Ukraine even if they choose to intervene publicly.

With Putin holding most of the cards in the ongoing standoff, China’s diplomatic support is unlikely to alter the strategic calculus of the principal protagonists in Washington, Brussels, or even Moscow.

Beijing’s influence will increase dramatically only if Putin rolls the dice and invades Ukraine because he will then need Chinese economic support to lessen the impact of Western sanctions.

But for now, all this is speculative as far as China’s President Xi Jinping is concerned. Although a superpower, China is temporarily reduced to being an onlooker, watching both anxiously and hopefully on the sidelines as the Ukraine crisis unfolds, as analyzed by Channel News Asia. (ANI)