Putin and Xi at Beijing Olympics

A Global Proxy War: Ukraine is Now the Center of our Eurasian Competition with Russia and China

The Putin-Xi summit in Moscow ended without any grand pronouncements or overwhelming actions. Yet it produced a joint statement that deserves careful reflection. The statement makes sense only in the context of substantive Russian strategy in Ukraine: Russia is in this for the long haul, as is China.

Major public statements from dictatorships often are perceived as lacking substance, given their reliance on boilerplate language and the difficulty of harmonizing an authoritarian regime’s political-linguistic tropes. Hence, observers miss the crucial fact that, in regimes such as Xi Jinping’s China and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the specific phrasing and structure of major statements is of exceptional importance.

Equally relevant is the fact that China’s foreign ministry published only a short English translation of the China-Russia statement on the Ukraine War, not a formal translation of the joint statement that Xi and Putin signed. This appears unremarkable, except that in each case where China and Russia produce major documents, they routinely publish an English readout through either the Kremlin or the Chinese foreign ministry.

The fact that the primary publicly released text is in Chinese, rather than English or Russian, is therefore a clear choice. China is the senior partner in its relationship with Russia. But the China-Russia relationship is Beijing’s most important diplomatic bilateral linkage. China’s decision not to provide a public English translation indicates that it sees its relations with Russia as key to a new Eurasian order, one that will be founded on principles wholly different from the old Anglo-American Eurasian order — and one requiring a new language.

The joint statement appears more muted than the February 2022 “No Limits” declaration. Indeed, it cites the no-limits statement without using that phrase. However, it is clearly written in line with the previous declaration, given that Moscow and Beijing commit to following its “principles and spirit.”

This points to a disturbing reality, at least for many Americans and faux-realists who now play geopolitics: The China-Russia entente has far deeper roots than the Ukraine War. China and Russia concluded their partnership in perpetuity, before the war, the massive Washington-Brussels sanctions packages or the imprecisely termed “proxy war” between Russia and NATO began.

The above is disturbing because it forces American strategists toward a true paradigm shift. The United States is no longer the sole consequential global power with the perceived ability to influence the choices of other powers. Rather, China and Russia, of their own volitions and recognizing a natural alignment in their own interests and values, have engaged in a large-scale rapprochement.

This is the meaning of the odd phrase in the declaration that the Sino-Russian partnership “has the nature of non-alignment, non-confrontation, and non-targeting of third countries.” China and Russia will work together, not primarily because of U.S. actions, but because the two powers wish to break today’s Eurasian security system and reshape it to their own ends. There is no context in which either regime would view the U.S.-led Eurasian order as beneficial to their interests, simply because the U.S. is not a Eurasian power and, therefore, has not a shred of business in Eurasia, as Moscow and Beijing see it.

Read the full article at The Hill.

Seth Cropsey is founder and president of Yorktown Institute. He served as a naval officer and as deputy undersecretary of the Navy.

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