Russian retreat from Kherson may make China nervous

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, November 9: Russia has almost lost the war in Ukraine. To save its armed forces, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered retreat of the forces from Kherson in Ukraine. With this, the Ukrainian fightback has gained speed, and Russia may have to announce end of the invasion with a major loss of face.

The world history is full of tales of smaller nations defending against mighty army, and Ukraine War may just be a reminder that the size doesn’t matter in battles. Ukraine is unlikely to agree to a ceasefire until all of its land is vacated by the Russian military, while Kyiv may the ante and press for the liberation of the region previously annexed by Russia.

In over 10 months of the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been facing reversals on all fronts, with its mainstay missile Iskander just being one-third of the stockpile, and Moscow forced to seek missiles from North Korea and Iran clearly showed that the invading army was no match to the firepower of Ukraine, which has been strongly supported by the US and the other NATO nations.

Significantly, the Ukrainian fightback has been strategised in close operations with the NATO nations and the US military generals. The Ukrainian Army has been high on patriotism and also arms and ammunitions, which destroyed the Russian tanks, while the raining missiles couldn’t cause enough damage. Russia cannot exercise the nuclear option, for the fact that the cost of doing so would be too excessive, which may pose existential threat to Russia. That leaves Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, with the only option to announce a unilateral ceasefire, and hope that Ukraine too doesn’t bring in too many demands, including compensation for the damages, which Moscow cannot afford to pay.

While Russian action will be watched out in the next few days, China’s President Xi Jinping has reasons to worry, for his call to the People’s Liberation Army to prepare for war and win may not create much enthusiasm among his generals. Xi is stepping up on his war rhetoric to distract attention from the disastrous Covid management, which has gone haywire, with the strict enforcement of the ‘Zero Covid Policy, which essentially means packing infected people to undisclosed locations situated on islands, while the economy continues to sink. People in China as seen in a number of videos are openly protesting against lack of foodgrains, including the staple rice.

In this backdrop, Xi will certainly keep his war rhetoric charged up. But he would have second thoughts on taking over Taiwan forcefully, for unlike Ukraine where the US has been covertly helping Kyiv, Washington will be directly drawn in the war in the Taiwanese straits, and that would also bring in the full might of the NATO nations. China has not fought a war for several decades, and its arms and ammunitions are also untested, while the US and the NATO nations are battle ready all the time, besides equipped with the most modern weaponry.

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