Russia’s Real Enemy Is China, Not the West

Vladimir Putin. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images.)

Amid the growing collapse of Russian forces in Vladimir Putin’s ill-begotten war in Ukraine, a crucial question looms not just over the battlefield, but also over the future of Russia. 

That question is not whether Putin will use nuclear weapons to reverse the tide of the war. That threat is certainly real, and the U.S. and NATO need to make it clear that any such use will bring massive retaliation from the West. But such an order might well be the last  Putin ever gives. His inner circle is realizing that they have entered a dangerous end game with Putin in which they will have to choose who to sacrifice—him or themselves. 

For that reason, the real question is what kind of Russia will emerge from this Ukraine war and from the Putin dictatorship. Twice during the 20th century, internal strife and military defeat triggered the collapse of Russia’s governing institutions and pushed the Russian bear into hibernation. Twice the U.S. and the West made the same mistake in response.The first occurred in 1917, when the democratic revolution that had toppled the czar was overthrown by Lenin and the Bolsheviks.The second was after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the U.S. and the West were too busy celebrating the end of the Cold War to confront the failure of democracy in Russia until it was too late. 

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