Xi Jinping, the President of the People's Republic of China, and Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, signing trade agreements during Xi's state visit to Moscow in March 2023.
Before reading this part in our War in Ukraine series, we recommend reading all parts starting with Part 1: Post-USSR Independence. This section summarizes most of the discussions within the previous parts and consolidates the relatively extensive information into a present-day understanding of the actual Russian grand strategy without the built-in distractions, especially some of the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine within the geopolitical space. This part may not make any sense without the foundational knowledge explained in all the previous parts.
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the world witnessed a clumsy and belligerent Russia at war with its non-threatening neighbor, Ukraine, which was forced to defend its sovereignty by whatever means available.
However, the immediate result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a world being blinded to the actual war in progress since 2008 which enabled the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, an endless war designed to challenge the West and its guiding authority, the United States of America and its closest allies. Taking a step backwards and looking at the War in Ukraine from a perspective of whether Russia is winning the war, the answer after a year since the full-scale Russian invasion remains complicated, even though Russian losses far exceed Ukrainian losses on the Ukrainian battlefields by average threefold. This however raises the questions why Russian society is not yet showing signs of strain, and why Russia is not consolidating its forces to enable greater gains in the Ukraine? We find the answers to these questions analyzing Russia’s progress in its global campaign. At the strategic level we observe a Russia operating with less reckless behavior, having made important strategic gains while everyone was focused on Russian activities inside Ukraine. The reality, which is opportunistically obscured by a global mainstream media fixated on the War in Ukraine (and other non-sensical side-shows), is that Russia is within its present state winning its global war against the West. It is time for Western leaders to realize that their visions of the future are jeopardized, and if Russia is not stopped in its current global expansion campaign, and if Ukraine is not provided the support it requires to expel Russian forces [and influences] from all occupied Ukrainian territories, then this war will escalate to a global kinetic war. However, it does not end there, for hidden within the fog of Russia’s global war lies even a greater threat, China. To understand this in greater perspective, we need to understand the differences in ideologies amongst the challengers of the current US dominated world order.
A major effect of Russia’s ongoing failures in Ukraine is that it exposed Russia as the true belligerent it is, it exposed the Russian people as a nation with low moral awareness of the negative global impact resulting from their support to a knowingly belligerent regime, and it also exposed Russia’s modus operandi within the strategic battle space, and specifically how Russia succeeded in capturing the minds of its greatest opponents and obstacles to the expansion of Russian strategic reach. To illustrate how Russia capitalized on unique characteristics pertaining to critical areas of operation, we attempt to summarize how the world is different now compared to before the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine. However, due to the extreme complexity of the current global geopolitical environment, we recommend reading the following article first to understand the more detailed concept of operations at play: 5th Generation Warfare: The Evolution of Warfare beyond the controls of the Nation State. Now, before we can understand how Russia infiltrated its targets for enablement of Russian grand strategy, we need to understand how Vladimir Putin thinks.
The best analysis available is by Jerrold L. Schecter, an independent Cold War historian and author. Basically, what we need to understand about Vladimir Putin’s leadership style is that he is a modern-day follower of ‘The Bolshevik Code’ which was the operational value system of the Soviet leadership until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Putin was raised by this code, and he served in the ranks of the KGB upholding this code up to the point where he was a frontline observer during the fall of the Berlin wall while stationed in East Germany, the single biggest public event that marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. Schecter highlights that Putin’s core beliefs and character is ingrained in his world views and behavior which stems from a conflicted blend of Tsarist authoritarianism and Marxist-Leninism. Basically, in Putin’s struggle for legitimacy and power, he reflects the same preoccupations that shaped the psychology and history of old Russia under Tsarist rule. To understand this in greater detail, we suggest reading the following books by sociologist Nathan Constantine Leites, a Russian immigrant who found employment with the Rand Corporation, who specialized in psychoanalysis of Soviet behavior at the beginning of the Cold War post-WW2:
The Operational Code of the Politburo, 1951
A Study of Bolshevism, 1953
Basically, Leites analyzed Russian classical literature along with the speeches and tracts of Lenin and Stalin to describe and define the rules of Soviet political conduct, and the value system of the Bolshevik Code. Comparing Leites’ analyses with current events provides insight into how Putin’s behavior fits a repeating psychological pattern. According to Leites’ studies, the Bolshevik Code denies the rule of law and replaces it with the rule of the Communist Party and the Supreme Leader (the Vozhd). A key adjunct to the Code is the doctrine of ‘the means justifies the ends’, a precept clearly adopted by Putin. An important observation made by Leites relates to the post-Russian Revolution self-image. He argued that the Bolshevik self-image formed before the October 1917 Revolution did not change even after the Bolsheviks took power. Soviet leaders “continued to see themselves in the same position as they were in relation to the Tsarist government”, namely, “out of power and in a dangerous position”. Their self-image was that they had no legitimacy, why Soviet leaders always seemed to be motivated by activities and policies that reinforced their legitimacy as a priority above anything else to a global audience. Looking at present-day Vladimir Putin, we identify the exact same self-image of a person that continues trying to justify Russian [and his own] existence at the global level as a supposed ‘superpower’ simply because they constantly consider themselves inferior compared to the West [United States] which in turn influences Russian strategic thinking, why Russian planners always suffer from the perception that ‘Russia is surrounded’ by its enemies (basically, the United States via its influence over NATO, and the often overlooked China as an adversary to Russia). That said, Russia is always in a state of being ‘surrounded by enemies’ for the simple reason that Putin considers every nation bordering Russian territory that fails to submit to Russian child-like demands as its enemy, whereas the same does not necessarily apply to Russia’s neighbors who are politically led by people of greater cognitive maturity who just wish to live in peace with one another. Based on how Leites defined the key elements of the Bolshevik Code, we can establish how Putin’s behavior and actions fit the Code:
Politics is war.
Push to the limit in any encounter, such as a negotiation.
Assume deception by an adversary.
Pressure creates opportunities.
It pays to be rude to one’s counterpart or adversary. Rudeness intimidates and forces an adversary to seek acceptance by compromise.
Do not yield to provocations from one’s adversary.
Avoid the danger of allowing personal feelings to intrude into matters of policy. The Party leadership (read Putin) knows best.
More force is better than less force. Annihilating the enemy and starting anew is better than trying to convert a class enemy.
Know when to stop.
Retreat before superior force.
Enemies cannot be persuaded to accept the Bolshevik position by rational means.
All politics is a life and death struggle of who will dominate whom.
In addition to this, we also identified the following elements in what we refer to as the ‘neo-Bolshevik Code’ (Putin’s Code):
If you wish to provide the solution, you need to create the problem.
Everything is a weapon.
The question, however, how does the 'Vladimir Putin System' implement these ideas into reality? In War in Ukraine, Part 2: The Russo-Georgia War we explained briefly how the Russian system of government is managed under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, and how all elements contribute towards Russia's combined global military effort. The following matrix illustrates the Russian system of government in its current war against the West:
A simplified matrix illustrating the network comprising the Russian system of government under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.
What we in the West need to understand about the Russian government is that it is not designed to function as a democracy, but rather a dictatorship. The sole purpose of the political class involved in the Russian system of government is personal wealth creation, which is also the fundamental motivation for Russia's global expansionism ideology. In basic terms, where Russia is involved outside of the Russian Federation you also find conflict which is no coincidence. In especially Africa, Russia and its closest allies are the causes for most of the hostilities on the continent simply because it allows them to deploy military forces into areas of strategic importance as a 'solution' to a problem they in fact created, all unbeknown to their lesser informed beneficiaries [targets] who gained power from lower political standing with the assistance from Russian intelligence services support, who then hands over the host-nation intelligence infrastructure to Russian intelligence services (FSB, GRU), who are then enabled with the means of controlling the narrative to the benefit of the Russian system of government. This concept of operations even applies to present-day South Africa where Russian intelligence services have infiltrated the South African intelligence services, which in turn assists the current ANC-linked political class to remain in power by whatever means. What this matrix also illustrates is how Putin controls his subjects to ensure that nobody gains too much power within the system to challenge his current authority. An example of this was the rapid growth of Wagner Group PMC which empowered its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin to challenge Vladimir Putin's policies during the Bakhmut offensive in Ukraine. To counter Prigozhin's rising power, Putin enabled for the creation of multiple pseudo-PMCs [in other words, government controlled and sponsored, but under 'private' oligarch leadership], to challenge Wagner Group PMC directly in its areas of influence. The effects of this decision are expected to evolve into a situation where Russian 'PMCs' [competing oligarchs] will start fighting each other for territory within foreign areas of interest in a similar fashion as criminal gangs fight turf wars.
