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Columnists

The Paper Tiger Meets the Imperial Dragon

As the world watches Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine with bated breath, the recent visit of China’s president to Russia has caught everyone’s attention. While many believe this visit is a show of Russian strength, flaunting its ties to a major power to the West, a more critical analysis suggests otherwise. Instead, the visit reveals that Russia has now openly admitted that its war efforts are in serious jeopardy and need some semblance of a bailout from a major power like China. It also sheds light on the long-held myth of Russia’s might, showing that it has been a paper tiger since the end of World War II.

Since the onset of the Ukraine crisis, Russia has faced mounting international pressure and crippling economic sanctions. Its military campaign has been far from the swift and decisive victory it expected. The resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people have taken the world by surprise, exposing Russia’s weaknesses in a way that was unimaginable just a few years ago.

The visit of China’s president to Russia suggests that Russia is not the formidable power it once was or pretended to be. If it were, it would not need to court China’s support so publicly. This visit speaks to Russia’s increasing desperation, as it searches for a lifeline amidst a deteriorating situation on the ground and growing isolation on the world stage.

While the West has long treated Russia as a significant global player, the unfolding events in Ukraine have forced a reevaluation of this perception. Despite its massive size, nuclear arsenal, and seat at the UN Security Council, Russia has struggled to maintain the facade of power since the end of World War II. Its economy has lagged behind, corruption is rampant, and its military might has been exposed as more of a bluff than a genuine threat.

In contrast, China has been steadily rising as a global superpower. With a booming economy, technological prowess, and increasing influence in international affairs, China has demonstrated that it is the real force to be reckoned with. The fact that Russia has turned to China in its hour of need is a testament to this shift in the global balance of power.

The West must take note of this development and reassess its approach to both China and Russia. Continuing to treat Russia as a significant power in the face of evidence to the contrary is not only misguided but dangerous. This misplaced fear has allowed Russia to wield undue influence on the world stage, despite its inherent weaknesses.

On the other hand, the West should not underestimate China’s rise or dismiss the potential implications of closer ties between Russia and China. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to unravel, the West must be prepared to adapt to a new reality where China takes center stage.

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