Putin flies to Beijing to meet Xi Jinping. They sit across in Xi’s office.
Putin – Things are not going as well as I thought.
Xi nods slowly.
Putin – I underestimated the West and… Ukrainians also. I thought they would just pee in their pants when they saw our army gather around them. They didn’t. I should’ve known better, since they have been fighting hard against us in the East for years now. For the first time… I’m beginning to doubt that we can beat them. I didn’t think the West would care that much… but they do. I thought the Far Right was stronger… Trump got 74 million votes in 2020… but the Far Right turned out to be a loud minority with little real clout. Same as in Europe. The Germans surprised me, also… I thought they would resist Biden.
Jinping… I have thought of using nuclear weapons.
Xi – That’s a bad idea.
Putin – Why?
Xi – It would piss off the West… and I would find it hard to convince the central committee to continue to help you evade sanctions. Vladimir… China is not self sufficient… not yet… and hard as we try we may never be. The West is creative. In spite of all their problems, they keep inventing… and they come up with stuff that we need. We’re inventive, too, of course, and no nation, ever, has developed as much as we have in just 40 years. But we didn’t do it alone.
Putin – You think I made a mistake in invading Ukraine?
Xi – Yes. You waited too long.
Putin – How so?
Xi – You should’ve done it when Trump was in office. He was fighting with the European Union.
Putin nods, the mood dejected.
Putin – Can you help?
Xi – We’re buying your oil, gas and minerals… buying your wheat…
Putin – I mean, with weapons.
Xi shakes his head slowly.
Xi – We’re doing enough, Vladimir. As I said before… we need the West. Are you worried about growing dissent at home?
Putin – A little. The killing of Daria Dugina, Aleksandr Dugin’s daughter is not a good sign. But my security system is top notch. We track everyone and have for years. They’ll get to the bottom of it.
Xi – What about Alexei Navalny, your opposition leader?
Putin – Still in prison… will die in prison.
Xi leans forward in his seat as he faces Putin.
Xi – This may be the time to stop the war.
The two men lock eyes.
Xi – Ask for a cease fire… offer to give up all the territory you’ve gained since the invasion. Ask for the United Nations to mediate. Not Turkey, not France but the United Nations. And emphasize that the loss of lives will come to an end. Assure the world you will not block the shipment of grains out of Ukraine.
Putin rests his face in his hands.
Xi – Zelensky will object but the West may welcome the offer and put pressure on him to accept. It’s their money and weapons that’s helped keep the war effort alive. Ending the loss of lives will have Ukrainians welcoming the offer also. Clearly, such offer will be seen as a defeat for you, but better to cut your losses. At home, you should have no worries. You have Russians firmly under your control. Hard as it is, It’s time to accept the consequences. After all the damage done, there’s little chance you will ever regain the standing you had in the world prior to the invasion, but if you stick with the war it will get a lot worse. Even if you were to beat Ukraine, it would still be a loss. To me, given what’s happened so far, pursuing a military victory is a mistake.
Putin looks up at Xi.
Putin – What about you and Taiwan?
Xi – I will not invade Taiwan until I am absolutely sure of victory.
Putin – There’s no such thing as absolutely sure.
Xi – Time will tell.
Putin – My reason for the war was that I didn’t want to see Russia surrounded by NATO. After all this effort, with the addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO, we’re even more surrounded than before. Seven months into the war, after all the destruction, I’m farther from my objective than at the start.
Xi – If you persist… It will likely only get worse.
Putin – You don’t think I can win?
Xi – No.
Putin – But if you helped me with weapons…
Xi – We’ve gone over that. The Central Committee won’t agree to it.
Be thankful that the Russian people have given you complete control over their lives. They’ll forgive you.
A few minutes later they embrace, say goodbye and Putin departs to return to Russia.
Xi Jinping remains in his office.
Xi – He asked about Taiwan… and he’s right, there’s no way I can be absolutely sure an invasion would be successful. Putin has complete control over his people… and yet… he couldn’t get his soldiers to fight as hard as Ukrainians have.
He pivots his chair to look out the window and take in a grand view of the city.
Xi – Will I be able to get my soldiers to fight as hard as the Taiwanese?