Last week, I reminded you that, under international law, selling arms makes you responsible for their use . Consequently, if the West arms Ukraine, it must make sure that it will only use them to defend itself, and never to attack 2014 Russian territory. Otherwise, they will unwillingly go to war with Moscow.
Indeed, they are always careful not to become co-belligerents. For example, they first withdrew certain weapons systems from the aircraft they had promised Ukraine before delivering them. As a result, they do not have the capability to fire air-to-ground missiles from Ukraine at distant targets inside Russia. Eventually, however, the Ukrainians could supply themselves with the necessary equipment and re-equip their aircraft with it.
The game of arming Ukraine without giving it the means to attack Moscow is now being challenged by Chinese diplomacy. The Wall Street Journal has reported on some aspects of these contacts, while concealing the substance of the Chinese position .
Li Hui, who has just visited Kiev, Warsaw, Berlin, Paris and Brussels, put his foot down: on the basis of the “Global Security Initiative” and the “12-Point Plan for Peace in Ukraine”, published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on February 24, he pointed out to his interlocutors who had accepted them that:
• Russia is right under international law to undertake its special military operation against the Ukrainian “integral nationalists”. Not only is it not contrary to the UN Charter, but it is a legitimate application of its “responsibility to protect” Russian-speaking populations.
• Crimea, Donbass and the eastern part of Novorossia legitimately joined the Russian Federation by referendum. These former Ukrainians have for centuries been a very different people from today’s Ukrainians.
He emphasized that Russia was not free from blame:
• It must comply with the March 16, 2022 decision of the International Court of Justice (i.e., the UN’s internal tribunal) ordering it to “suspend” its military operations in Ukraine, which it was slow to do, but is now complying with.
He patiently explained that the West was very much to blame:
• For having installed Nato arms depots and military bases in the East in violation of their signature of the OSCE Istanbul Declaration (2013) ;
• For organizing and supporting a coup d’état in 2014 against the legitimate authorities of Ukraine;
• For failing to implement the Minsk Agreements, signed by Germany and France (2014 and 2015) and subsequently ratified by the United Nations Security Council;
• For having taken unilateral coercive measures against Russia in violation of the UN Charter (1947).
In so doing, he challenged not only the entire Western narrative, but also the way in which his interlocutors thought about the conflict.
He pointed out that, contrary to what they claim, the United States does not want Ukraine to win. Such a victory would mean that a small country is capable of defeating Russia, while the United States dares not confront it. This would be their worst humiliation.
Above all, it is clear to outside observers that the purpose of sending second-hand weapons to Ukraine is not to defeat Russia, but to titillate it into revealing its new weapons. The West didn’t seriously observe the Russian army in Syria, too busy as they were having jihadists destroy the Syrian state. When, in 2018, President Vladimir Putin claimed to have mastered hypersonic missiles, laser weapons and nuclear-powered missiles , the West called his bluff. They now know he was telling the truth, but do not know the characteristics of these weapons or whether they have the means to counter them.
In the Ukrainian conflict, Moscow is showing great patience. It would rather suffer losses than play its cards. The only new weapons that have been used are Nato’s command jamming systems (tested in real-life conditions in the Black Sea as early as 2014 , in Kaliningrad, off the coast of Korea ), and in the Middle East ; and Kinjal hypersonic missiles (tested in real-life conditions in Ukraine since March 2022). The Ukrainians claim to have shot them down, but this is clearly just shameless propaganda. For the time being, they are invincible, and Russia is now mass-producing them. They reached underground bunkers on March 9 and just destroyed a Patriot system on May 16.
Nobody knows for sure exactly what weapons Russia has at its disposal. But everyone is aware that it has become far more powerful than the United States, whose arsenal has not been improved overall since the dissolution of the USSR.
Since the first shipment of Western weapons to Ukraine, Russia has deplored the fact that they have played no significant role on the ground, other than to cause even more destruction and casualties. Westerners don’t listen, convinced in advance that all Russian rhetoric is just propaganda. If they tried to understand, they would hear that what they are doing has nothing to do with the justifications they give.
Let’s return to the Chinese position. Li Hui seems never to have mentioned President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom Westerners have elevated to hero status. Indeed, while Western communication personifies all the players, the Chinese refuse to do so. In this way, they retain a clearer vision of the forces at play.
Li Hui also told his interlocutors that there was no reason for them to align themselves with the US position, and that they needed to be autonomous. This is exactly what President Vladimir Putin told them at the 2007 Munich Security Conference . Mr. Li even ventured to tell them that if they needed to separate themselves economically from Washington, they could turn to Beijing.
For the Europeans, this reasonable speech was psychologically inaudible. They have not recognized the crimes committed by the United States over the last quarter-century, and continue to deny them. In reality, they are not particularly dependent on Washington, but are intellectually in its thrall.
So they didn’t respond to the Chinese argument, but declared unsurprisingly that they would not decouple from the USA, that they demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine before any negotiations could take place, and that they were counting on China to ensure that the conflict did not degenerate into nuclear war.
This last refrain shows that the Europeans still haven’t understood either the Russians’ or the Chinese position. President Putin has repeatedly explained that he will not be the first to use strategic nuclear weapons. So there’s no risk of this escalating. Moreover, China sees itself as Russia’s military ally in the event of a global confrontation, but not in conflicts that do not concern it, such as the one in Ukraine. Nor does it send any weapons there. This distinction between strategic and tactical allies is a feature of the multipolar world that Moscow and Beijing are striving to build. Nor is there any question of Russia forming a coalition behind it to support it in Ukraine.
There are none so blind as those who do not want to see.