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Russia-China and the warning against Ukraine of falling into the “trap of Western democracy”

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Nadia Helmy

Perhaps the current Ukrainian crisis with Russia has redrawn the international order, and made the most prominent analysis here focus on whether the United States of America is launching a (counterattack on the Shanghai Treaty Group, of which Russia and China retain its membership), so that American support for Ukraine in the face of Russia, would enable  The United States of America and its allies in the “NATO” alliance, from the reorganization and spread from the (shores of the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus to the South China Sea).

Russian President “Putin” focused on regional aspects and international groupings to strengthen his regional and international partnerships and relations, such as Russian membership in groupings: (BRICS, Shanghai Organization, Organization of Islamic Cooperation… etc), and in Russia’s immediate vicinity, he diplomatically practiced in (Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan), causing troubles in (Ukraine and the Baltic states) or using the direct force in (Georgia).

There is the beginning of re-mapping, there are shifts in local government and adjustments, albeit slow, in world power with such extreme liquidity, the most important thing that can be done is to be very careful in assessing things at the moment. We are actually living in a state of “global division”, meaning that the world has been divided into two camps, in what looks like a (new cold war), meaning that there are two camps: (the camp of resistance and the camp of resistance), i.e. Russia, China and their friends in the face of the United States of America and its allies.

  • There’re several special points emerged, regarding:

The most prominent opportunities that China can gain from any possible confrontation that may occur in the Ukraine crisis (in the event of Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine). Here, the observers talked essentially about (three opportunities), which are:

A- Reducing US pressures on China (with emphasis on tensions between Russia and the West)

B – A Chinese test of the West’s reaction (to study the possibility of achieving the same thing in the Taiwan file)

C – The establishment of a “new world order”

  • In addition to the questions, revolving around:

To what extent can China support Russia in the Ukraine crisis, and will China venture economically?

I think that the Ukrainian crisis bears with it the features of a new world order, and a sharp global division that the world is witnessing at the present time, between the United States of America and its allies, China and Russia.  Especially after the United States of America divided the world into two camps, which are:  (democratic and totalitarian non-democratic countries), which was apparent in the “Democratic Leaders Conference” in December 2021. Hence, we can understand the nature of the general scene, as follows:

There is a Chinese-Russian agreement on the need to confront Washington and its allies and seek to undermine their areas of influence. Therefore, the Russian and Chinese parties are playing an alternative role to the two Western military alliances led by the United States of America, namely: (North Atlantic Treaty Organization “NATO”) and the “Aukus” alliance, which was established after the signing of the (new Aukus Defense and Security Agreement) between the United States of America, Britain and Australia in 2021, as it undermines “stability and just peace” in the world.

Hence, the Chinese-Russian benefits lie in “unifying the front of demands”, by issuing a joint statement in which it was emphasized that (Moscow and Beijing oppose any expansion of NATO’s membership in the future). Noting the Chinese fear – which is the new thing – of suspicious American moves in the “Indo-Pacific” region in the American sense or (Asia-Pacific region) in the Chinese sense, to establish a (new military office) and the opening of a new branch of “NATO” in the region close to Chinese influence, with emphasis that the Asian region is completely far from the areas of influence of “NATO”, which are those countries that overlook the Atlantic Ocean. But, suspicious American moves were noticed at the end of the era of former US President “Trump” to include both (Australia and Japan) in “NATO” membership, with some secret visits that China revealed to US Defense Secretary “Mark Esper” to Australia, and his meeting with the Australian Minister of Defense to agree on Australia’s membership in “NATO” in the future, which irritates China in the first place.  It will confront it strongly, if it is discussed publicly and internationally, given the distance of Australia and Japan from the spheres of influence of “NATO”. Therefore, the Russian-Chinese demands share the non-allowance of Ukraine to “NATO’s membership”, and the non-expansion of “NATO” in the future.  This is to prevent the United States of America from taking advantage of that by demanding the inclusion of other countries to undermine Chinese influence and on its borders, as the United States of America and its allies did in Russia’s areas of influence in Eastern Europe.  Therefore, Russia’s first and main demand for China in order to reduce the tension between them and the West over Ukraine was to establish “security guarantees” that would allow the non-expansion of NATO’s membership, and Ukraine’s non-inclusion of “NATO” and its annexation to the Western camp opposed to the rule of Russian President “Putin”.

