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This article was first published 1 year ago  » News » China Is Net Gainer In Ukraine War

China Is Net Gainer In Ukraine War

By Colonel ANIL A ATHALE (retd)
March 07, 2023 12:54 IST
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India must pay great attention as the emergence of the Russia-China behemoth poses a great danger to us in the future, warns Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

IMAGE: Russia's President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with China's State Councillor Wang Yi in Moscow, February 22, 2023. Photograph: Sputnik/Anton Novoderezhkin/Pool/Reuters

The ostensible war aim of the Russian invasion was to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

One year into this war, Ukraine has virtually become part of NATO as it receives huge military support in terms of the latest weapons and ammunition.

NATO's aim that one can discern was to prevent the Russian annexation of Ukraine. But following the law of 'unintended consequences', Russia and China have come close.

There is a great danger of a Cold War and a pre-1967 situation of the Russo-Chinese alliance emerging.

IMAGE: A Ukrainian soldier is seen on a towed howitzer FH-70 at a front line in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, March 2, 2023. Photograph: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters

The net gainer of the Ukraine war is China. With closer relations with Russia, the Chinese will have access to modern defence technology as well as the vast natural resources of Russia.

This combination has the potential to take on the West.

One wonders if the world is moving towards the future as visualized by George Orwell in his classic 1984.

Orwell visualiSed three giant States: Eurasia, East Asia and Oceania. With some modification that seems to be coming true.

IMAGE: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with Prime Minister Narendra D Modi from Kyiv, Ukraine, December 26, 2022. Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout/Reuters

This war has broken several myths.

India in particular must pay great attention to these trends as the emergence of the Russia-China behemoth poses a great danger to us in the future.

The war ended Russian pretensions to Great Power status based on its military prowess.

Ukraine's war has demonstrated the superiority of Western military technology over Russian armaments in the field of conventional arms.

Chinese caution in defying the West and reluctance to come to Russia's aid in military terms has also busted the myth of China having caught up with the West, at least in the area of military technology.

The year-long conflict has also highlighted the importance of manpower, well-trained and motivated, in a ground war. Something that ought to have been learned as a lesson from the shameful American withdrawal from Afghanistan two years earlier.

IMAGE: A ceremony to mourn members of Transdniestria's guard battalion killed in a military conflict with Moldovan troops on the 31st anniversary of their death in Tiraspol, Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestria, March 3, 2023. Photograph: Vladislav Bachev/Reuters

The Russian image of a formidable military power owes itself to the then Soviet Union's victory over Germany in the Second World War.

Military historians of all hues failed to recognise the crucial role played in this victory by the manpower of Soviet controlled Central Asia.

From Basil Liddell Hart to Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov, they were described as 'uncouth hordes'.

Russia, bereft of these resources, has been shown as a 'paper tiger' during the Ukraine war.

IMAGE: Ukraine's President Zelenskyy addresses a group of international prosecutors in Lviv, March 3, 2023, at a meeting to discuss alleged Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine. Photograph: Roman Baluk/Reuters

The Ukraine conflict resembles the tragedy of World War I when a war happened when no one really wanted it.

To begin with, the West cast the first stone by engineering an anti-Russian regime in Ukraine.

The issue was further aggravated when Vladimir Putin, not satisfied with reclaiming Crimea, thought he could undertake a regime change in Kyiev.

Nothing can explain the Russian armoured thrust to the Ukrainian capital in the initial stage of the war.

Putin's Russia violated the first principle of war, namely the selection and maintenance of aim.

The aim selected -- regime change -- was unrealistic in that it undervalued Ukrainian nationalism and overvalued Russian strength.

Instead of resolutely sticking to the original aim, Putin then changed it to occupying the Donbas areas.

If that was the original intention, then why did Russia fritter away its strength in its foray into Kyiv?

When Prime Minister Modi stated that this is not the age of war, he was alluding to this Russian miscalculation.

Putin was possibly dreaming of a Ukrainian collapse at the sight of Russian tanks in Kyiv suburbs as had happened during the Second World War.

That the West would come to Ukraine's aid was given.

Unlike Georgia, where lack of land access stopped the West from supporting Georgia, Ukraine has land borders with NATO members.

It has now become a conflict between Russian arms pitted against the resources of the West.

IMAGE: A statue of Vladimir Lenin in Moscow. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

The reality of Russia, as I perceived in 2015 was that Putin enjoyed tremendous popular support in the European part of Russia.

As one crossed the Ural mountains and moved East, the support dwindled.

The vestiges of the Soviet Communist past are alive and kicking there including statues of Lenin.

While the Russian East is rich in resources, it is extremely sparsely populated. There is very little reason to believe that this has changed drastically since.

The European part of Russia has a love-hate relationship with the West, almost like a jilted lover.

Russians even now desire to be part of the West, and America is seen as El Dorado.

But American economic sanctions, vilification of Russians in the American media and Hollywood, have disenchanted many Russians and turned them into anti-Americans.

IMAGE: A monument of Russian writer Maxim Gorky is damaged amid Russia's attack on Ukraine in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, March 2, 2023. Photograph: Lisi Niesner/Reuters

The geopolitical consequence of a weakened Russia going into the Chinese camp should have been foreseen by the West.

Unless the Americans have a 'Lenin in waiting' to be unleashed in Russia to effect a regime change. This refers to the use Germany made of Lenin in exile during the First World War to take over Russia and end its participation in the war.

The Germans did succeed in their plan at that time, but 2023 is not 1917!

The unalloyed truth about the Ukraine-Russia conflict is that it is a war that Russia cannot lose and Ukraine cannot win.

As long as this prevails, the world is safe. But should Russia come close to losing the war, the use of tactical nuclear weapons is a certainty.

This will be a global catastrophe as it will set a precedent that will see the use of nuclear arms in the Middle East, by Iran or Israel, and in the Indian subcontinent by Pakistan and India as well as in the Korean peninsula by North Korea.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd) is a former infantry soldier and former head of the War History division at the defence ministry. The colonel toured Russia extensively in 2015 and the Georgian republic in 2019.
You can read his earlier columns here.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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