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The Impact and Implications of the Ukraine Crisis


This piece from the U.S. studies program at Ministry of State Security-linked think tank China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations argues that the Ukraine war heralds the end of the post-Cold War order. The article argues the United States has been the biggest beneficiary of the war so far, leveraging the crisis to strengthen its alliance network and fight a proxy war with Russia. The authors of the report warn countries in Asia to remain vigilant to what they describe as U.S. efforts to preserve and expand its hegemony in ways that might destabilize the region.

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The Ukraine crisis, which fully escalated in February 2022, is the largest military conflict that has occurred on the European continent since World War II. It is a significant event that will have a global and systemic impact on the present and future of the world, and it also serves as another important manifestation of the accelerated unfolding of the profound changes unseen in a century (百年变局). On the first anniversary of the outbreak of the crisis, this article intends to analyze and evaluate its impact, now and in the future, with reflections on the crisis’ implications for global security governance.


I. Strategic Impact


(1) The Ukraine crisis marks the end of the post-Cold War era. During the crisis, the red lines of great-power games have been repeatedly crossed, driving international rivalry increasingly towards bloc politics and confrontation between country groups. The full escalation of the Ukraine crisis has caused a total rupture of the relationship between Russia and the West, while the relationship between the United States and Russia has fallen to its “lowest point in history,” and the geopolitical landscapes of Europe, Eurasia, and even the world have been profoundly reshaped. The Ukraine crisis is the most serious contingency that the European security system has ever encountered in the post-Cold War era. As the existing security framework collapses, the old order is disintegrating at an accelerated pace, giving rise to a latent new order. In a sense, the Ukraine crisis is a “watershed in history.” Divided by this watershed, we have the old post-Cold War era on one side and a new era of major-power rivalry on the other. This is precisely how the Biden administration views the Ukraine crisis. Its first National Security Strategy report released after the crisis broke out clearly stated that “the post-Cold War era is definitively over.” Under the shock of the crisis, there has been an increasing trend among Western countries to engage in bloc politics. As the United States and Europe are facing a common enemy, their transatlantic relationship has been strengthened. Finland and Sweden have abandoned their long-standing policies of non-alignment and expressed eagerness to join NATO, pulling NATO back from the brink of its “brain death.” Ukraine and Moldova have become candidates to join the European Union, and there are signs that the European Union could expand to include new members. Some U.S. scholars believe that, just as the Korean War activated NATO in 1950, the Ukraine crisis will tighten the military and cultural ties among NATO member states, extend the borders between NATO and Russia, prompt the United States to initiate long-term deployment of troops in Europe, and push the “Iron Curtain to fall again.” In the eyes of the West, Russia’s military actions “accidentally revived the liberal international order,” inspired “the greatest change in the collective defense and deterrence of the Western allies since the Cold War,” and strengthened NATO’s cohesion. At the same time, with the formation of political and military blocs, the United States, Europe, and Russia are also at swords’ points in their geopolitical and economic rivalry. The United States and Europe have been over-extending the definition of national security, imposing intension and extension of national security in order to impose multiple rounds of sanctions on Russia and forcibly decoupling from Russia, while Russia is hedging by strengthening cooperation with China, Iran, Turkey, and other countries.

(一)乌克兰危机标志着后冷战时代终结,大国博弈底线不断被突破, 国际政治的阵营化和集团对抗趋势增强。乌克兰危机全面升级后,俄罗斯与西方关系全面恶化,美俄关系陷入“历史最低点”,欧洲、欧亚乃至全球地缘政治格局被深刻重塑。后冷战时代欧洲安全体系遭遇最严重危机,既有安全框架倾颓坍塌,旧秩序加速解体,新秩序尚在孕育。从某种意义上说,乌克兰危机是一道“历史的分水岭”。在这道分水岭的两侧,一个是旧的后冷战时代,一个是新的大国竞逐时代。拜登政府就是从这个角度来看乌克兰危机的,其在危机爆发后出台的首份《国家安全战略》报告即明确宣告“后冷战时代已经终结”。危机冲击下,西方阵营化趋势显著增强。美欧同仇敌忾,跨大西洋关系得到加强;芬兰、瑞典放弃长期坚持的不结盟政策,急于加入北约,北约从“脑死亡”的边缘起死回生;乌克兰、摩尔多瓦成为欧盟候选国,欧盟出现扩员的趋势。一些美国学者认为,正如1950年朝鲜战争激活北约一样,此次乌克兰危机将拉紧北约成员国之间的军事乃至人文纽带,延长北约与俄边界,促使美国在欧洲长期驻军,推动“铁幕再次落下”。在西方看来,俄罗斯的军事行动“意外重振了自由主义国际秩序”,激发了“自冷战以来西方盟友集体防御和威慑的最大变革”,增强了北约的凝聚力。同时,伴随政治军事的阵营化,美欧俄之间的地缘经济博弈也剑拔弩张。美欧过度拓展国家安全的内涵外延,对俄施加多轮制裁、强行脱钩断链,俄则借加强与中国、伊朗、土耳其等国合作加以对冲。

Under such context, the risks of bloc confrontation escalate. Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, said that the “moribund state” of U.S.-Russia relations may last for ten years or more, and a “controllable ceasefire line” will be formed in central Europe, enabling NATO and Russia to confront each other on equal footing. The United States and the West have exerted more efforts in winning over the Eastern European countries, while Russia’s “Putinism” demands allegiance from neighboring countries. The two sides have made each other their mortal enemies, and the proxy conflicts in Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo may flare up. The Ukraine crisis has dragged on to the present day, raising the risks of potential global military conflict. Military security risks have already gone beyond the Russian and Ukrainian borders and spilled over to surrounding areas and even the world. Azerbaijan and Armenia have clashed again over Nagorno-Karabakh, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan once again exchanged fire at their borders, and Japan, Germany, and other countries have taken the opportunity to expand their military forces and increase their military budgets. The law of the jungle has returned with a vengeance, and peace and development, as the major themes of this era, are facing huge challenges. Rosemary DiCarlo, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, worries that “as long as [the conflict] continues, the risks of potentially catastrophic spillover remain all too real.”


