Beijing Should Be Put on Notice: A War With Russia Is a War With China

For effective deterrence, the West should deploy international troops and more effective missiles to Ukraine News Analysis Xi Jinping is the winner, whether or not Vladimir Putin massively invades Ukraine any time soon. By surrounding Ukraine with troops, naval forces, and military “exercises” to the point of full readiness for an all-out military invasion, Putin and his partner in crime Xi have learned what the United States and allies are willing to do—and not do—in the defense of a democracy that is peripheral to U.S. alliance systems. Russia’s preparations for war, and the West’s relative inaction, informs Xi’s own awful calculus about a potential Taiwan invasion, and diverts the international spotlight from his “Genocide Games.” If Putin actually invades, the West and Russia could militarily and economically debilitate each other, empowering Xi even more. Short of war, what are Putin and Xi learning? The United States and allies are willing to threaten massive economic sanctions against Russia, likely to include removal of the country from the world’s SWIFT interbank transfer system. The allies are also willing to flow limited asymmetric weapons into Ukraine, including relatively weak, compared to what is available, anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles (SAM). Britain and some of the Baltic states deserve credit for being leaders on the delivery of asymmetric weapons, perhaps due to more recent, pressing, and personal experiences with territorially-aggressive dictators. Former President Donald Trump first approved the flow of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine in 2018, for which he also deserves credit. However, these lethal weapons—as important as they are—are insufficient to deter Putin with certainty. The West has been unwilling to increase U.S. and allied troops in the country as tripwires. The current U.S. and allied stance is such that Putin can reasonably believe that he will be initiating a bloody but localized war in Ukraine in which his tanks, planes, and ships may struggle against asymmetric weapons, but in which his larger forces will ultimately be able to hold all of Ukraine’s territory and digest the independent democracy into an occupied territory of “greater Russia.” A Possible Xi-Putin Deal What is Xi willing to provide Putin in exchange for the motherlode of information that daily flows about NATO’s red lines, not to mention Russian self-banishment further into a status of pariah state with whom only Xi’s China will do business? Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk toward a hall in the Kremlin to hold talks, in Moscow on June 5, 2019. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool/AP Photo) Xi will support Russia diplomatically, including through China’s veto on the United Nations Security Council. Xi will promise (for what it’s worth after Beijing’s many broken promises) to buy more of Russia’s exports, including oil and gas, especially if sanctions hit Russia particularly hard, which they will. Beijing will attempt to mitigate the economic effects of sanctions further by increasing exports to Russia and allowing Russian banks to use Chinese interbank transfers should Russia be barred from the SWIFT international system. The Risk of Global Escalation However, any attempt by China to mitigate the economic blows that the West is planning for Russia could land China itself into secondary sanctions. Beijing may resist this and could, in turn, threaten economic countersanctions against the West. For example, the United States depends upon China for many of its medical and pharmaceutical imports, which Beijing could slow or stop altogether. That would escalate quickly. Economic sanctions and countersanctions between the West and China, if placed on existential goods like energy or medical supplies, could lead to further decoupling or even military conflict. President Joe Biden, acutely aware of the risk of escalation, believes that U.S. troops in Ukraine to rescue American citizens could risk a “world war,” and so is showing his hand by publicly refusing any such deployment. Asked on NBC on Feb. 10 whether there was a scenario in which U.S. troops would be sent to Ukraine to rescue Americans, Biden responded: “There’s not. That’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another.” In brinkmanship, which is what is happening in Ukraine today, whoever fears war the most loses. Putin, despite his less powerful military, is showing that he has the requisite nerve to win, at least against the United States. Whether he can defeat war-ready Ukrainians supported by the West, however, is another matter. Increased Military Support to Ukraine Is Essential for Deterrence For this reason, military materiel flowing into Ukraine from the United States and allies is especially important to deter Putin. According to Richard Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, “so far the U.S. has transferred a

Beijing Should Be Put on Notice: A War With Russia Is a War With China

For effective deterrence, the West should deploy international troops and more effective missiles to Ukraine

News Analysis

Xi Jinping is the winner, whether or not Vladimir Putin massively invades Ukraine any time soon.

By surrounding Ukraine with troops, naval forces, and military “exercises” to the point of full readiness for an all-out military invasion, Putin and his partner in crime Xi have learned what the United States and allies are willing to do—and not do—in the defense of a democracy that is peripheral to U.S. alliance systems.

Russia’s preparations for war, and the West’s relative inaction, informs Xi’s own awful calculus about a potential Taiwan invasion, and diverts the international spotlight from his “Genocide Games.” If Putin actually invades, the West and Russia could militarily and economically debilitate each other, empowering Xi even more.

Short of war, what are Putin and Xi learning?

The United States and allies are willing to threaten massive economic sanctions against Russia, likely to include removal of the country from the world’s SWIFT interbank transfer system. The allies are also willing to flow limited asymmetric weapons into Ukraine, including relatively weak, compared to what is available, anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles (SAM).

Britain and some of the Baltic states deserve credit for being leaders on the delivery of asymmetric weapons, perhaps due to more recent, pressing, and personal experiences with territorially-aggressive dictators. Former President Donald Trump first approved the flow of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine in 2018, for which he also deserves credit.

However, these lethal weapons—as important as they are—are insufficient to deter Putin with certainty.

The West has been unwilling to increase U.S. and allied troops in the country as tripwires. The current U.S. and allied stance is such that Putin can reasonably believe that he will be initiating a bloody but localized war in Ukraine in which his tanks, planes, and ships may struggle against asymmetric weapons, but in which his larger forces will ultimately be able to hold all of Ukraine’s territory and digest the independent democracy into an occupied territory of “greater Russia.”