The most important opportunities for China come from the Ukrainian crisis, which is to find security demands, to protect Russia’s security by not expanding NATO’s membership, and not feeling threatened by “NATO”, so the Chinese and Russian parties agree to stop (the policy of expanding the alliance and withdrawing NATO forces from Eastern Europe), which the Europeans and Americans consider unacceptable.

We note the joint Russian-Chinese opportunity in their support for the principle of “one and indivisible security”, which is the principle on which the Russians and the Russian Kremlin rely with China to demand the withdrawal of “NATO” from Russia’s vicinity, and their constant affirmation, that “the security of others cannot be realized on the calculation of them”, despite the right of each country, and therefore Ukraine as well, to choose its alliances.

On the other hand, China is also seeking to ease pressures on it from its Taiwanese side, especially with the Western and American support for Ukraine in the face of Russia, a support that allowed Ukraine, as it emphasized in its official statements, to thwart the “intimidation strategy” that Moscow has been practicing against it for a few months.  Consequently, Russia and China jointly reject the principle of Western and American interference in their immediate neighboring areas of influence.

Russia and China fear losing the first real confrontation with “NATO” and the West, led mainly by Washington, given that if Ukraine joins “NATO”, perhaps “NATO” will, under its obligations towards member states, try to constantly exist in Eastern Europe and impede the exchange and partnership between Russia and China, and perhaps the reclaiming the crimes from Russia, will weaken the Russian and Chinese joint alliance globally. Therefore, accusations of Russia and China increased to “NATO” countries, led by the United States of America, of increasing Ukraine with weapons, and at the same time accusing the United States of tensions and color revolutions to impede Russian development and curb, undermine and curtail Sino-Russian cooperation in favor of increasing American and Western influence in Russia’s areas of influence in Eastern Europe and the “Indo-Pacific” region, which is close to the areas of direct influence of China, especially after the United States signed the “Aukus Defense Agreement” with Australia and Britain.

China is trying to gain a foothold and influence in this crisis and play a role in favor of its Russian ally by demanding guarantees that “NATO” will not expand to the east, and to (end NATO’s military activity in Eastern Europe), which means withdrawing combat units from countries, such as: (Poland, the three Baltic states of “Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania”), as well as the demand not to deploy missiles in countries, such as: (Poland and Romania).

From here, we understand that we are facing a new world order that has begun to take shape with Beijing’s explicit support for the Russian position, with the Chinese Presidents “Xi Jinping” and the Russian “Putin” keen to show the alliance of their positions globally in the face of Western and American pressures imposed on them, which prompted them to sign a huge gas agreement worth $400 billion at the height of the crisis over Ukraine.

With China’s attempt to confirm its rejection of the Cold War mentality, and to demand that all parties completely abandon the Cold War mentality, in parallel with “establishing a European security mechanism” that is balanced, effective and sustainable through negotiations and not war or intervention in favor of supporting one of the parties, with the Chinese claim that it should take  Russia’s legitimate security concerns are seriously taken.

Here, China is being pressured through its “Ukrainian paper” under the name “Threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan”, as an indirect attempt to draw the world’s attention to Taiwan in its confrontation with China.

Here, Beijing and Moscow agree on the importance of coordinating their joint actions regarding the Ukrainian crisis, but the American response, as usual, will be by declaring that the Russians and the Chinese represent a threat to the world order and international and regional stability. This is the current US strategy for confrontation.

In my personal opinion, Russia and China are smarter than making their units within the influence of their opponents, and (they will not allow Washington to achieve its aims, plans and goals by playing with the Ukrainian and Taiwanese cards together at the same time to mobilize the world against China and Russia).

