The last few months have seen an escalation of rhetoric and military posturing by Russia which has sent NATO into a panic mode. We see frantic diplomatic negotiations, highly visible weapons transfers, and sharp rhetoric from Diplomats on either side. It is my contention that all this is merely another of the long series of trials that Russia and China have been inflicting on USA since 2013.
It started with the Maidan “revolution” of November 2013 where the pro-Russian Ukrainian President, Yanukovich was ousted in favor of the pro EU incumbent. That was the trigger for Putin to launch the annexation of Crimea. The fate of Crimea and in fact Taiwan was sealed in the month of March 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine uncontested by US or EU. Sure, Russia may have been kicked out of G8, but that is hardly a loss due to the decades old EuroCentric global political structure losing its relevance steadily. Being kicked out of G8 or the flurry of sanctions by US hardly could make a dent on Russia, powered as it is by its energy industry. End of the day the country who controls energy security for the world is untouchable and that is what Russia proved in Crimea. The fact that NATO did not arrive to the aid of Ukraine in either the Crimean annexation or the subsequent “civil wars” in Eastern Ukraine should have served as a wakeup call for the former Warsaw Pact countries who had joined NATO in the last few decades.
Let us also remember that it is in fact since 2014 that PRC increased the tempo of its aggressive actions in South China Sea. A series of salami slices were responded with nothing more than rhetoric by USA, the so-called protector of Freedom of Seas. Alarm bells soon rung belatedly in Philippines and even the temperamental Duterte started waking up to the fact that friendship with PRC pays no dividends. But PRC was able to continue unchallenged in its hegemony. The South China Sea aggression matured into the destruction of autonomy of Hong Kong all of which was met only with rhetoric. The US impotence over South China Sea and Hong Kong finally emboldened PRC to increase its aggressive posturing towards Taiwan. In fact, only one nation has been able to call the PRC bluff in recent years, and that is India since the Galwan clashes.
There are so many parallels between the Russian aggression towards Ukraine and the PRC aggression towards Taiwan. In both cases the aggressor needs to depend only on posturing to get the results it needs. The NATO of 2022 is not the NATO of Cold War with steely resolve to counter aggression at any cost. This is a generation of leaders who believe that peace at the cost of appeasement is worth emboldening aggressors. This is a generation of leaders who have completely forgotten the Chamberlain years of appeasing Hitler.
The salami slicing tactics as so eloquently explained in the series “Yes Prime Minister” has been mastered into perfection by the aggressor nations of today, Russia and China. The only possible counter to that is reverse salami slicing tactics. However, our crop of national leaders believe that “minor incursions” from the other side is tolerable but any counter action from your end would be an escalation. They should have learned the lesson from India’s capture of Kailash Range heights in the Galwan conflict.
So what do we foresee happening? The recent movement of US supplied weaponry from Estonia and other former Warsaw pact nations would be seen only as a token move by Russia, it would hardly be a match to the massive deployment of Russian troops at the borders of Ukraine. This would however shake the confidence of nations like Estonia in the protective umbrella of NATO. When even the most powerful military of EU, Germany is lukewarm at the prospect of antagonizing Russia at the cost of Nordstream 1 and 2, NATO’s umbrella of protection is being exposed as a mirage at best. We could see the Russian proxy states in Donbas region, the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic being reinforced by Russian ground troops and declaring themselves as annexing to Russia. Ukraine would be unable to hit back at the fear of amassed Russian troops, and since this would not be a change of actual status quo , merely strengthening it US and EU would come to terms with a platitude of sanctions at Russia. The current Ukrainian government would collapse, and a new pro Russia government would be back to power with better firepower to repel any Maidan style protests. After all look how well protests were managed in Belarus and Kazakhstan. The Russian security umbrella would be the new protection of choice for the governments in the region.
And how does this impact Taiwan? China would feel even further emboldened in weakening the Taiwan government. There is already a significant section of Taiwanese population that favors unification with PRC and the pro-independence factions would lose confidence over any US assurances. Any PRC invasion would in effect become a cakewalk over the next few years.