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26 May, 2024
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A war of endurance

'China is the only power that can pressure Putin to back down if a compromise is found that allows him to claim some kind of victory'

Alexis Papachelas

Alexis Papachelas

It is very difficult to say how the war in Ukraine will end and how long it will last. It is purely a question of endurance, of who will last longer.

Russia has sustained an unprecedented exclusion from the world economic system and ordinary Russian citizens are beginning to feel the impact. The oligarchs are coming under pressure and a section of the middle class sees its connections to the West being severed – from credit cards to Netflix. We cannot predict how much “pain” the Russian elite and the citizens will be able to endure. It is clear that President Vladimir Putin did not foresee such a united and decisive stance from the West, nor sanctions of such magnitude. At the moment, Russia has a relative economic “cushion” from natural gas sales to the West.

Western societies are also feeling the effects of this crisis, from the cost of gas for their cars to the prices of products on supermarket shelves. In both the United States and Europe, large sections of society are under great pressure. The explosion of energy prices will pile on even more. At the moment, the shocking images of the endless flow of refugees have shaken western public opinion and pushed their leaderships to take drastic measures. In the faces of these refugees, Europe sees a forgotten threat to its peace and prosperity.

But we all know that politics is a highly local art and that voters are often driven by their pockets. So there is a question of how long western societies will withstand a prolonged crisis that may even result in restrictions on energy consumption.

Of course, no one’s endurance has been tested as much as the Ukrainian people’s and its leadership. They have surprised their friends and, above all, their foes. What they are going through is a nightmare of inconceivable proportions that changed their lives overnight. How long will they last? Will they come to a point where their president has to accept a very painful compromise because the human toll is too high? The answers are elusive because when people are trapped in such big crises, they often play roles they had never imagined.

It will also be interesting to see the endurance of another, more distant, but powerful player: China. Beijing is aware of the risk of a prolonged war in Ukraine causing a global economic shock. Let us not forget that China is the only power that can pressure Putin to back down if a compromise is found that allows him to claim some kind of victory.

This war promises to test the endurance of everyone on this planet. Considering that we have already gone through an economic crisis and a pandemic, this will not be easy. The last thing we needed was a war.

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