Also, Beijing does not want to unnecessarily complicate its relations with Moscow by yielding to the American game of Chinese interference in the Ukrainian crisis with its Russian ally.  Russia is an important partner of China in strategic areas, such as: (energy, cooperation in the field of arms, gas, the common border in Siberia, the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, joint projects….etc). At the political and international level, there are common positions between them on regional and global challenges, such as: (the issues of Iran, Syria and North Korea crises, and they are united by opposition to the excesses of the United States of America and its desire to dominate all over the world). Additionally, China doesn’t want to lose the positive momentum gained from the “Beijing Winter Olympics”.

To my mind, the importance of Ukraine to Russia has never been lost on Chinese observers.  For example, “Wang Haiyun”, a former senior advisor with a think-tank of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), considered that:

“Ukraine is of fundamental interest to Russia, and China should strengthen consultations with Russia on this issue”

As I noted by virtue of my academic major in Chinese political affairs, on the other hand, China has an urgent interest in maintaining stability in Ukraine in the long term. China has incentives to prevent the chaos that would undermine economic and strategic relations with the capital, “Kiev”. China is Ukraine’s second largest trading partner after Russia.  China also owns large stakes in Ukraine’s agricultural sector, and it is reported that it signed a deal to invest and cultivate up to five percent of Ukraine’s arable land.

In addition, China deepened its relations with Ukraine in December 2014, through the “strategic partnership”, which Chinese President “Xi Jinping” signed with ousted Ukrainian President “Viktor Yanukovych”.  This agreement has been valid for five years and the Chinese endeavor to renew it, and it includes a plan of about 30 billion dollars to boost Chinese investments in some Ukrainian regions, including improving infrastructure, cooperation in the fields of (aviation and space, energy and agriculture).

Here, despite the departure of Ukrainian former President “Yanukovych”, the Chinese Foreign Ministry previously confirmed that the strategic partnership and its provisions are still valid with Ukraine.

Accordingly, China has a broader interest and conviction in defending the rule of “non-interference in the internal affairs of countries”.  Although China has adopted a more flexible interpretation of this rule in recent years, Beijing is reluctant to condone any external military intervention in Ukraine (without obtaining the approval of the UN Security Council). The reason is that Beijing fears that any breach of this rule, could have its possible implications for the possibility of outside interference in the territories that China claims should belong to China, including (Tibet and Taiwan).

Therefore, China does not want to move to prevent Russian military intervention, but it may play positive roles in resolving the current crisis in Ukraine for the benefit of its Russian ally.

Although the evidence so far does not show any movement in this Chinese direction to ease the crisis between Ukraine and Russia.  However, China’s positions were limited to expressing its concern about the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, but it did not blame Russia or urge it to refrain from such a step for fear of deteriorating relations with Moscow, which is essential to the Chinese regime.

Instead, some Chinese sources focused on (conspiracy theory, expressing Chinese fear of the presence of foreign Western hands), aiming to sabotage Ukraine and involve Russia in igniting the conflict. In a previous editorial in the “People’s Daily”, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, China asked the United States of America and its Western allies to abandon the “Cold War mentality approach” to the Ukrainian crisis, while at the same time warning Ukraine not to fall into the “trap of Western democracy”.

Here, we will find that there is no doubt that these Chinese positions have becomes (similar to the previous Chinese positions regarding the Arab Spring revolutions and all the colored revolutions in Eastern Europe as well).

In the Syrian case, (Russia was able to eliminate the opposition backed by America), the Russian approach included political flexibility and smart diplomacy, but in essence it included support for the “Bashar Al-Assad” regime through the bombing of civilian areas.

We can also find out here that Assad’s forces were facing Sunni Arab forces seeking to overthrow him, but the Russian intervention gained Assad’s forces the upper hand through systematic bombing campaigns against their places of concentration. Russia used a number of military tactics to support “Bashar al-Assad” with the help of the Iranians, and to provide political cover for Assad. Russia adopted (a political strategy against the internal armed opposition in Syrian territory on the accusation of supporting it from abroad), which resulted in the displacement of many residents and internal opposition forces and their families to neighboring countries, and Russia’s strategy of forced displacement cost neighboring countries and the international community more than $100 billion in aid.

