Almost three weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping declared a “no limits” friendship.
This included Putin supporting Xi’s self-declared right to take Taiwan, including through force, and Xi supporting Russia’s claims with respect to Ukraine. Having met more than 30 times since 2013, the leaders of the two most powerful authoritarian countries openly pledged to oppose American global pre-eminence, weaken US alliances in Europe and the Indo-Pacific, and overturn the primacy of liberal democratic norms in place since the formal end of the Cold War in the early 1990s.
Time will tell whether Putin has ruthlessly outmanoeuvred all of us or set back his imperial plans by inflaming Ukrainian nationalism, invigorating NATO and reviving the suppressed martial instincts of European states.
What is more certain is that Xi has seriously erred by aligning so publicly with Putin. His miscalculation will make things more difficult for Beijing to achieve its imperial ambitions in Asia even as the West is tied up responding to the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine.
Both dictators share a disdain for liberalism and worry about the power of the US and its allies. Yet they pursue different approaches to advance their ambitions.
Russia’s economy is more than 12 times smaller than the combined gross domestic product of NATO members in Europe. As a result, Putin has only a few cards to play, namely military intimidation and threats to disrupt the flow of gas to Europe.
Read the full article in The Australian