Happy New Year, everyone! Well, almost. 😊 There are only about 27 hours left in 2021 so please excuse me for jumping ahead a bit. I think the first weeks of 2022 will turn out to be a quiet period of time, but don’t expect that to remain the case for the long term.
China and Russia are going to be on their best behavior, eager to successfully project a façade of normalcy. For China, it’s imperative to maintain an even keel with the Olympics rapidly approaching. The pressure on Taiwan will continue to shift from overt to behind-the-scenes and this should continue until the end of the Olympic games. The wildcard here is the wave of Omicron cases sweeping across the world right now. The Chinese government is doing all it can to minimize the effect of COVID-19 on the winter games in Beijing. How much of an effect this will have remains to be seen. However, if the Olympics move forward without major disruption, China’s good behavior should remain firm until late February before it returns to a more aggressive foreign policy.
Russia’s good behavior will not last half as long. Moscow is making it a point to remain quiet and out of the limelight as talks with the United States and NATO are scheduled to begin around 10 January. It’s quite difficult to envision a scenario where Moscow seriously expects the West to consider its security proposals for the future, but Russia has other reasons for pushing these talks through. Whether or not Moscow’s goals are met, expect Vladimir Putin to keep his country on its best behavior between now and 10 January at the earliest. On the international scene at least. Russia’s domestic moves over the past week have raised questions about the future of human rights organizations and other pro-West NGOs inside Russia.
So, for the first two weeks of 2022 we should have relatively smooth, quiet sailing. That’s the hope at least. But don’t get used to it. As I mentioned earlier, it probably will not last.