(2) The vast majority of developing countries are unwilling to become involved in bloc confrontation, and their willingness to seek strategic autonomy has increased. To a certain extent, the Ukraine crisis is an unprecedented countermeasure deployed by Russia against the liberal hegemonic order dominated by the United States. Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin called this conflict the world’s “first multipolar war.” A study by the European Council on Foreign Relations stated that in the past year, although the West has taken a an increasingly hard line on Russia, non-Western countries such as China, India, Turkey, and others still regard Russia as a necessary partner. This means that the Ukraine crisis may become a turning point in world history, and a “post-Western” world order has emerged. In the UN vote, although the vast majority of countries called on Russia to “withdraw” and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, those countries did not participate in sanctions against Russia. While the United States gathered many Western countries to punish Russia, the vast majority of countries did not jump on the bandwagon, but focused on their own interests and the overall international landscape in order to promote de-escalation of the crisis. In the entire Asia-Pacific region, only Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia joined in the sanctions against Russia. China has adhered to the position of achieving peace through negotiation, and has been firmly standing on the side of peace, opposing escalation of the conflict and taking advantage of the situation to pursue one’s own interests [趁火打劫, looting a burning building]. India stated that “the cyclical bursts of Cold War antagonism are tiresome,” so “we are on our side.” Indonesia and other ASEAN countries criticized unilateral sanctions for “restricting negotiation opportunities” and said they “will not blindly follow the steps taken by another country.” A large number of countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America expressed their support for peace talks and dialogue between Russia and Ukraine to resolve their disputes. European countries such as Serbia, Georgia, and Turkey also refused to impose sanctions against Russia. On the issue of NATO expansion, Turkey has opposed the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO due to the two countries’ opposition to its fight against Kurdish militant groups, and continues to withstand NATO pressure. In addition, developing countries are also uniting themselves [抱团取暖, huddling together to keep warm] to enhance their voices. The failure of the United States and Europe to lead global security governance has prompted developing countries to continue to pursue governance structures independent of the West and to collectively make their voices be heard in multilateral organizations. As representatives of emerging market countries and developing countries, the BRICS countries are striving to build a closer, more comprehensive, and more pragmatic and inclusive BRICS partnership and push the global governance system to develop in a more just and reasonable direction, with the aim of promoting world peace and development. The Ukraine crisis has also contributed to a new round of the “Non-Aligned Movement”. The countries of the “Global South”, which are unwilling to take sides, are broader in scale, more diverse, and more influential than those of the “Non-Aligned Countries” during the Cold War era. James Carafano, vice president of the U.S. Heritage Foundation, and others pointed out that the results of the UN vote showed that while the crisis is widening “the gap between the countries of the free world and the revisionist powers,” it has also pushed developing countries to embrace “non-alignment” once again. This is not just an expedient measure during this crisis. In potential conflicts in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East in the future, these countries may regard “non-alignment” as their basic principle and long-term strategy for engaging in international relations.


(3) The supply of energy and food has been severely compromised, and the recovery of the global economy has suffered setbacks. As the persistent COVID-19 epidemic severely impacted the world economy, the crisis in Ukraine has caused further massive damage to global supply chains and aggravated the global economic crisis. The conflict has led to soaring prices of bulk commodities such as energy and food, high global inflation, and declining purchasing power of consumers. In addition, the continued interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve have further increased financing costs and dampened investment. This further jeopardizes the recovery of the world economy. According to a study by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research in Germany, the Ukraine crisis will cause an economic loss of more than 1.6 trillion U.S. dollars in global GDP in 2022, and another 1 trillion dollars will be lost in 2023. The OECD predicts that global economic growth rates from 2022 to 2024 will be 3.1%, 2.2%, and 2.7%, respectively, all lower than normal levels. The Secretary-General of the organization, Mathias Corman, commented that “the global economy is facing serious headwinds.”

(三)能源、粮食供应遭受重创,全球经济复苏受挫。在新冠肺炎疫情反复延宕对世界经济造成巨大冲击的背景下,乌克兰危机又使全球供应链遭到严重破坏,全球经济危机加剧。冲突导致能源、粮食等大宗商品价格飙升,全球通胀高企,消费者购买力下降,加之美联储等持续加息使得融资成本进一步上升、投资降温,世界经济复苏艰难。据科隆德国经济研究所研究显示,乌克兰危机导致2022年全球GDP损失逾1.6万亿美元,2023年还将再减少1万亿美元。b经合组织(OE CD)预测,2022—2024年世界经济增速将分别为3.1%、2.2%和2.7%,均低于标准水平,该组织秘书长马蒂亚斯•科尔曼评价称“全球经济正面临严重逆风”。

