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China’s plan to “win” the Ukraine war



Ukraine: Beijing’s peace initiative offers glimpse at how China plans to win the war

Beijing’s “Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis” has now been officially released by the country’s foreign ministry, after being foreshadowed by China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, at the recent Munich Security Conference.

Short on detail and rich in generalities, the peace plan confirms what Beijing sees as China’s “balanced position”. This, to date, has avoided directly pointing the finger of blame at anyone and continues to leave ample room for interpretation. It may not offer a clearly charted path out of the crisis, but it is an important statement of China’s vision for global, Eurasian and European security.

Coming from a major – and still rising – power, it would be a mistake to dismiss it out of hand simply because this vision is not shared in western capitals.

Since Vladimir Putin sent his war machine into Ukraine on February 24 2022, The Conversation has called upon some of the leading experts in international security, geopolitics and military tactics to help our readers understand the big issues. You can also subscribe to our weekly recap of expert analysis of the conflict in Ukraine.

While vague in its overall language, the sequence of what the Chinese position reveals is important. The plan starts by restating one of China’s red lines, its long-held position on the sacrosanct nature of sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is very much in line with the prevailing position of the overwhelming majority of UN members.

So it was curious that when 141 members of the UN general assembly voted the day before the first anniversary of the invasion in support of a resolution demanding “that the Russian Federation immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders”, China was not among them. The PRC instead abstained, consistent with its past votes, along with India, Iran, South Africa and 28 other countries.

The six countries which voted with Russia against the resolution, including Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria, can hardly be considered promoters of international peace and stability.

China’s apparent fence sitting may be annoying for Ukraine and its western partners. But it is not inconsistent with Beijing’s position on the need to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity. Provided, that is, one accepts that the full restoration of Ukraine’s international borders is a possible outcome of the peace negotiations that China is advocating for.

More worryingly, for Ukraine, its western partners, and the future European security order, is that China has adopted a position that is sympathetic to Russia’s narrative of Nato expansion as a threat to Russia. Beijing’s call, in the peace plan, to abandon “the cold war mentality” also asks that “the legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries must be taken seriously and addressed properly”. The plan also stresses that “all parties should oppose the pursuit of one’s own security at the cost of others’ security”.

This is as much a reference to Nato’s eastwards expansion as it is to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ostensibly to counter Nato expansion.

So, while far short of an outright condemnation of Russian aggression, it is hardly a ringing endorsement of it either. Nor is it a blank cheque for Nato and EU expansion.

To the extent that China makes any concrete proposals in its plan, they are focused on achieving a ceasefire and eventually resuming peace talks with the aim of negotiating a political settlement. This is implicitly a call for unconditional negotiations (first on a ceasefire and then on a peace agreement). It’s a position unlikely to be welcomed either by Ukraine or its western partners, who have insisted to date that negotiations cannot happen while Russia occupies Crimea and large parts of Donbas.

Interestingly, however, China has also acknowledged that “conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiations” have yet to be created. Beijing has offered “to play a constructive role in this regard”. This could potentially create an opening in the future should China decide to use its increasing leverage over Russia and push Putin into meaningful negotiations.

Whether, when, and how China will do this will depend on what role Beijing sees for itself in the future of European security. What the Chinese plan indicates are ambitions for a greater and more pivotal role – their vagueness at this stage perhaps reflecting China’s own uncertainties more than anything else.

China’s other main concern remains the humanitarian crises that war has sparked both in Ukraine and beyond. China emphasises the need “to increase humanitarian assistance to relevant areas … and provide rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, with a view to preventing a humanitarian crisis on a larger scale”.

Again hardly endorsing the Russian way of warfare, Beijing reiterates that the “parties to the conflict should strictly abide by international humanitarian law, avoid attacking civilians or civilian facilities, protect women, children and other victims of the conflict, and respect the basic rights of POWs (prisoners of war)”.

China’s concerns about global stability are evident throughout the position paper. They relate to the risk of nuclear escalation (via weapons on the battlefield and through the targeting of nuclear power plants), the disruption of global economic recovery, and the ongoing food and energy crisis. Here China clearly articulates broader concerns shared by many countries in the global south and effectively positions itself as a champion of their interests.

