The Russian invasion of Ukraine changed all the dynamics in Asia. Europe had been without war for almost 80 years. The struggle in Yugoslavia was a civil confrontation and therefore different. But a military clash between two large states in the heart of the continent was something forgotten during a period without precedent in European history. Yet it happened.
In Asia, the last war was 40 years ago; China attacked Vietnam over its conquest of Cambodia. Before that, there were decades of fighting in Korea and Indochina. The idea of a conflict was always more present than in Europe. If, then, a full-blown invasion can happen in Europe, the same possibility is automatically multiplied in more volatile Asia.
Therefore, every Asian country will have to assume, as it’s happening today, that a full-scale war might blow up at any given moment over any given incident.
Therefore, there is an arms race going on, and emotions are running high for various reasons.
Also, unfortunately, while in the past China backed the “attacked” countries, such as Iraq or Serbia when it was trying to safeguard the Yugoslavia’s unity, according to the official rhetoric, this time, at the start of the clash, Beijing’s domestic propaganda sided with the attacker, Russia, oblivious of its claim on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Presently, China is changing its tune on Ukraine, it is nervous; the region is tense. Every country in the area has reasons to consider that as Russia did with Ukraine, so Beijing could do with Taiwan. The chance might be low, but how could an Asian government around China dismiss this possibility and avoid rearmament?
Here is the dilemma: War preparation is thus very reasonable, increasing the chances of incidents and worse. Some serious dialogue should be there to stop or slow down the slide, but so far, there is nothing like that, while wild grandiloquence inflames sentiments, not only in China.
Traps and trip-wires have always been part of politics. There is nothing strange or particularly bad about them.
China beat the US at its own globalization game, and now China should be wise not to fall into various ruses set by its many enemies, not only the US. Actually, China should remove the tangles and de-escalate the tension. It is useless to complain about the snares and then fall for them; it all sounds deliberate. Super-clever Russian President Vladimir Putin complaining about being tricked by otherwise “stupid” Americans sounds nonsensical.
To top it all, Russia faces many problems in Ukraine. It has been politically defeated, and it might also be militarily defeated. Russian establishment in the past century never survived a defeat in war: It had disruptive revolutions in 1905 after falling to Japan, in 1917 after failing to Germany, and in the 1980s after losing in Afghanistan. Will it be different this time? Perhaps not, and the stability of Russia is crucial for every country.
In all of this, puny but hyper-dangerous North Korea is preparing for a seventh nuclear test, making South Korea and Japan very nervous.
Then, what kind of fire will Russia’s future “revolution” kindle with the fickle Asian fuel?
This could be months or days away, but not years. It is doubtful at this stage that the war in Ukraine can go on like this for many years. Perhaps, we all should prepare for something very soon.