How Putin’s “Reclaiming” of Ukraine Could Spark Dutton’s War on China  

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Ukraine invasion

The invasion of Ukraine has shocked the globe, as all wars do. Carnage carries horror whether it’s in Kyiv, Baghdad or Kabul. However, Putin’s push to take over Russia’s southwestern neighbour carries a number of possible repercussions that the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan did not.

Moscow stated last month that it was amassing troops along the border as it wanted to prevent Ukraine becoming part of NATO, and hence the US expansion into Eastern European has provoked Putin to an extent.

But a clear distinction with the White House’s recent forays into the Middle East is the Kremlin claims Kyiv as its own territory.

Another key contrast with the Bush administration’s wars is they largely went militarily unchallenged by powers other than the nation invaded, whereas, now the US has deployed over 10,000 troops to Europe, and if any counter-attack occurs, the rest of NATO troops are already on the continent.

As for Australia, right now it seems unlikely that Canberra would be sending troops over to Europe. But it’s the first point of difference with Putin’s war that could have implications for our nation, in terms of other countries being emboldened to take territory they claim is rightfully theirs.

Beijing’s Ukraine

Another flashpoint in terms of disputed territory is Taiwan. Beijing considers the island a breakaway province, despite it having split from the mainland in 1949, after the Chinese Communist Party defeated the Kuomintang, and the Chinese nationalists fled there to form a self-governing territory.

In much the same way that Vladmir Putin’s decade-long rule has been marked by strongman tactics that have even seen him change the law to extend his reign, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ten years in office have involved fierce crackdowns and he’s altered the law to allow him to hold office for life.

Indeed, Xi has made “reunification” with Taiwan a key policy for his administration, along with the Belt and Road initiative. And over the last 12 months, his rhetoric on Taipei has been rising and it’s only grown stronger as the Biden administration makes it a key issue for possible confrontation.

While our defence minister Peter Dutton assured last November that “it would be inconceivable” for our nation not to follow Washington into a conflict with Beijing if the Chinese Communist Party attempts to take Taiwan in a similar manner to the way Moscow is now rolling into Kyiv.

The department of war

Dutton’s recent assertions around Taiwan aren’t some random cries in the wilderness though. Since he took over the defence portfolio, the minister has consistently been making heated remarks about China, which began with him suggesting our nation is already on something of a war footing.

But the real clincher was when ever-belligerent PM Scott Morrison dropped it on the nation that we’re now part of a new tripartite war pact with the US and the UK called AUKUS, and this involves going nuclear in the form of submarines because matters are getting so hectic in the Indo-Pacific.

Meanwhile, just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, Moscow and Beijing announced a new “no limits” partnership between the two nations. A joint 4 February statement specifically called out the last September-established AUKUS as posing strategic concerns that have led to their alliance.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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