Basically, from a political ideological perspective, the Russian system of government (as also applicable to the likes of the CCP and IRGC), seeks the total destruction of the individual in favor of absolute adherence to a centralized party leadership [Putin], via various means which includes mass information censorship and manipulation, destruction of the past, propaganda, the use of war and scarcity, removal and suppression of opposition, and the destruction of the idea that an objective reality exists outside the narrative promoted by the mechanisms of government. What Russian military mobilization activities has exposed in response to its high attrition in Ukraine is that Russian society also follows a type of class system within the context of the Russian Federation. The Russian social hierarchy can be summarized as follows (from high to low):
1. Inner Party. This is the inner circle of Vladimir Putin, namely the ethnic Russian oligarchs he trusts the most, and the individuals he can control the most with the greatest likelihood of undivided loyalty to him as their leader for life. These characters are by no means appointed based on competence, but rather loyalty alone. These individuals are also what can be referred to as the 'new generation oligarchs', the people that rose into power alongside Vladimir Putin as public servants, who were then rewarded with opportunities of [government aided] wealth creation when Putin took office as the President of the Russian Federation with the [irregular] powers of changing the constitution and controlling the mechanisms of government administration. This class controls the critical functions of government such as the treasury, law enforcement, judiciary, armed forces, and state intelligence services, and basically constitutes the political elite of Russia.
2. Outer Party. These are predominantly old generation ethnic Russian oligarchs who were already influential in Russian government affairs post-USSR dissolution prior to Vladimir Putin's rise in political power, but who swore their loyalty and allegiance to Vladimir Putin [in exchange for their continued rights to life and retaining their wealth], when Putin assumed office as President of the Russian Federation in 2000. In general, Putin trusts them based on their continued extent of support and sworn loyalties, but with a margin of distrust. Anyone who displays any signs of disloyalty usually meets death under mysterious circumstances, which is the common mechanism applied within this class category to ensure continued loyalty. This class controls the lesser critical functions of government, but includes the social support systems, and is predominantly controlled via the Yedinaya Rossiya party structures.
3. Ethnic Russians, Orthodox. Next in line of importance are ethnic Russians who prescribe to the Russian Orthodox religion resident in any of the 46 Russian Oblasts, the most prominent of oblasts being Moscow. This category comprises around 41% of all ethnic Russians and Russian speakers.
4. Ethnic Russians, Non-Orthodox. Ethnic Russians and Russian speakers originating from any of the 46 Russian Oblasts. This category comprises around 59% of all ethnic Russians, but due to their religious beliefs not being aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church, this category of Russians are not likely to serve within senior government ranks.
5. Minority ethnic groups: Orthodox. This category represents a minority percentage of the total 28.3% of all Russian Federation citizens who are not ethnic Russian, but prescribing to the Russian Orthodox religion.
6. Minority ethnic groups, Non-Orthodox. This category represents a majority percentage of the total 28.3% of all Russian Federation citizens who are not ethnic Russian, and who do not prescribe to the Russian Orthodox religion, who predominantly resides within the 22 Republics, 9 Krais, 4 autonomous Okrugs, and one autonomous Oblast (Jewish). The exception to this category is Ramzan Kadyrov, an ethnic Chechen who prescribes to Islam, who is the Head of the Chechen Republic and also a close supporter to Vladimir Putin. This arrangement is the result of an initiative by Putin to gain peace [and control] over the Chechens following the first- and second Chechen Wars in return for great financial wealth to Kadyrov.
In summary, looking at the ethnic composition of soldiers mobilized to serve with the Russian armed forces in Ukraine, the majority originate from classes 4 - 6.
The main goal of the collective Russian system of government is to maintain power and the status quo. It accomplishes this through the control of perceived 'reality' within Russian society by seeking to destroy any objective truth outside of which the Russian system of government puts forward to its citizens and its foreign objects. To achieve this, reality is broken down into language, news, propaganda, education, and even historical records by enforcing the acceptance of false narratives within the present which the government imposes following the idea that if all records portrayed the same narrative, then the false narrative passes into history, which then becomes the truth (example: Vladimir Putin's instructions following the failed occupation of Kyiv shortly after the February 24, 2022, full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, that all history books forming part of the basic education curriculum of Russia indicating Ukraine having positive historical relations with Russia had to be re-written where Ukraine was portrayed as a belligerent fitting the present Russian narrative for justifying its illegal invasion of Ukraine. The idea behind Putin's instructions were that the youth as beneficiaries of Russian state education would eventually become the majority in Russia, and therefore the present Russian narrative would then become the truth in the near future simply because its based on 'historical' record as the original foundation of education).
Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
The idea implies that whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting requiring a never-ending series of victories over individual memories. This basically illustrates the doctrine of 'reality control', the success thereof within present-day Russian society being quite remarkable based on the general [flawed] perceptions about Russia's current situation at the geopolitical level amongst the majority of its population, and even its foreign [supportive] audience. This is the reason why the majority Russians (and its foreign supporters) suffer from mass formation psychosis by believing without any question that Russian military aggression that started in Georgia (2008) and expanded into Ukraine (2014 - present) are in fact only a defensive response to "Western incited hostility towards Russia" with minimal margin for accepting any opposing [but true] narratives. The technical implications of state controlled narratives are however intense, for it requires the manipulation of every news source to be distributed via the state media mechanisms to support the prevailing government information narratives. This is one of the reasons why the Russian intelligence services employ around three divisions of information specialists responsible for ensuring official narrative conformance of news events prior to public release. Where historical records reflect information that contradicts the present narrative and its desired objectives, historical records are then rewritten to support the existing narrative. This is one of the many dangers of government controlled education, especially if the government is also the sole authority in determining acceptable education resources, and if such resources development, printing, and distribution is managed by the government (the manipulation and consequent decline of South African basic education was subject to similar activities post-1994 as what is taking place in Russia now by means of the pro-Russian ANC who controls the majority mechanisms of the state).
However, what we also need to realize about the Russian system of government's obsession with total information control is that it is now focussed as follows:
Re-educating the perceptions and thoughts of its citizens with knowledge prior to the current government information narrative: and
Educating citizens who are born into the current narrative to believe and follow the present government narrative to achieve the desired objectives to achieve the envisioned future outcomes.
But how can the Russian system of government change the minds of supposedly educated people so quickly? First thing, education does not equal intelligence. In general Russians know their government leaders often act against the truth, but being conditioned at the sub-conscious level, Russians are quite willing to accept changing narratives without much thought or objections, as long as the government continues to provide the support needed to maintain society, and to deliver on basic needs. What simplifies this process is that the present-day Putin regime just continued where the Soviet information activities ended. The implication hereof is that the West, who is being portrayed as the "enemy of the world" at the basic education level in Russia (and its connected societies), needs to collectively develop its foreign policies to effectively deal with a future Russia more belligerent than within its existing form, the same applying to Russia's closest allies and supporters. Following liberal 'soft diplomacy' practices of the past three decades will not work.
Being aware of the elements that influence Russian strategic thinking, we can now look at the effects of Russian activities at the geopolitical level.
Russia’s attempt to establishing a new global order:
During the extensive and never-ending research into understanding the actual causes for the current Russo-Ukraine War, and the never-ending conflicts in sub-Sahara Africa and MENA, we have come to the realization that basically everything that is wrong with the world and the way it is managed, or maybe more accurately mismanaged, are in fact connected. We have also come to realize that the current global conflict is also not a new conflict, but rather a reboot of old conflicts dating back more than a century. Why? Because never in the history of modern mankind has any global reaching conflict ever been resolved with a conclusive end. To understand this better, we need to reflect on our history as ‘globalized citizens of the world’ since the industrial revolution, and how all the past unsuccessful attempts to establishing a global order has influenced the current attempt to the establishment of another ‘new’ global order. So, to gain insight into what constitutes a ‘world order’, former US National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, is of the opinion that the current Russian belligerence is in fact the fourth attempt to establishing a world order during the past century. He summarizes the previous attempts as follows:
1st Attempt: The Treaty of Versailles and the establishment of the League of Nations post-World War 1 (WW1) was the first attempt to the establishment of an international order. This attempt was a failure because it resulted in European fascism, US isolationism, a global economic crisis, and millions dead from the Holocaust and resulting casualties of World War 2 (WW2). Leading up to the start of WW2, the United States did not have much influence in the establishment of an international order primarily due to being focused on developing itself independently from the rest of the world following the Great Recession of 1933. During this period, the Empire of Great Britain was considered the most dominant global power due to the extent of its global reach, hence the reason why it was often referred to as “The empire on which the sun never sets”. Ironically, up until 1936 the US National Defense Strategy identified the empire of Great Britain as its greatest threat.
