Russia and China on the verge of 2022 perceptionaly stand strategically hemmed-in by the United States and West on two opposing ends of the Eurasian landmass, with Russia fearing NATOs ‘Mission Creep’ eastwards, and China being thwarted on Taiwan invasion by US-Led China-centric potentially deterrent security coalitions of QUAD and AUKUS.
Perceptionaly, the United States and Allies whether in Europe or Indo Pacific seem determined that they cannot countenance any more aggressive brinkmanship military challenges by Russia and China heating up conflictual issues to boiling point with potential of ignition, intended or due to miscalculation.
Russia and China figuring as ‘High Treats’ in military strategic planning stand manifested in US National Security Strategy documents and NATO Strategic Blueprint for 2030s documents. The China Threat weighs heavily in strategic perceptions of Major Powers partnering the United States in Indo Pacific security architecture. Major NATO Powers are now visibly focussed on playing an enhanced role in Indo Pacific security supplementing United States initiatives.
Contextually, therefore, Russia‘s current conflict escalation on Ukraine by massing of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders coming soon after China’s unprecedented ratcheting of offensive intrusions in Taiwanese airspace presents curious coincidences suggestive of Russia and China strategic coordination ?
Analytically the crucial question that comes to the fore is that whether Russia and China are limiting themselves merely to political signalling of their potential Strategic Nexus coordination to confront United States & the West, or is it a warning that Russia and China will indeed present a militarily potent Russia-China Axis challenging the military predominance of the Free World?
Political signalling by military brinkmanship on conflictual issues has been resorted to by Russia earlier on Ukraine and China in more enhanced conflictual contours in South China Sea, Taiwan, and India’s Northern Borders, and therefore the current perceptional strategic coordination could be one more sequential manifestation of Russian and Chinese propensity to so act.
However with the dawning of 2022 if Russia and China perceive that their strategic hemming-in has crossed their self-professed ’red lines’ for their national security imperatives then the major issue that needs to be addressed is whether the Free World indeed should seriously plan for a major military showdown with the Russia-China Axis?
Two crucial determinants of whether the Russia-China Axis can risk a major military showdown with United States led NATO military alliance in Europe, and United States currently expressed determined commitments on Indo Pacific security manifested through QUAD and AUKUS to deter China, hover around the question whether Russia and China can afford to go in for a major war with United States & Allies and secondly whether Russia and China in the event of a major war arising from the conflictual policies of either, will stand by each other militarily?
Objective analysis of the economic situation of Russia and China coupled with emergence of indicators of rising political opposition within the two countries should rule out the likelihood of Russia and China “risking” an all-out war with United States and Allies.
Besides, setting aside media sensationalism manufactured in global media as psychological hype of China’s exponential military power, it should be evident that the currently prevailing bipartisan national sentiment in United States, should suggest to China, coupled with US President Biden’s continuance of Hard Line policies on China, that days of ‘China Appeasement’ by USA are over. This should be a signal to Russia also
But then, autocratic regimes like Russia and China have always started wars to divert public discontent attention and whipping up nationalism sentiments.
Contextually, in light of the factors outlined above, the question that needs to be answered now is that despite Russia’s and China’s perceived strategic hemming-in by United States &Allies, do chances exist that Russia and China would as an integrated and united Russia-China Axis will fight a major war that they possibly would bring upon themselves by their aggressive military brinkmanship on conflictual issues?
Years back in my South Asia Analysis Group papers this question was addressed by me. Conclusively asserted then was the strategic reality that in the event of a major war in which Russia is pitted against United States and NATO in Europe, it is highly improbable that China besides making perfunctory military noises in Indo Pacific would substantially side with Russia in active military retaliations against the United States.
Russia too likewise, would in all probability, may shy away from siding with China in a major war with the United States by opening up a Second Front in Europe to relieve military pressure on China in Indo Pacific.
Broadly substantiating the above conclusion is my firm belief that Russia cannot afford a ‘Two Front War’ and China cannot afford a ‘Three Front War’ which are likely to emerge if a major war flares up, intentionally or by unintended miscalculation.
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SC0) as a platform for strategic use in a Russia-China Axis military conflict with the Free World as India now as the third Major Power in SCO would impede any Chinese moves to that direction.
Concluding, it needs to be stressed that in the exercise of power, military strategy and geopolitical aspiration by Major Powers with strategic arsenals at command, no probabilities should be ruled out. The United States & Allies should devote concerted attention to the likelihood of a major war being foisted by a Russia-China Axis as a break-out strategy.
United States & NATO seem to be engaged in preparation for such a catastrophic retaliation by Russia and China. NATO Strategy Paper for the 2030s echoes threat perceptions from Russia and China.
United opposition by the Free World o determinedly checkmate any further military brinkmanship in Europe or Indo Pacific by Russia and China provides the key to ensure global peace and security in unfolding decades of 21st Century.