Following a Russian withdrawal from the Kyiv area, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently announced that NATO would be sending heavier weapons to Ukraine. China did not like the civilian massacre seen in Bucha and criticized Russia for the slaughter. The unfolding theater of war in Europe could shape geopolitics for decades to come.
The Czech Republic became the first NATO country to send tanks to Ukraine. Commenting on this move, Stoltenberg said that NATO would increase its support for Ukraine. “I don’t want to give details, but the totality is considerable and includes heavy weaponry,” he said.
NATO’s move directly responds to Russia’s strategic retreat from the Kyiv region, which military advisors agree is part of a regrouping and consolidation effort in the eastern part of Ukraine, where most Russian-speaking people live. “It will take a few weeks for Russia to reorganize its troops, but after that, we fear a new Russian offensive with the capture of the Donbas region as the goal. In this window, it is imperative that NATO countries contribute,” Stoltenberg explained.
Stoltenberg is also sending a signal of determent to Russia by announcing the plan publicly, thereby allowing Russia to change plans without losing face.
The Russian massacre of civilians in Bucha has given President Vladimir Putin a significant headache. His state-run media has been in full damage-control mode, trying to frame it as staged propaganda to make Russia look bad, but to no avail: Bucha has made an impact. In response to it, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jung said that “the reports and images of civilian deaths in Bucha are deeply disturbing.”
The tone stands in stark contrast to the words of support only two months earlier. In February, shortly before the war, China and Russia announced that the “friendship between the two States has no limits: there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.” Russia declared that it sees Taiwan as a part of China, and China reciprocated that it was against any enlargement of NATO.
It turns out that the newly forged friendship had a limit after all. China’s meek tone and public expression of concern are not one of a staunch ally, but of someone re-evaluating the current strategy.
The war in Ukraine has likely made Taiwan’s future as an independent nation far safer. Many factors have conspired to turn a Chinese invasion of the island into a terrible idea for the foreseeable future. First, the West has surprised everyone with its willingness to support Ukraine morally, financially, and militarily. Second, Russia’s military performance against an inferior opponent has shocked most experts. Third, Ukraine has won the propaganda war with the Bucha massacre and an exceptional performance by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has woken up to three problems he didn’t know he had. First, Taiwan is far better armed and trained than Ukraine and is protected by the surrounding ocean. An amphibious invasion is the most challenging kind of war, the success of D-Day notwithstanding, and China’s army might not be as mighty and competent as he thought.
Second, Taiwan is likely to garner support from the West and Japan in case of an invasion. And finally, the people of Taiwan are of the same ethnicity and culture as those in mainland China. Can Xi afford the images of massacred Taiwanese civilians? Asian culture is all about saving face, and it will be hard to prevent China from being portrayed as cruel and unjust, both at home and abroad.
He sees how the public tide has turned against Russia. The details of how a war might develop are being visualized and concretized in real-time on the news. Xi might be ambitious, but there is little to indicate that he is a madman. The theatre of war in Ukraine may have persuaded him to shelve any invasion plans until a more opportune time.