First, energy and food issues have been politicized and weaponized. The unilateral sanctions by Western countries have forced the energy market to be divided into groups and food markets to increasingly orient themselves domestically. There is a serious imbalance in the supply and demand of energy and food, and their prices have risen sharply. The global energy landscape has been increasingly defined by several energy groups. Some scholars believe that, in the future, the global energy landscape will evolve into “two hemispheres” and “two energy circles”: Russian oil and gas will turn to Asian markets such as China, India, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, and Turkey, while Europe will do everything possible to seek alternative supplies from the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas. The United States and Europe will form the “Pan-Atlantic Energy Circle,” and Russia will join hands with China, India, and other Asian countries in the east to build the “Asian Energy Circle.” Cliff Kupchan believes that three “energy groups” may be formed in the future, namely the “U.S.-Canada-Latin America-EU” group, the “Russo-China” group, and the “Middle East-Asia” group. For the “Middle East-Asia” group, the oil-producing countries in the Middle East may maintain good relations with Russia, and “OPEC+” may reject the U.S. government’s request to increase production capacity. Against the backdrop of the intensified politicization of energy, Western countries will be wary of importing oil from the Middle East, while Asian countries can strengthen their advantages in their shorter distances of transportation and massive market size in order to become the main export destinations for Middle East oil. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, warned that “We are all experiencing the first real global energy crisis. Whereas the crisis in the 1970s was only about oil, today’s crisis will cover the industries of oil, gas, coal, and electricity.” The internal orientation of the global food market has become increasingly severe. been intensifying. The tight global food supply caused by the war has forced many countries to reduce exports to ensure their own food security, while countries and regions that depend on food imports are forced to fend for themselves in the face of a severe food crisis. The United Nations World Food Program previously warned that 2022 would be a catastrophic year of hunger. The United States and the West ignored the real needs of the global food market and imposed sanctions on Russia’s grain and fertilizer exports. The future of the Black Sea Grain Initiative is also uncertain due to strategic rivalry between different parties. In the face of multiple crises threatening the global food supply, many governments have continued or even increased their agricultural subsidies. This may intensify and prolong food price inflation and shroud the international food market with protectionism.


Second, severe sanctions by Western countries against Russia have triggered a chilling effect. The United States and the West have imposed sanctions of unprecedented intensity on Russia. In terms of the number of sanctioning countries, 48 countries and regions have participated in the sanctions. Since the outbreak of the crisis until January 8, 2023, 12,695 new sanctions have been imposed. In terms of sanctioned entities, the sanctions included measures such as freezing Russian assets, banning several important Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), canceling its most-favored-nation status, controlling exports, restricting investment, and sanctioning Russian citizens. Severe sanctions by the U.S. and Europe have damaged Russia’s economy and technological innovation capabilities, while Russia’s countermeasures have also hit the European economy. The repeated struggles between Russia and the U.S.-led Western world have severely impacted the current international economic order.


Finally, the Ukraine crisis is accelerating the decoupling of the global economy. Concerns over large-scale Western sanctions against Russia have prompted policymakers to place greater emphasis on building redundant and resilient supply chains to achieve domestic manufacturing, friendshoring, region-based production, and increased inventory. In the “Russia-free” industrial chain that the United States and Europe are trying to build, global trade and investment will be guided by ideological values rather than comparative advantages. Compared with the short-term impact of the crisis on the world economy, the anti-globalization trend exacerbated by the crisis is more worrying. Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO and President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, also said that for the post-Cold War era, trade principles of “growing markets through expanding trade, setting up just-in-time supply chains and finding the cheapest sources of production — that’s no longer true today.” This will radically shake the foundations of economic globalization.


(4) With an intensifying global arms race, there are more new types and forms of conflict. The Ukraine crisis has caused further deterioration of the international security environment, prompting stakeholders and major powers to increase military investment and intensify arms races. In 2022, gross military expenditures across the world exceeded 2 trillion U.S. dollars for the first time, among which NATO’s military expenditure was about $1.2 trillion dollars. U.S. military expenditure has hit a new high, and the defense budget in 2023 will exceed 800 billion dollars for the first time, while Japan and Germany have both formulated ambitious military expansion plans. After the crisis broke out, Germany set up a special defense fund with an amount not to exceed 100 billion euros, while Japan plans to increase defense spending by 43 trillion yen (about 315 billion dollars) between 2023 to 2027 under the pretext of responding to the threats from China and Russia. According to a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in the next ten years, the world’s nine nuclear powers will continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals, further increasing the gross global nuclear weapon tally. During the conflict in Ukraine, the confrontation between Russia and the West has not been relegated to the battlefield, but has also expanded into economic, financial, and technological domains. Especially in cyberspace, Russia and the West have launched large-scale, bloodless cyberwarfare, as well as public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare, which have made the undertone of hybrid warfare more apparent. The rivalry between the two sides in gray zones is as fierce as their confrontation on the front lines of the battlefield. U.S. experts believe that Ukraine’s performance in cyberspace, with the support from the West, against Russia shows no signs of being diminished. RAND Corporation senior research engineer Timothy Marler and others believe that Russia’s cyber attacks, espionage operations, and disinformation campaigns against Ukraine have had little effect, which highlights Ukraine’s technological advantages as an “open society.” Jon Bateman, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that this crisis is the largest military conflict in the Internet age. With unmitigated support from Western governments and technology companies, Ukraine has deployed a network defense system of an unmatched scale and depth, which has thwarted Russian cyberattacks. This has forced Russia to focus on “developing technology in isolation from the Western economy.” Cyber troops will take on greater tasks in the future, and the strategic influence of cyberspace may far exceed that of the other four major combat domains: land, sea, air, and space. The weaponization of cyberspace, including weaponization of code, social media, and Internet resources, will have a negative impact on the international order of cyberspace in the future. At the same time, the development and application of intelligent weapons also herald the coming of intelligent warfare. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) provided by the United States to Ukraine is a lightweight platform that can rapidly launch rockets. This has helped Ukraine gain more advantages on the battlefield in a shorter period of time. Some retired U.S. military officials have said that such weapons, as “part of the precision strike revolution,” will “redefine warfare” and promote an epoch-making military transformation, enabling small infantry units to replace large-scale troops and become vanguard forces on future battlefields. Due to the extensive use of drones on the Russian-Ukrainian battlefield, the longer the war lasts, the “more likely drones will be able to identify, select, and engage targets without human assistance,” which will accelerate the deployment of the world’s first fully autonomous “killer drones.” At present, both the United States and Russia are researching and developing AI-powered military technologies, and the combination of drones and AI technology is “not particularly complicated.” Some experts predict that AI will outperform humans on battlefields and that the dragging-on of the Ukraine crisis could “start a new era of warfare.”

