Russia-Ukraine: China and India Could End the War - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Russia-Ukraine: China and India Could End the War
Indian Prime Minister Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Sept. 16 (PMO India/YouTube)

China and India are now trying to distance themselves from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, which commenced in February of this year. This is a powerful combination of two countries that have the standing, especially in partnership, to influence the Russian president in a way no other countries have.

On Friday, at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India told Putin that “today’s era is not of war.” This low-key but pointed statement came a day after Putin acknowledged that President Xi Jinping of China had “questions and concerns” about the war in Ukraine. Some members of the mainstream media are predictably reading too much into Modi’s statement, saying that he is “assailing” Putin, even though the prime minister’s statement was relatively mild and stopped well short of a condemnation.

Nonetheless, this could be interpreted as the start of a shifting of an opinion that has previously been supportive of Putin: For nearly seven months, both China and India have hesitated to join the West in its outrage against the Kremlin. Russia, as the junior partner in the Russia–China relationship, is now the leading supplier of China’s oil — about 2 million barrels per day. Further, in August, Russia was reported to be India’s third-largest source of oil, after Iraq and, by a small margin, Saudi Arabia. In June, India’s oil imports from Russia reached 950,000 barrels per day, with Russia offering discounts in recent months.

China imports more than twice as much Russian oil as India. China would appear to be in a relatively stronger position than India; oil is a global commodity and sources of supply can be restructured. The war in Ukraine is detrimental to China’s strategic interest, especially to its massive export model, which allows it to amass foreign currency reserves that it uses for its own investment and for the development of countries that subscribe to the Belt and Road Initiative. A slowing Chinese economy, disruption from its massive COVID lockdown, a distressed and overbuilt real estate sector, and fears of a global recession (as expressed earlier this week by FedEx, which may be viewed as a bellwether or “lead steer” in the world economy) do not bode well for Beijing.

India, on the other hand, is currently also dependent upon Russia for its military equipment. As I have written in The American Spectator, nearly half of such current equipment is of Russian origin, with over 2,000 of the country’s T-72 tanks dating to the Soviet era. And with a 4,000-mile border to defend against Pakistan and China, India will be reliant on Russian arms for years to come.

Extensively sanctioned by Europe and the United States, failing in capturing Kiev, and suffering what appears to be a dramatic military reversal in the Kharkiv region of northeast Ukraine, Russia is seeing its economic and military misfortunes beginning to affect public opinion within Russia, with some public officials now calling for Putin’s impeachment. Allowing further disgrace and humiliation of Putin, in spite of legitimate Ukrainian cries for revenge, is not in the world’s best interest: The events of the 20th century demonstrated that Germany’s humiliating surrender terms at the end of World War I eventually led to a cataclysm. One can speculate that the use of a tactical nuclear weapon by Putin would assure his near universal status as a pariah, but who is to know the mind of an isolated Russian strongman, who has destroyed his country’s future for many years and knows he might be going down with it?

The time has come for Xi Jinping and Modi, acting in concert, to call for a summit of the two direct combatants, plus NATO and the U.S., and themselves — and some of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, where both Russia and China have vested interests in the oil and gas sectors. Ukraine must also be made to realize that militarily ousting Russia from all Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine is an unreasonable operational objective that could prolong the war indefinitely and increase the risk that, out of spite and desperation, a nuclear weapon could be used.

NATO and the U.S. may not be enthused about having China and India inside the tent. After nearly seven months of a high-intensity conflict, however, economic sanctions, the supply of state-of-the-art artillery and other equipment, and diplomatic initiatives have not changed Putin’s course.

It would be highly problematic for Putin to decline such an invitation from a couple of his best friends. If he did, he would be met with shrieks of execration from friend and foe alike.

Frank Schell is a business strategy consultant and former senior vice president of the First National Bank of Chicago. He was a lecturer at the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago and is a contributor of opinion pieces to various journals.

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