The last point of the plan emphasises the need “to take measures to support post-conflict reconstruction in conflict zones” and offers Chinese assistance in doing so.

In its generality, the plan adds little substance – but it creates another opportunity for China to emphasise its commitment to playing a role in the longer-term reconfiguration of stability and security in Europe.

This is consistent with the general tenor of Beijing’s position paper: it puts a marker down for China as a great power on the “Eurasian continent”. This does not bode well for Russia’s own great power ambitions and creates new challenges for Ukraine and the west.

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Why Trump’s historic indictment won’t dampen his support



Donald Trump: polling suggests criminal charges won’t dampen his support

Donald Trump’s impending court case marks an historic moment in US politics. He will be the first former president of the United States to face criminal charges and trial by a jury. He and his supporters are already calling the case a political manoeuvre designed to reduce his chances in the 2024 presidential election.

The court case will affect his campaign but it will not exclude him for running for office next year. Early indications suggest that his political base will continue to rally around him. Within hours of the news, his followers were gathering outside his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida to express their support.

The indictment comes after a grand jury in New York agreed that there was enough evidence to charge the former president. The investigation, led by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, looked into the legality of hush money payments to former adult film star Stormy Daniels.

The exact nature of the charges will not be known until Trump is arraigned next week. According to US reports, he is likely to be accused of more than one count of falsifying business records (classed as a misdemeanour, a lesser crime in the US legal system), after Trump allegedly recorded the payment as a business expense. If found guilty, he could face a fine.

He might also be charged with breaking election campaign laws, which is a more serious felony offence and carries a potential prison sentence. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Any criminal charges, or even a jail sentence, would not restrict Trump from running for office under the US constitution. He has previously stated that he would do so even if he was charged. Historically, there are instances of individuals running for president while facing charges or even from a prison cell.

What may affect his chances is the amount of time that he will need to commit to dealing with the charges laid against him. To date, his campaign has been relatively quiet, but it will need to gain momentum in the lead up to the Republican convention in July 2024.

On March 25 and 26, Trump held his first campaign rally for the 2024 election at Waco, Texas. Despite predicting that he would be arrested, thousands turned up to show their support.

Claiming that the 2024 election would be “the final battle”, Trump criticised the prospects of potential challengers, such as Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, and stated that the investigation was like something out of Stalinist Russia. He told his supporters “from the beginning it has been one witch-hunt and phony investigation after another”.

Trump’s immense popularity with Republicans is unlikely to be damaged by any indictment resulting from the New York investigation. One poll showed that most Republicans believe that the investigation is politically motivated, while another indicated that most Americans think that Trump will be acquitted of the charges.

The Harvard/Harris poll shows that popular support for the charges is split along party lines – 80% of Democrats believe he should be indicted, while 80% of Republicans believe he should not. And 57% of Republicans think a trial could help Trump in the election run.

Republicans lawmakers have already come out in support of Trump. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that the indictment was an “unprecedented abuse of power”. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise tweeted that the charges were “one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponizing government to attack their political opponents”.

Even Trump’s potential rivals for the 2024 nomination have come out in support of the former president. DeSantis said the charges were “un-American” and a “weaponization of the legal system”, while Pence called the indictment “an outrage”.

For many observers, the question remains: why does Trump still figure so highly in the Republican polls after everything that has happened?

A Harvard/Harris poll from mid March, shows that Trump has increased his favourability among Republican voters to 50%, giving him a 26-point lead over DeSantis, if the presidential nomination was decided now. Former vice president Mike Pence is a distant third with just 7%. A more recent Fox News poll makes the gap between Trump and DeSantis to be even greater at 30%.

Worryingly for Democrats, those polled of all political persuasions give Trump a four-point lead over Biden. There is a glimmer of hope for the Democrats, though, in that 14% of those polled were undecided on either Trump or Biden. It’s a significant number, and those individuals will be key to deciding who wins the election in November next year.

Trump’s immense popularity with Republicans is unlikely to be damaged by any indictment resulting from the New York investigation. This is because the Republican Party is still the party of Donald Trump. His base support has never fluctuated since 2016. Many of them feel he stands up for them when no-one else does.

