The outcome of the war in Ukraine will likely shape China’s behavior toward its neighbors, two US senators — one a Democrat the other a Republican — told the CEPA Forum on September 28.
“I don’t know what [Chinese President] Xi Jinping is going to do, but neither does anyone else. Perhaps he doesn’t even know what he’s going to do. But I can guarantee you one thing: the leadership of the Communist Party of China is watching what happens in Ukraine,” said US Senator Roger Wicker (Republican-Mississippi.)
If Ukraine wins the war against Russia, Xi will be “discouraged from doing something foolish and reckless and extremely dangerous in the Indo-Pacific,” Wicker predicted, adding, “We are hoping that success in Ukraine for the forces of freedom dissuade conflict in the Pacific.”
Similarly, US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat-New Hampshire) said: “You can bet that . . . President Xi and China are watching what happens in Ukraine.” Iran and North Korea, too, are closely watching the war in Ukraine, the outcome of which will also have an impact on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in the future, she said.
The war is about more than just the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Shaheen said. “This is about are we going to . . . stand up and say that authoritarian regimes can’t just attack another country and annex it or chop it up,” she added.
CEPA awarded Wicker and Shaheen its 2023 Transatlantic Leadership Award for their steadfast support for Ukraine in the US Congress.
While Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations, Armed Services, and Appropriations committees, cited the unity in the Senate over continuing support for Ukraine, a significant bloc of House Republicans is opposed to continuing such support.
Amid uncertainty about US aid for Ukraine, Wicker said there is a need to revive such support by another year because the Ukrainians are “helping us defeat one of our major pacing adversaries around the world, and that is Putin’s Russia.”
“So, to the extent that, that we can help hasten the defeat of the aggressive Russian effort into a sovereign country, we’ll be better off and world peace will be better off,” he added.
Wicker, who is the co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke in a pre-recorded conversation with CEPA Senior Vice President Geysha Gonzalez.
Wicker said it is important to make the case that US support for Ukraine is a US national security interest. He expressed concern about what he described as the “incrementalism” of the Biden administration’s approach to providing aid to Ukraine. “The weapon systems, the ammunition, the long-range capability, should have gotten there sooner,” he said.
Since the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine in February 2022, Congress has approved about $113 billion in military, humanitarian, and economic aid to Ukraine. President Joe Biden has been seeking another $24 billion.
In a pre-recorded conversation with Catherine Sendak, director of the Transatlantic Defense and Security program at CEPA, Shaheen said she was inspired by the words of a young Ukrainian woman who told her: “You need to give us the weapons so that we can fight the Russians so that you don’t have to.”
Initial criticism of the United States’ European partners for not doing their part to support Ukraine has led to Europe today shouldering more of the burden in the war in Ukraine than the US, Wicker said. He welcomed such support and said the US cannot now abandon Ukraine.
“To me, the United States makes a promise, and the world ought to be able to count on us to keep that promise long term. Whether there’s a Republican majority, a Democrat, majority, a Republican administration, or a Democrat administration, that ought to be a bipartisan principle that is inviolate. The United States should be counted on to keep its word to our friends,” the Republican senator said.
Both Wicker and Shaheen said Putin’s war in Ukraine had strengthened NATO unity. “Vladimir Putin thought he was going to break NATO apart when he went in Ukraine, and it’s had just the opposite effort,” said Shaheen.
Looking ahead to NATO’s summit in Washington next year, Shaheen expects the agenda to include continuing support to Ukraine, addressing cyber threats emanating from Russia and China, and climate change.
Shaheen also discussed the impact of Russia’s efforts to shut down grain shipping lanes in the Black Sea on global food prices. This has adverse effects not only on Ukraine but also on African nations and countries reliant on food aid. She said Russia aims to increase prices to boost its own profits. The increased costs also affect organizations like the World Food Programme that provide assistance.
Shaheen collaborated with Senator Mitt Romney (Republican-Utah) to request the Biden administration to develop a comprehensive strategy for the Black Sea, covering both military and economic aspects. She described the Middle Corridor, involving energy transportation through Georgia under the Black Sea to Europe, as a “really interesting idea” to reduce Russia’s dominance in the oil and gas sector and strengthen the region’s stability.
Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.