We can note here, Russia dealt with the opposition with political flexibility by dealing with the defeated opposition and its sponsors, as (Russia violated several agreements signed with Turkey in four areas and allowed “Assad” to control them, with the exception of (the Idlib agreement), which forced Ankara to enter thousands of soldiers  to protect it from Russia. Russia’s diplomacy was a tactician, coordinating its diplomacy with military support for Syria, by seeking to weaken the morale of the armed opposition by (portraying Moscow as the capital of the solution to the Syrian issue) and control of the Iranian militias, but everyone is worried about the influx of refugees.

In short, Russia’s counterinsurgency approach was the opposite of that of the United States of America in Afghanistan, meaning that it had a small effect rather than a large one, by adopting various and deliberate tactics in front of the Syrian armed opposition opposing the survival of the “Bashar al-Assad” government, instead of worrying about losses in the ranks of civilians, tolerance of Assad’s weaknesses or acceptance of a distorted state, then Russia’s attempt to win over the internal and international opposition after that, through Russian dealings, according to the duality of “we are facing them”, and the end result of all this, the recognition of the existence of “Bashar al-Assad” on the top of the power force by the Russian assistance, which is known as “Russian-style success” through various different tactics.

Accordingly, we can predict that any Ukrainian rebellion will be the Russian response to it fierce and clever, militarily and politically. However, there is a positive factor, albeit accompanied by risks, which is that when Russia faced strong military forces, such as: (America, Israel and Turkey), it tries to defend its security with regard to the matter. In the Syrian case, Moscow was holding the stick from the middle, and deliberately giving priority to the interests of others with great political flexibility, and this was clear in the Turkish case, and its agreement after that on its understanding of the Turkish position that each party should respect the interests of the other.

We find that the Russian President “Putin” took advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the war of statements and mutual condemnations between him and Washington regarding the Ukrainian crisis, and on Monday, February 21, 2022, he invaded the cities of “Lugansk” and “Donetsk” in the “Donbass region” in Ukraine, which are officially recognized by Russia as “independent states” away from Ukraine. The Russian President, “Putin” justification for the reasons for that recognition, of the seriousness of the situation in the “Donbass region” of Ukraine, considering that the Ukrainian capital “Kiev” has fallen under full US control, and that Ukraine’s accession to the (North Atlantic Treaty Organization “NATO”) constitutes a threat to  Russian security nationalist President “Putin”, who has also made several accusations against the Ukrainian side of manufacturing its own nuclear weapons for use against Moscow with the help of “NATO and the West”, and under the American planning to threaten Russia’s security through its regional neighbors in Ukraine, and “Putin” considered that “Ukraine is completely now under American control”.

The first international reaction came through the meeting of “European Union foreign ministers”, on Monday, February 21, 2022, with the approval, during their meeting in Brussels, of (the decision to establish an advisory mission for military training in Ukraine). And he considered that the launch of such cooperation in the military field between Ukraine and the West would be an “important political signal to increase the presence of the European Union in Ukraine, which will provoke President “Putin” strongly”, despite the European affirmation that this mission will not be a “troop mission combative”.

Here, a number of analysts argue for the scene, that it has become imperative for US officials to work to (prevent Moscow from re-applying and publishing its strategy for dealing with the Syrian opposition in Ukraine).

American options are very limited, as “Putin” insists on restricting spheres of influence in Ukraine, and American diplomats proceed from the assumption that they are discussing a diplomatic crisis between countries, but “Putin” here sees Ukraine as “belonging to his country” and “Putin” sees interference in Ukraine as “an interference in Russia’s affairs  interior”.

