What if China gives Russia weapons to fight in Ukraine?
Chinese Type 15 light tank

Last week, China released a position paper on the Russo-Ukrainian war that, while sparse on details, called for a “complete ceasefire” to “help the warring parties open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible.” and they were against the use or threat of nuclear weapons. But the Biden administration also said that China might send artillery and drones to help Russia with its supplies.

With China possibly getting more involved in the war, the war has moved into a new and crucial phase. Evidence shows that Western policymakers understand what is at stake for Ukraine and wish to avoid war forever Debilitating.

Analysts have only been able to determine China’s position from what the government has said since the conflict began. But the possibility that Beijing will take part in the war, either as a diplomatic mediator or as a supplier of arms, shows that China wouldn’t want its closest strategic partner to get so weak that it can no longer be recognized. With its large industrial base, China could have big effects on the battlefield if it gets involved in Ukraine.

The fact that China has publicly said that it wants the war to end as soon as possible and won’t let Russia give up should be a warning to the West. It’s not clear how much Beijing will be involved in any negotiations, but giving Moscow weapons for the battlefield could be a good way to counter the help that Ukraine’s partners are sending.

The Ukrainian war: thinking about a difficult scenario

Even without Chinese intervention, there are already signs that the costs of trying to survive Russia’s relentless attacks are becoming more difficult for the United States and its allies to bear. Concern about future military aid amounts is clearly influencing Western policymakers’ calculus.

Following President Joe Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv, a Wall Street Journal report indicated that several NATO allies are pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to consider peace talks with Russia.

According to the Journal, “Politicians in the UK, France, and Germany have growing doubts that Ukraine is capable of driving the Russians out of eastern Ukraine and Crimea… and believe that the West can only help sustain the war effort for a while.” time, especially if the conflict gets bogged down.

This account coincides with an earlier Washington Post report this month: “US officials are telling Ukrainian leaders that they face a critical moment to change the course of the war.” The Post cited a senior administration official’s warning that “we will continue to try to drive home that we can’t do anything and everything forever.”

The truth is that Western production levels of various critical munitions, such as Javelin anti-armor missiles and 155mm howitzers, simply cannot keep up with Ukrainian fire on the ground.

Although Russian rates of fire have been reported to have decreased considerably, Kyiv is completely dependent on Western military aid to withstand the massive attack by newly mobilized Russian units.

In addition, the pace and intensity of the fighting are severely affecting Ukrainian manpower and resources. In addition to the severe economic and infrastructural damage suffered in the first year of the conflict, millions of Ukrainians have fled abroad.

Those who remain are recruited and sent to the front after only a month of training; consequently, both sides have suffered many casualties. But because Russia is better at getting workers and making its own goods, Western leaders are right to think that Ukraine is unlikely to return to the way things were before.

Ukraine’s partners should encourage them to consolidate their advances now rather than spend more men and equipment on a grueling spring offensive against entrenched Russian units. 

A protracted war in Ukraine carries several risks that do not serve US interests and could complicate efforts to end the conflict. A recent study by the RAND Corporation explained that these risks include using nuclear weapons on Russia’s side, direct NATO-Russia conflict, prolonged humanitarian suffering, long-lasting global economic upheaval, and a drain on US resources needed for other strategic priorities. For Ukraine itself, an endless war against a neighboring major nuclear-armed power will hamper its national reconstruction efforts and deter international investors.

What will happen next?

So far, the West has been able to arm Ukraine without getting into a direct conflict with Russia. In the same way, Ukraine’s battlefield victories have disproved negative predictions about its ability to retake occupied land.

But the course of the war can change quickly, and what worked for the last year might not be the best plan for the next year. “Time is not on Ukraine’s side,” former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said recently.

Those in Western capitals which can see the writing on the wall should understand this point better if China gets involved in the conflict.