His Republican opponents, such as DeSantis, are trying to outdo Trump at being Trump. But they are pale imitations, and Trump knows this.

Earlier this year, Trump told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference: “I am your warrior, I am your justice.” And they believe that. His supporters believe that he is the only person capable of protecting their values and way of life.

In a supporting speech at Waco, Trump-ally, Representative Marjorie Taylor-Greene said: “Trump is the man for the hour. He’s the only man who can take on Washington in the times that we live in.”

While the indictment might make some moderate Republicans rethink their loyalty to the former president, his base will back him to the bitter end.

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‘Let him go’: Biden calls out Russia over reporter spy arrest



President Biden called for Russia to free Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, an American citizen who has been accused of spying on behalf of the U.S. government.

“Let him go,” Biden told reporters when asked about Gershkovich’s arrest.

Russian state news agency TASS has reported that Gershkovich was ordered to be held in custody until May 29. He is spending his third day in Russian captivity.

Russia’s main security service, the FSB, claimed Thursday that Evan Gershkovich, a correspondent based in Moscow, had been trying to obtain state secrets.

The Wall Street Journal rejected those allegations, saying in a statement that it “vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter.”

A Russian district court in Moscow said Thursday that Gershkovich would be detained until May 29.

It is the first time an American journalist has been detained on accusations by Moscow of spying since the Cold War.

It comes a week after US authorities announced charges against a Russian national, Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, accusing him of being a Russian spy.

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How does Donald Trump’s indictment affect his chances of running for president?



Donald Trump has become the first U.S. President to be criminally charged

Former U.S. President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury after a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels.

The adult film star maintains she had an affair with the former president, and was paid to keep it quiet. She said the sexual encounter occurred in 2006, a year after Trump married his current wife Melania, and over a decade before he ran for President of the United States.

While the payment was legal, it was allegedly recorded as a business expense, which is illegal in New York.

Daniels said the two had consensual sex.

Michael Cohen was Trump’s lawyer at the time, who made the $130,000 payment to Daniels in 2016, several days before the U.S. presidential election. He said he would “take a bullet” for Trump.

Two years later, he pleaded guilty to nine federal crimes including tax fraud, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations.

Cohen told CNN he was surprised about the timing of the indictment but “this is a long time coming.”

It means the former president will likely be arrested in the coming days. He will then enter a Manhattan courthouse, where he will be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken.

“This evening we contacted Mr Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan DA’s office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal. Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected.”


Alvin Bragg is the Manhattan District Attorney, who helped to sue the Trump Administration more than 100 times during its four-year term.

Trump has previously described the indictment as an attempt to “weaponise” the U.S. justice system.

In a statement, Trump’s lawyer said “he did not commit any crime”.

“We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court,” the statement read.

What happens now?

The U.S. is fast approaching a presidential election, and Trump has signalled he will run for office again.

Many Republicans have swiftly defended Trump since the indictment came to light. This includes Nikki Haley, who is a current 2024 presidential candidate herself.

“This is more about revenge than it is about justice,” she tweeted.

Calvin Dark is a global affairs commentator in Washington, who said the reaction will be mixed among senior republicans.

“When it comes to Nikki Haley or former vice-president Mike Pence, they’re going to be an interesting situation.

“They’re going to want to use this to their political advantage to provide an alternative to many who might not want to nominate an indicted former president,” he said.

However, a criminal conviction would not prevent Trump from moving forward with his presidential campaign.

U.S. law does not stop criminals from running and serving as president—even if it’s from a prison cell.

“I think Ron DeSantis is going to play it pretty quiet. You might see a snide comment here and there. If you’re opponent is digging a hole, tell them to keep digging,” Dark said.

What does it mean?

Many U.S. conservatives believe the former president is being held to a different standard of justice.

Meanwhile, Democrats have viewed this through the lens of holding people in power to account.

“We are in unchartered legal and political territory,” said Bruce Wolpe from the U.S. Studies Centre.

“Trump has been telling his base that he’s done nothing wrong, and that he’s been persecuted politically.”


“His base is all in. This will not change Republican voter sentiment towards Trump as a political candidate for the presidency,” Wolpe said.

Trump is facing a string of other probes, including his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election, and whether he illegally interfered in Georgia.

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