(四)全球军备竞赛加剧,冲突种类和方式不断翻新。乌克兰危机导致国际安全环境进一步恶化,刺激相关方和主要大国加大军事投入,军备竞赛愈演愈烈。2022年世界军费总额首次突破2万亿美元,其中北约军费开支约1.2万亿美元。美国军费创下新高,2023年国防预算首次突破8000亿美元,而日本和德国均制定雄心勃勃的扩军计划。危机爆发后,德国设立了金额不超过1000亿欧元的特别国防基金,日本则借口应对中俄威胁,计划在2023年至2027年增加43万亿日元(约合3150亿美元)国防开支。根据斯德哥尔摩国际和平研究所的报告,未来十年,世界9个核国家将继续对其核武库进行现代化改造,全球核武器数量还将增加。此次冲突中,俄罗斯与西方的较量不仅在军事战场上,还发展为经济战、金融战和科技战等。特别是在网络领域,俄罗斯与西方展开了大规模、兵不血刃的网络战、舆论战、心理战和法律战,使冲突的混合战色彩更加浓厚。双方在灰色地带的较量,与在正面战场的较量同样激烈。美方专家认为,在西方支持下,乌克兰与俄罗斯在网络领域的对抗不落下风。兰德公司高级研究工程师蒂莫西•马勒等人认为,俄罗斯对乌克兰采取的网络攻击、间谍行动与虚假信息运动收效甚微,凸显乌“开放性社会”技术优势。卡内基国际和平基金会高级研究员乔恩•贝特曼则称,此次危机是网络时代最大规模的军事冲突,乌克兰在西方国家政府和科技公司的鼎力相助下,以前所未有的规模和深度部署了网络防御系统,挫败了俄罗斯的网络进攻,这倒逼俄着力“在与西方经济隔绝的情况下发展技术”;网络部队将在未来承担更大的任务,网络空间的战略影响力可能将远超陆海空天其他四大作战疆域。网络空间武器化,包括代码武器化、社交媒体武器化和互联网资源武器化将对未来网络空间的国际秩序产生消极影响。同时,智能武器的发展和运用也预示智能化战争的来临。美国向乌提供的高精度多管火炮发射器“海马斯”(H IMARS)具备轻巧快速发射火箭炮能力,使战场形势加速向有利于乌克兰的方向倾斜。美国一些退役军官称,此类武器作为“精确打击革命的一部分”,将“重新定义战争”并推动划时代的军事转变,使小型步兵部队取代大规模军队,成为未来战场的先锋力量。由于俄乌战场大量使用了无人机,战斗时间拖得越长,无人机就“越有可能在没有人类帮助的情况下识别、选择和攻击目标”,这将加速全球首个完全自主的“杀手无人机”的投入使用。当前,美俄都在进行人工智能军事技术的研发,且无人机与人工智能技术的结合“并不特别复杂”。一些专家预测,人工智能在战场的表现将超过人类,乌克兰危机的延宕可能将“开启一个新的战争时代”。

II. Possible Future Directions


The crisis in Ukraine has already escalated in all aspects, but the future of the conflict is still unclear. At present, both Russia and Ukraine regard the spring of 2023 as the decisive phase of the conflict and are determined to initiate massive operations. On the one hand, Russia continues to adopt the strategy of “slow pace, small steps” and continues to increase pressure on Ukraine by “accumulating small victories.” On the other hand, it has greatly increased its troop deployment and launched offensives across the front line. In contrast, Ukraine is taking proactive defense strategies, seeking targeted countermeasures against specific challenges, while at the same time expecting to receive a new batch of military aid from the West and preparing to launch a subsequent “spring counteroffensive”. Due to the diametrically opposing positions of Russia and Ukraine, their limited willingness to engage in peace talks, and the absence of reconciliatory solutions, the conflict is bound to persist. However, the situation that both sides “cannot defeat each other in the short term, or afford to drag on in the long term” necessitates that both sides must assess the outcome of the war more realistically. The Russian side has revealed several times that both sides are considering negotiations, and the debate within the West over whether to continue its aid to Ukraine has also been growing, therefore increasing the likelihood that the West will pressure Ukraine to end the war through negotiations.

乌克兰危机已全面升级,但战场走势仍不明朗。目前,俄乌双方均将2023年春季视为冲突的决胜阶段,都决心大干一场。俄罗斯一面继续采取“慢节奏、小步走”策略,以“积小胜”方式对乌克兰持续加压,另一面向前线大举增兵并发动攻势。乌方则一边积极防卫、见招拆招,一边期待得到西方新一批军援后展开“春季大反攻”。由于俄乌立场对立、和谈意愿弱且均无路可退,冲突势必延续下去,但“短期打不赢、长期拖不得”的僵局又使双方不得不对战争结果进行更现实的考量,俄方几次透出风声酝酿谈判, 西方内部对持续援乌的分歧也越来越大,施压乌克兰以谈判结束战争的可能性正在提高。

The Ukraine conflict is likely to be prolonged and unpredictable.  After a year of fierce combat, the largest military conflict in continental Europe since World War II has developed into a protracted tug-of-war. After a full-scale attack and targeted offensives, the Russian army then turned the war into a trench war. The core goal was to gradually wear down the Ukrainian army, completely occupy the Donbas region, and complete the “special military operation” in stages. Ukraine continued its counter-offensive with large-scale assistance from the West and regained a large amount of lost territory, but was unable to drive the Russian army completely out of its territory due to a shortage of soldiers, weapons, and ammunition. After Ukraine won the “great victories ” in Kharkiv and Kherson in September and November 2022, the U.S. strategic community was quite optimistic about Ukraine’s ultimate victory, believing that the war was developing favorably towards the West and Ukraine. However, the Russian army quickly adjusted itself and found new ways to contain Ukraine. At present, Russia has launched a “spring offensive” and is attacking on multiple fronts, putting more pressure on Ukraine in the near term.  The situation on the battlefield is everchanging, but overall, the military resources and strategic will of Russia and Ukraine are comparable with each other, and therefore the war will most likely continue.


