The UK defence secretary yesterday accused the Kremlin of having gone “full tonto” in its escalating stand-off with the West over the deployment of Russian troops to breakaway regions of Ukraine.
Ben Wallace warned that “unfortunately, we’ve got a busy adversary now” in Vladimir Putin. But the UK “kicked the backside” of Tsar Nicholas I during the Crimean War, and “we can always do it again”, Wallace said during a pep talk to military personnel in Westminster.
According to the minister, Nicholas I “made the same mistake Putin did… he had no friends, no alliances”. But is Russia really entering into war against Ukraine alone?
Putin’s usual international backers voiced only limited support after Putin signed a decree of Monday recognising the independence of the separatist Ukraine provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, known collectively as the Donbas. Even “Russia’s closest allies appeared reluctant to immediately back Moscow’s decision”, said Associated Press (AP).
On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry of Belarus – which is currently engaged in military exercises with Moscow – said it viewed the move “with respect and understanding”.
But the ministry “refrained from saying whether Minsk would follow suit and recognise the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics”, the news agency reported.
Kazakhstan, which last month requested Russian military support to quell anti-government protests
, “said the issue of recognising the separatist regions was not on the country’s agenda”.
Putin’s decree has been met with silence from Armenia, which ended a bloody six-week war with Azerbaijan in 2020 after Russia-brokered peace talks.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev also “made no mention” of the issue in public remarks while in Moscow for talks with Putin on Tuesday, said AP. But Putin was forced to publicly state that he had no plans to resurrect the Soviet Union, telling Aliyev that suggestions he was seeking to rebuild Russia’s empire were “absolutely not true”.
By contrast, Russian aggression towards Ukraine has “revived Nato”, said The Economist
. The invasion of Ukraine has forced the US and its allies to “bond” over their mutual defence of Kyiv’s sovereignty
Moscow’s most powerful ally has hedged its bets in statements on the Ukraine crisis since Putin deployed troops to the Donbas. While China has not publicly backed the Russian president, officials in Beijing have accused the US of creating “fear and panic” about the Russian incursion.
Having staged a show of unity during the Winter Olympic Games, the current situation “poses a diplomatic dilemma for China but also offers an opportunity for Beijing”, said The Guardian’s China affairs correspondent Vincent Ni.
China’s “ position in this round of Russia vs. the West is under particularly heavy scrutiny” after Xi Jinping pledged along with Putin earlier this month that there were “no forbidden areas of cooperation” in their bilateral relationship, Ni continued. But while “hardliners advocate a pro-Russia foreign policy, others think Beijing should seize on this crisis to protect ties with Washington”.
When Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin inked a “Treaty of Friendship” in 1949, then US president Richard Nixon “feared” the type of relationship that China and Russia now flaunt on the international stage, said Farah Stockman of The New York Times
But Beijing’s reticence in recent days suggests “it’s too early to tell how far China will stick its neck out for Russia in its confrontation with the West over Ukraine”, she wrote. “China’s leaders have long argued for a world free of formal military alliances” and have “been cautious about getting entangled in other countries’ military conflicts”.