THE twin threats posed by Russia and China to the western world were spelled out in detail at a business lunch in St Helier yesterday by a former Fleet Commander of the Royal Navy who is now the King’s representative in Jersey.
The Lieutenant-Governor, Vice-Admiral Jerry Kyd, who addressed the audience at the monthly lunch organised by the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, described how the established world order seen at the start of the 21st century had changed radically in a little over two decades.
Vice-Admiral Kyd said that ‘a flock of five defining “black swan” events had rocked the globe: the 9/11 attacks on the US, the 2008 financial crisis, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – which he described as ‘strategic debacles’ – the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He said: ‘These were unsettling reminders that life is not all milk and honey – the fact is that the “old normal” of the millennium period has gone, and it’s not coming back.’
The war in Ukraine was described as ‘the latest birthing pain’ of the unfolding new world.
Vice-Admiral Kyd added: ‘I sympathise with the view that [Vladimir] Putin’s actions are also, to a degree, a result of 30 years of western complacency and strategic myopia – not only did we take our eye off the real geostrategic threats of Russia during the “wars of choice” in Afghanistan and Iraq, we also allowed western strategic deterrence to largely fail.’
Vice-Admiral Kyd said the Russian president was looking to achieve ‘durational escalation’ of the Ukraine conflict by stretching it into the future, including a forthcoming offensive in the summer and a ‘defining’ stage in the autumn when both sides would be exhausted.
The longer the war in Ukraine lasted, the Lieutenant-Governor added, the more it would test the patience of western nations who were tiring of the expense and would remain reluctant to commit troops to the conflict.
Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, was tipped as the next US president by Vice-Admiral Kyd, who said he did not believe Mr DeSantis would be prepared to support Ukraine.
Chinese president Xi Jinping stood to gain from the continuation of the war in Ukraine, Vice-Admiral Kyd added, when asked whether he felt China was looking to make a similar move against Taiwan.
He said: ‘The gamble [by China] would be that the West has not got the stomach for the fight, with the US reluctant to carry on in the role of the world’s policeman.’
Vice-Admiral Kyd also said that while he did not anticipate Chinese action towards Taiwan in the near future, he felt that President Xi wanted to leave his own legacy, and that as a result he felt that China would continue to hold all options open.
The Lieutenant-Governor admitted that a Jersey audience might feel powerless to influence the events unfolding on the world stage, but said that it was important for Islanders to stand by their values and make sure young people were educated about what was happening. As patron of the Chamber of Commerce, he joked that he would address a lighter subject matter when he next spoke at a Chamber event.