2nd Attempt: Following WW2, the United States and its partners [victorious allies] were much more successful in establishing an international order compared to the previous attempt. It was more successful for the simple reason that the mistakes made during the run-up to WW1, as well as the post-WW1 failures, were still embedded within the minds of global decision makers, with some of them still serving within their respective governments since WW1 until the end of WW2. The post-WW2 attempt was referred to as “the liberal international order” which includes the Marshall Plan and new multilateral institutions like the United Nations, World Bank, IMF, NATO, European Union, and other multinational organizations. It was also during this period when the majority European nations had to end control over their foreign colonies in favor of sovereign independence to the people of those nations, with Great Britain and France being the most affected, followed by Belgium, Portugal and Germany. Even though the average transition period was between 12 - 15 years since the implementation of the terms and conditions of the Marshall Plan until the majority overseas colonies obtained sovereign independence, the United States was the dominant power enabling the global independence transition (not Russia or the Soviet Union as per common propaganda narratives). However, of note during this period is that the conditions of sovereign independence were not equal for all, especially relating to the historical French colonies who obtained their independence, but with restrictive measures which included continued French influence in government bureaucracy, majority French controls over production and the overall economy, and continued French control over the financial systems of their previous territories by keeping sovereign wealth under the control of the Central Bank in Paris. This period was not as successful as anticipated mainly due to challenges posed by a belligerent post-WW2 Russia (as controlling authority within the Soviet Union), who felt excluded even though Russia originally started as a belligerent in World War 2 when it partnered with a hostile German-Japanese pact to occupy foreign territories which then escalated into World War 2 when Germany attacked Great Britain (1939), and the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor (1941). The failures of the 2nd attempt to the establishment of a new global order resulted in the Cold War between the Russian dominated Eastern Bloc and the US dominated Western Bloc which escalated into smaller kinetic [proxy] wars sponsored by both sides, especially in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
3rd Attempt: At the Malta Summit in December 1989, US President George H.W. Bush and Russian Supreme Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev declared the end of the Cold War. The official end date, however, is marked as December 26, 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union (USSR). In the aftermath of this event, the US dominated Western Bloc is celebrated as the victors, resulting in new European democracies to emerge and/or restored within predominantly eastern Europe. Consequently, NATO became enlarged with new allies, and the European Union expanded its economic union by luring ex-Soviet states away from the Russian sphere of influence in accordance with the wills of the populations of these respective nations who wished to be integrated into European society, and NOT remain subjects of further Russian exploitation and control. For the decade following the end of the Cold War it seemed for a limited period of time that the rules, practices, and institutions developed in the West after WW2 and during the Cold War era could absorb and steer an expanded international order. This was the period of globalization from which the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) profited greatly, and even embraced for some time, even resulting in the adoption of major capitalist reforms within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This period also resulted in a false sense of lasting peace between nations in the absence of a dominant belligerent challenging the global order. This was also the period which gave rise to Vladimir Putin to take leadership of a nation in competition with itself who [again] felt disenfranchised based on a historical belief that it was entitled to be acknowledged [and respected] by a global audience as a global power, and not a loser [of the Cold War]. This attempt to establish a new global order effectively failed after 15 years when Russia returned to a state where it thinks itself capable of challenging the global order, but this time applying an expanded irregular warfare doctrine, and using the exposed weaknesses of Western society to its benefit while turning it against its Western adversaries.
4th Attempt: This attempt to establish a new global order is what we are experiencing now in the present which effectively started the day Russia invaded Georgia in 2008. How successful is Russia in its current attempt? In our opinion, based on the depth of Russian expansion and influence within Western society, Russia (and its expanding list of global allies), are well on track to establishing a new global order if not countered effectively soon. So, what is the current Russian attempt all about? This part is critical, for it is in most cases incorrectly assessed by so-called ‘experts’ within Western society (such as celebrity geopolitical ‘analysts’ P. Zeihan and R. Dalio, to name just a couple), with questionable motivations [and sponsors]. The challenge, however, is very simple since it all relates to how future economies should function to achieve sustainability, and how technology driven industrialization fits into the transformation of outdated (unsustainable) economic models. The simple facts are that the West is building and maintaining a technological advantage required to achieve more sustainable future societies to develop resilience against future environmental threats to humanity (note: NOT the flawed carbon-based climate change narrative), whereas most of the world has fallen behind too far on the technological curve to develop themselves with the required industrial capacity to keep up with immediate requirements to remain relevant in future. Russia falls within this category, and due to its own lack of foresight in terms of technological advancement, it came to the realization too late that it does not have enough time to develop itself into a global power with the capabilities of challenging the West at both the economic- and technological levels. However, as the West is rapidly developing into futuristic technological based societies, especially relating to inter-planetary space travel and the development of space economies, Russia saw an opportunity to remain relevant by gaining control over the critical resources the West requires to develop its advanced technologies, the reason why we observe a rapid expansion of global hostilities within underdeveloped territories rich in what is commonly referred to as ‘rare earth minerals’ (REM), the most critical components of Western technologies, as well as gold producing nations to challenge Western access to gold resources. Basically, Russia needs to remain relevant as a global power, and to achieve that goal it needs negotiating power with the West. If Russia controls what the West requires to advance within the predetermined timelines, then Russia also wins and therefore remains relevant. However, as simple as this concept appears, it is not, for both Russia and China has gained much success in weakening the Western Alliance. It is due to this reason why we are seeing a Western global power such as France taking a stronger political stance in support of both Russian and Chinese global aspirations. Within the European Union context, France sees itself as the future leader of the block, which is one of the reasons why specifically Western Europe has gradually exposed its underlying anti-US sentiment. For this reason, France has actively improved its relations with a growingly hostile China (with reference to Taiwan). Unfortunately for the French, the Germans also consider themselves as the leaders of the European Union, who also dislike the extent of [expanding] US influence within European affairs. This is one of the reasons why we observed the complex relationship that exists between Russia and specifically Germany, Austria, and Hungary. The United States has been much critical of these growing relations, why these countries silently maintain an anti-US sentiment. As a result of the inherent complexity of Western European politics spanning the past century, the majority Eastern European (ex-USSR) EU member states chose to develop additional economic- and defense ties with the United States to improve their respective positions in the EU with a handicap resulting from their Soviet heritage, while having to compete against a more matured and advanced Western European bloc. This growing divide is further exacerbated by ‘cause blindness’ simply because the younger generations (representing the majority portion of the population), are not aware of the reasons WHY the United States still maintains its influence in Europe dating back since both World War 1 and World War 2. The reality of present day European political complexity is that there are still remnants of unresolved issues dating back a century ago, some of these disputes having escalated into what became the two great world wars, something the United States wants to avoid at all cost, even if it requires political interference within the domestic affairs of its partners. Russia is the exact opposite of the United States, constantly trying to gain control over its interests through the targeted application of hostility.
So, what does Russia envision with its ‘new global order’? Basically, Putin’s vision is Russia gaining control and ‘representing’ the majority underdeveloped world and using that power of collective bargaining against the West by holding the West hostage through control over critical resources and controlling the [non-USD based] currency to purchase such resources. What do the underdeveloped nations gain from this arrangement with Russia? At the political level great wealth awaits the cooperating political elite, but at the citizen level absolutely nothing other than becoming tools of low-cost production to the benefit of expanding Russian interests (in other words, socialism rewarded with the most basic of needs as during the times of Communist Russia but disguised as lower-level capitalism). A second effect of Russia’s expansionism strategy is to gain sufficient support to prolong the current carbon-based economic system within its region of influence for as long as possible to sustain its own outdated economic- and industrial models. Therefore, what we need to expect going forward is a Western society transitioning to more sustainable, and constantly improving, energy systems away from hydrocarbons dependency; the adoption and integration of AI in the economy and governance; and near-earth space colonization while competing against an adversary controlling a majority global population doing the exact opposite. However, this vision of Putin’s new world order where Russia represents a large portion of the world is flawed for one reason, it places China within a subordinate role to Russia. This is Russia’s major vulnerability going forward, and it is also this hindsight in terms of Chinese strategic objectives why Russia is bound to fail, and in fact, has already failed to establish its new global order.
