We should all start asking ourselves a question: what could be the final outcome of the war in Ukraine? Could the fall of Putin, even in a coup, lead to the dissolution of the Russian Federation? And what role would Xi Jinping's China play? Let's not forget that on the canvas of history the two dark knights, pestilence and war, still ride the immense expanses of Europe: every outcome appears probable and indefinite.
by Nicola Iuvinale
It is not easy to predict the outcome of the war in Ukraine; every scenario is open, undefined on a geopolitical level except, as of today, a defeat of Ukraine.
Historian Niall Ferguson, at the end of his latest book Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe, which he finished writing in the fall of 2020, asked himself some troubling questions. Will the second cold war between China and the United States escalate? Could it even turn into a war on Taiwan? Or could peace be at hand? Probably not, Ferguson argues.
In his latest article published in Bloomberg "All is Not Quiet on the Eastern Front", Ferguson recounts that “2022 was the year war returned. But Cold War II could become World War III in 2023, with China as the arsenal of democracy. Feguson writes:
"The difference is that there will be no sympathetic industrial power to serve as an 'arsenal of democracy' - a phrase used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a radio broadcast on December 29, 1940. This time it is the autocracies that have the power arsenal" .
“The Biden administration must be extremely careful not to pursue an economic war against China so aggressively that Beijing finds itself back in Japan's position in 1941, with no choice but to strike early and hope for a military success. That would be a lot indeed. dangerous, as China's position today is much stronger than Japan's then. Kissinger is right to worry about the dangers of a world war. World War I and World War II were each preceded by smaller conflicts: the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (1936), the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the Sino-Japanese War (1937).The Russian invasion of the Ukraine may appear to be going well for the West in this moment. But at worst, it could be a similar harbinger of a much larger war."
In my opinion, deterrence has always played a decisive role in avoiding wars or in winning them. Unpreparedness is decisive in defeat. It was precisely the lack of deterrence, the fear of slapping the Moscow bully, that pushed Putin to invade Ukraine and the same thing could happen with Xi Jinping's China.
Europe is unprepared, militarily incapable and divided. He has not yet fully understood what Xi Jinping's China is, what his Liminal Warfare aims at. Merkel's German mercantilism before and Sholz's today are a gigantic problem. But curtailing China's economic growth is imperative, even in Europe.
Meanwhile, China is taking advantage of the war in Ukraine to make the Russian Federation its energy and trading colony. trade has grown enormously in recent years and Beijing buys Russian oil & gas at 30% less.
The integration between the two countries, between the two dictators is ever deeper, united by a profound anti-Western and anti-American vision.
That is why the outcome of the war in Ukraine will affect the whole world, in Europe as well as in the Indo-Pacific.
Would Xi Jinping ever accept a dissolution of the Russian Federation? Would he ever agree to leave his northern border uncovered, having already reached an agreement of mutual assistance for its defense with Putin? Would he ever give up the excess in the arctic, now allowed thanks to Russia? Would he give up on colonizing Russia by losing its precious energy resources?
The answer is no!
Europe must do more. NATO must do more in Europe. Today it's not just war between Russia and the Ukraine; it is much, much more.
It is what Kennedy defined, in the early 1960s, "a long twilight struggle" between the democracies and the totalitarianisms of Russia, China and Iran.
Today, either you stay with the United States or you succumb.
To counter emerging powers, the United States has always acted in the same way: with Japan, with Russia during the Cold War and in the same way they should act with Xi Jinping's China.
America First was also intended to slow China's economic growth and, therefore, military development.
A very correct view.
Today, therefore, we should start asking the question: what could be the final outcome of the war in Ukraine? Could the fall of Putin, even in a coup, lead to the dissolution of the Russian Federation? And what role would Xi Jinping's China play?
The answer, in every possible scenario, is only one; Europe will go back to being what it has always been: a battlefield. As the US political scientist Larry Diamond wrote, "on February 24, 2022, we entered a new historical era".
The most correct geopolitical and national security vision (not only for the United States but also for Europe) is that of Elbridge Colby.
For Colby, former assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development in the Trump administration, co-founder of the Marathon Initiative, and author of the book The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict published by Yale University Press in September 2021, “The Biden administration in its 2022 National Defense Strategy, made it clear that the United States lacks the capability to fight both an exceptionally stressful war with China and another significant conflict, such as in Europe against Russia or the Middle East against Iran, on even approximately parallel timelines. This military shortage facing the United States is not so much felt in overall troop numbers or total expenditures, but rather in the critical platforms, weapons, and enablers that are the primary sources of advantage in modern warfare: heavy bombers, attack submarines, and airlift, logistics and precision munitions [..] bridging this gap will be difficult, costly and time consuming.
One has only to bear witness to the challenges the US defense industry is facing in supplying weapons donated to Ukraine. Meanwhile, there is a growing chorus of credible warnings that China may try to move against Taiwan and precipitate a major conflict with the United States, possibly in the next few years. These warnings aren't just coming from military and conservative members of Congress (although they are). Rather, senior political appointees in the Biden administration, such as Tony Blinken, Jake Sullivan and Bill Burns, have issued warnings in the previous months that together seem to point to an assessment something like this: Beijing is bent on resolving the Taiwan question in its favor ; shifted his timeline like this; consider the most reliable way to do this through the use of overwhelming force; and an invasion of Taiwan in the next few years is a clear threat.
