I am not a foreign policy hawk, but I enjoy reading up on the subject. The world as we know it has 3 primary super powers – the US, China and Russia. They are, in extremely simplistic terms, focused specific areas of market. Russia in raw goods (primarily energy), China in manufactured goods, and the US in services. There are other countries in the mix, but none of them are large enough to direct their market share like these three.
Politically, these 3 countries have a lot in common, in that the politicians are run by business interests. The slight difference here is that the head of state is all but permanent in Russia and China. Both are also ex-communist countries that still have that generational echo where the country is larger than the people within. This is a complete contrast to the US, where the individual takes precedence over everything (lawsuits don’t really exist in Russia/China, at least as we recognize them).
In terms of military strength, all of them are capable of mutually assured destruction, which is the only bar worth measuring. Digital war strength, well, the advantage is clearly with both Russia and China, primarily because they also control the methods by which information is shared within their countries. China is particularly resilient because of the Great Firewall. Russia has little defence, but a tremendously effective offence.
Foundations set, all 3 countries have a desire to increase their influence/control, as this increases the amount of money they can make. Recall the markets they control, and you get a better idea as to the type of control they desire. For a long time the US wanted more oil security, Russia wanted it’s raw resources back, and China needs more secure borders and material to make goods.
The US empire has been on a steep decline for a good decade now (this is a fascinating subject), their ability to expand is in the traditional sense is all but gone. Russia and China however are both relatively new to the scene and have been taking advantage of this retreat. Both have blustery leaders who will gladly throw a threat around with no intent to follow through. Which is also the case for retaliation, where there’s only so much bluff calling possible when you’re on multiple war fronts. The war in the middle east never truly pivoted, with that focus taking away any global ability to counteract other offensive acts. As any opportunist would, others took advantage. There really hasn’t been any noticeable resistance against either Russia or China.
The war in Ukraine (that’s what it is) is different for many reasons. Importantly, Russia dramatically underestimated its capacity to overtake the country and resistance capabilities. These are not protesters or poorly armed rebels. This is two countries at war. The quick attack and follow up propaganda just didn’t work, and that means that attacks will get more desperate as time draws on. Second, Russia underestimated the western resolve to impose sanctions. Russia makes nearly all of its income from raw material, which has been all but shut off. Now it’s a game of chicken of how high gas prices will get before the west caves, or Russia runs out of options. A desperate country with a deranged leader and nuclear capacity is not a good mix. Without firing a shot, the west has crippled Russia, and it’s a matter of time before their reserves run out.
Which in turn makes for an interesting view in China. Their method of power play was to put countries against each other. With a unified front, they are certainly doing the math as to how the country could potentially resist any similar sanctions. They could certainly survive, with an absolutely massive cash reserve, but it would be a constant drain on their reserves and push a lot of the millionaires/billionaires to lose money – those who are keeping the government in power. There’s a threshold here, where only a certain small % of the folks can be targeted (Jack Ma was untouchable until he wasn’t).
This is just a simplistic view of a hyper complex and interconnected puzzle. It’s not possible to isolate any one part and not impact another… that’s what globalization has done. No country can be self-sufficient in this age, to the point where their lifestyles can be maintained. Higher gas prices is one thing. Empty Walmart shelves… that may be a bridge too far.
The next few weeks are going to be very interesting on the global stage. With hope, this can de-escalate and find a long term solution without the continued loss of innocent life. But it’s a turning point all the same for how this tiny blue dot moves forward.