Tuesday 24 January 2023

China on Russia / Ukraine: as expected

Why is Germany playing silly-buggers over tanks for Ukraine?  If the answer is "no", then say so.

Readers will know I have long maintained that Xi is the spectator with most interest in what transpires in Ukraine - and that he will have marked Putin's card in no uncertain terms.

Owen Matthews in the Speccie seems to have it nailed.  This, from November (I missed it at the time) is a short, but great read - and may still have salience on the tanks issue.  After all, Biden isn't exactly rushing forward with the Abrams, is he? 

 Beijing and Moscow pledged to come to each other’s aid militarily in the case of a foreign invasion of their territory and if special conditions were satisfied concerning the cause of such an invasion. That extremely canny and prescient proviso, inserted at Chinese insistence, would effectively exclude territories recently annexed during wartime, thus releasing Beijing from any commitment to respond to attacks on annexed territories in Ukraine.  

But everything points to a new Russian offensive in the offing.


UPDATE:- seems I wrote just a few hours too soon.  And - it's Zelensky's birthday today !


Bill Quango MP said...

The Leopard tanks.

Reports that Germany has agreed, and not agreed, to send its own, and allow others.
Scholz supposedly says, ‘ he will not be driven to making statements to fit a news timetable.’

Bigger idiot than he appears.
Means the stories drip out without him. He won’t get the credit if it’s a popular idea.
Will get the condemnation if it isn’t.

Sobers said...

Easy. The US pressures Germany into sending its tanks (and allowing everyone else to send their German tanks) to Ukraine where they get chewed up in the fighting. Guess who now needs new tanks, and who is the only country able to supply them in any sort of decent time frame? Yes, you guessed it, the US of A. Funny that.

The entire Ukraine war is being run for the benefit of the US, and they will make sure it continues as long as those benefits keep coming. It has nothing to do with morality (as we were laughably earnestly told when this all started) and everything to do with making sure the US is still Top Nation in a decades time. The Russo/Ukraine war will end precisely when its in the geo-political interests of the US for it to do so. So not for the foreseeable future......

E-K said...

The tanks will need crew, obviously. Not as well trained as the countries lending them.

rwendland said...

Well, Defense Secretary Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Milley both say training to operate and maintain complex tanks like the M1 would take months, and that Ukraine already has hundreds of tanks at its disposal. Austin actually said "What we’re really focused on is making sure that Ukraine has the capability that it needs to be successful right now ... between now and the spring ... we have to pull together the right capabilities." - i.e. not complex tanks. Milley and Austin think Strykers, Bradleys, MRAPs (many with excellent night-time systems) are more useful. According to NBC anyway:


It seems like it is ever-so-eager Poland & the UK that is applying the pressure on Germany over tanks, not the US. Though maybe Biden and his operators are dithering on this one. I wonder if Poland is planning to provide "volunteers" to drive/crew their Leopard 2 gifts to Ukraine, to overcome the training timing issue.

Anonymous said...

You think the US has any overarching control in this ?

You’ve never met a Russian they think different to the west. As do most other continents and or religions.

This war has cost in monetary terms a pretty penny to the US more than all Europe combined.
Yes they’ll be strings attached. No, there is no way the US can claim back all the American tax payer has spent

You can keep your conspiracy theories

Nick Drew said...

Anyhow, it's Zelensky's birthday today! (update)

Caeser Hēméra said...

@ND - timing is truly a skill ;)

Germany's been playing a poor mans Erdogan, trying to look supportive whilst also trying not to annoy Russia too much. It's why plenty of German material found its way into Russia after the post-Crimean sanctions. They're just not very good at it.

Politically a lumbering beast, tied to Ostpolitik and with WW2 guilt dusted over everything. Hopefully a sign that they've recognised we're in a new reality now.

As for the Abrams, I suspect a lot of those immediately available for the US to hand out had the DU armour plates, and that type is very much US only. Ukraine shouldn't have many technical issues with them - they were the heart of USSR engineering - but fuelling might be interesting.

Gives Ukraine a good chance to improve their capitalising on breaking through Russian lines, I still think after Easter we'll have a good idea of who'll look to lose, and I still think that will be Russia, them desperately seeking an off ramp.

Decimating their internal budgets to fund infrastructure in the captured areas, areas that Ukraine can hit, can only last so long. Even the most ardent Russian nationalist is going to get fed up of that.

If it turns into a long war, it'll be the USSR redux, only with the Russian Federation fracturing.

Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh said...

