epa04108350 Armed man in military uniform, believed to be Russian, blocs the entrance of the Ukrainian naval headquarters in Sevastopol, Ukraine, 03 March 2014. The Russian army reportedly occupied key sites in the autonomous region of Crimea, where a majority of the population is ethnic Russian. Troops surrounded several small military outposts and demanded Ukrainian troops disarm. EPA/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE An armed man in a military uniform, believed to be Russian, blocks the entrance of the Ukrainian naval headquarters in Sevastopol. (EPA)

Beijing must view the crisis in Ukraine as another indicator that both the West and Russia are in decline. Both sides in this Cold War set piece tried to use Ukraine for their own purposes and are responsible for the crisis: the West by embracing and then dropping the notion of integrating Ukraine into the European Union, and Vladimir Putin by targeting Ukraine as the next domino in the restoration of some semblance of the glory that was the Soviet Union. It seems an axiom of the Cold War that attempts to manipulate pawns  often result in checkmates for kings.

Both sides will be weakened by this international crisis:  Putin will cement his reputation as a dangerous aggressor and damage his  weak economy; President Obama and European leaders will appear divided and hesitant in stopping him. Meanwhile, China, which has publicly backed Russia in this dispute with the West, watches and profits from this old and bilateral rivalry, knowing that much of the rest of the world now has a third choice.