It may be a coincidence that Russia is piling military pressure on Ukraine just as China noisily rattles sabres around Taiwan, says Simon Tisdall in The Observer. But those “ageing thugs” Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are doubtless aware of each other’s actions, which have an identical, mutually reinforcing effect: “putting the wind up Joe Biden”. What’s unfolding has echoes of George Orwell’s “nightmarish vision” in Nineteen Eighty-Four: a world carved up into three rival superstates, Oceania (North America and Britain), Eurasia (Russia and Europe) and Eastasia (China). The novel was published in 1949, and Orwell’s prediction turned out to be premature – China needed time to develop, the Soviet Union eventually imploded. But it may finally be coming true: “2021 is the new 1984.”
Some say this is too simplistic, and the real strategic balance is more subtle. Tell that to the people in eastern Ukraine who are facing a deeply unsubtle Russian military build-up. Or to the besieged Taiwanese, who have vowed to fight to the last, but “cannot prevail alone”. Only the US can stand in the way. The Orwellian nightmare for Biden is having to decide whether or not to do so. His choice could be “war on two fronts, or humiliation all round”.
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