From the perspective of military resources, the two sides have their own advantages and disadvantages in terms of weapons, budgets, and military strengths. Ukraine’s advantage lies in the strong support of the West. For example, in the short term, the West will be more active in aiding Ukraine. The weapons received as aid are gradually transitioning from Soviet-style equipment to NATO equipment, and upgrading from individual weapons to artillery, rocket launchers, and infantry fighting vehicles. Plans are being made to provide main battle tanks such as the British “Challenger 2,” the German “Leopard 2,” and the American “M1 Abrams.” At the same time, the Ukrainian army is stepping up training and trying to launch attacks on the Russian army. This will enhance Ukraine’s ability to resist Russian attacks and even launch counteroffensives. On the other side, Russia is constantly adapting to new diplomatic, economic, and battlefield situations, to enable itself to control the occupied areas and resist Ukrainian counterattacks. There are several reasons for this: First, the comprehensive Western sanctions against Russia have not devastated Russia’s strategic will. After the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, the West imposed large-scale sanctions on Russia. This has had a major impact on Russia’s economic indicators and its status in the field of global energy. However, Russia is far from exhausted and is still striving to expand its development space. In 2022, Russia had a bumper harvest, its energy exports stayed basically stable, and its GDP only fell by 2.1%. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that, “The Russian economy has overcome the worst effects of the sanctions and is expected to show moderate growth in 2023.” At the same time, in terms of diplomacy, although the United States has been doing all it can to win over its allies and continue to increase sanctions on Russia, some countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America have still maintained economic and trade ties with Russia, and Russian trade volumes with China, India, and other countries have even increased. China, India, and some countries in the southern hemisphere all abstained from the UN vote to support Ukraine. Argentina, Egypt, Israel, Mexico, Thailand, and other countries still provide visa-free entry to Russian citizens. In this sense, Western scholars have been forced to admit that “Russia is not isolated internationally.” Second, Russia still retains strong warfighting capabilities. Although there has been a stalemate on the battlefield, Russia is still a major country with a large number of military-industrial bases, rich military equipment reserves, and a population three times that of Ukraine. These capabilities give Russia greater advantages in the current war of attrition. At present, almost all the people of Ukraine are soldiers, and the Ukrainian supply of capable troops is on the edge of decline. As Russia mobilizes more manpower and economic resources and deploys more drones, artillery, and other armaments, it will become increasingly difficult for Ukraine to maintain its superior position. Third, Russia’s political environment is generally stable, and the Russian people are mentally prepared for a long-term conflict. According to a poll by the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Research, in 2022, 78% of the Russian people showed confidence in Putin, an increase of 13 percentage points year-on-year. In such difficult times, Russian society has rallied around the president, boosting Putin’s popularity.

从战争资源看,双方在武器、财政、军力等方面互有优劣。乌方优势在于西方的强大支持,例如,短期内西方援助乌克兰的态度更加积极,援助的武器逐渐从苏式装备过渡到北约装备,从单兵武器升级为火炮、火箭炮和步兵战车,正酝酿提供英国“挑战者—2”、德国“豹2”、美国“M1艾布拉姆斯”等型号的主战坦克。同时,乌军正加紧训练,尝试对俄军发动进攻,这将增强乌方抵御俄方进攻甚至开展反攻的能力。俄方则不断适应外交、经济和战场新形势,有能力控制所占地区并抵御乌克兰的反攻。这有几方面的原因:第一,西方对俄全方位制裁未改变俄战略意志。乌克兰危机爆发后,西方在对俄罗斯施加了全面制裁,俄经济指标和全球能源地位确实受到很大影响,但俄远未山穷水尽,还努力拓展发展空间,2022年俄谷物获得丰收、能源出口基本稳定、国内生产总值仅下降2.1%。俄罗斯总统普京称,“俄罗斯经济已经克服了制裁的最坏影响,预计2023年将出现温和增长”。同时,在外交上,虽然美国极力拉拢盟友持续加码制裁,但亚洲、非洲、拉丁美洲的一些国家仍然同俄罗斯保持着经贸联系,俄罗斯与中国、印度等国的贸易量还有所增长。中国、印度和南半球的一些国家,在联合国投票支持乌克兰时都投了弃权票。阿根廷、埃及、以色列、墨西哥、泰国等国家仍然向俄罗斯公民提供免签入境待遇。西方学者不得不承认,“俄罗斯在国际上并不孤立”。第二,俄罗斯仍保留强大的战争能力。虽然战场形势胶着,但俄罗斯仍然是一个大国,拥有数量庞大的军工基地、丰富的军事装备储备和3倍于乌克兰的人口,这些能力在目前的消耗战中有更大优势。目前乌克兰已近全民皆兵,有生力量衰减近在眼前,随着俄罗斯调动更多的人力和经济资源, 并投入更多无人机、大炮等军备,乌方保持领先地位的难度将增加。第三, 俄罗斯政局总体稳定,俄民众对冲突长期化有心理准备。全俄民意研究中心民调显示,2022年俄民众对普京的信任度为78%,同比增加13个百分点。在当前的困难时刻,社会团结在总统周围,令普京的支持率上升。

