Ukraine and the love triangle of geopolitics

A Neokohn főmunkatársa, Izraelben élő biztonságpolitikai szakértő.

In geopolitics, there is only one really important question: which two in the superpower love triangle will get hitched and say „I do,” and which will remain lonely and isolated, writes Robert C. Castel.

It is the most important strategic game in world politics, in which the winning pair is disproportionately advantaged over the lone loser.

Why is it strategically important to bet on the right horse?

Because those who make the right decisions at the grand strategic level have the luxury of making mistakes at the operational or tactical level. The side that makes the wrong decisions at the strategic level, even if it excels in the lower leagues, will get nowhere with its efforts. The classic example is Colonel Summers’ famous conversation with a North Vietnamese officer. Sommers noted that in the Vietnam War the Americans never lost a single major or medium battle. To which the Vietnamese officer replied that that was true, but completely beside the point.

We, the West, lost the big game.

We lost it when we squandered the fruits of Kissinger’s brilliant China policy, when we turned China into a superpower, and when we let the Russian-Chinese duo squeeze the juice out of us.

Yuval Noah Harari can write what he likes, the Russians have not lost any wars so far.

Russia has succeeded in solving the most important geopolitical dilemma, allying with another revisionist superpower and isolating the West. Because their grand strategy is correct, they can afford the luxury of mediocre performance on secondary issues such as Ukraine and Taiwan. Neither North Korea nor Vietnam has excelled in their wars against the West, but at the level of grand strategy, they have had the support of two superpowers. If they were not assured of victory, they were insured against defeat.

The same applies to the sanctions against Russia.

Those hoping that the bread in besieged Kiev will run out later than the caviar for the Russian leadership are likely to be disappointed.

Like Iran, Russia could be subject to all the economic sanctions in the world if there are people who break this phalanx.

This form of economic warfare is a fight of the balloon against the sewing needle.

The balloon must be strong everywhere, the needle only in one spot.

However debilitating the thought, Ukraine’s fate is largely in China’s hands.

China has three options:

  • The first is to cooperate with the West and stab its ally in the back in return for certain strategic quid pro quos. Since only the annexation of Taiwan can give the struggling, ultranationalist Chinese Communist Party renewed legitimacy in the eyes of the Chinese people, it is not impossible that the West will have to pay for Ukraine in Taiwanese currency.
  • The second scenario is for China to support Russia, overtly or covertly, until victory, in the hope that when it comes to Taiwan, the Russians will return the favor.
  • The third option is for China to do everything it can to turn the Ukraine crisis into an endless filmstrip, tying up the attention and resources of both the West and Russia for the long term.

For those who believe that this degree of geopolitical cynicism exists only in the imagination of paranoid analysts, it is worth recalling the famous WWII quote of the Soviet ambassador to London, Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky:

„For my part, I count both Allied and German losses in the same column.”

The „Knight of the Ice Fields” and the Russian world order

For Russian decision-makers, „rational” decisions grow out of a completely different strategic culture, the culture of the endless plain.