A Possible Xi-Putin Deal

What is Xi willing to provide Putin in exchange for the motherlode of information that daily flows about NATO’s red lines, not to mention Russian self-banishment further into a status of pariah state with whom only Xi’s China will do business?

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk toward a hall in the Kremlin to hold talks, in Moscow on June 5, 2019. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool/AP Photo)

Xi will support Russia diplomatically, including through China’s veto on the United Nations Security Council. Xi will promise (for what it’s worth after Beijing’s many broken promises) to buy more of Russia’s exports, including oil and gas, especially if sanctions hit Russia particularly hard, which they will.

Beijing will attempt to mitigate the economic effects of sanctions further by increasing exports to Russia and allowing Russian banks to use Chinese interbank transfers should Russia be barred from the SWIFT international system.

The Risk of Global Escalation

However, any attempt by China to mitigate the economic blows that the West is planning for Russia could land China itself into secondary sanctions. Beijing may resist this and could, in turn, threaten economic countersanctions against the West. For example, the United States depends upon China for many of its medical and pharmaceutical imports, which Beijing could slow or stop altogether.

That would escalate quickly. Economic sanctions and countersanctions between the West and China, if placed on existential goods like energy or medical supplies, could lead to further decoupling or even military conflict.

President Joe Biden, acutely aware of the risk of escalation, believes that U.S. troops in Ukraine to rescue American citizens could risk a “world war,” and so is showing his hand by publicly refusing any such deployment.

Asked on NBC on Feb. 10 whether there was a scenario in which U.S. troops would be sent to Ukraine to rescue Americans, Biden responded: “There’s not. That’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another.”

In brinkmanship, which is what is happening in Ukraine today, whoever fears war the most loses. Putin, despite his less powerful military, is showing that he has the requisite nerve to win, at least against the United States. Whether he can defeat war-ready Ukrainians supported by the West, however, is another matter.

Increased Military Support to Ukraine Is Essential for Deterrence

For this reason, military materiel flowing into Ukraine from the United States and allies is especially important to deter Putin.

According to Richard Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, “so far the U.S. has transferred about 800 to 1200 FGM-148 Javelin guided anti-tank missiles, with a maximum range of 4.7 km but with accurate all weather guidance and a tandem warhead able to defeat reactive armor.”

More decisively for any war, guided anti-tank missiles of Ukrainian manufacture number in the thousands, according to Fisher. Ukraine also has approximately 12,000 armored vehicles. But this isn’t much compared to Russia’s 30,000.

Ukraine has received, from the Baltic states, FIM-92 Stinger shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, according to Fisher.

The United States could provide Sensor Fuzed Weapons (SFW), anti-ship missiles, and long-range anti-aircraft missiles. But if we wait, it could be too late. It would be better to provide them now.

Epoch Times Photo
A U.S. Air Force transport plane transporting military equipment and troops lands at the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport in southeastern Poland, on Feb. 6, 2022. Tensions between the NATO military alliance and Russia are intensifying due to Russia’s move of tens of thousands of troops as well as heavy weapons to the Ukrainian border. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP via Getty Images)

“While they would have to be delivered by Ukrainian combat aircraft into very dense Russian missile and gun anti-aircraft networks, U.S. Sensor Fuzed Munitions have the potential to provide Ukraine with an asymmetric advantage that could take out thousands of Russian tanks, mobile artillery, armored support vehicles and trucks,” Fisher wrote in an email.

“If coordinated with unmanned aircraft strikes and electronic warfare attacks, perhaps enough Ukrainian aircraft could get through so that Sensor Fuzed Munitions could deflate the initial Russian offensive in its early stages and allow Ukrainian combined forces to deliver decisive counter attacks.”

Fisher estimates that approximately 400 sensor-fuzed munitions, each of which is armed with 40 independently-targeted munitions, would enable Ukraine to disable thousands of Russian tanks and support vehicles, depleting Russian armored strength for years into the future.

“But now Russia has the advantages of numbers and of being able to [choose] when to begin its offensive,” Fisher wrote. “It will make extensive use of cyber attacks combined with drone strikes and Special Operations assaults to try to immobilize Ukrainian command systems and personnel, to create the chaos needed for its tank-artillery-armor forces to advance.”

Democracies Must Stand Up to China and Russia

Ukraine is a fellow democracy and, as such, the rest of the world’s democracies, and their allies that value the stability of the international system, should stand by Kiev shoulder-to-shoulder to deter or defeat Russia, as need be.

More should be done by the United States, NATO, and allies to support Ukraine with international boots on the ground, as well as increased delivery of higher-quality lethal munitions capable of decisively defeating, or even rolling back, Russian forces by ground and air.

Apparently, that is necessary to deter Russia’s current show of belligerence, which is imposing a major cost in terms of information revelation that is already harming the security of democracies globally, even if Moscow ultimately decides not to invade. The information loss by democracies helps both Moscow and Beijing in their illiberal and militaristic plans for future aggression.

NATO cannot let China benefit from this information, or from the power vacuum left by a U.S.-Russian war. China should be on notice that a war between any NATO ally and Russia—because of Beijing’s involvement in supporting Moscow diplomatically and economically—would necessarily be a NATO-China war.

The Biden administration has thus far failed to deter aggression by both Russia and China, with China benefiting most by Russia’s current aggression toward Ukraine. Beijing must not be allowed to stay high and dry during a European conflict.

The United States, NATO, and other allies must toughen up, project their power, and more effectively and quickly deter the world’s most aggressive dictators.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).