Xi and Putin Raise Global Stakes while Biden Touts Reelection
Today’s map of the world reveals explosive conflicts, crumbling alliances, and features three huge countries led by men of international significance. These world leaders’ names are persistently in the headlines: Xi, Putin, and Biden. Unfortunately, only two of them appear to be successfully maintaining global power and influence.
One of these key players is Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although he is one of the wealthiest men in the world, his great wealth fails to satisfy him. Putin appears to be acting in the name of elite Russian sovereignty and culture — past splendors he promises to restore to his people. But Putin has a problem with his dreams of glory. First, Russia’s historical prestige is in the world’s rearview mirror. And Putin’s pretense of being a Russian Orthodox Christian icon is eclipsed by his KGB-inspired brutality and ongoing war crimes.
China’s President Xi Jinping is, in many ways, much like Putin. They both have enormous egos and demonstrate insatiable ambitions. But Xi has no interest in playing a religious leadership role in China. He is an ardent atheist, who loathes the very idea of any Higher Power — apart from himself.
Both Putin and Xi want to be the planet’s foremost military and political spearheads. For now, they appear to be allies. The reality, however, is that they’re not allies at all. Xi is embracing Putin because he is keenly interested in essential Russian exports. Meanwhile, Putin is willing to take the risk of being exploited, allowing himself to be used by Xi. Why? Because Putin has invested himself and his military in a war with Ukraine that he is not winning. This is causing him serious difficulties with the Russian people.
Xi pretends to support Vladimir Putin. He recently paid Putin a visit in Moscow, presenting himself as an ally, ostensibly demonstrating China’s solidarity with Russia. Many observers believed Xi’s trip was meant to solidify his relationship with Vladimir Putin; he made a point of promoting the idea that he was there to help, to be supportive of Putin’s efforts.
But days after leaving Moscow, Xi showed his hand. Shortly after returning to Beijing, he publicly invited the leaders of four former Soviet republics in Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan — to a first joint summit in China, scheduled for May.
Vladimir Putin was not invited.
Business Insider headlined their report about this meeting, “Xi snubbed Putin after their summit, calling a meeting of Central Asian countries as part of an audacious power play.”
Also, according to Zawya News, Beijing’s increasing influence in Central Asia is not universally welcomed. They report:
“Sections of the population in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, which along with Tajikistan have borders with China, have voiced a degree of concern and opposition. All have Muslim majorities. These concerns relate particularly to land acquisition by China, government debt owed to Beijing and the latter’s brutal treatment of its Muslim Uyghur minority, which is also present in Central Asia.”
Russia’s influence is clearly being challenged by Xi, and increasingly so since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Yet both leaders are diligently working to undermine the global strength and leadership of the United States.
Xi is very much like Putin in several ways. Xi is the only man in China who has ever served three terms in office as the president of the country. That is not, by the way, because of a decisive vote by the people of China, but by the decision the Chinese Communist Party. Meanwhile, Putin appears to be opting to be dictator-for-life, playing the role of an ancestral Russian tsar.
But while these two global power players are both competing and cooperating, they seem to be critically out-maneuvering the third global leader — U.S. President Joe Biden. Putin and Xi are happily watching and assisting the diminishment of America’s international influence. Biden’s feckless leadership of the United State reflects his clear rejection of our country’s powerful role in the world, as well as his lack of respect for traditional American values.
While Biden plays politics, the rest of the world knows that Xi wants to seize Taiwan. Will he do it soon or wait until later? It seems that for now, the status quo serves Xi well. He has chosen an easy, comfortable path. He is presenting himself as a great peacemaker, a powerful ally, and a man who holds sway over a growing number of nations. At the same time, Xi continues to build new partnerships, develop new allies, and do all he can to embarrass the United States, making it clear that America is in decline.
Xi and Putin closely observed Biden’s disgraceful withdrawal from Afghanistan, which underscored the President’s incompetence. It showcased his foolish squandering of billions of dollars of up-to-date military equipment — now in the hands of Taliban terrorists — alongside the execution of inestimable numbers of brave Afghan warriors who fought alongside American troops.
Putin and Xi are also eagerly witnessing Biden’s shocking retreat from the Middle East. While abruptly turning his back on Israel, Biden has also betrayed other U.S. allies who have fought against Iranian aggression and embraced the Abraham Accords. As a result, Xi has quickly moved in. He has brokered an unprecedented and historic agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, while cutting enormous oil deals with the Saudis, potentially paid for in yuan, not dollars. And while pursuing deadly nuclear ambitions, Iran is increasingly providing arms and drones to Russia, and Biden is turning a blind eye to the Ayatollah’s nuclear ambitions.
Who will stop Putin’s brutality in Ukraine? What will prevent Xi’s invasion of Taiwan? The surging aggression of Russia and China is largely due to Biden’s impotence, even though he is commander-in-chief of a military upon which the whole world depends.
It seems that serious concerns with Putin and Xi will not be resolved until after the U.S. presidential election in 2024. Meanwhile, the future of American global leadership, economic power, and political authority hangs in the balance. And clearly, the whole world will face the consequences.
Lela Gilbert is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council and Fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. Boykin serves as Executive Vice President of Family Research Council.