The USA does not sell their tanks into Europe.
A ridiculous conspiracy theory.
Germany is the principal supplier of tanks to Western Europe. ( if you don’t include Russia.)

Germany also makes more submarines for everyone, than anyone else. Including the USA.

USA biggest customer is the USA.

Anonymous said...

The optics of German tanks v Russian troops will be a great recruiting tool for Russia. Not surprised Scholz was leery. As someone said elsewhere, Germany sent thousands of tanks to Ukraine in 1941, and what thanks did they get?

"The USA does not sell their tanks into Europe. A ridiculous conspiracy theory"

OK, pretty much every former Warsaw Pact nation has handed its T72s and artillery to Ukraine and they've all been used up. Who's going to sell them replacements - Russia?

I gather both Denmark and Estonia have sent ALL their howitzers into Ukraine. What's going to happen when the EU has sent all their kit, and it's all been wrecked? I imagine the Russians are hoping to get some Abrams in their sights, they proved Kornet-worthy in Syria.

Russia start slow and seem to improve - they've only just formally set up a program to learn/deconstruct/clone the technology being used against them, although I assume there was an informal effort before.

Anyway ND, I wouldn't laugh too much at the primitive Russians, with their poor record on gay rights and affordable childcare. How many divisions has James Cleverley got? How many tanks?

So far the US has kept escalating. They wouldn't send weapons that could hit mainland Russia, wouldn't send tanks. If it continues it's not going to be good for people living anywhere near London - or Cheltenham either.

Anonymous said...

PS - Dominic Cummings in conversation with Steve Hsu - I never realised Dom was probably an MI6 asset back in the day, when as a young guy he went to Russia to try to set up an airline from Samara, HQ of all Russian aerospace excellence and off limits to most before 1990.

Covers Russia, Brexit, Trump, Covid and Boris among much else.


Hsu is an interesting polymath himself - a physics prof with a side interest in finance (because all his PhD students end up in hedge funds), genetics (ran the Beijing Genomics Institute for a while) and a lot more. The transcript btw is only just intelligible - machine voice to text has a long way to go.

Anonymous said...

I don't see what all this "card marking" is about - even if Xi thinks RF is the most disorganised shambles on earth he will want them to win, because he knows if Russia go down, he's next on the list, whereas if the US go down, the list is moot anyway.

Obviously he won't want to upset any parties to the war, everything is good at present and the US have driven Russia's energy, food, minerals in his direction. All good as far as he sees it, and whatever help Russia needs, it'll get, with as much discretion as possible.

Lord T said...

Can't wait until Russia starts suppling its tools to the many Muslim crazies for use against American forces. The whining with ramp up then and the crazies will have no shortage of volunteers willing to use them.

Just crazy.

Anonymous said...

Lord T - if you remember Syria and Libya it was the US arming the headchoppers, just as we did in Afghanistan 40 years ago.

lilith said...

Very sad to say I saw it announced on Twitter that Old Holborn has died. Apparently cancer. The interweb has lost a funny, controversial, liberty loving voice. His family have lost their loving patriarch.

Anonymous said...

That is sad news, lilith. Great fun to read and a real one-off. God rest his soul.

Nick Drew said...

anon @ 2:44 - I doubt if Xi fears anything in particular by way of a threat to his China: he certainly has no cause to

what he "fears" is anything that might get in the way of his ambition to get Taiwan back under CP control - in his lifetime

he ain't gonna tolerate anything of that sort, if it's remotely within his power to do anything about it

Sobers said...

"Germany is the principal supplier of tanks to Western Europe. "

Historically, yes. Lets see how that pans out over the next few years as all the donors to Ukraine look to replace their lost armour. I bet that a watered down Abrams will be touted round as a Leopard replacement, at a suitably alluring price too. And once a country has swapped it won't be going back, as it'll be locked into the US upgrades and supply chain. Scratch off a bit more of German industrial might......

Bill Quango MP said...

So this is all a big scam to sell USA tanks to Europe?

Pretty unlikely scam.
Seems pretty far fetched.

If Europe wants more leopards, why won’t Germany just make more?

Who hatched this scheme?
Who controls usa tank production? And has an idea to con every single European nation into giving away all their armour?
Biden? Trump? Clinton? Obama! General Dynamics?

Who’s to say that all the given away stuff will ever be replaced? It’s in warehouses now. Waiting for either scrapping altogether, or the ‘ in case of emergency, break glass’ moment. Bradley, AMX, Marder. It’s all obsolete. 105mm rounds for artillery. Obsolete.
I used a 105mm in 1981.

