Xi Jinping’s Olympics and Putin’s Games (which could ruin them)

from Guido Santevecchi

The Russian president could decide to invade Ukraine during the Games as he did in 2008 with Georgia and in 2014 with Crimea. Meanwhile, China increases its raids on Taiwan.

Will Vladimir Putin Ruin the Beijing Winter Games? It would be a bad surprise for Xi Jinping, who has met the Russian leader dozens of times and calls him old friend of the Chinese people (highest Mandarin honor for a foreigner). The tsar promised to be present at the opening of the Olympics on February 4, unlike the leaders of Western democracies who follow Joe Biden in the diplomatic boycott or stay at home anyway for reasons of political-pandemic opportunity. However, Putin is thinking about his power games in Ukraine. He has amassed troops on the border and is expecting a written message from Washington this week with guarantees on Russian security. He has a bad record, Putin, regarding the Olympics.

In 2008 the Russia-Georgia war began on 8 August, right on the day of the inaugural ceremony of the Beijing Summer Games. The Russian president quickly returned to Moscow to take command of operations.

In 2014, Russian action in Crimea began on February 24 with a disguised operation by military units without Russian badges: on February 23, Putin was in the stands in Sochi for the closing of the Winter Olympics, which cost 50 billion dollars to build ski resorts on the Black Sea shore.

Repeat the pattern? The Chinese Foreign Ministry just mentioned that the United Nations has adopted one Resolution on the Olympic truce, which is expected to last from seven days before the start of the Olympics to seven days after the end of the Paralympics. So: from January 28 to March 20. The resolution was adopted by consensus, with no objections from the Moscow delegation. Military analysts observe that once the hoped-for Olympic truce is over, in Ukraine with the spring there will be thaw (climatic, certainly not geopolitical), rain and mud. Conditions on Ukrainian ground would hinder swift action by Russian forcesbe it a demonstrative and destabilizing foray or a full-scale invasion. After the Olympic truce, Beijing could also have its strategic interest in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, political scientists and military analysts fear the perfect Storm on the routes of the new East-West cold war. This is the reasoning: if Russia attempted military gambling in Ukraine, Xi Jinping could study the reaction of the United States and Europe and if this were limited to outrage and threats of economic retaliation, the Chinese president could be tempted to adopt the “doctrine Putin ”in Taiwan.

But even in the event of a strong US reaction in Ukraine, Xi might think that the Americans would not have the political military capacity to simultaneously engage in another theater such as the South China Sea. The chaotic end of the Western mission in Afghanistan last summer perhaps reinforced this line of thinking, both in Beijing and in Moscow.

The fact is that yesterday 39 Chinese warplanes entered the Taiwan Identification Zone, in the most massive raid since last October. The flock consisted of 34 fighters, a bomber, two electronic interference devices and two for intelligence gathering. In response, our Air Force launched jets and alerted the defensive positions of surface-to-air missiles, the Taipei Defense Ministry said. These continuous take-offs are wearing out Taiwanese planes and pilots: on 11 January an F-16s crashed and for several days the entire fleet of F-16s was grounded for overhaul. At the same time, two American aircraft carriers with their battle groups were maneuvering together with Japanese units around the Philippines. At the moment: “nothing new on the eastern front”.

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