All Eyes on Beijing

While the war in Ukraine is in full swing, it is becoming increasingly clear that the relationship between the countries of the West and Russia is now in such a desolate state that these states can hardly succeed in resolving the conflict. This, in turn, directs attention to the East, where the People’s Republic of China is being sought as a mediator.

Who should be able to end the war in Ukraine now?

Putin himself is unlikely to be in a position to do so, since he has unrestrainedly promoted his country into this war and, in terms of power politics, can hardly afford to back down now without having achieved at least some of his previously stated goals. And he is currently still far from achieving them.

There are reports of his dwindling power base in his own country, of the problems of the population under the burden of Western sanctions, and of the anger of the oligarchs, who have had to give away a considerable part of their wealth. Whether this will be enough to topple Putin after more than 20 years in office is very doubtful, and even if this should succeed, it would be far from a guarantee for an end to the war. The only state that could unilaterally stop the fighting, therefore, fails in this task.

Ukraine, the country that has to face foreign invaders, would have to capitulate and thus de facto give up its own statehood. Since this cannot be a serious option, hope must be placed in negotiations. However, in order for these to end successfully in view of the abysmal distrust between the two governments, a third party must intervene in the proceedings.

But which could this be?

For years, the U.S. has been viewed by Russia as an aggressive empire, which has moved ever closer to Russia’s core countries with several rounds of NATO eastward expansion, including incited revolts and coups. Under Biden, bilateral relations have deteriorated yet again, even before the invasion. So Russia would never accept the U.S. as an arbiter of negotiations.

During Merkel’s tenure, Germany’s diplomacy was held in high esteem in Moscow, so the country also played a major role in concluding the Minsk agreements, with the U.S. largely staying out of it. However, it has been able to earn this respect over the years, while Scholz is still at the very beginning of his term. It is hard to imagine that he will be seen as an adequate mediator in Moscow (and probably in Kiev as well). Moreover, Germany is also involved in the strict sanctions against Russia and arms deliveries to Ukraine, which undermines its position as an independent third party.

The situation is similar for Macron in France, which also cannot be considered neutral by Russia. Moreover, the last weeks before the invasion and the first week after the invasion have made it abundantly clear that Putin does not consider him a serious counterpart.

That leaves China.

The country has several advantages at once. It is large enough to resist Western pressure for sanctions without much debate, and at the same time it is too important a trading partner for both countries to simply ignore. As was clear from various statements by European politicians, the old continent also seems to accept and even demand a “special responsibility,” in the words of German Foreign Minister Baerbock, on the part of China toward Ukraine and Russia.

A few more names of politicians are mentioned who themselves cannot exert much influence on the situation and are therefore accepted as neutral figures, including the Israeli Prime Minister Bennett, the Turkish President Erdogan or the former German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Indian Prime Minister Nerandra Modi could also be mentioned here. However, they all lack the necessary influence over the two governments, which is why China must be considered the most sensible candidate for the job.

As an aside, the United Nations has played virtually no role in this entire discussion.

Thus, the new contours of a multipolar world order are emerging, currently still overshadowed by cold wars, in which a small number of major powers and a large number of medium-sized states have to fight for their influence and solve problems.

Translated with (free version)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s