The largest supplier of war aid to Ukraine, is America. And the USA has committed More than every other country, combined.
47 billion dollar
Rest of world, 38.5 billion dollar.

it’s a stupid con when you give away more than can ever be recouped in setting up the scam.

Anonymous said...

"why won’t Germany just make more?"

Can they afford the energy? Metal making and bashing is high energy and they ain't got none, thanks to ???

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to see a pattern here. Zelensky asks for tanks and long range artillery, US says no, Zelensky asks again and again until he gets them.

This evening he's asked for aircraft and long range missiles. Biden said only today no aircraft.

Surely Zelensky can't be blackmailing him (Hunter plus "10% for the big guy"), the CIA would do something, or would they? The US deep state wants this war.

I think I need some potassium iodide tablets for me and the family- just in case. I honestly believe our elites are capable of getting us there.

Anonymous said...

@ Lilith

Old Holborn, eh? Looks like Guido is the last man standing (and hes sold out to Murdoch).

Sobers said...

"The largest supplier of war aid to Ukraine, is America. And the USA has committed More than every other country, combined.
47 billion dollar
Rest of world, 38.5 billion dollar.

What did that $47bn cost the US actually? Nothing, because its all borrowed money that we all know they'll never pay back. They have the global reserve currency cheque book, they can spend what they like, it costs them nothing. Its also less than 1% of their entire $7tn budget.

As for what they are gaining, US oil exports leapt by c. $4bn/month after the invasion of Ukraine. So theres your $47bn back by March 2023. On top of that there's LNG exports which jumped from $8bn in 2021 to $35bn in 2022, and are running above that level currently. So another $25-30bn right there.

The US is making out like a bandit over the Ukraine war, and the US will continue to supply just enough weaponry to ensure that the Russians can't win, but not enough to allow the Ukrainians to do so either. The longer it goes on the stronger the US becomes and the weaker its adversaries become. And the latter include not just Russia but also Europe, especially Germany. Remember its odds on that the US destroyed the Nordstream 2 pipeline, just to f*ck Germany over.

The US is not our friend, nor anyone's friend. It does exactly what is best for it, and nothing more. Any pretense it may have had decades ago of standing up for freedom and democracy are long gone. The US itself is now an authoritarian hell hole, where the rule of law means nothing. It spies on its own people just like the Chinese do, its media manipulates the truth to suit the State like a tinpot dictatorship, it's democracy is a sham. It has become the Evil Empire it once (rightly) derided.

DJK said...

OK, so we're sending tanks. Predictably, Zelensky has laid down another demand --- fighter aircraft. Presumably the USA will pressure Europe to send some Typhoons before they send F15s, and then so on to the next escalation.

So how does it all end? You may say that with these new tanks/missiles/jets etc Ukraine will push the Russians out of the Donbass and Crimea. Maybe, but this would immediately be followed by Ukraine formally becoming part of Nato and with an American army camped right on the border of Russia. To the Russians, with their history (and knowing American history) it would not be obvious that that is where they would stay. And they would be able to watch the Americans practicing wargames in Ukraine as if they were about to march on Moscow.

So whatever your views on the rights and wrongs of the war, to the Russians it looks existential. Given that, I think they feel that they really cannot afford to lose and that any Nato escalation will have to be matched by a Russian one.

E-K said...

Hundreds of thousands of good blokes are now dead with many more to come (on both sides.) Vast amount of habitation and infrastructure are ruined.

That's tragic enough.

Remembering that this war started with the overthrow of an elected Ukrainian President in a USA instigated coup.

"Putin is Hitler !" says my uninformed aunt who is adamant that no other point of view can exist. I asked her about Maidan Square and she hadn't heard of it.

E-K said...

As of tanks. It's similar to replacing train drivers with guys off the street. Yup. You can, in a day or two, get him to drive it forwards (or even backwards, maybe) but can he work out what to do under pressure and in quick time when a compressor fails or an axle locks up ? (To name two of many thousands of things that can go wrong.)

Nick Drew said...

You all seem to have fixated on the tanks thing. At the scale of 12 here and 15 there, in the near term, it's tokenism.

Much more significant are the AS-90s which the UK is sending, in greater numbers - but nobody is talking about them.

Most significant of all are the Patriot systems. As I've mentioned before, Putin has kept his airforce out of the fray since about Day 5 last year. When it all kicks off again in a few weeks time, for Ukraine the key thing is to keep it that way.