The problem here is that Ukraine is a country of the Soviet Union, and Putin sees himself as the Soviet man, and the world may see that “Putin” has suffered from megalomania, but this does not mean that “Putin” is irrational, rather he does not want to be shared by the West.  In interfering in the Ukrainian crisis as a country belonging to his “old Soviet legacy”, at a time when the Russians see “Putin” as the loyal party who will restore Russia’s glory as a superpower and a great power in the international arena.

We can recognize as well that President “Putin” is highly awareness that whoever opens fire on others must be prepared for the consequences, because this is definitely not in Russia’s interest, especially when we talk about the economic game whose origins the Americans know well, which is namely the “economic sanctions”.

Some Western analysts tend to say that some Western powers have good pressure cards against the Russian economic elites from businessmen close to President “Putin”, and who put their money in London banks, as they will face real costs and personal losses, with the threat of the “Biden administration” of the stick economic sanctions on their money abroad, if they support President “Putin” in confronting Ukraine.

We can say here, that even if the United States of America is serious about defending Ukraine, it (will not go to war because Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and if the Biden administration is not serious about the option of sanctions against Russia, it must find a way out of the crisis, the compromise is the acceptance of Moscow’s conditions, and “Putin” is smart enough to declare that he has defeated “NATO” by negotiation). Therefore, the Americans must ensure the presence of a crisis team and communications with the “NATO” allies, and keep the forces in a state of alert for events that may be dire, because “Putin” may lead Europe – according to the American vision – to war and destruction if he insists on going to war.

Here, it may be necessary for the West to prepare to overcome the current crisis with minimal losses, while planning to use the great Western ability to restrict Russia from launching a military adventure that will cost Europe and the whole world a lot for other years to come.

There is an escalation in the language of the Russian challenge to the United States of America and the West, as Russia stood behind the unrest in eastern Ukraine under the pretext of preserving its citizens, and helping to separate (Donetsk and Luhansk provinces located in the Donbas region) from the Ukrainian central government, and the Russian threat to recognize their independence, despite the Western and American rejection and objection to this separation.

Russia did not hide its policy towards Europe, as it considered the necessity of (restricting the expansion of “NATO” towards the east, in order to preserve its areas of influence and ensure its security) as a major strategic objective.

Russia is fighting in Europe to ensure that this goal is achieved, taking advantage of its heritage and history on the continent, which depends on the presence of a population, cultural and linguistic extension in the nearby neighboring countries, ie the countries of the former Soviet Union.  Russia considers that the protection of its citizens abroad is one of the tools that the Russian state uses to achieve its goals in the European continent, in order to justify its interventions and resort to hard force if necessary, in order to protect its citizens, in light of a broad and broad Russian security definition of the concept (Russian citizenship abroad).

Russia put forward the “idea of ​​Russian intervention to protect its citizens abroad”, which came during the era of former President “Yeltsin” in 1992, to refer to those Russian citizens who live outside the borders of the Russian state. This proposal is fully consistent with the Russian security doctrine and the mechanism for achieving it, and that to ensure the continuity of Russia’s communication with nearby neighboring countries, through Russian citizens. All Russian strategic security documents in recent years have focused on emphasizing the (concept of Russia’s protection of Russian citizens abroad), which is basically a Russian pretext for intervention in geographical neighboring countries to address any disturbances or disturbances, as in the Ukrainian case, etc. The Russian government has set up many government programs to strengthen Russia’s relations with its citizens in the near abroad.

Perhaps the final analysis, which the Egyptian researcher may have reached to understand the nature of the development of the ongoing conflict between Russia, the West and the United States of America over Ukraine, is NATO’s military fears of the “military and defense rapprochement between Russia and China”, especially with the recent shedding of light on a number of (joint military exercises), which reached China’s territory in the “Ningxia region” in August 2021, in which forces from the Chinese and Russian armies participated, which may be considered a feature of the accelerating rapprochement between the two powers, which raised the concern of the camp of the United States of America and its allies in the Atlantic Alliance, we fear that the frameworks of cooperation between them will evolve to take the form of the defense alliance and the structure of joint command, with its long-term goals and strategies on the field of international politics.