Espreso. Global

If Russia wins war, it will demonstrate West's weakness and China will decide to resolve Taiwan issue by force - journalist Vitaly Portnikov

1 March, 2023 Wednesday

Ukrainian journalist and publicist Vitaly Portnikov, in an interview with Volodymyr Ostapchuk, host of the Spotlight Ukraine program on Espreso, shared what signals US President Joe Biden's visit sent to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, how it will affect further assistance to Ukraine, and why China is interested in Russia's victory

So, the main event of last week was Joe Biden's unexpected visit to Kyiv. What was the real purpose of the visit of the US president to Ukraine? And what signal did Biden send to Putin?

This is a symbolic visit. It demonstrates that after a year of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the entire civilized world is standing side by side with Ukraine, that there is no fatigue from the war, there is a desire to help and support Ukraine and our military economically, even though Russia is ready for a protracted war. Despite the fact that public opinion shows fatigue from the war, Western politicians continue to believe that it is necessary to support Ukraine, and this is a fairly simple signal. 

During Biden's visit to Ukraine, there was an air alert. Why did not a single Shahed drone fly over Kyiv? Did Moscow hear Washington's warning?

I don't think they are afraid of what the Americans warned about during Biden's visit. It would be strange to think that Russia would strike at Kyiv at this moment.

After his visit to Ukraine, Biden had many meetings in Poland with allies. How will the allies' support for Ukraine change after the talks with Biden?

I think the support will continue as it is now. If necessary, it will be strengthened. Biden's meeting with the allies on the eastern flank demonstrates the US desire to strengthen this flank in the future.

Last week saw another important visit that we cannot ignore. Wang Yi, Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs under the Minister of the Communist Party of China, visited Moscow. After the deterioration of relations with the United States, China has become noticeably closer to Russia. What does this mean for Ukraine?

I think China was very close to Russia even before a full-scale invasion. These are two totalitarian regimes that are interested in weakening the West. They think that the West can actually interfere with what they see as spheres of influence. If they want to address and resolve issues by force, and so obviously China sees Russia as a tool to weaken the West and a kind of nuclear umbrella, because that's what China lacks to be equal with the United States and the four Chinese powers that have unwittingly aligned themselves with Russia.

Now China wants to take on the role of a kind of peacemaker, to initiate negotiations on the conditions for ending the war. But can we count on this objectivity?

It does not matter at all. The Chinese 'peace formula' is a Russian narrative. This plan is being put in place so that eventually China can say: “You see, we offered a peace formula, but it seems that it was ignored.” And so they would like to emphasize who is for peace and who is for war, and this will allow China to continue further cooperation with Russia.

Taking into account what you just said, is China's main goal Russia's victory and not the Ukrainian one?

Absolutely. If Russia wins the war, it will demonstrate the weakness of the West, and China will decide to resolve the Taiwan issue by force. It is very important for China to get rid of Ukraine from the world map. Of course, China would not want to destroy Ukraine with nuclear weapons. They do not want to have such a precedent.

If I'm not mistaken, Politico reported that US intelligence is still hesitant to release its evidence that China is considering supporting and providing some military assistance to Russia. If this happens, will there be anything American officials can do to influence it?

Yes, they can impose certain sanctions. It will be worse for China, but you know that authoritarian countries never understand the logic of democracies. And, of course, now they are focused on holding on to power as long as possible, which means that the ability of democracies to influence autocracies is zero. Democracies can actually destroy authoritarian states through economic influences, and so we understand that the destruction of the Chinese economy is possible, but it will be accompanied by a serious economic crisis in the West, because sooner or later it has to happen.

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