When it comes to the Ukraine proxy war, which started in earnest just about one year ago with the violent coup that overthrew then president Yanukovich and replaced him with a local pro-US oligarch, there has been no ambiguity who the key actors were: on the left, we had the west, personified by the US, the European Union, and NATO in general; while on the right we had Russia. In fact, if there was any confusion, it was about the role of that other "elephant in the room" - China.
To be sure, a question few asked throughout the Ukraine civil war is just whose side is China leaning toward. After all the precarious balance of power between NATO and Russia had resulted in a stalemate in which neither side has an obvious advantage (even as the Ukraine economy died, and its currency hyperinflated, waiting for a clear winner), and the explicit or implicit support of China to either camp would make all the difference in the world, not to mention the world's most formidable axis.
Today we finally got the answer, and the winner is... this guy:
Xinhua reported that late on Thursday Qu Xing, China's ambassador to Belgium, was quoted as blaming competition between Russia and the West for the Ukraine crisis, urging Western powers to "abandon the zero-sum mentality" with Russia.
Cited by Reuters, Xing said that Western powers should take into consideration Russia's legitimate security concerns over Ukraine.
Reuters' assessment of Xing speech: "an unusually frank and open display of support for Moscow's position in the crisis."
At least it is not a warning to the US to back off or else. Yet.
Speaking in very clear and explicit language, something diplomats are not used to doing, the Chinese ambassador said the "nature and root cause" of the crisis was the "game" between Russia and Western powers, including the United States and the European Union.
He said external intervention by different powers accelerated the crisis and warned that Moscow would feel it was being treated unfairly if the West did not change its approach.
"The West should abandon the zero-sum mentality, and take the real security concerns of Russia into consideration," Qu was quoted as saying.
His comments were an unusually public show of understanding from China for the Russian position. China and Russia see eye-to-eye on many international diplomatic issues but Beijing has generally not been so willing to back Russia over Ukraine.
As noted above, China has long been very cautious not to be drawn into the struggle between Russia and the West over Ukraine's future, not wanting to alienate a key ally. And yet, something changed overnight, with this very clear language, warning some could say, that China will no longer tolerate Pax Americana, and even the mere assumption of a unipolar western world, let alone the reality.
Qu's comments take place just as talks between the United States and its European allies over harsher sanctions against Moscow.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Western powers of trying to dominate and impose their ideology on the rest of world. The United States and European delegations slammed Moscow for supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Qu said Washington's involvement in Ukraine could "become a distraction in its foreign policy".
And then, Qu's slap in the face of Obama: "The United States is unwilling to see its presence in any part of the world being weakened, but the fact is its resources are limited, and it will be to some extent hard work to sustain its influence in external affairs."
Especially if and when China decides to send a few peacekeepers of its own into Ukraine. You know - just to make sure US influence in external affairs isn't "sustained" too much.