Current conclusions from Russia’s global expansionism agenda:
When this project was initially commissioned, the initial thought was that the discussion based on the timeline of events leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine would be sufficiently covered in a single article. However, as the project commenced and as research continued penetrating different layers of information previously unknown but relevant to understanding the current global situation, the project team quickly realized the complexity and depth of historical events spanning over a period of two centuries which impacted the cognition of present-day key actors who enabled the events leading up to the February 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine by a belligerent Russia. We warned at the start of part 1 of this [brief] seven-part series of articles that the causes leading up to the invasion were complex, but we end this series stating that after a lengthy research project, it is in fact even more complex than originally anticipated.
The main purpose of this series under the heading ‘War in Ukraine’ is to create awareness as a means of reducing the current state of ‘cause blindness’ that exists amongst a global audience who truly believes in the false narratives in which they were schooled, especially the large global following of Russian disinformation. The short conclusion to summarize the current global situation in relation to Russia is as follows:
1. Present-day Russian foreign policy is belligerent in nature, and it is much to blame as the enabler of much of the current destabilization experienced in this world. However, this does not imply that Russia is solely to blame for all that is dysfunctional in terms of global affairs for the effects of a belligerent Russia within the global space has in its wake the emergence of other strategic influencers (state and non-state actors) who are exploiting the opportunities resulting from the current Russian destabilization agenda.
2. Russia is ruled by a criminal kleptocracy, and what is referred to as the Russian system of government should not be acknowledged as a legitimate government representing the interests of the greater Russian population, but a system of criminal organizations collaborating in unison to achieve a shared agenda of strategic objectives not necessarily to the benefit of the Russian population at large. For this reason, the removal of Russia as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council should be a priority.
3. As much as the ignorance of the Russian people is a frustration to all that recognizes Russia as a belligerent in its foreign policies, to blame the Russian population for current Russian activities is of no constructive value for they lack the cognition to understand that what Russia as a sovereign nation is doing is unacceptable from the perspective of what is considered cognitive maturity in the 21st Century. Basically, the Russian population are nothing more than victims of their own dysfunctional system of government, the same applying to all nations considered allies to Russia. The majority Russian population has no other fundamental experience of what good governance is, why the current system of government is acceptable to them and considered normal (in other words: Russians do not know any other forms of government other than authoritarianism, and why they are conditioned to believe that it is the only acceptable system of government). For Russians, the current system of government serves them better than the Supreme Soviet system of government served them during the Cold War as subjects of the Soviet Union, and that is all that matters to them now.
4. Russia lost its technological competitiveness it maintained until the dissolution of the USSR, and since then Russia has failed to effectively invest in the development of the required infrastructure to effectively compete against both the West and its Asian neighbors (especially the PRC), to remain relevant as a competitor at the global level from a technological perspective, especially in terms of alternative energy technologies. For this reason, Russia knows it is falling behind rapidly, and that its greatest vulnerability is its hydrocarbon-based economy which is dependent on the sustainable exports of oil, gas and other natural resources (currently under threat by alternative energy technologies). Looking at arms sales, Russia has also come to the realization that China is producing better quality systems at lower cost with better after-sales support, why Russia has gradually lost its traditional military sales customers in favor of Chinese armaments procurement. What Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine also exposed to the world about its domestic armaments development industry is that much of Russia’s advanced systems operate using Western components mainly due to a lack of capacity to develop the required technologies domestically. Therefore, the only option that Russia has going forward [to remain relevant in future] is to establish a global order of its own as the leading authority over a group of lesser developed nations (such as Africa), which is large enough in population to support Russia’s future [hydrocarbon based] economic system, and under-developed enough for the adoption of obsolete technologies (compared to Western progression standards), to enable development fitting Russian economic sustainability. With the current state of under-development in Africa, the Russian plan has gained much support from its expanding portfolio of misguided allies simply because Russia is capitalizing on the fact that most African countries still has not experienced the [now obsolete in terms of Western standards] industrial revolution.
5. The impact of current Russian global influence in numbers: To truly understand the direction that Russia is moving towards, we need to be aware of the effects of the current extent of the collective Russian sphere of influence data metrics:
Gross-Domestic Product (Nominal): Nominal gross-domestic product (GDP) represents the current values of goods and services produced within a reporting period (fiscal year). Looking at the Russian sphere of influence (which includes BRICS and all other Russia/China partner nations), the total combined GDP is USD 29,882 Trillion which represents 28.3% of the total global GDP combined (according to current IMF data for 2021).
Land Area: From a total land area perspective, the Russian aligned states (which includes BRICS members), represents a total area of 61.5 million km2, or in other words, 12.1% of the total world land mass.
Population: From a Russian perspective, the total population it controls is a big deal. That said, Russia has mastered the art of population control through proxy governments, and therefore does not require the means to exercise direct control over the populations of the nations that are aligned to Russian ideology. All that Russia has to do is to assist ‘aligned’ governments to remain in power via a compromised political system, and to provide them with the technical assistance and tools to remain in power, which commonly includes government abuses through tyranny, disinformation and conflict. Basically, based on the extent of current Russian global influence, Russia effectively controls 4,2 Billion people via its network of aligned governments which represents 52.4% of the global population. Yes, that is more than half of the total global population combined.
What we immediately derive from these figures is that Russia is exploiting control over the most impoverished populations in the world as its ‘savior’ by shifting the blame for the extreme state of underdevelopment and poverty on the West, and mainly the United States, through targeted disinformation campaigns which hides Russian induced causes for much of these conditions through conflict and sustained government corruption. This is especially highlighted by the fact that the 52,4% of the global population who is Russian sympathetic, only represents 28.3% of the global GDP. However, what we also need to acknowledge is past Western nations who in fact are guilty of continued economic exploitation within their former territories (such as France), and how the current Russian disinformation narrative is playing out in their favor. The governments of these [impoverished] nations are also very aware of the fact that due to the effects of long-term neglect in economic development and technological transformation and industrialization, that none of them stand a chance to effectively compete against a dominant United States led Western economic block which is already in the process of early AI adoption within its economy and financial systems. It is this rapid advancement within Western society which is also both Russia and China’s greatest fears in terms of achieving future economic power relevance.
Why the West (NATO) should continue assisting Ukraine:
The big question now is how to solve this situation going forward, especially taking into consideration coming events which will test the ultimate survival of humanity (irrespective of nationality or current social status) within the next couple of decades to come? For now, the simple answer is to assist Ukraine by whatever means possible until the last Russian has been pushed out of Ukraine’s sovereign territory, while at the same time, all Russian global interests (read as ‘interferences’), has been eradicated. The true reality which humanity in its collective form needs to start realizing now is that time is running out, and now is not the time to be engaged in neo-imperialist game playing (why the United States has adopted its ‘America first’ policy, and why the US is rapidly withdrawing its traditional willingness to intervene in foreign disputes directly). However, the leaders of the West need to understand the reasons why we should care about the outcome of the War in Ukraine, and why Ukraine should be assisted with all they require to evict Russia from its territory as follows:
In 21st century society we cannot allow annexation of sovereign territory anymore, for no reason whatsoever.
The return of imperialism and colonialism should be deterred.
Vulnerable people should not be exposed to military aggression in the manner that Russia is targeting Ukrainian civilians and children in Ukraine.
The War in Ukraine is between an invading dictatorship (Vladimir Putin and his Russian enablers), and an attacked democracy (Ukraine).
The successful eviction of Russia in Ukraine would reassure NATO allies and its effectiveness to collectively counter any future threats from either Russia or Chine. If Russia was to reach its objectives in Ukraine, both Russia and Chine will be emboldened.
The War in Ukraine is not just about Ukraine. The Russian aggression in Ukraine is but only a component of its global expansionism strategy, but much of Russia’s strategic objectives depend on the success of the Ukraine campaign.
The Ukraine outcome has a major impact on China’s plans relating to Taiwan. If NATO fails to support Ukraine against Russia, then China would be emboldened to execute its global expansionism strategy, causing for smaller nations currently threatened by China to hedge against what they would consider a declining United States. The West will also lose its current influence and support in the global South. If NATO successfully supports Ukraine to evict Russia from its pre-2014 territory, then China will be deterred to engage in a costly war with Taiwan, especially considering that China is more exposed to Western sanctions than Russia. Taiwan desperately wants a Western win in Ukraine to guarantee its own future survival.
The future relevance of democracy depends on a successful Ukraine against Russia.
Now that we have reached the end of this discussion relating to Russian belligerence, we are left with only one question: How does China (PRC) fit into all of this?
