What does the present crisis in Ukraine have to do with Asian security?
For me the main point to take away is that China’s choice not to condemn Russia’s action reveals that its rhetoric about standing up for the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign nations is tactical and expedient, rather than a genuinely held ideological position. Bonnie Glaser at CSIS thinks Beijing is agonizing about this, but so far their actions speak louder than words. It is therefore reasonable to assume that China will not be constrained by this principle against taking action similar to that currently under way in Crimea. Russia may, ironically, be among those to suffer the consequences.
Lessons so far:
1. China’s support for non-interference principle is a tactical rather than a genuinely ideological position.
2. UN Security Council members and the international community are not willing to uphold UN Charter principles to defend sovereignty where the interests of a militarily powerful and/or nuclear armed state are at stake.
3. NATO, US and EU are war-wary and cannot be relied on to back up talk with action on the ground in support of a partner or just cause.
4. Putin’s Russia is a gambler emboldened by success. Fuse of over-reach is lit and burning down.
5. Ethnic solidarity is the stratcom successor to the ‘humanitarian intervention’ trope. Beware passport diplomacy and ‘protection of nationals’ narratives.