China-Russia meeting as Ukraine war rages should remind the U.S. that Putin hasn't lost
China-Russia meeting as Ukraine war rages should remind the U.S. that Putin hasn't lost and sanctions aren't cowing him. Turkey, India, Hungry and maybe Sweden and Italy are lending him support.
Russian President Vladimir Putin might be losing on the battlefield, at least for the moment, but it’s a mistake to count out the master of the Kremlin.
Instead, quietly, Putin is succeeding in assembling a coalition of the autocratic. Who is in Putin’s “axis of evil,” as President George W. Bush famously called a similar collection? An unlikely but utterly pernicious group straddling continents and political systems. All are worried to varying degrees about the trajectory the war in Ukraine is setting for their economy and their role in the geopolitical landscape, but they are still fully prepared to profit from it in the meantime.
The U.S. can’t assume a defeat on the battlefields of Ukraine is enough to end the threat of Putinism. It’s not even enough to diminish the Russian leader’s influence in Europe.
From more traditionally autocratic leaders — China’s Xi Jinping, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and the ayatollahs of Iran — to leaders of illiberal democracies in India, Turkey and Hungary, a host of countries are prepared to offer their good will, manufacturing muscle or markets to the Putin war machine.
This means the U.S. can’t assume a defeat on the battlefields of Ukraine is enough to end the threat of Putinism. It’s not even enough to diminish the Russian leader’s influence in Europe, with Sweden and Italy on the precipice of forming new governments that could tilt toward him as well. The U.S. cannot — must not — get complacent and think military aid to Ukraine is enough to stop his threat. The West must have a much broader strategy.