It is striking that the Russian press now openly refers to the conflict in Ukraine as a “war”. Indeed, after fighting and suffering so many losses since February it would look utterly ridiculous if it were referred to in any other way. And the outlook is very gloomy; so much so that one commentator, while claiming the worst outcomes are unlikely, none the less itemises them one by one – for what purpose exactly?
An article that appeared at the end of last week in Nezavisimaya gazeta‘s military review by Aleksandr Khramchikhin carries a stern messsage. China is not there to help Russia. It is there to take full advantage of Russia’s problems.
“The thesis that China is the true friend of Russia, ready to extend her a hand of assistance in any complex situation, is viewed by many citizens of our country as to be taken for granted. Yet there has almost never been any practical confirmation of this thesis and there is none today.” When the crisis over Crimea arose in 2014, China did not take Russia’s side, it spoke out for Ukraine and observed Western sanctions.
When the war broke out with Ukraine in February, the Chinese once again respected Western sanctions and, as after 2014, took advantage of the situation to obtain energy supplies at reduced prices from Russia. “Thus China is neither interested in a speedy victory for Russia nor in its defeat.” So what does it want?
China is in fact interested in the maximum exhaustion of both sides (Russia and the West.) Were Russia to be defeated and begin fragmenting, then the Chinese would not want it dominated by the West and would seek territorial compensation. “The transformation of Russia into the junior partner (if not a direct vassal) of China is possible if the war in Ukraine is over-extended and turns out to be not a failure but generally unsuccessful for Moscow.”
“China is never going to be a friend of ours”, the article concludes. “And the helping hand will be extended to us only if from our hand it receives something of great significance and value in return.”
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