The evolving state of Russia-China relations:
Over the period March 20 - 23, 2023, China’s President Xi Jinping visited Moscow to conduct high-level talks with Vladimir Putin and other [influential] Russian leaders. The state visit by China to Russia also occurred shortly after the ICC (International Criminal Court) issued an arrest warrant for the arrest of Vladimir Putin for war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. For this reason, Russian intelligence services saw the opportunity to gain as much propaganda value from the Chinese state visit to Russia to manipulate the favor of its audience positively. Initially it was speculated that Xi Jinping would cancel his visit to Moscow following the ICC arrest warrant announcement, but instead he chose to continue as planned, which effectively extended Putin a lifeline, although not much appreciated by Vladimir Putin who still considers himself superior compared to Xi Jinping. The fact remains (as we explained in The Great Power Competition: How does it affect Africa, 2021), the only reason why Russia and China are allies is simply because they oppose a common enemy, namely, the United States of America and its control over the Western bloc and the global economy. If it was not for that reason, then China and Russia would be enemies. That is the current state of Russia-China relations within its simplest form, and it remains as such, although now in a more fragile state than before Russia’s failed occupation of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin knows this, and he also knows that Russia has lost much of its credibility in terms of both military- and economic power, and he also knows that China will exploit this expanding vulnerability. We previously mentioned that what Vladimir Putin fears the most in this world is the United States. His second greatest fear, however, is a rapidly rising China on the southern borders of Russia, especially in terms of military power, and with growing [competitive] expansionism ideas relating to current Russian controlled territories.
So, what can be conclude from Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow in March 2023, and how does it affect future Russia-China relations? Firstly, during Xi and Putin’s 4.5 hours meeting, Putin tried to convince Xi that Russia was in fact winning its war in Ukraine, and that the Kremlin had total control over its current global expansionism agenda. Before the arrival of Xi in Moscow, one of the primary agenda points were Putin’s willingness to discuss Xi’s “Ukraine peace plan”. When Xi arrived in Moscow, Putin immediately informed Xi at the start of their meeting that Russia will not leave either the Donbas or Crimea. In fact, Xi is always the picture of calmness, but after his 4.5 hours meeting with Vladimir Putin (an abnormally long meeting between heads of state), he was struggling to contain his true dissatisfaction towards Putin for much longer. The consequences of Xi’s failed meeting with Putin then lead to another abnormality in foreign visits protocol, namely, Xi requested a private meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Vladimir Putin’s legal replacement in the event of the current sitting President (Putin) not being able to fulfill his duties as leader of the Russian Federation for whatever reasons. Xi also arranged a meeting with the leader of the Communist Party of Russia, Gennady Zuyganov, who is considered the most likely rival to Vladimir Putin in the 2024 presidential elections (both Xi and Zuyganov are officially communists, and they stand on the same platform). In other words, Xi met with Putin’s likely successor, and he invited Mikhail Mishustin to visit China to enable talks without Kremlin ears. The outcome of the three days visit by Xi Jinping to Russia can be summarized as follows:
Russia has subjected its loyalty to China in return for economic support;
Russia will not escalate its current global conflict into a nuclear war simply because China does not allow it;
China understands Russia’s idea of a multi-polar world. China does not mind, but China still has its own ideas about the ‘Eurasian’ way (why it invested USD billions in developing its belt-and-road initiative);
Both China and Russia oppose the United States, which unites the two nations towards a common cause;
China and Russia will cooperate in all areas that are profitable for China;
China desires the status of ‘peacemaker’ in the current Russo-Ukraine War, but China will not join Russia as an ally to fight Ukraine, and it will not support Russia with arms.
Basically, Vladimir Putin agreed to all Chinese demands to increase bilateral trade, and Xi agreed to purchase Russian resources and train Russian geologists how to find minerals. All agreements were to the economic benefit of China, and Russia received its public display event to strengthen its propaganda campaigns amongst its global audience to continue the perception of ‘Russian is global power’. One major agreement that Putin was waiting for over a period of many years, was the construction of an additional gas pipeline to China from Russia. For reasons not disclosed, Xi chose not to sign the anticipated agreement. The main challenge that lies ahead for enduring Russia-China relations is Vladimir Putin. The reality now beyond the 1-year anniversary of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is that Putin has become a liability to both the [remaining] Russian leadership and China, and the ICC arrest warrant against Putin is not helping the matter (in fact, it serves as a possible means of removing Putin from power, why Putin is isolating himself even more). China has now reached the point where it will not tolerate being belittled by Russia anymore, and it has also reached its point of saturation with regards to Putin’s arrogant leadership style. For China, the present-day Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin is bad for business, and they wish for things to change. Yes, both nations despise US dominance within the global scene, but both nations depend on a cooperative global economy to sustain their own societies though foreign trade. One of Putin’s current rising concerns is the escalation in domestic instability as a direct consequence of a declining economy coupled with disgruntled war veterans returning from the Ukraine frontlines with little employment prospects, and no social support from the Russian system of government (the primary reason why violent crimes are on the rise in Russia). To these escalating problems Xi responded to Putin that he is on his own, and that China would not become part of Russia’s domestic challenges. The primary motivation behind Xi’s unwillingness to support Putin in resolving his domestic challenges is simple: The Chinese know that great profits await them in a gradually collapsing (and desperate) Russia. To quantify Russia’s mounting losses since its illegal full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, just Gazprom’s losses alone exceed US$ 40 Billion a year (a loss of US$ 285 for every Russian citizen per year). Gas exports remain Russia’s primary source of revenue, and when Vladimir Putin decided to weaponize gas exports to Europe shortly after invading Ukraine, he failed to anticipate what a major failure it would be based on the current statistics:
Europe did not freeze as anticipated by Russia. At the end of the European heating season (without Russian gas imports), European gas reserves in storage were above 50%.
Chinese customs reported that US$ 526 million was paid for 2.7 billion cubic meters of gas imported from Russia in January 2023. This means that China procured Russian gas for US$ 195 per 1000 cubic meters.
The price of gas in Europe during January 2023 was on average US$ 700 per 1000 cubic meters (more than 3x higher).
One of Putin’s announcements after Xi’s visit to Moscow was that Russia would supply to China around 96 billion cubic meters of gas, and 100 million tons of liquified gas, by 2030. These figures combined equal around 26 billion cubic meters of gas per year. The reason why Putin announced this as a great ‘trade victory’ for Russia was to manage Russian public perceptions constructively so that the general Russian public fails to take notice that Putin effectively swapped its annual 120 billion cubic meters gas to Europe sold at premium rate for 26 billion cubic meters to China sold at a largely discounted rate (30% compared to European rate). Putin also said that by 2030, “he wants” all export-import payments between Russia and China to be made in Chinese Yuan currency. The implication of this decision is that Russia’s economy is gradually being integrated into the Chinese economy. Therefore, what we are seeing now after the March 2023 Chinese head of state visit to Moscow, is that Russia has effectively become subordinate to China as a means of saving its own economy caused by its own destructive foreign policies, and within the next few years we will observe a Russia acting from a position of reduced power similar to how the socialist republics of Europe were subordinate to a dominant Russia during the era of the Soviet Union (USSR). At present, Russian trade volume with China is the lowest amongst the top-10 trade partners with China, with an average trade volume half the size of South Korea’s trade volume. Russian imports from China are primarily technology, electronics, machinery, equipment, vehicles, and spare parts. In fact, as China gradually takes advantage of acquiring cheap Russian industrial assets (and closing domestic competitors), it will also gain the power to control the total Russian economy to the point where the Kremlin will have to follow orders from Beijing to risk not being sanctioned by China for non-conformances in foreign policies. In effect, approaching 2030, we are likely to observe a Russia with reduced sovereign independence. However, within the context of Russia’s current global expansionism agenda, that is what everyone in the Western bloc wants, right? The simple answer is no, simply because the current rapidly declining state of Russia (fueled by greed and misguided arrogance), is in fact playing into the hands of China who understands whatever Russia gains (with its minor support), eventually falls within the domain of control of China (Beijing). China is aware of Russia’s global expansionism agenda, and that Russia is specifically targeting minor economies who even Beijing considers problematic to deal with (such as half of Africa), and Russia taking the lead in these problematic economies provides a layer of control to allow Beijing to act within the background via Russia as the proxy. This is the primary reason why the current state of never-ending African hostilities is such a threat to future global stability simply because it empowers China, and not Russia, and not themselves who are unfortunately too inappropriately educated to understand the current evolution of global power, and how it will impact the future of Africa. Africa, by means of its Russian partnership, will be enslaved by an ambitious China with little to no care for the people being exploited by the growing Chinese system of self-development for its own benefits only. This is also the primary reason why the United States, even though it is aware of Russia openly considering itself as the enemy of the United States, must manage the current military aid to Ukraine as not to annihilate Russia, but rather to enable Ukraine with just enough capabilities to evict Russia from its pre-2014 sovereign territory without escalation into Russia. In other words, the Western approach to solving (and managing) Russian aggression in Ukraine is to ensure that Russia remains independent as a [humbled] global power when its aggression in Ukraine ceases, and that it does not become a proxy of China, which would lead to greater future complications if not contained. Unfortunately, the architect of the current global mess of instability is Vladimir Putin, mostly fueled by arrogance, why it is essential that Russia undergoes a change in leadership away from pro-Chinese proxies. In fact, from a general Western perspective, Russian leadership post-Putin does not necessarily have to be pro-Western, as long as the new leadership maintains neutrality towards China without becoming a China proxy state.