From a subjective point of view, both Russia and Ukraine are ready for conflict escalation and spillover. After expending huge amounts of resources and suffering great costs, neither side can bear the consequences of unilaterally announcing their failure; therefore, the only way is to continue the war. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has said “Ukraine will not give up any Ukrainian territory in order to reach a potential peace agreement with Russia.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated that Russia will never accept being forced out of the Donbas and Crimea. In the future, it may continue to conduct military operations in Ukraine in the name of “anti-terrorism operations.” Faced with an even more challenging situation, Putin referred to the Ukrainian crisis as “a war waged by the West” and promised that “we will take steps to accomplish the tasks we have at hand” in his presidential address to Federal Assembly on February 21, 2023. This shows Russia’s determination to continue to increase its commitment to the war. Stephen Walt, professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and others believe that “Putin regards this war as an existential conflict that Russia must win.” “Ukraine may have made some progress on the battlefield with external support, but no matter how much assistance the West provides, it will not be possible to force Russia to hand over all the territories it currently controls.”


The conflict does carry risks of escalating to nuclear war, but the possibility of peace talks cannot yet be ruled out. Apart from breaking the stalemate and gaining the upper hand on the battlefield, Russia, Ukraine, and the West are also looking for other solutions. Russia’s nuclear deterrence strategy implemented in different aspects has increased the risk that the Ukraine crisis may lead to a nuclear conflict. Although Zelensky insisted that “Ukraine will never surrender,” many Western countries are obviously tired of providing long-term assistance to Ukraine, and also fear that “forcing Russia to a corner might risk a nuclear war that eventually leads to their own destruction.” Nuclear war has become the sword of Damocles and a major security risk both on and off the battlefield. In the winter of 2022, Ukraine gained certain advantages on the battlefield, which boosted the confidence of the Western strategic community. People of the strategic community thus advised Ukraine to be persistent in its efforts and furthered their goal of aiding Ukraine from “supporting Ukraine so it is not defeated” to “defeating Russia” and “bringing Putin to trial.” Facing this mounting pressure, Russia went a step further in demonstrating its willingness to cross the nuclear line and proactively escalated its nuclear deterrence, in order to manifest its determination, steady the hearts of its people, and boost morale. Putin announced that Russia would temporarily suspend its commitment to the New START Treaty, and that if the United States should conduct a nuclear test, Russia would take responding countermeasures. At present, the only nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia exists only as a formality, the U.S.-Russian nuclear disarmament mechanism is on the verge of failure, and the era of bilateral nuclear disarmament may come to an end. Some Western strategists have suggested that if Russia is truly backed into a corner, it may use nuclear weapons as its last resort. At such a time, the crisis in Ukraine would become completely uncontrollable, and the world might be dragged to the brink of destruction. UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned: “We are at the highest risk in decades of a nuclear war that could start by accident or design.”


Even if a nuclear conflict does not break out, with the nuclear arms control treaty in limbo and the U.S. and Russia unable to verify each other’s capabilities, both countries could are suspended for a long period and the United States and Russia are unsure of each other’s actual capabilities, the two countries may develop their own nuclear forces according to generous estimations of their enemies’ capabilities, which will would intensify the nuclear arms race and undermine previous nuclear non-proliferation efforts. At present, nuclear security in some areas is already unstable: North Korea is restarting its nuclear tests and may test-fire ICBMs again, Iran’s return to the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan is plagued with difficulties, South Korea has become the first non-nuclear country to have successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, Saudi Arabia has hinted that it wants to carry out a nuclear program and purchase nuclear reactors, while Japan has blatantly broken its nuclear taboo, with a defense official publicly stating that “had Ukrainepossessed nuclear weapons, it would not have been invaded by Russia.” In order to ensure that potential losses are outweighed by the potential gains, both Russia and the West have left certain space for future adjustments in their statements on nuclear issues. After suspending the implementation of the New START Treaty, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov stated that Russia was still committed to not allowing nuclear war.  U.S. Secretary of State Blinken said that he would pay close attention to Russia’s subsequent actions and was still ready to negotiate with Russia on arms control issues at any time.


A negotiated solution to the conflict is more likely to occur than a nuclear conflict where everyone loses. From Russia’s perspective, although Western sanctions did not force Russia to give in, Russia’s oil and gas revenue in January 2023 fell by 46% compared to the same period in 2022. Due to military procurement and other factors, government expenditures jumped by 59% compared to those in January 2022, and there has been growing concern that Russia may not be able to afford to continue the war. At present, Russia has control over most of the territories of four oblasts (provinces) of Ukraine, putting it in a better position to negotiate. In addition, by proposing peace talks, Russia can show its “peace-loving” side to the outside world. Russia has signaled its willingness to negotiate several times. On February 11, 2023, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vershinin stated in an interview with the press that Russia was ready to end the conflict through dialogues without preset preconditions. From the perspective of Ukraine and the West, concerns about the battlefield situation and sanctions are also increasing. First, the short-term effect of sanctions against Russia have not been satisfactory, and the sanctions may even harm the sanctioning countries. Bruce Jentleson, professor at Duke University, believes that judging from historical cases, it is difficult to use sanctions to change the behavior of policymakers. In addition, sanctions are a double-edged sword. As countries are dependent on Russian energy resources, Western sanctions have been slow to take force, which has had a huge backlash in Europe. Second, there are disagreements within the Western countries about continuously supporting Ukraine. As the war becomes protracted, some Western countries may object to long-term aid to Ukraine and grow tired of it. In early February of 2023, the leaders of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom began to put pressure on Zelensky, demanding Ukraine  “make a difficult decision” and “immediately step up to the negotiating table.” In the United States, although “helping Ukraine gain victory” has become consensus among the two parties, Republicans and Democrats still have differences over the issue of whether to increase their aid to Ukraine. Matt Gaetz and other Republican members of Congress directly proposed a motion to ask the U.S. government to end military and financial aid to Ukraine and urged all relevant countries to reach a peace agreement. Some scholars also have concerns about “conflict spillover.” For example, some U.S. scholars speculate that a protracted Ukraine crisis will prompt China to support Russia, eventually leading to the outbreak of a global war. Seeing that it is difficult to win and impossible to secure a complete victory, the West may push Ukraine to participate in negotiations in order to de-escalate the conflict and end it as soon as possible.


