There is always a risk that a military operation will not go to plan. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not the first leader in history to miscalculate his opponent.

Russia's strategy to undermine the West is also backfiring, and is further uniting the US and Europe as they provide military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

At an unprecedented triple summit in Brussels in recent days, transatlantic alliance NATO, G7 rich nations and European leaders addressed the continent's worst conflict in decades.

In a joint statement, US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed they "are united in our condemnation of Russia's unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine".

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Europe and North America will continue to stand strong.

He also addressed China's role in the crisis. "Beijing should use its significant influence on Russia, and promote an immediate, peaceful resolution," Mr Stoltenberg said.

China is likely to tread carefully and consider if backing Russia is worth the cost of this aggressive invasion. It also needs to consider its relationship with Ukraine. Formal diplomatic relations between the countries date back to 1992.

Ursula Von der Leyen and Joe Biden jointly condemned Russia's 'aggression' in Ukraine

Biden has warned Chinese President Xi Jinping not to provide material support to Russia in its war against Ukraine. White House National Security advisor Jake Sullivan said the United States has yet to see evidence of China sending aid to Russia. "But it's something we're watching every day," he said.

China has not condemned Russia's invasion, but has called on both sides for restraint.

How is China positioning itself as the war unfolds?

The Chinese president has invested personally and professionally in his relationship with his Russian counterpart.

A joint statement between the two leaders on 4 February, on the side-lines of the Beijing Olympics, called on the West to "abandon the ideologised approaches of the Cold War".

Both countries are interested in weakening the influence of the United States and the West overall, and making the international system more favourable to them and to autocracies in general.

But even as relations between the politicians are warming through increasingly shared global goals, China will still be trying to balance its competing interests in the conflict.

And this is a "difficult balancing act for China" according to Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

'Xi has to be careful to not irreparably damage his relationship with the United States and with Europe'

Ms Glaser believes China has three interests it wants to protect; a strong relationship with Russia, uphold territorial integrity and sovereignty, and its relationship with the West.

"I believe that at the outset of this war, Xi had hoped that this conflict would help to accelerate the decline of the West and the friction between the US and its allies and drive a wedge between them. It has of course had quite a contrary impact, and so I think that has been very unfavourable to China.

"But I think nonetheless he does want to continue to preserve this relationship with Russia and try to push the international situation in a direction that is favourable to their interests," said Ms Glaser.

From China's perspective Ukraine is an independent state and Xi wouldn't like to harm their relationship. But Ms Glaser believes China's relationship with Russia trumps its relationship with Ukraine.

China also wants to become dominant in strategically important technologies, Xi has talked about Beijing's ambition to become a global technology competitor in his rejuvenation plans. But this is an area Russia can’t fulfil.

"So, Xi has to be careful to not irreparably damage his relationship with the United States and with Europe and other advanced economies like Japan, for example," said Ms Glaser.

Are Russia and China allies?

Russia and China have a unique relationship. There are many issues that they do not see eye to eye on. China doesn't think about its relationships in the same way that the United States or Europe does.

"This is a strategic partnership relationship that China has. It doesn't want to make commitments to countries that would tie its hands in a crisis. The Chinese don't do that. So, when we try to impose this template of our own alliances on China, I think that just doesn't help us to understand what China is likely to do," said Ms Glaser.

'Too many people have called this in the past a marriage of convenience'

She said: "Over the years people thought the issues they didn't agree on would cause friction or undermine the relationship, but instead they are able to compartmentalise these differences and focus on where their interests align".

"People look at the Russia-China relationship through the prism of our own experience and alliances.

"I think that's the reason why we have underestimated the relationship between Putin and Xi Jinping, and their ability to work together to advance their common interests.

"Too many people have called this in the past a marriage of convenience. Well, it has turned out to be much more than that," she said.

Will China fully back Russia?

This could be something China decides on 'a case by case basis'.

In recent days, China voted for Russia's resolution at the UN Security Council, all 13 other members abstained. China's UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said China welcomed any initiative and measures that can help alleviate and resolve the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. But the resolution made no mention of Russia’s invasion or aggression.

While last week, the UN's International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine. The court ruled by 13 votes to two, with the Russian and Chinese Judges voting against the order.

However, Ms Glaser feels China would probably abstain on something if territorial integrity or sovereignty is a factor.

"They have embraced the UN Charter and so I think that's what you can predict in a sense, what China's positions will be. So going forward, there probably will be other instances in which there will be some decisions that China will have to make. When it is cost free to stand alongside Russia, I think they will do so," said Ms Glaser.

China UN Ambassador Zhang Jun speaks at a Security Council meeting

China will also be careful to maintain its own trading partner relations, especially in areas of technology. While it will continue to say that it is not upholding the sanctions against Russia, they will do so, according to Ms Glaser.

"If they do violate them, I think the United States will, along with hopefully European countries take actions against these, whether it's an enterprise or a bank or something in China that then will send a very clear message that we are willing to do more."

Did China know Russia was going to invade Ukraine?

It’s likely Putin told Xi he was planning to use his military in Ukraine, but it's unclear the level of detail he would have shared.

"Putin may have believed that this would be over in 48 or 72 hours. That this would be a blitzkrieg operation," said Ms Glaser.

"And Xi probably believed that as well, and thought that outcome would be beneficial to Russia, and that China's relationship with Ukraine would be able to withstand that. After all, they've gotten through 2014 and the annexation of Crimea."

It's also likely neither leader predicted that this war would have gone on for more than a month or in the way it has played out.

"I just don't think that this was anticipated by China, this could be in part because Xi is fairly insulated, just as Putin is, and doesn't get very good information from the people around him. But I think that there was a miscalculation, certainly by Putin, and that that was likely shared by Xi Jingping."