This leads to the next question: How did Russia position itself to become an unintended proxy of China? The simple answer sprouts from Vladimir Putin’s desire around the time of the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, for a world order reminiscent of the post-WW2 situation where two superpowers decided the worlds future, while other countries could retain their sovereignty by pledging allegiance to either one of them, namely, Moscow or Washington. To establish the framework for Putin’s multi-polar global order, he had to bring together influential regional powers in the form of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China. This informal association had its first ‘BRIC’ summit on 16 June 2009 in Russia (excluding South Africa), followed by the induction of South Africa in 2010 upon request from the then South African President, Jacob Zuma (hence the evolution of the term to the present-day BRICS). The original intention was to gather the most influential regional economies in the world as a means of enabling greater influence in global policy dictation at, for instance, the G20 Summits. However, South Africa was (and still is), the major odd economy within this alliance for the reason that neither its level of political influence nor economic potential equals that of the original four member states. In fact, due to poor economic policies and political government inefficiencies, South Africa is a declining state, currently with the lowest level of influence through either political, economic, or military means in Africa during the entire history of the nation since independence from The Crown. However, the major value that South Africa adds to this association is the fact that the majority elected African National Congress ruling party are both Russia and PRC sympathetic (and financially influenced), which is of great importance to these two economies in terms of future control over the Cape sea route and the Southern Ocean, especially to ensure free passage between the Indian- and Atlantic Oceans. It is also for this same reason why South Africa is of any great importance to any of the other global competitor powers. However, contrary to the narrative portrayed within the majority global mainstream media, South African support to Russia only exists in the form of the African National Congress as historical Cold War ally to Russia, and this support in no manner reflects the majority population support to Russia. Basically, remove the ANC from the South African support factor, and so-called ‘South African support to Russia’ will cease to exist immediately. So, much of the hard work in the establishment of an international framework of cooperation and manipulation was done by Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, and for that reason, Vladimir Putin considered himself as the leader of this new emerging global order, with everyone else being subordinate to Russia as the founding state. His mistake, however, was that while China was willingly participating in this Russian initiative, Xi Jinping was quietly waiting for Russia’s plan to unfold to the point where it could take over control of Russia’s efforts, for China had no intention of being a nation insubordinate to Russia and its leadership. Up until the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russia-China relationship was based on supporting a common goal, but not necessarily sharing the same ideology. The main challenge for China was the wait for the right opportunity, and that opportunity presented itself when Moscow informed Beijing of its intentions to invade Ukraine shortly before February 24, 2022, to which Beijing gave its blessing, but without any form of material support. The thing is, Beijing’s support to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine had nothing to do with China’s foreign policies towards Ukraine (which was normal until prior to the Russian invasion), but instead offered the perfect opportunity for China to activate its own plans without Russia’s knowledge and foresight. Two weeks following Russia’s failed occupation of Kyiv, the world knew that Russia had failed terribly, Vladimir Putin knew that his ‘Special Military Operation’ had failed and that he created for himself problems to which there were no simple solutions, and Xi Jinping knew that Russia had made the biggest mistake in its entire history. This situation was exactly what China wanted leading up to the present-day situation a year after the failed Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the situation for Russia is getting worse by the day. This was exactly what Xi Jinping wanted, for now China had the means of turning the tables by taking control over all Russia’s efforts to establishing a new global order, with no more insubordination to the Russian leadership. This is what Vladimir Putin fails to realize and accept, for he still considers himself the leader of the ‘revived’ Eastern Bloc with China serving within a supportive capacity, and he still considers Russia as a superior global power compared to China. China, however, is not accepting that, why the March 2023 meeting between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in fact became a turning point in current global affairs.
Within the present state of Russian affairs, Vladimir Putin succeeded in his objective, but not in the manner he envisioned it. It is not Putin who is defining a new world order, for in the present he is being defined. He is also not the one negotiating, he is the object of negotiation. Less than two years ago, Putin was threatening NATO, and NATO was responding to these threats. Around that time, world leaders were begging Putin for a meeting in an attempt to pacify him, and convince him not to execute on his threats, obediently listening to his falsified views on history while sitting at his 15-meter-long table in the Kremlin. However, 1 year following the failed Russian occupation of Ukraine the world has seen the flaws in the Russian ideology, and specifically the fragility of the Russian power spectrum in terms of economic power, military power, and political power. Because of this expose of the great Russian façade, the world power dynamics are changing, but not to the benefit of either Russia or its people. This is the reason why a more desperate Vladimir Putin is threatening nuclear warfare as a last attempt to prolong his own survival, and not necessarily the survival of Russia as a nation. But even these threats are empty for Vladimir Putin knows that if he executes on a threat of nuclear war, his time is guaranteed to be over. It is also because of Vladimir Putin’s rapid decline in power why China has taken the lead over the BRICS initiative, and why Beijing is already planning and preparing for future Russia-China relations post-Putin. This is also one of the reasons why Wagner Group PMC founder Yevgeny Prigozhin is emerging as a critic of Vladimir Putin’s current foreign policies, and why much of Prigoshin’s efforts in Russia are targeted by the Putin controlled FSB in retaliation as a means of keeping him in line. However, the fate of Russia as a proxy in China’s global political game is sealed, and Russia is now the bargaining chip in China’s negotiations with the West. Xi effectively now has the power to either arm Russia, or to replace Putin’s regime in the Kremlin with a government subordinate to the Chinese leadership. The irony of it all is that Russian propaganda resulting from Xi’s visit to Moscow which was designed to bolster the compromised Russian image also supports China’s contingency plans. Going forward, Putin is now dependent on Xi as Lukashenko of Belarus is dependent on Putin to remain in power. China’s support to Russia in terms of the War in Ukraine always depended on the Chinese requirement that it should have no costs or risks to China. What China also understands, which Putin refuses to even acknowledge, is that all countries have their inner national conflicts within their own borders which have not escalated into major regional conflicts mainly due to the existing world order under the leadership of the United States. China also sees how Vladimir Putin and his abuse of Russian state resources are a major cause for much of the internal conflicts within independent nations, especially in Africa, while trying to destroy the present world order in favor of enabling a Russian world order major stake not earned or justified by any means. This is also the primary motivation why China has not recognized Crimea as part of Russia, because if China does that, the West will immediately recognize Taiwan’s independence from China, whereas the present-day status quo is still much more favorable for future Chinese objectives compared to an eventuality where Taiwan gains international recognition of sovereign independence. China is very much aware that it is mainly due to the controls implemented and enforced by the current world order under the leadership of the United States, why the world has not been engaged in an international war comparative to the events that occurred during 1939 which then escalated into World War 2. It is China’s awareness about the impact the current world order has on maintaining global peace, even at the cost of much international scrutiny, why China still chooses to maintain some form of impartiality, and not necessarily support Russia on everything other than being immediately beneficial to China, and China only. One of the major challenges that China needs to resolve is the negative impact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had on the purchasing power of Europe, a major strategic economic partner of China. From a Chinese perspective, its focus remains on developing and completing its Belt-and-Road Initiative it started in 2013 to connect China with Europe by road and rail, and all economies along that trading route, to expand its economy within its immediate region of influence with lesser dependence on the United States. This is China’s primary objectives in terms of establishing a new global order, namely, improved direct trade relations with Europe, with greater European trade dependence on China instead of the United States.
These are the reasons why China is primarily focused on gaining control over Russia, even if it requires China to support Russia in making more mistakes. With Beijing gaining control over Moscow, Beijing’s bargaining power at the global level increases. From a Western (US alliance) perspective, all efforts are focused on resisting Russia just enough as to enable Ukraine to improve its operational situation in its quest to evict Russian forces from its pre-2014 territories, but not too much to weaken the current Putin regime which could result in Russian internal destabilization and regime overthrow. In the eventuality of Putin (and his immediate supporters in government) being overthrown, Russia will immediately fall under the full authority of Beijing, an undesired outcome from a Western (US) perspective. In summary, taking into consideration China's own geopolitical ambitions, we need to admit that China, just like the United States, did not cause the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The sole origin for Russian aggression in Ukraine is Vladimir Putin and his 'Novorossiya' ideology which he enforced upon the Russian people.
