If an ‘unthinkable’ war can occur in Europe driven by one man’s delusions of grandeur, what is the likelihood of another’s igniting an even more destructive conflict in Asia?

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a seismic geopolitical event. It’s shaping to be more destabilising and consequential than anything the world has seen this century, overshadowing Covid, the global financial crisis and the rise of al-Qa’ida. It has shattered Europe’s long peace; raised the spectre of a nuclear confrontation between NATO and Russia; widened the divide between the West and Eurasia’s autocratic states; and almost certainly ended Russia’s quest to be a Eurasian great power.

But the repercussions for Australia’s Asian neighbourhood may be even more farreaching depending on the answers to three questions. Will China risk international opprobrium and the wrath of the US by supporting Russia economically and militarily? Does Putin’s invasion of Ukraine make it more, or less, likely that China’s Xi Jinping will emulate him and take Taiwan? And how will Asian countries respond to the trampling of Ukraine’s sovereignty by a wannabe great power?

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