While it’s become abundantly clear that Ukraine’s situation is currently dire and that Russian forces are winning the war amid Kiev’s severe manpower and ammo shortage, this wasn’t quite as evident back in March, when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow for rare talks as the war unfolded.
A Wednesday report in Nikkei Asia has cited diplomatic sources who said Putin relayed to Xi something very interesting and unexpected in terms of a conflict timeline. According to them, Putin’s focus was to provide assurance to Xi that Russia would emerge victorious, with an aim to keep him at his side on the global stage.
Within that context, the diplomatic sources claim that Putin stated to Xi that Russia “will fight for [at least] five years” in Ukraine. Nikkei comments that the atmosphere was one where the tide of battle and the international pressure against Moscow was not seen as favorable to Russia and Putin’s war aims, and that this prompted Xi to hedge his bets, leading to instances like significant diplomatic overtures to the Zelensky government.
“The likely implication was that a protracted war would favor China’s well-armed partner,” Nikkei observes of the newly revealed content of the two leaders’ dialogue on the war. “Taken another way, the remark was also a warning to Xi not to change his pro-Russia stance.”
The publication concludes of the lasting impact of Putin’s words, linking them to some of Xi’s internal house-cleaning of late:
Whether Xi was convinced, Putin’s remark at the summit holds the key to understanding a series of mysterious developments in Russia-China relations, from a Chinese peace mission to Europe in May to China sacking its foreign minister months later.
Nikkei observes further, “If the war between Russia and Ukraine grows more prolonged, it would significantly impact plans and ambitions Xi has for his unprecedented third term as China’s president and Chinese Communist Party general secretary.” Chiefly, “Xi’s big goal of unifying Taiwan with mainland China could also be affected.”
It remains that in a scenario of a prolonged Russia-Ukraine war, and assuming Beijing’s support of Moscow stays consistent, this would bring more pressure than ever from Western countries, potentially leaving Xi almost as isolated as Putin. But given Moscow is emerging with the clear upper-hand, and with strong rumors that the West is quietly pushing Zelensky toward the negotiating table, Xi has indeed stuck by the ‘winning side’ of the conflict.
Recently, The New York Times has said that Putin is looking to wind down the ‘special operation’ by negotiating a favorable end to the conflict (which no doubt means recognition of permanent Russian possession of the four territories, as well as Ukrainian recognition of Crimea as under Moscow). And now days later, this “five years” quote has emerged, adding to the ongoing speculation over the Russian leader’s near and far-term plans regarding his troops’ presence in Ukraine.
From the archives: 2017 in Astana…
🔥Putin jokingly calls Chinese President Xi Jinping a ‘lone warrior’ when the latter’s entourage took time to arrive. pic.twitter.com/Czk9pJWtlv
— Sergeant News Network (@ZaynRPGWTBU) December 22, 2023
Realistically, the annexed oblasts of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia will have to stay militarized likely for years to come. It’s easy to imagine a scenario of Russian forces staying in these regions for at least a half-decade, ensuring that Russian suzerainty is permanently secured over Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia.
Wed, 12/27/2023 – 21:00