Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has kicked off a proxy war that has western ideologies of the US, Europe, and the UK, battling authoritarian ideologies of Russia, North Korea, Iran, and China.

Putin sees weak political leadership in America, and it’s not just Biden. Democracies are always at a functional disadvantage against authoritarian states initially because dictatorships act on the authority of a single ruler while democracies dither and debate. Like a good chess player who sees weakness on the board and an opening for an attack, Putin took it.

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin participated in a tete-a-tete during a U.S.-Russia Summit on June 16, 2021, at the Villa La Grange in Geneva. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

World War III is here, but nobody wants to admit it. It’s a war of sanctions, military hardware, defense tech, and cyber warfare on top of a very conventional war being fought on the ground and mostly uncontested air to ground.

While it’s clear Ukraine’s calls for a no-fly zone point out a major weakness for air superiority, this air war will mostly end when Russian troops become commingled with the fierce population of Ukraine, and missions by the Russian air force would be just as likely to hit their own troops as the Ukrainians.

Why is it WWIII?

Let me explain.

China will likely send weapons to Russia at Putin’s request to sustain his war effort, just as he has drawn on Syrian and Chechens as well. No doubt China also has military observers with the Russian army to observe and report back to Beijing on what is happening on the ground in terms of weapons effectiveness, logistical problems, and tactics.  China’s military is patterned after Russia’s in force structure and this war in Ukraine will teach them many things.

On the flip side.

America’s spy agency is surely involved as is their clandestine Special Ops units, and possibly Army Special Forces advisors.

Both the EU and the US are sending massive amounts of weapons and, along with the UK, have installed harsh economic sanctions against Russians, not just the Billionaire Oligarchs. This has resulted in the collapse of the Ruble and the inability for people to transact with Visa or Mastercard and many banking systems.

Over 2 million Ukrainian refugees have spilled into the countries of Europe, and Russia also sees its own population flee to Turkey, Georgia, and other states with open borders.

Ukrainian refugees crossing into Poland (Mvs.gov.uaCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s been crippling to everyone inside and outside of Russia, and the one thing nobody is talking about is who benefits. I’ll give you a clue, and it rhymes with China.

The Chinese can now push their own Pharma (e.g., cancer drugs have stopped flowing into the country from the West), banking services, and more on Russia who are forced to replace western companies who vanished in the night.

China also benefits from the distraction this war creates for its own objectives in Taiwan. This is a great experiment for them, and they will come out stronger regardless of the outcome as they did with COVID.

China and Russia are allies wary of each other too, neither one will want to take a backseat to the other and there are places in Europe where their interests can and do conflict.  Hard as it may be to believe, China may be hoping to see Russia fail in Ukraine because diminished prestige for Russia enhances China’s standing as well. Don’t be surprised to see Beijing try to step in at some point to try and broker a peace deal to raise their profile on the international stage.

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On a strange side note, I was personally involved in a high level conversation with Hollywood execs when they asked for a plot change in a fictional tv series to replace a Middle Eastern protagonist. I said, “Easy, just sub in China.”

The response shook me to the core.

“We can’t do that, there’s too much Chinese money tied up in American studios, anything anti-China would be financial suicide.”

Let that sink in for a bit while your kids give up all their personal data on TikTok to Xi Jinping.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin with President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping during a tour of the Moscow Kremlin, 2019. (Kremlin.ruCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The World is a battlefield. All countries on the globe will feel the aftershock of Putin’s invasion for years, and most major western powers are pitted against Russia, China, and Iran. Whether we want to admit it or not, this is what World War III looks like in 2022.

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