As was suggested BTL on Friday, the Chinese piece we linked to last time certainly conveys (inter alia) a worldview fairly palatable to western readers, i.e. that China - a nation that has thrived mightily in the recent world order - has at least something to lose by finding itself on the wrong side of history. Whether that means the piece is a come-on to embolden the west into doing something stupid is another matter. I suppose it might be.
It's not just the Chinese, of course, who'll be priming the www with self-serving inputs. Here's a briefing on behalf of Biden, making out he's a wise and consistent judge of Putin, with a realistic - i.e. very worried - view of the dangers. Hmm. Maybe.
Various western commentators say that our interests are best served by giving Putin a clear cut face-saver because the alternative is rapid escalation towards an existential threat to ourselves; against which outcome Ukraine as an integral, independent political entity may need to be sacrificed. I'm not sure it's as easy as that.
Right now it looks to most of the world as though the stout Ukrainian defenders (with a little help from their sponsors) have already handed Putin his arse. Sure enough, he may deploy heavy artillery plus an army of mercenary orcs to flatten and then occupy half the country. Maybe that even includes a puppet regime in Kyiv. But that's not even "Hitler Captures Most Of France in a Lightning Strike, Parades in Glory at the Arc de Triomphe, and Sponsors a Compliant Vichy Government", is it? Nobody's the slightest impressed - most specifically, not Xi, as I keep saying.
So: assuming the chances of Putin swiftly repeating his Ukrainian, errr, triumph on Estonia are vanishingly small, what scenario can possibly give him that face-saver, expunge his global humiliation?
Here's what I think. He gets and holds whatever slice of UKR he can, maybe even just Donbas (who's to stop him?), but there's non-stop sniping resistance from whatever's left (there are enough wealthy bear-baiters to finance that). And the west carries on with serious sanctions: not remotely sufficient to guarantee an early anti-Putin putsch, but more than enough to make a mark, and have him permanently angry (and demeaningly in thrall to China). Whatever the finer details - even if China feels strong enough, and the inclination, to tell him to wind his neck in - surely in all cases we are likely to be in for a protracted 'War of Putin's Arse': his retribution by way of non-stop Kremlin-sponsored sub-military mayhem (sabotage, assassination, cyber attack, support for Bad Guys, encouragement of organised crime, sponsorship of illegal migration ...) against western interests by land, sea, air, space and cyber, never quite crossing anybody's red line into actual combat. The west's lines of logistics are really quite extended and exposed ...
Whose nerve cracks first? Germany, seriously incommoded by inability to rely on Russian energy supplies? USA, with isolationist opposition to bearing the costs of strife in faraway places, and elections every two years? Brussels, always keen to deal and never noted for its spine? The entirety of western public opinion, ground down by shortages, price increases, limitations on safe travel, random unexplained power cuts and www outages, big defence bills etc etc etc ad nauseam? Or ... Putin's praetorian guard?
I really can't guess.