For that reason, and analyzing the current Russian situation in Ukraine from an objective perspective, it is partially also unfair to shift the blame of current Russian aggression in Ukraine on all Russian people (note: the reason we make this statement is to imply that Kyiv should continue its efforts of winning the hearts and minds of the Russian people, even if the majority Russian population fails to understand the greater threats to their society in the form of a Chinese take-over of their system of government).
The European response to a failing Russia, and a rising China:
Shortly after Xi Jinping concluded his state visit to Moscow with Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron attended a three-day state visit to China upon request of Xi Jinping over the period April 5-7, 2023. This visit followed only two weeks after Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow. This meeting was important to Beijing to implement its next phase of the plan, namely, develop long-term European partner relations to enable continuance of the Chinese belt-and-road initiative linking trade between China and Europe by land and sea. Within the current geopolitical environment following the March 2023 visit by Xi Jinping to Moscow, France was identified by the Chinese as the most suitable strategic partner in Europe. Basically, upon Macron’s return from China back to France, he stated in an interview to the press that the “great risk” that Europe faces is getting “caught up” in a crises that is not “ours” [European]. What he implied with this statement following his 3-days meeting with Xi Jinping was that Europe must reduce its dependency on the United States, and avoid getting dragged into a confrontation between China and the United States over Taiwan. What Macron envisions is his theory of “strategic autonomy” for Europe, presumably led by France, to become a “third superpower”. In response to Macron’s idea of “strategic autonomy”, Beijing endorses the French plan to lead Europe away from the United States sphere of dominance. Macron further stated the following regarding US support to Taiwan:
“The paradox would be that, overcome with panic, we believe we are just America’s followers. The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No. The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction”.
During Macron’s visit to Beijing, Macron and Xi discussed Taiwan “intensely” according to accompanying French officials. In attendance of these meetings were European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who accompanied Macron during the first part of his visit. According to Von der Leyen, she told Xi Jinping the following: “Stability in the Taiwan Strait is of paramount importance. The threat [of] the use of force to change the status quo is unacceptable.” To this Xi responded by saying anyone who thought they could influence Beijing on Taiwan was deluded, to which Macron agreed by saying the following:
“Europeans cannot resolve the crisis in Ukraine; how can we credibly say on Taiwan, ‘watch out’, if you do something wrong we will be there? If you really want to increase tensions, that’s the way to do it”.
Based on the feedback from a European delegate in attendance of the meeting between Xi Jinping, Macron, and Von der Leyen, Xi was visibly annoyed for being held responsible for the war in Ukraine, and he also downplayed his recent visit to Moscow two weeks prior. Xi was also clearly enraged by the US, and also upset by the recent Taiwanese President’s transit via the United States. Macron also argued that Europe had increased its dependency on the US for weapons and energy, and that the European focus should now be on boosting European defense industries. He [Macron] also suggested that Europe should reduce its dependence on the US dollar (echoing a key policy objective of both Moscow and Beijing).
According to Macron, he is quite optimistic about the success of his envisioned “strategic autonomy” plans for Europe. However, France has been one of the minor contributors to Ukraine in terms of military aid, and only supported the government of Ukraine because of US political pressure. However, what Macron fails to take into consideration is eastern Europe and their current dissatisfaction with western European policies towards military aid to Ukraine. The implications hereof are that the eastern European nations (under the regional leadership of Poland) who used to be Soviet republics until the disbandment of the USSR, all favor strategic military- and economic partnership with the United States instead of western Europe for the simple reason that they still remember being subjects of a communist Russia, an era which none of these nations wish to experience again. However, what both France and Germany fear the most in the event of a post-war victorious Ukraine, is that [with the support from the United States], western Europe will be faced with a collective of pro-US eastern European nations with the economic- and military potential to challenge western European [favorable] policies currently applied in the European Union. It is also for this reason why the European Union risks being divided in the near future along the lines of EU states that either support or oppose United States foreign policy, whereas the majority EU member states already choose strategic alliance with the United States over an EU dominated by both France and Germany who has proven themselves as unreliable strategic partners based on their past and current support to Ukraine, including their respective past [political] contributions that partially enabled the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Germany has recently improved its support to Ukraine, but not because it supports the Ukrainian resistance efforts so much, but rather due to their own belief that they must support Ukraine because of US political pressure. The risks that lay ahead for the European Union, however, is that France might as well decide to exit the Union like the United Kingdom, which could also possibly lead to France leaving the NATO alliance. France, within the capacity as a global power competitor, is aware of the vast opportunities that exist with a collapsing Russia and a possible conflict between the United States and China. It is also a primary objective for Paris to regain control over its former colonial territories. When and how France intends on achieving this still remains speculation, but it is already preparing for various contingencies to capitalize on extending its global influence independent from the other great powers.
Primary concerns for the future:
Taiwan: The greatest concern following the Russian invasion of Ukraine is possible hostility by China (PRC) by invading Taiwan (ROC) to annex the nation’s self-ruled territory under the authority of the Chinese Communist Party government in Beijing. What we need to understand about the current Russo-Ukraine War is that the PRC is not totally innocent and impartial relating to Russia’s initial plans following its envisioned [successful] occupation of Ukraine. The simple reason being that the PRC was just as much interested in seeing how the NATO alliance was going to react in terms of support to the Ukraine government (as an indicator of the extent of support the Taiwanese government would receive from the Western NATO alliance in the event of a Chinese invasion). Of similar high concern to China was the evaluation of Russian military performance in the war, especially how effective Russian hardware and doctrine is against NATO equipment and TTP’s. The reason why this is a concern for China is because much of the People’s Liberation Army equipment and doctrine incorporates fundamental systems and concepts originating from Russia (fighter jets, air defense systems, missile technology, and all PRC developed systems based on Russian/Soviet designs). Therefore, thanks to the extent and depth of NATO support to Ukraine and Ukraine’s exceptional effort to contain the previously feared Russia, China has become much more reserved in terms of its plans to invade Taiwan. Fact is, China is much more vulnerable to Western sanctions similar to what is imposed against Russia, and the CCP knows it cannot sustain the possible economic fall-out it would sustain in the event of any hostility towards Taiwan. However, this does not exclude such eventuality for Russia while it remains undefeated (for now), and Russia is still making gains in terms of expanding its global influence beyond the battlefields of Ukraine. That is the reason why China is currently waiting it out with the hope that Russia will eventually break out of its current dilemma in Ukraine before deciding on its next course of action. However, in the event of a Russian failure in Ukraine, China is also prepared for that eventuality which it desires to a certain degree already discussed. Is the CCP determined to annex Taiwan? Yes, and this desire should not be underestimated. The simple reason is that looking at the envisioned economic order (divide) which both Russia and China wish to introduce within its sphere of global influence in direct competition with the West, they lack the technological expertise required to effectively counter the West. Taiwan currently supplies 90% of the world’s microprocessors required to further develop the West at the technological level away from dependence on obsolete hydrocarbon energy resources. Looking back at the Russian planning phase for its current war in Ukraine, the probable idea was for Russia to annex Ukraine to gain control over its critical resources (and deny Western access to the extent of Ukrainian natural- and intellectual resources), and then enable China to annex Taiwan immediately after (for the same reasons). Fortunately (for now), this plan failed, and the only means of guaranteeing its continued failure is to support the government of Ukraine with what they require to resists Russia.
Russia: The primary concern regarding Russia relates to post-Ukraine War policy. This is an extremely important, but much overlooked factor which is nearly more important than the halting of Russian aggression in Ukraine. For the moment, keeping Russia occupied in Ukraine extends the timeline to develop a workable solution for a future Russia after its successful eviction from Ukrainian territory. Basically, China has changed its original strategy up until the February 24, 2022, Russian invasion of Ukraine to use the War in Ukraine as a means of gaining full control over Russia, something the West (US alliance), does not want. Also, the current Russian system of government is very much divided in terms of Russia’s future relations with both the West and China. The majority wealthy oligarchs wish for a return to integrated markets with the West, whereas the hardline communist ideology Russians desire an allegiance with China against the West. Then there is the issue of suppressed Republics that comprise the present Russian Federation who wish to obtain sovereign independence from Russia (such as Chechnya). In addition to these challenges, what measures will be applied to ensure that Russia (or any other belligerent government in alliance with Russia), will never engage in similar acts of unlawful foreign hostility again? And lastly, how will the West engage current under-developed Russian supporting states (especially in Africa), to ensure these nations are not lost to total government control by China?