III. Implications


On the first anniversary of the Ukraine crisis, Russia and Ukraine are both stuck in the quagmire of war, Europe is riding a tiger that is dangerous to dismount, and the United States is taking advantage of the chaos to fulfill its own interests. Only China has been actively promoting peace talks and insisting on a peaceful resolution to the crisis. We must dispel the fog cast by public opinion wars and information wars. The clearer the international community understands this crisis, the more capable it will be to find a way out of the crisis and usher in lasting peace.


First, the United States is the biggest beneficiary of the conflict. The United States is an important initiator of the crisis and a significant reason the conflict has turned into a protracted war. After the end of the Cold War, Russia’s security concerns and demands were ignored by the West, and the West constantly tested its bottom lines and critical points. The most significant reason why Russia launched its special military operations against Ukraine was Ukraine’s insistence on joining NATO, which provoked a strong backlash in Russia. The United States, however, was an important behind-the-scenes manipulator of the whole situation. After the war broke out, the United States and its allies continued to increase military assistance to Ukraine and pushed NATO to continue to deliver weapons, fanning the flames of the war. The United States has successively provided nearly 100 billion dollars to support Ukraine, the vast majority of which is military aid. The U.S. military-industrial complexes have reaped huge profits from massive orders for military products, so much so that the Ukraine Support Act has been vividly described as a “money laundering plan” by many media outlets. Recently, after a visit to Ukraine, Biden once again promised to continue aid to the country. In his speech in Warsaw, he said that the support from the United States and its allies to Ukraine “will not waver” and that sanctions and efforts to seek accountability for the war would be strengthened. He said, “We continue to maintain the largest sanctions regime ever imposed on any country in history,” continuing to threaten and put pressure on Russia. The United States has gained huge strategic benefits from this crisis, as NATO has been revived and the U.S. alliance network has become more united. In this sense, a protracted Ukrainian crisis is just what the United States hopes to see. Once the crisis is resolved, the United States will lose a strategic grip it can use to leverage Europe. Therefore, the United States will continue to add fuel to the fire. Anthony Cordesman, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in the United States, has incisively pointed out that U.S. aid to Ukraine is “an investment whose benefits greatly exceed its cost.” It would be a “gross strategic stupidity” to stop its aid to Ukraine or reduce it to ineffective levels, and “the United States cannot bear the consequences of losing a proxy war in Ukraine”.


Second, Europe has suffered greatly from the Ukraine crisis. Europe’s economic development has been greatly hampered by the war. For a long time, Russia’s steady delivery of low-price natural gas to Europe has been one of the cornerstones of the steady development of the European economy. The European energy supply is heavily dependent on Russia. After the crisis broke out, European energy and food prices soared, inflation was high, people’s cost of living continued to rise, and dissatisfaction increased. After coal and oil sanctions, European countries followed the footsteps of the United States and imposed large-scale sanctions on Russian natural gas and gradually reduced their import volumes of Russian gas. Russia reacted in indignation and further reduced its supply to Europe. The loss of a large volume of cheap natural gas supply not only affected the daily lives of the people, but also jeopardized the industrial foundation of Europe. Under this circumstance, Europe started to accelerate its outbound relocation of the manufacturing industry. With rising energy prices and costs, energy-intensive enterprises in Europe have to seek other suitable places for development. As a result, a new wave of de-industrialization may have arrived in Europe. According to data from Eurostat, the number of EU companies filing for bankruptcy in the fourth quarter of 2022 hit a record high, with a quarter-on-quarter increase of 26.8%. This was at the highest level since records began in 2015. The United States is providing large-scale subsidies to enterprises through the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act. This, coupled with the attraction of cheap local energy supply, has led many European enterprises to invest in factory construction in the United States, which will have a huge siphoning effect on European manufacturing. One of the most affected countries most affected is Germany, a manufacturing powerhouse and the economic pillar of the European Union. The decline of the manufacturing industry has an obvious impact on the process of European integration.


Europe’s strategic autonomy has been weakened. Since the Ukraine crisis, NATO has recovered from its “brain death” and has become pivotal in Western military coordination with regard to Ukraine crisis, and it has even accelerated its expansion northward. Although European countries have increased their military investments, they have become more dependent on the United States at the same time. Therefore, their room for maneuver in energy, economy, trade, and finance has been constricted, and their national autonomy has declined. In addition, divisions within Europe will become more apparent as the war drags on, and the prospects of European strategic autonomy are bleak. Faced with the current stalemate on the battlefield, many European politicians, scholars, and citizens have also begun to reexamine the issue. Only when Europe, as an independent political force, rebuilds the European security framework jointly with Russia can it avoid the normalization of political security disorder in Europe, or even becoming a victim of the Russia-U.S. game, and achieve long-term security.


