Many economic and military superpowers have risen and fallen throughout the history. States, with wealthy history, have traditionally developed strong militaries to protect and impose their will on the rest of the world. The methods of balancing in combat have evolved. State authority was used to counterbalance rivals in other areas as well. During the Cold War, the world witnessed similar balancing acts between the Soviet Union and the United States. Two blocs were formed, and those countries that supported one bloc were viewed as adversaries of the other. Some countries were convinced to join one of the two blocs, while others stayed neutral, while strategic areas were held by both powers.
In the annals of history, Saddam Hussein positioned large armed units along Iraq’s southern border with Kuwait in July 1990, a time when another despot was in power. Intentions were hazy, as are now, but the power disparity was plain to see. Arab leaders told President George H.W. Bush not to respond because they thought it was a plot to make Kuwait raise the price of oil, which would help Iraq recover and rearm after its long war with Iran.
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What had at first appeared to be a political drama was all too real by the beginning of August, however. A coalition of international countries led by the United States helped liberate and return Kuwait to Kuwaiti rule after Iraq invaded and won the war.
Russia-Ukraine border is currently experiencing a similar dynamic?
The US has initiated its AUKUS and QUAD alliances in the region to counter China. Similarly, the Chinese have made their ties stronger with regional powers to balance the US threat. While Washington has escalated pressure on its perceived strategic rivals, China and Russia have boosted bilateral ties while closely working together to counter US pressure, offset US influence in multilateral forums, and ridicule the US-led international system in recent years. While visiting Russia this past month, Russian President Vladimir Putin called China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and declared that the two countries’ ties were “the best in history.”
Russia has engaged the US in Europe by stationing nearly 100,000 Russian troops and heavy weapons on the Ukrainian border. RussianPresident has signed a decree to recognizeLuhansk and Donetsk areas and has sent a peace keeping army there. According to Russia’s UN ambassador VasilyNebenzya, these special operations are to protect the people who have been suffering genocide under the Ukrainian regime, and justified these special operations. It has been strongly rebuked by the United States and other NATO members. Russia’s actions, however, also implied that they would not defend Ukraine, in which the threat of reprisal has been limited to countries that are not NATO members. Stationing troops before and now invading Eastern Ukraine have compelled the US to intervene and mitigate the situation. This brings the US back into Europe.
In addition, Russia is probably anticipating sanctions but not military actions from the West, but “Today’s sanctions are too little, too late” said by Sen. Ben Sasse. When sanctions were imposed on Russia in 2014, for example, the U.S. and the European Union shifted their attention elsewhere. Re-engagement with Russia is inevitable after sanctions are lifted. On the contrary, Russia has been preparing for an invasion and the response from the West for years, unlike in 2014. The Russian economy is currently well-prepared to withstand what it anticipates to be a brief but powerful hurricane. But will Russia go for a full-scale invasion?
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Is a Full-Scale War Imminent?
If the Chinese leadership decides to strike while the iron is hot, they could do so. The only way to prevent their situation from deteriorating further would be to use whatever resources they have at their disposal right now to maintain the current, favorable balance of power. On the other hand, Russia may not start a full-scale war with Europe, but with the military build-up, recognizing southern Ukraine as independent states and initiating special operations in Eastern Ukraine is shaking the Europeans, the credibility of the US is at stake. In the last two weeks, Putin has had a great run. First and foremost, Putin has assumed command and the limelight. He has demonstrated his abilities to the rest of the globe as well as to his people. He had the option to invade Ukraine, and he did so, as the West feared. Such validation from purported enemies is crucial for leadership that relies heavily on force both at home and abroad.
Putin startled Europe and the US by deploying his troops close to the Ukrainian border and starting a special operation, igniting a debate over how they would respond after the attacks on Ukraine. Sanctions are to be imposed on Russian development corporations, and on its banks, but are these enough to stop Russian invasion? In Moscow’s view, the West appears to be polarized. As a result, the West has exposed numerous flaws rather than providing a sturdy deterrent. The EU countries, many of whom are NATO allies, publicly disagree on numerous issues. In certain countries, such as Germany, there are divisions within the government itself. The Russians often fly military planes into the airspace of other countries to test their air defenses and get information if they decide to attack. The West doesn’t like this because it does not know what to do with this information.
While Russia serves as a balancer for China in Europe, its military development is a sign of NATO and other European countries’ rifts. To keep an eye on China and Russia, the United States and NATO are working together. Even more so, in the last few weeks, Russia has successfully reinvigorated its narrative on European security in response to Western aggression, which has been ongoing since the Soviet Union dissolution. More nations would be prohibited from joining the NATO under Russian diplomatic and more recently military pressure in Ukraine, as is customary when they make such plans for the new European security architecture. It is perceived that both Russia and China pose a serious threat to the United States hegemony and credibility throughout Europe and Asia-Pacific.
However, Russia has successfully delivered the message that the United States and its allies will be powerless to oppose it if Moscow decides to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. How can the West prevent China from annexing Taiwan, a key strategic location for the Chinese, if Russia could not be stopped?
Aqeel Ahmad Gichki is a Research Assistant at Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN), at BUITEMS, Quetta. He did his Master’s in International Relations from the University of Balochistan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.