Putin and Xi Talk Nuclear

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The two men talk via video.

Putin – Ukrainians keep pushing us back.
Xi – I saw the video of the bombing of your bridge to Crimea.
Putin – Somehow, they got through and planted the bombs.
Xi – They’re getting better and better.
Putin – I will not surrender the East.
Xi – They may take it from you, drive you back to your borders.
I worry that the new soldiers you’ve called up may not be ready for the Ukrainians.
It could lead to a massacre of Russians.
Putin – Then I’ll use nuclear weapons.

Xi pauses, shifts his weight in his seat, looking uncomfortable.

Xi – Like I’ve told you before… it’s not a good idea. The West will respond.
Putin – I have top notch nuclear weapons.
Xi -That’s what you were saying about your army.
Putin (irritated) – You don’t believe me?
Xi – I want to… but I can’t deny the evidence… your army hasn’t delivered.
Putin – My nuclear weapons have been developed by the very best of my people.
Xi – Whether your weapons are good or bad, if you fire them, the West will shoot back… and the losses will be unbelievable.

Xi leans forward, looking Putin directly.

Xi – All because you’ve had this dream of creating a new Russia to surpass what the Soviet Union was.
But that is over, Vladimir. That is not going to happen. You must accept that.

Putting grimaces, displeased.

Xi – If your system were that effective, Russia would be much better off than it is now.

Putin looks off, his discomfort mounting.

Xi – With your human capital and natural resources,
Russia should up there with the top economies, say, rivalling Japan, but it is not. So what’s the point of extending a system that is not that effective?
Putin (firmly) – I will not give up on my dream.
Xi – I won’t pay for your dream.
Putin – I’m not asking you to.
Xi – Do you really think that if you use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the West will say, ‘Okay, we’ll just keep using conventional weapons while you fry us with nuclear ones.’
The way you’re going, desperate as you are, you may decide to hit Kyiv with a nuclear bomb. What do you think the response of the West will be? ‘Oh, he’s done it, he’s serious, let’s leave Ukraine and hope he doesn’t do it again!’
No. They are committed. They will hit your troops with nuclear weapons too and that will be the beginning of the end. The world paying for the price of your madness.

Putin winces. He’s never heard Xi say that to him.

Xi – You may decide you can get away with dropping a bomb on Warsaw or Berlin, maybe even Washington D.C. or New York.
But do you think that, should that happen, the West will spare China?
They will not.
Putin – Why not?
Xi – Because if the West is weakened, they will rightfully conclude that we’ll take advantage of it… grab Taiwan and ask Japan to submit.
Putin – You would do that?
Xi – If the West is weakened, if New York or Washington D.C. are burning, why not?
But they won’t let it happen.
If you decide to shoot at the West, they will respond and shoot at both you and us. I have no doubt.
Vladimir… we’ve worked very hard to get us to where we are… and we don’t want to see Shanghai or Beijing burning because of your madness.
Putin – My madness?
Xi – Yes.
That’s exactly what we’re all seeing. You hitting civilian targets indiscriminately…
Putin – They are killing my people.

Xi pauses, looks down for a moment, frustrated.

Xi (softly) – We’re all paying for it.
Putin (irritated) – How are you paying for it?
Xi – The world economy has weakened. There’s less demand for our products… inflation is growing globally… and then there’s the daily horror of people being killed… mass graves being found where your troops have been… I have done enough repression of my own… but this is too much.

Xi rubs his face, clearly uncomfortable.

Xi – Vladimir… if you’re thinking of going nuclear, then it’s time for you to go.
Putin – Go?

Putin seems confused. He shakes his head slowly.

Putin – I won’t.
Xi – Concede you have lost. Pull back from Ukraine entirely, even Crimea and the Donbas, everything… go back to your normal boundaries. No need for negotiations. No one will threaten your borders.
The West will go into Ukraine and rebuild it. I don’t think they’ll hold back the funds you have in the West. They will give you that back, so you can help your people.
Your test will be to regain Russians’ trust. It won’t be easy. You might face new challenges at home, but you will likely handle that.
Putin – You think it’s over for me?
Xi – Yes. You’ve chased out more than 250 thousand Russians after you announced a call to conscript 300 thousand reservists. It is time to pull back. Your people are getting tired of you… the world is too.
Putin – And you, you’re tired of me, too?
Xi – I will help you as best I can. Learn from this and rebuild Russia. You will never regain the status you had… but you could still be a player.
Putin (shaking his head) – No.
Xi – Don’t burden the world anymore. It’s time to go home.
Putin (feeling wounded) – You’re turning against me… I thought we would be friends forever… that I could always count on you…
Xi – You’re driving us to Hell.
But you can still retrench… and stay in power a while longer.

Putin lowers his head, disconsolate, wounded. After a moment, they hang up.

That same day, after an emergency meeting with the standing committee of the Politburo – a select group of seven leaders – Xi calls up Joe Biden in Washington for a top secret talk. He tells Biden how important it is to keep up the pressure on Putin. He doesn’t think Putin is mad and he would do his best to monitor the situation closely. But if things changed and Putin got close to using nuclear weapons in Ukraine or elsewhere, China would switch sides so that between the West and them, they would pressure Russia to stand down, retreat to behind their borders and so end the war.



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