Given the manpower and equipment advantages possessed by the Russian Army and Air Force, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin cronies expected Ukraine’s defenses to swiftly collapse and capitulate.
The quick victory script read something like this: A precision Spetsnaz assassination kills President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as airstrikes smash Ukrainian air defenses and Russian paratroopers capture key transportation and communication nodes. Within 24 hours Russian mechanized combined arms battle groups smash into Kharkiv and Kyiv. Russian tanks line the cities’ central squares as bewildered and frightened Ukrainians cower and capitulate.
Fair bet Putin calculated such a demonstration of fast, deadly Russian military power would send the message the world must once again fear Russia.
But it didn’t happen. Russia underestimated Ukrainian will. Putin overestimated the readiness of his own troops — or perhaps his generals did?
Three weeks on, Ukraine’s sweat-and-blood peoples’ resistance continues. We’ve witnessed case after case of Russian strategic, operational and tactical miscalculation — failures at all levels of warfare. The world sees video of Russian tanks in Ukraine, but they’re stuck in mud or are smoldering wrecks along highways. As for precision, high-tech warfare? Not so much. Russian artillery pounds Ukrainian apartment buildings and hospitals into Stalingrad rubble as Vlad threatens NATO with nuclear attacks.
Vlad does have nukes. Ukraine had nukes until 1994, when it agreed to the Budapest Accord and gave them up for absolute Russian assurances of Ukrainian territorial integrity. The U.S. and U.K. backed the agreement.
Vlad busted the Budapest Accord. The U.S. and U.K. back the NATO treaty. In 2022 Vlad dreams of busting NATO — but Ukraine 2022 fights, and Russian might has not secured a draw, much less a stunning victory restoring Ukraine to the Russian empire.
Before launching the war, Putin, his pals and for that matter, his quasi-allies in China, should have examined the strategic downside of both Russian “non-victory” in Ukraine and even defeat in Ukraine.
It’s just possible his Chinese quasi-allies did consider these unpalatable alternatives — and they grinned.
Here’s why they might grin: The Russian Army’s slipshod combat performance definitely raises legitimate questions about the Kremlin’s ability to wage full-scale conventional war against a peer. Shift from Europe to East Asia and Russia’s military failure calls into question the vulnerability of the Kremlin’s greatest geostrategic treasure: resource-laden Siberia.
The Russians are loath to admit it, but for the first time in centuries, China possesses a more powerful military.
Communist China 2022 is bitten by the same savage imperialist bug as Putin. Beijing intends to restore the Chinese empire. And Beijing covets Siberia.
According to Beijing’s propagandists, Siberia belongs to China. The current border (approximately 2,740 miles) is an artifact of the 1860 Convention of Peking. The Second Opium War had weakened China. Czarist Russia was expanding. In 1917, the Bolsheviks acknowledged that czarist treaties forced on China were coercive and predatory. Russia, however, has never returned any Siberian territory.
China hasn’t forgotten. In a July 2, 2020, tweet, a Chinese state media official scorned Russia’s 160th anniversary celebration of the founding of Vladivostok. The official recalled that Vladivostok was a military harbor built on the Chinese city of Haishenwai, which was annexed “via (the) unequal Treaty of Beijing.”
In December 2019 Russian political scientist Andrei Kalachinski told the Estonian publication Diplomaatia: “If a large state (i.e. China) grows stronger, it is logical that it starts thinking whether it has handed over too many of its territories in the past two centuries. China has managed to get back nearly all the former colonies, such as Macao and Hong Kong. For China, Primorsky Krai (Vladivostok area) is a part of the former Manchuria… (China) may deliver an ultimatum to us at some point on any old pretext. The British, the Germans, the Portuguese — all of them have left the former territory of China. Only the Russians have remained. It is good that we have remained, but the devil only knows (what may come of this).”
The devil also knows if Vlad’s Ukraine debacle whets China’s Siberian appetite.
To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.