As Francis P. Sempa writes in “Elbridge Colby Has It Right on Taiwan and Ukraine - Without a realistic division of labor between the U.S. and its NATO allies, Taiwan will go undefended”, published in “The American Spectator” on 11.13.2022: “EIbridge Colby belongs to the new generation of defense/national security intellectuals in the mold of Andrew Marshall and Edward Luttwak and, before them , by Herman Kahn and Albert Wohlstetter”. With the Trunp administration “he pioneered the shift in US strategy to focus on renewed great-power rivalry after two decades of fighting “small” wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the global war on terrorism. His most recent book, The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict, is a must-read for understanding today's global security environment. Colby “expects China to move against Taiwan in the coming years and laments that the Biden administration has left us dangerously unprepared for war in the Western Pacific. China, Colby notes, has the advantages over the United States of proximity and force structure across the Taiwan Strait. If China moves against Taiwan in the near future, the United States (assuming it tries to defend Taiwan) would have to draw on its military resources in Europe and the Middle East, thus leaving its allies in those regions alone to deal with the continuing threats. placed by Russia and Iran. And the US will probably have to rely on waging economic warfare against China but, to be effective, such economic warfare would require the support of European allies just as the US is shifting resources from Europe to the Western Pacific.
Colby doubts that European allies would be willing to secede from China and notes the German Chancellor's recent statement [visit to Xi Jinping in November 2022] that Europe's largest economy will not secede from China. And the war in Ukraine, Colby writes, has already caused economic problems among European allies, which will make them even less likely to join the United States in economic warfare against China. This would strain the NATO alliance. Since the Biden administration has failed to pour sufficient military resources into the Western Pacific while sending significant financial and material aid to Ukraine, the outbreak of war in the Western Pacific could lead to the worst of all worlds: a Chinese victory over the United States (and the loss of Taiwan), a fractured Western alliance due to fewer US resources for Europe and Europe's reluctance to help the US economically against China.
This would strain the NATO alliance. Since the Biden administration has failed to pour sufficient military resources into the Western Pacific while sending significant financial and material aid to Ukraine, the outbreak of war in the Western Pacific could lead to the worst of all worlds: a Chinese victory over the United States (and the loss of Taiwan), a fractured Western alliance due to fewer US resources for Europe and Europe's reluctance to help the US economically against China. Colby advocates a more reasonable division of labor. America, writes [Colby], should focus its armed forces on Asia, reducing its level of forces and expenditures in Europe…Meanwhile, Europe should focus on taking the lead in Ukraine and, more generally, assuming the primary role in its own conventional defense.
This division of labor would allow the United States to rely less on economic warfare against China, thus reducing the pressure on the Atlantic alliance. Here Colby demonstrates a geopolitical realism currently lacking in Biden's national security team, which appears to have prioritized Ukraine over Taiwan and, more broadly, Europe over the Western Pacific. China, Colby acknowledges, poses a much greater threat to the United States than Russia or Iran. The United States is not without limits and our European allies have sufficient resources to provide aid to Ukraine and strengthen their conventional defenses. If we fail to defend Taiwan due to lack of resources and will, our allies in Europe and Asia will take note and act accordingly."
Only a common vision between Europe and the United States will be able to face the challenge arising from the effects of the war in Ukraine in Europe as in the Indo-Pacific.
On China and Russia, the advice that Zbigniew Brzezinski gave to Jimmy Carter in the early 1980s proved correct.
At the absolute pinnacle of US global hegemony, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski issued a stark warning about the three pillars of power needed to preserve Washington's global control.
First, the US should have avoided the loss of its strategic perch on the Western periphery of Eurasia.
Next, they were supposed to block the rise of "a single assertive entity" in the huge "space between" of the Central Asian continent.
And finally, it was supposed to prevent "the ejection of America from its offshore bases" along the Pacific coast.
Meanwhile, China spent those same decades building industries that would make it the workshop of the world.
"In a major strategic miscalculation, Washington admitted Beijing to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, strangely confident that a compliant China, home to nearly 20 percent of humanity and historically the most powerful nation in the world, it would have somehow joined the global economy without changing the balance of power."
“Across the ideological spectrum,” as two former Obama administration officials later wrote, “we in the US foreign policy community shared the underlying belief that US power and hegemony could readily shape China at will United".
During the 15 years following WTO accession, Beijing's exports to the United States grew nearly fivefold to $462 billion while, in 2014, its foreign exchange reserves increased from just $200 billion dollars to $4 trillion.
A vast treasure that Beijing has used to launch its trillion-dollar "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI), aimed at uniting Eurasia economically through newly built infrastructure.
However, with Europe and Central Asia, the most volatile sticking point in Beijing's grand strategy to break Washington's geopolitical grip on Eurasia lies in the disputed waters between the Chinese coast and the Pacific littoral, which the Chinese call "the first chain of islands".
Building a half-dozen island bases in the South China Sea since 2014, swarming Taiwan and the East China Sea with repeated incursions by fighter jets and staging joint maneuvers with the Russian navy, Beijing has waged a relentless campaign to initiate what Brzezinski he defined "the expulsion of America from its offshore bases" along that Pacific shoreline.
As China's economy grows and its naval forces grow, the end of Washington's decades-long dominance over that vast expanse of ocean may be just over the horizon."
On Elbridge Colby's theory see also: Elbridge A. Colby and Yashar Parsi, Building a Strategy for Escalation and War Termination, “TheMarathon Initiative”, November 2022:
Elbridge Colby, “How America can save Taiwan, European allies can't be relied on”, “UnHerd”, 11.9.2022: https://unherd.com/2022/11/how-america-can-save-taiwan/