E-K said...

Old Holborn - Sad to hear it (I had the good fortune to meet him once) but I worked out he was fighting for freedom in a losing battle and doing it the wrong way a decade ago. He would have been a confirmed Wokeist in Ukraine !

What kind of freedom does Zelenksy think the EU and NATO is going to give his country ? Looking at some aspects of his society Ukraine is incompatible to the West without serious reform. It really did have the best of both worlds before American intervention.

Anonymous said...

It's not Zelenskys country, so he's not bothered about its freedom.

Anonymous said...

I'm hearing (can't find official confirmation yet and the UK press is hopeless) that Ukraine have requested that all male refugees of military age be extradited to serve in the meatgrinder brigades.

Not good news if you're from Kharkov and turned 18 over here, to put it mildly.

Nick Drew said...

War is rarely good news, anon @ 11:48.

Bill Quango MP said...


The border issue is a Red Army Herring.

Russia borders on to NATO countries. Who already carry out extensive NATO exercises now.

Norway. Latvia. Estonia. Turkey. Poland borders the Kaliningrad region. Once Finland is a member the border of an active NATO ally, is less than 200 miles from all the major ministries in St Petersburg. The entire Baltic Sea will be NATO allied countries.

What a terrible miscalculation to have made. To have striven to prevent a NATO expansion, instead to have caused one.

The reality was Putin couldn’t much care who was on the other side of his border. But he didn’t want Ukraine joining before he had a chance to grab a big chunk of their territory for himself.

Nick Drew said...

@ BQ, NATO countries. Who already carry out extensive NATO exercises now

Yup. E.g.: both Sweden and Italy are now both actively patrolling the airspace above Romania and Poland. Never happened before.

Wildgoose said...

"E.g.: both Sweden and Italy are now both actively patrolling the airspace above Romania and Poland. Never happened before."

Only because NATO are providing RADAR coverage for Ukraine - if Ukraine attempted that itself then its RADAR installations would be rapidly destroyed.

But then, as the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has just openly admitted: European countries are "waging war against Russia".

Or, to repurpose BQ's quote: "What a terrible miscalculation to have made."

Caeser Hēméra said...

Sad to hear about Old Holborn, when I first started nosying around the blogger world I used to enjoy his missives, regardless of my level of agreement.

I shall raise a glass tonight.

Anonymous said...

BQ/ND - US policy towards Russia/Ukraine was laid down in the 1990s by Wolfowitz/Breszinski and has been consistent if not ethical ever since.

From 1997, “The Grand Chessboard – American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives” by Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Regarding the landmass of Eurasia as the center of global power, Brzezinski sets out to formulate a Eurasian geostrategy for the United States. In particular, he writes, it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger should emerge capable of dominating Eurasia and thus also of challenging America’s global pre-eminence.

You see why Russia and China are in the firing line. In 1997 Russia was the target, but 900 million 106-IQ people can do a lot in 25 years.


Nick Drew said...

Anon @ 7:53 - what you've cited is entirely consistent with a policy of containment.

The "existential threat to Russia" is a framing that depends on Putin et al considering that it is mortally threatening to them (as politicians), for their fellow Russians to behold other Russian-speaking, FSU peoples (e.g.) Ukrainians, Latvians, Estonians, conceivably thriving under a different geo-political umbrella to the one they kindly have on offer (currently being "enjoyed" by, errr, Belarus). Well tough titty: the West exists, and will continue to be an attractive "destination" to peoples everywhere.

The very caution that NATO has clearly betrayed every day, right from the start of the piece, about anything Putin might reasonably construe as a military threat to Russian territory, is clear enough evidence he needn't fear that. No American anywhere near the levers of power contemplates taking tanks across Russia's borders, let alone driving to Moscow.

Sobers said...

"Well tough titty: the West exists, and will continue to be an attractive "destination" to peoples everywhere."

Until it collapses under the weight of the new arrivals............sticking millions of people from sh*tholes into the West does not make them suddenly model Westerners. It just makes the West a sh*thole. Just look at London.

Diogenes said...

@Sobers You might have a push back on the London thing. London provides a "vibrant home" to Oligarchs, Kleptocrats, failed and upcoming dictators, much loved foreign bankers, politicos, health tourists, legal tourists and entourages.

There is simply too much money at stake for anything other than bashing a few souls who get just over £5 per day existence money. New arrivals rarely go to London.

Wildgoose said...

Talking about terrible miscalculations...