Ukraine crisis 'could escalate' but all-out war unlikely: experts
China won't like any war to 'harm Europe, Russia, but benefit US'
Published: Feb 20, 2022 11:06 PM
Russian Army Western Military District tank units wait to be loaded on a troop train on February 18, 2022, as they return from recent routine drills to permanent deployment sites in Novgorod. Russia announced a withdrawal of drill troops on February 15 amid the Ukraine crisis. Photo: VCG
Russian Army Western Military District tank units wait to be loaded on a troop train on February 18, 2022, as they return from recent routine drills to permanent deployment sites in Novgorod. Russia announced a withdrawal of drill troops on February 15 amid the Ukraine crisis. Photo: VCG

The Ukraine crisis remains tense and is becoming more complicated as the US and NATO keep hyping the war concerns over the continent of Europe and Russia took further actions including nuclear deterrence drills since the West made no response to its security concerns. As the Winter Olympics concluded on Sunday and the UN Olympic Truce for Beijing 2022 will finish, analysts said the crisis is likely to escalate although an all-out war is unlikely.

China continues to make efforts to urge a peaceful solution and suggest the parties should talk based on the Minsk Agreement signed in 2015, which was aimed at ending the Ukraine civil war and was endorsed by the UN Security Council. 

Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the need to step up the search for diplomatic solutions to the escalating crisis in eastern Ukraine in a phone call on Sunday, the Kremlin said in a statement.

"In view of the urgency of the situation, the presidents acknowledged the need to intensify the search for solutions through diplomatic means via the foreign ministries and political advisers to the leaders of the Normandy format," the Kremlin said in a statement.

"These contacts should facilitate the restoration of the cease-fire regime and ensure progress in the settlement of the conflict in Donbass," the statement said.

Putin once again emphasized the need for the US and NATO to take Russia’s demands to ensure its security guarantees as seriously as possible and to respond specifically and to the point, according to the Kremlin.

However, some voices from the West show hostility and make groundless accusations against China and Russia, said Chinese experts, noting that the EU needs to stay independent and make decisions based on its own interests and security, rather than follow the US position too closely.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said at the Munich Security Conference 2022 that “We are facing a blatant attempt to rewrite the rules of our international system. One only has to read the recent communiqué issued by Russian and Chinese leaders. They seek a ‘new era', as they say, to replace the existing international order. They prefer the rule of the strongest to the rule of law, intimidation instead of self-determination, coercion instead of cooperation.”

Wang Yiwei, director of the institute of international affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Sunday that “clearly, von der Leyen’s remarks showed that some European officials are expressing views that are closer to the US position by distorting the China-Russia joint statement and imposing their views on international order based on hegemony to others.”

China and Russia support and safeguard the international system with the UN at its core, rather than an order dominated by the US and its allies, and this order is a post-World War II order, rather than a post-Cold War order. Since Western countries consider they are the winners of the Cold War, NATO needs to keep expanding and does not need to respect the concerns of Russia, said Chinese experts.“In the narrative of the Western media, Russia looks like an aggressive power to bully Ukraine and try to interrupt Ukraine’s diplomacy on obtaining NATO membership, but very few of them explain why Russia is so worried about NATO’s expansion,” said a Beijing-based expert on international relations who asked for anonymity. 

“After the Cold War, we didn’t see peace in Europe, we saw a war to break former Yugoslavia into pieces, and numerous people were killed in NATO airstrikes, and the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed in the war. We also saw NATO deploying weapons and missile defense systems around Russia to undermine the strategic nuclear balance,” he said. 

Now the US is trying to impose similar approaches in the Asia-Pacific region by forming alliances like Quad and AUKUS to contain China in the same way as to Russia, to increase uncertainty for regional peace and stability, the expert said. “All of this shows why China’s view is different from the West on the Ukraine situation, and why we believe Russia’s security concern is legitimate and should be resolved. The China-Russia relationship is not an alliance like NATO is, and Chinese people are monitoring the situation based on their independent thinking.”

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday urged all parties to take due responsibilities and make efforts towards peace on the Ukraine issue, instead of just escalating tensions, creating panic and even playing up war threat.
In terms of the expansion of the NATO, Wang said at Munich Security Conference that European friends should seriously ponder whether continuous NATO eastward expansion would be conducive to maintaining and achieving lasting peace and stability in Europe.
On the Ukraine issue, it is time to return to the original point of the Minsk-2 agreement as soon as possible, since this agreement is a binding one reached through negotiations among all parties concerned and has been approved by the UN Security Council, and it is the only way out for solving the Ukraine issue, he said.

Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the EU is not a sovereign country so its leaders will present different voices. Von der Leyen’s remarks represent the pro-US group in Europe, while national leaders of major EU powers like France and Germany show more neutral and independent stances.

“The Munich Security Conference is an event sponsored by the US military industry giants and serves as a platform for the US to strengthen trans-Atlantic ties with the EU, so the remarks that could be heard in the venue would be mostly pro-US rather than showing Europe’s independence,” Wang said. 

The Ukraine crisis persists with US President Joe Biden continuing to hype Friday that he is “convinced” Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, “including an assault on the capital,” according to the AP, while the Russian Armed Forces conducted a strategic deterrence force drills on Saturday under the direction of Putin, according to TASS.

If diplomatic channels between Russia and the West fall into stalemate, then it is  possible that Russia might take further action to push the US and NATO to make a clear response to its security concerns rather than keep hyping war concerns via releasing disinformation, but this kind of action will be limited and precise, rather than an all-out war against the whole Ukraine, said Yang Jin, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Lü said an all-out war between Russia and Ukraine will bring no gains but only heavy costs to Russia, and it will harm Ukraine and even the whole of Europe if it spirals out of control. As they are all China’s partners, China would not like to see this happen as the international strategic balance will be deeply damaged, “but this will benefit the US.”

The US is trying to undermine the EU’s independence and tighten the trans-Atlantic ties by hyping up a crisis, and Moscow will not be used by Washington to offer a war to make the EU stand closer to the US, experts said