Third, Asia-Pacific countries should be highly vigilant against U.S. attempts to replicate the Ukraine crisis in their region, provoke conflicts in the Taiwan Strait, and undermine Asia-Pacific peace with the aim to maintain its hegemony. Before and after the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, the Biden administration continued to implement a strategy to engage in major power rivalry with China and Russia, seeking to restrain the “urgent threat” posed by Russia and to “outcompete” China, its “primary strategic opponent.” In this context, the United States is pursuing a strategy of “bundling and suppression” (捆绑打压) and “dual containment” (双遏制) against China and Russia. It is trying its best to hype the issue of “Ukraine today, Taiwan tomorrow” and strengthening large-scale support for “Taiwan independence” forces in order to achieve the strategy of “using Taiwan to contain China.” Admiral John Aquilino, Commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, said that the Ukraine crisis “sounded the alarm” for the U.S. that China may have “designs” against Taiwan, so the U.S. must be prepared for this. The U.S. administration has been propagating views of “assisting in the defense of Taiwan” and suggesting “the Taiwan issue is not a matter of China’s internal affairs.” The U.S. Congress has also introduced various bills to provide large-scale military assistance to Taiwan authorities, abandoning its pretense that the relations between the U.S. and Taiwan are “unofficial relations”. Politicians, including former Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and current Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, have antagonized China through illicit visits and planned illicit visits to Taiwan. The U.S. military has also conducted systematic training for the Taiwan military in an attempt to “arm Taiwan to the teeth.” These actions have severely violated China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, blatantly violated the Three Joint Communiqués, endangered the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and sent the wrong signals to “Taiwan independence” forces. While implementing the strategy of using Taiwan to contain China, the United States is doubling down on its efforts to implement the “Indo-Pacific Strategy”, strengthening bilateral alliances centered on containing China, enriching the significance of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) among the United States, Japan, Australia, and India, piecing together the Australia-UK-United States Trilateral Security Partnership (AUKUS), and building the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” (IPEF). It has also promoted NATO’s expansion to the Asia-Pacific, and attempts to strengthen so-called “integrated deterrence” against China.


The United States pursues its military and economic strategies under the name of peace and democracy, but in essence, the strategies only serve the further expansion of U.S. hegemony. The nature of the Ukraine issue is different from that of the Taiwan issue. The former is a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, while the latter is an internal and domestic affair of China. However, both issues are inextricably linked to U.S. expansion and provocation. The eastward expansion of NATO led by the United States has inserted Western military power into the areas most sensitive to Russia. This has provoked Russia’s fierce response, and even forced Russia to take military actions to confront the West head-on at all costs. No country values the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait more than China. The constricting grip of U.S. strategies is stepping on China’s red lines, causing the Taiwan Strait region to face a hazardous situation or even imminent warfare, threatening the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Since World War II, the United States has been flaunting its military might, intervening in other countries’ affairs, and doing evil deeds across the globe. Ukraine itself is the biggest victim in the Ukraine crisis, and in the event of a large-scale military conflict in the Taiwan Strait, the people of Taiwan will inevitably suffer the most. Therefore, the people on the island not only need to be alert to the ploy of the United States to “destroy” Taiwan and use Taiwan as its proxy, but must also take counter actions to oppose it.


At present, the world, our times, and history itself are undergoing unprecedented transformations. The international community is experiencing multiple overlapping risks and challenges rarely seen before. The world is once again standing at a historical crossroads. In the past century, mankind has experienced two extremely tragic world wars, a Cold War in which two major blocs confronted each other fiercely and brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war, the post-Cold war period in which hegemonic countries relied on unchallenged strength to wantonly wage wars and seriously undermine international peace. As we bid farewell to the post-Cold War era, whether human society will return to a new Cold War, suffer new hot wars once again, or reshape the international system based on a new security and development outlook, has become the existential question that humanity must answer. China believes that maintaining international peace and security and promoting global development and prosperity should be the common pursuit of all nations. China upholds the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security, and has put forward the Global Security Initiative. China advocates adherence to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, calls for more attention to the legitimate security concerns of all countries, and pursues peaceful resolution of differences and disputes among countries through dialogue and consultation. In particular, China attaches great importance to facilitating coordination and positive interaction among major powers, and strives to form an international landscape of major powers characterized by peaceful coexistence, overall stability, and balanced development. At the one-year mark of the Ukraine crisis, China released “The Global Security Initiative Concept Paper” and “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis”, indicating China’s commitment to the peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis through peace talks, and also its commitment to responding to complex and intertwined security challenges with a win-win mindset, so as to eliminate the root causes of international conflicts, improve global security governance, and achieve lasting peace and development for the world.

当前,世界之变、时代之变、历史之变正以前所未有的方式展开,国际社会正经历罕见的多重风险挑战,世界又一次站在历史的十字路口。在过去的一个多世纪,人类经历了两次极为惨烈的世界大战,经历了两大集团激烈对峙、将世界置于核战争边缘的冷战,也经历了霸权国凭借超强实力肆意发动战争、严重破坏国际和平的后冷战时期。在告别后冷战时期之际,人类社会是重回冷战、再度热战,还是以新的安全观、发展观重塑国际体系, 成为摆在人类社会面前的一道必答题。中国认为维护国际和平安全、促进全球发展繁荣应该成为各国的共同追求。中国秉持共同、综合、合作、可持续的安全观,提出全球安全倡议,倡导遵守联合国宪章宗旨和原则、重视各国合理安全关切、通过对话协商以和平方式解决国家间的分歧和争端,尤其是高度重视促进大国协调和良性互动,推动构建和平共处、总体稳定、均衡发展的大国关系格局。在乌克兰危机一周年之际,中国的《全球安全倡议概念文件》和中国提出的《关于政治解决乌克兰危机的中国立场》文件同时发表,表明中国不仅致力于通过劝和促谈推动乌克兰危机的和平解决,还致力于以共赢思维应对复杂交织的安全挑战,以消弭国际冲突根源、完善全球安全治理,实现世界持久和平与发展。

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中国现代国际关系研究院美国所 (Institute of American Studies, CICIR). "The Impact and Implications of the Ukraine Crisis [乌克兰危机的影响及启示]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Contemporary International Relations [现代国际关系], February 28, 2023

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