Another much overlooked historical aspect about Russia-China relations relates to Vladivostok, also known as Haishenwai in China dating back to the Qing dynasty (1636 - 1912). In fact, the present Chinese government still requires the name Haishenwai to be included in brackets following the present official name Vladivostok on all regional maps printed in China. Historically, present day Vladivostok used to by Chinese territory until the mid-19th century when Russian forces annexed the port city of Haishenwai from the Qing dynasty, followed by the signing of various treaties (under the threat of war), which confirmed the territory of Haishenwai as Russian territory (Aigun Treaty, followed by Treaty of Tientsin, and the Convention of Peking). The Russian annexation followed a long search dating back since the 18th century to establish a port city on the Pacific, located on an important shipping route. Haishenwai offered everything Russia desired which forced it to take advantage of the Chinese being engaged in the Taiping Rebellion, knowing that the Qing Dynasty could not counter a second war front when threatened with war by then Russian Governor-General of the Far East, Nikolay Muraviev. On July 02, 1860 (Gregorian Calendar), Russian naval forces arrived in the port city, officially confirming the establishment of Vladivostok as Russian territory. So, what is the relevance of this event now? At the time of Russian annexation of the whole area known as Outer Manchuria (belonging to the Chinese Qing Dynasty), the effects were not considered of such great strategic importance to the then Chinese rulers. However, within the present geopolitical environment, Beijing lost an important access to the Pacific Ocean, and as current US tensions with China expands, Beijing comes to realize the extent of that loss it endured to a belligerent Russia in the 19th century, similar to what Ukraine is experiencing now. However, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine became a failure, China gradually became aware of the extent of Russian weaknesses, especially in terms of economic- and military power. When Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow during March 2023, he entered into a meeting with Vladimir Putin from a position of strength knowing that China is in fact more superior to Russia now in terms of military-, political-, and economic power. This position of superior power enabled China to implement its plan of reoccupying lost territories to Russia, but not following the Russian strategy of military aggression as seen in Ukraine and Georgia. By exploiting Russia's current weaknesses, and Putin's desperation to remain in power, China successfully negotiated a long-term agreement with Russia to gain commercial access to Vladivostok to develop the Chinese north-eastern economy to ship goods directly via Vladivostok using Chinese shipping resources established in Vladivostok. In effect, China used commercial mechanisms to reestablish its presence in Vladivostok (Haishenwai), which will enable it to eventually establish a military presence with direct Pacific Ocean access. In fact, China is already winning the hearts and minds of the Russian citizens as a 'savior' and 'friend' by opening it economy up to the [target] region. All that Beijing needs to do is assist Putin to further deteriorate the Russian geopolitical situation which will gradually erode Russian power even further to the point where China can negotiate [by means of 'pro-Beijing' treaties], to reclaim control over the lost Outer Manchurian territories without the use of any force. Worst case scenario, Beijing will also prepare for a possible military supported annexation if the opportunity arrises (such as civil war within the Russian Federation resulting from minority territories seeking sovereign independence from Russia). Beijing's desire to regain control over Vladivostok is in fact of such great importance to China that it exceeds the annexation of Taiwan in importance, which could also imply that the current heightened perception of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan might in fact be a diversion to draw attention away from Beijing's actual plans relating to Vladivostok. What Beijing also knows very well is that if it was to annex the old Outer Manchurian region back from Russia using military force, that Russia will not receive any support from anyone other than the current limited support it receives to sustain its operation in Ukraine. In effect, Russia is already in a state of unpreparedness to oppose any hostile military actions in the far-eastern regions of the Russian Federation, especially not from a more superior China.
Historical map indicating the extent of territory lost by China to Russia. Basically, present-day China wishes to restore its borders to the original boundary of 1689 (source: Library of the US Congress).
In summary, in the event of the escalation of mass organized hostilities within various volatile regions of the Russian Federation, China is most likely to support these break-away factions against Moscow than it is willing to support Moscow in its current belligerence agenda. Unbeknown to Moscow, Beijing only supports it [now] for as long as it enables Beijing to achieve its own strategic objectives.
Belarus: A major concern leading up to 2030 is Russia's plan to annex Belarus to incorporate it as a Republic of the Russian Federation, subject to Kremlin rule. This plan was exposed in leaked Russian intelligence documents as a result of Western intelligence efforts to recruit disgruntled Russian officials who oppose the Kremlin's agenda of global expansionism through strategic destabilization. Basically, this plan was already developed and partially implemented prior to the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and Russian military operations in Ukraine has served as a trojan horse to establish the idea of greater Russian involvement in the minds of the Belarusian people. This operation is highly complex, and applies various concepts which worked for Russia leading up to the military annexation of Crimea which we will explain in greater details in a separate article.
To summarize this discussion, we wish to quote an interview by BBC reporter Zeinab Badawi with former United States Senator (R) John McCain in 2014 following Russia's annexation of Crimea. His comments basically summarize the Russian objectives in Ukraine perfectly:
[BBC Reporter]: Looking at Russia, because you've also been a very strong advocate of tougher action against Russia. Be it from the United States, be it in the European Union, be it from NATO. Now that there is this ceasefire plan, and the hope is that it will hold. That probably is the best face saving way out of this conflict. Isn't it? Both for Moscow and Kyiv in Ukraine?
[John McCain]: Vladimir Putin's ambitions were very well known to me and to others. He knew that once Yanukovich left, he had to take Crimea because of Sevastopol. Then he tried the separatists. That didn't work. He armed the separatists. That didn't work. So then he sent in thousands of Russian troops. The fact is that they were slaughtering Ukrainians. There were hundreds killed, thousands in the hospitals. It's terrible. Poroshenko had no choice but to agree to a ceasefire. What is going to happen? I predict to you that it will be another step in Vladimir Putin's strategy to separate eastern Ukraine from Ukraine, and perhaps a land bridge to Crimea. No, it's a very bad result. And again, we would not send weapons to the Ukrainians when they were begging for them. We wouldn't even give them intelligence, because we didn't want to, quote, "provoke Vladimir Putin". By showing weakness, we provoked Vladimir Putin.
[BBC Reporter]: Who do you mean by we? The United States, the United States with the Europeans?
[John McCain]: Sure, the United States, and of course, the Europeans. But I wasn't surprised about the Europeans. I was deeply disappointed in the United States of America when they [Ukraine] begged us for defensive weapons and they wouldn't even do that. In fact, it was almost comical. They sent MRE's [Meals Ready to Eat].
[BBC Reporter]: Why were you not surprised by the Europeans? You say, not taking sufficiently tough action against ...?
[John McCain]: Because they were dependent on Russian energy. It's obvious. It was obvious. And the United States, it was obvious that we weren't going to assist them. And, uhm, because they don't want to, quote, "provoke" Vladimir Putin. And there's nothing that provokes Vladimir Putin more than weakness. We have to understand that Vladimir Putin's ambitions are the restoration of the old Russian empire.
[BBC Reporter]: But he has never said that he wants eastern Ukraine to be incorporated into Russian territory.
[John McCain]: What he has said is just a few days ago, he said, "I could take Kyiv in two weeks". But what he has said is that he wants NovoRussia, which is an old Czarist phrase, which means he wants eastern Ukraine. He wants to make sure he keeps Crimea. And he would like to see, if he can get away with it, Moldova and the Baltics as well, that's what he wants to see restored. He cannot afford to see a free, democratic, prosperous Ukraine, because the Russian people then would like to be like Ukraine.
Basically, Russia is provoked by weakness, and the only means of countering Russia is by showing strength. This explains why Russia has expanded its area of influence to cover approximately 2/3rds of Africa, simply because the governments of the respective nations it "partners" with (in other words, the governments that Moscow control through illicit means), are weak and their respective centers of gravity are degraded to high volatility levels. Perfect examples during the past two years are Libya, Mali, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, South Africa, and Sudan. Now, after a relatively lengthy discussion about the current state of the War in Ukraine, we can conclude that the whole situation at the geopolitical level is much more complicated than originally anticipated. For many ignorant observers, Russia invaded Ukraine to gain control over its territory and resources, and for many misinformed supporters of Russia, Putin decided to invade Ukraine to resist NATO expansion and to suppress fascism. Unfortunately, global politics is never simple, and it is never that simple. What we do know is that neither the US nor China caused the current conflict in Ukraine, but to resolve this conflict lies within the hands of Beijing and Washington. How will the War in Ukraine most likely end? Eventually, everything will end as a pact between Beijing and Washington, where Russia will be reduced to an object, not a subject.
To be continued / ...
Last Updated: 02 1200Z June 2023
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