This article was originally published in Spanish by El Heraldo de Mexico.
Russia’s war against Ukraine turned one year old on February 24. The conflict is generating a profound geopolitical realignment and, if it does not end soon, it is very possible that it will directly involve other powers and create an even deeper world division.
The world is now divided between countries that show solidarity with Kyiv, those that are indifferent—supposedly neutral [lukewarm]—and those that excuse or support Russia’s aggression. The latter are few.
Solidarity with Ukraine ranges from symbolic displays like lighting public buildings yellow and blue, to imposing economic sanctions on Russia, to direct aid in the form of financial resources, intelligence, and weapons.
The solidarity flowing to Ukraine constitutes the largest military mobilization in Europe since the Second World War. Support goes from countries like Canada and the US, to countries that were under threat and under the Soviet yoke during the Cold War, but also from countries that were until recently neutral. As an example, Morocco, broke its neutrality and announced in December that it would transfer its T-72 tanks to Ukraine.
It is estimated that Russia deploys 300,000 troops inside Ukraine. British intelligence estimates that Russia has lost 40 percent of its military strength and has already mobilized 97 percent of its deployable army, which has it very stressed. The Ukrainian counteroffensive, if well equipped, will make a significant change this Spring.
Countries willing to help Russia are attracting more and more international attention. Iran has agreed to receive 24 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets in exchange for continuing to send drones and missiles. As a consequence, the EU announced sanctions against companies that trade with Iran, especially electronics. The most direct pressure came from the US, whose special forces intercepted a shipment of Iranian weapons destined for Yemen and forwarded them…to Ukraine.
Of all the countries that could support Russia, China is the only one that could drag out the conflict. Last week, the Chinese foreign minister met Putin in Moscow. Chinese military supplies—possibly drones and ammunition—would likely flow only with very favorable conditions for China—such as permits to exploit mineral areas in Siberia and/or the Arctic—but in the Russian perspective, these concessions will likely be acceptable to continue their war.
For China, having the option to support Russia is a strategic geopolitical opportunity, as it puts it in a position to 1) gain access to land and resources it longs for; 2) condition its support on a (violent) “reunification” of Taiwan; 3) prolonging the conflict could test the level of resolve and even the military capacity of the US and Europe, to intercede for Taiwan, although, on the other hand; 4) withholding it, could allow Russia to collapse, to later take over Siberia. There are many options, all very tempting for the Chinese Dragon.
Mexico continues in a supposedly neutral, lukewarm, position that does not benefit it in its relationship with Washington or with Europe. For countries with strong resistance to providing military aid there are also options: implement sanctions and donate humanitarian aid to relieve the Ukrainian civilian population. Unfortunately, it will be the people of Mexico, not just the current administration, who will go down in history as “lukewarm.”
The Transatlantic Security Initiative, in the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, shapes and influences the debate on the greatest security challenges facing the North Atlantic Alliance and its key partners.