There is something to be said for a major global power struggling to make any significant gains in a war against a smaller and less-armed country. It can lead one to wonder if perhaps that major power is really as much of a threat as we previously believed. While Russia should not be underestimated, it is worth noting that the military objectives that were once seen as inevitable outcomes have thus far failed to materialize as quickly as experts thought they would.
But what really makes this situation seem far more dire for Russia than previously believe are the reports that Putin asked China for military aid and assistance.
New —> Russia asks China for weapons, U.S. officials say
“If Beijing is offering any type of military assistance to aid Moscow’s war in Ukraine, the spillover effects on U.S.-China policy could be vast.” https://t.co/jOIWawaNGH pic.twitter.com/hDYnbNc99f
— Andrew deGrandpré (@adegrandpre) March 13, 2022
Russia has turned to China for military equipment and aid in the weeks since it began its invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, did not describe what kind of weaponry had been requested, or whether they know how China responded.
The development comes as White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan plans to travel to Rome on Monday to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.
Sullivan told CNN that the administration was “communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences” for any Chinese efforts to assist Russia in evading sanctions.”
According to Reuters, however, by yesterday afternoon, a Chinese diplomat was saying he had “never heard” of such a thing.
WASHINGTON, March 13 (Reuters) – The spokesperson for China’s embassy in Washington responded to media reports on Sunday that Moscow had asked Beijing for military equipment since launching its invasion of Ukraine by saying, “I’ve never heard of that.”
The spokesperson, Liu Pengyu, said China’s priority was to prevent the tense situation in Ukraine from getting out of control.
“The current situation in Ukraine is indeed disconcerting,” he said in an emailed response to a query from Reuters.
China has not stood in opposition to Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine, but they have also not been totally welcoming of it. China’s response initially was that it opposed the invasion of internationally “recognized” states, and Russia did not seem to take this well, later labeling Taiwan an unfriendly “country” — a jab at the “One China” policy (that Russia previously recognized) which declares that Taiwan is not a free country but rather part of China itself.
It appears, however, that we have our answer from China in the form of a statement from Russia.
(Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Monday that Russian forces could take full control of major Ukrainian cities and it had sufficient military clout to fulfil all of its aims in Ukraine without any help from China.
— Phil Stewart (@phildstewart) March 14, 2022
So either Russia never asked China for assistance (though we have reason to suspect they did) or China said “No,” and Russia is trying to save face here. Considering the amount of propaganda going into this war and how much Russia has been trying to save face through frankly a lot of setbacks and embarrassments, I am inclined to believe the latter.
The whole war has been a global military and PR disaster for Russia, and it’s exposed a lot of Russia’s weaknesses. While the two sides are in peace talks, there appears to be no progress of significance and the war will continue to drag on. Meanwhile, Russia continues to rack up its incredible (and horrific) war crimes count.
But if China is turning down Russia’s requests for assistance (again, no official confirmation of that but it appears to be the case), then it’s good news for pretty much everyone except the Russians, and for Russia to even (allegedly) have to ask does nothing but force us to ask the question we’ve been asking since they launched this war and failed to pick up any decisive wins: Is Russia the threat it used to be?
Right now, it doesn’t seem like it.
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