slava ukraini
Opinion

Slava Ukraini: International Power Players

This time in Slava Ukraini, we shall travel far from the battlegrounds of Ukraine and examine how decisions made thousands of miles away impact Putin’s War.

The arsenal of democracy re-arms

Partly because of the war, Congress raised defense spending in bipartisan votes — appropriating $740 billion rather than the $715 billion requested for the Pentagon by the White House.

Two defense contracting juggernauts, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies, will receive some of this increased funding as Congress looks to further modernize and expand the military. With these companies’ locations in Florida, hundreds of good-paying Floridian jobs, especially in engineering, may accompany these prospective increased revenues.

These companies manufacture everything from fighter jets to cybersecurity tools. Even if their products are not going directly into the hands of Ukrainian soldiers, these companies will still likely see a big boost in business. 

Congress is also directly aiding Ukraine. Daniel Fried, the former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, says Congress “can vote [for] money for Ukraine … to help the resistance … to help the countries surrounding Ukraine … to reach out to the Russian people.” 

This eventually did happen when Congress earmarked $8 billion for Ukraine in the 2022 budget resolution. That $8 billion is larger than Ukraine’s entire defense budget, and is being delivered in installments of $800 million worth of supplies. Later, a mammoth $39.8 billion package was passed as the U.S. dug in for the long haul. In retaliation, Russia sanctioned most members of Congress (who proudly trumpet their newfound Russian notoriety). 

Unfortunately, Florida’s Republican senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, voted against this budget. Scott belied his dearth of knowledge on Congress’ procedures when he tried to remove the Ukrainian aid from the budget resolution and pass it separately. 

Apparently unbeknownst to Scott, that would have required further processes, further delaying the aid package and the budget resolution. Luckily, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, was on the Senate floor to enlighten Scott.

Meanwhile, Rubio has been Tweeting updates on the situation in Ukraine — a particularly useful service given his position as vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Yet, Rubio, along with Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, made a huge blunder when he Tweeted President Zelenskyy’s ostensibly secure location after Zelenskyy told them not to do just that. 

No hard feelings were shown when President Zelenskyy addressed Congress, forcing them to watch a graphic video that brought many members to tears as he pleaded for additional aid, invoking memories of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. He twice received a standing ovation.

The Chinese question

However, the U.S. and Europe are not the only powers watching Putin’s War. China, whose President Xi Jinping declared a “no limits” alliance with Putin in February, has drawn attention for his relative neutrality

One scholar who is keenly watching Putin’s War is Dr. Zachary Selden.

Selden’s achievements include being an international affairs analyst at the National Security Division of the Congressional Budget Office, and serving as the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s deputy secretary general for policy as well as director of the Defence and Security Committee. He is now a professor at the University of Florida.

Both Selden and Oleh Shamshur, the former Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., referred to Russia as the junior partner in its relationship with China. China has abstained from U.N. Security Council and General Assembly votes, not explicitly supporting either side. They have vaguely urged peace talks above all else. China even refused to give Russia parts for its planes, something a military sorely needs in active combat. 

Even if they did give Russia material aid, that does not mean it would be useful. Russian military equipment depends largely on cheap, low-quality materials, including Chinese tires that caused a mechanical breakdown and prevented a 40-mile-long convoy from advancing on Kiev.

All three experts agreed that China may have acted differently if the Russian military had performed well and with less brutality.

China was also viewed as an impediment to cutting off Russia from the global banking system known as SWIFT, since the Chinese have their own copy of this system, albeit on a much smaller scale. This will not cause such a major issue as many believe, however. 

The consequence of the U.S. caring for its bottom line and desiring “the whole world to be part of an integrated open system” is that the U.S. has remained the unquestioned leader in global finance, as Fried pointed out. Most global transactions are done in dollars. Russia has been locked out of the dollarized world, and Fried called it a “silly idea” that China’s renminbi could overtake the hegemony of the dollar.

While China is not aiding Russia as much as possible, Xi is still taking advantage of the monumental distraction caused by Putin’s War. China sent warplanes into the airspace over Taiwan, the small, proudly independent nation-state that China ludicrously claims is theirs. 

China and Russia’s alliance, described by Selden as “a wary partnership on both sides” has encountered its first major challenge with Putin’s War. It remains to be seen just how far China goes to either accept or distance itself from its ostensible partner. The two nations share an “authoritarian axis” as phrased by Shamshur, but little else.

There is also an unusual, little-remembered agreement that China signed with Ukraine in 2013 shortly after Xi Jinping took power. In this treaty, China pledged to protect Ukraine from any nuclear threats. This is the only treaty of this kind that China ever signed, and may guide that country’s future participation (or not) in Putin’s War.

President Biden also spoke to Xi about Putin’s War. Biden warned Xi of major consequences should he pick the wrong side. 

Beijing and Washington are clearly major outside players in Putin’s War. Their interactions now serve as a dress rehearsal for future Sino-American relations.

Next time in Slava Ukraini: we delve into how Russia has been economically punished for attacking Ukraine.

Until then, Slava Ukraini!

Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.

Featured image: the Ukrainian flag and American flag next to a ribbon in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Photo by Charles Horowitz.

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