Who will decide the future of the war in Ukraine?

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Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, meeting in the Kremlin, March 2023. Photo: Sergei Karpuhin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool/EPA/PAPPAfter a year of war, it can be considered that Ukraine managed to stop Russian aggression despite losing power over part of its territory, and Vladimir Putin failed to achieve the goal of vassalization of this state. It is not, however, as the media show us every day, that Ukrainians are winning constantly, Russia is on the verge of exhaustion and is about to fall apart, and its president – sick and losing support in the country – will soon lose power.

Non-European drip

Despite huge daily losses, Russia can still afford to continue the long war, and the sanctions imposed by the West and pro-Western countries (Japan, Australia, South Korea) affect the Russian economy only to a limited extent – they do not prevent it from continuing its offensive activities. The war reminds us that the world is not only the West, but also non-European countries: China, India, Middle Eastern oil countries, African countries, Latin American countries and Turkey. It is thanks to these markets – which did not impose sanctions on Russia, and, taking the opportunity, even increased trade relations with it – Western actions did not block Russia’s opportunities. The non-European world allowed Putin to partially redirect trade relations, which in the long run will result in Russia’s diminishing importance in the world and its “Asianization”, but it will still exist – contrary to our hopes. An important factor in favor of Putin was also the high prices of energy resources, which allowed Russia to balance the financial proceeds from the sale of raw materials. Since the beginning of the war, Russia’s trade with India has increased by several hundred percent, and with China by several dozen. This applies mainly to energy resources. Russia also remains the main supplier of military equipment to India, and Chinese companies are entering the Russian market replacing Western companies. Most non-Western countries, though from different perspectives, do not see the invasion of Ukraine in moral terms or as a direct threat to their own security. Officially, the vast majority of them condemned the Russian aggression (China and India did not), but a quick end to the conflict (regardless of the outcome) means for many of them, especially the countries of the so-called of the South, increased security on international markets in the context of raw materials and food supplies.

Chinese pragmatism

A year after the Russian aggression against Ukraine, China became more diplomatic. They presented what they called a “peace plan for resolving the crisis.” From the point of view of the West, this plan is completely unrealistic and does not take into account the difference between the aggressor and the victim. In it, the Chinese talk about a ceasefire and return to negotiations, respecting the sovereignty of both sides, but also lifting sanctions on Russia, rejecting the “Cold War mentality”, not using nuclear weapons, as well as ensuring global supply chains and food exports. that this is the first peace plan presented. However, it is an expression of a painfully pragmatic and amoral view of Russian aggression – a view from the point of view of Chinese interests.
China has never officially condemned the aggression, diplomatically and rhetorically supports Russia and accuses the US of provoking and fueling the conflict. However, they did not recognize Russian territorial annexations after 2014, including Crimea and areas in eastern Ukraine. They are also not a party to the conflict and avoid Russia’s military support (they want to be perceived as neutral, contrary to the American narrative and actions), which leaves them an important opportunity to influence the future of the conflict, which they perceive in the context of their own rivalry with the US, and to ensure safe transport goods to Western Europe.

Smokescreen

The Chinese plan, however, had one main goal: to show China as a country supporting the end of the war and fighting for peace. From the perspective of the West, this narrative is clearly a smokescreen for Chinese interests and unacceptable in the context of Ukraine’s widespread support in the fight against the Russian invader. However, in the countries of South, i.e. Africa, the Middle East or Latin America, it is most welcome. It seems that she is also close to Pope Francis and the “European outsiders”, i.e. Hungary and Belarus, which supported him. Interestingly, the Chinese plan was initially rejected by Russia, suggesting that “the current situation is not conducive to the implementation of the proposal” (during Xi’s visit to In Moscow, Putin has already supported it, but made its implementation conditional on the readiness of the West to implement it). In turn, President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed interest in him and readiness for talks. He even invited Xi to Ukraine. The Chinese proposal, although unacceptable in the West, in the long run may, in the event of a prolonged war, affect the elites of countries such as France or Germany, as well as the rest of the non-European world. China may be a key element in efforts to end the conflict in the future; having real influence and means of pressure on Russia, they can use it in the event of some US-Chinese agreement. The recent agreement and establishment – ​​thanks to Chinese mediation – of diplomatic relations by two mortal enemies: Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia (a kind of complete reversal of alliances in this region) has shown that Beijing has real possibilities to influence geopolitical processes.

US involvement

The current situation on the Ukrainian front seems to be a stalemate and resembles a trench warfare. There is much talk about the spring offensives of both sides – Ukraine, reinforced with Western equipment, and Russia, once again mobilized and indifferent to human losses. It is difficult to predict its effects, and the most likely scenario is that the conflict will continue if some key factors do not change. During his visit to Poland, President Joe Biden said that “Ukraine must win and Russia must be defeated.” So a fundamental question arises in any conflict – what would it mean for either side to win or lose? The war has shown that Ukraine’s future depends not only on the will of the Ukrainians to fight, but also on Ukraine’s continued support by the US and allies, as well as on the attitude of the non-European world. Ukrainians, despite their great will to fight to defend their country, are almost entirely dependent on support from the West, mainly from the USA, where opposition to further military aid for Kiev is growing (especially among republicans), so a prolonged conflict may strengthen these tendencies. Similar processes may be taking place in Western Europe. For the United States, the most important strategic challenge is not Russia, but China – on this the American political class agrees. The key to the future of the war thus lies, to a great extent, in the level of US involvement in supporting Ukraine.

Asianization of Russia

However, this does not change the perspective of our country, whose interest is to weaken Russia as much as possible and move it economically and politically away from Europe, so as to limit its offensive capabilities towards our region for as long as possible. It’s already happening
– the “Asianization” of Russia, while limiting its ability to influence in Europe, is progressing and is in our interest. There is also a permanent pull of Ukraine (the only question is, to what extent and in what status after the war) into the orbit of the West, and in particular the region of Central and Eastern Europe. Will it be possible to talk about Ukraine’s victory and Poland’s success if the above two goals are achieved?

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