AMANDA – Russia and China reloaded

Russia and China reloadedAs the West and Russia continue to slog it out over Ukraine, China is reaping the benefits of this struggle. Moscow has turned to China to boost its flagging economy following sanctions being placed on it by the European Union, the US and others.

The Chinese have also no doubt taken note of the fact that despite all of its strong statements, the West has not been able to halt Putin or find a quick solution to the conflict in Ukraine. Rather, they continue to have a andldquoletand#39s wait for Putinand#39s next move then decide what to do nextandrdquo policy.

This has underlined the foreign policy of US President Barack Obamaand#39s administration — a policy without a real strategy or success stories, which has kept US officials facing simultaneous simmering crises all around the world. This is something that Beijing certainly will not mind.

China has had a rather low key approach to the Ukraine crisis, calling for restraint and a negotiated solution. With fears over separatism in its own Xinjiang province, Beijing does not like the actions of either side.

China is strongly opposed to land grabs such as that carried out by Russia over Crimea it also strongly dislikes anti-government protests such as Euromaidan, which eventually led to the departure of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. China has also been far than happy to see the deepening separatism in eastern Ukraine.

However, despite these worries, events in the country have opened a huge window of opportunity for China to see gains both economically and politically. Hence China has had no qualms about boosting ties with Russia, particularly when Russia is in a much weaker negotiating poison due to the sanctions.

Furthermore, Putin is quite a popular figure in China, with many Chinese appreciating his andldquohard manandrdquo macho image and style of rule.For Russia, deepening ties with China is important.

Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin recently stating andldquothe West is simply sawing off the branch it is sitting on by placing sanctions on Russia,andrdquo this is far from the real picture. While the sanctions are uncomfortable for the West, particularly for the EU, the impact on the Russian economy is much more serious and increasingly painful.

Capital flight is significant the ruble has plummeted, increasing the cost of living the embargo placed by Russia on EU agricultural products has led to an increase in prices of certain foods and the plummeting oil price has rocked the Russian economy. The economic outlook for Russia will be determined by the global price of oil, domestic inflation, and the Ukrainian crisis, which has blocked Russiaand#39s access to foreign credit.

This situation is more tricky because Russia is very much a one-trick pony, with its economy dependent on one sectorNevertheless, while Russia is bruised, it is far from broken. Putin is now more popular than at any other time during this rule, and he has always been prepared to bear economic pain to achieve strategic objectives.

Furthermore, Putin knows well that Ukraineand#39s economic and political problems are going to be almost impossible to solve without Russian cooperation. In the meantime, closer cooperation with China, a country which does not like the USand#39s dominance any more than Russia does, and which is on the road to becoming the worldand#39s largest economy, is seen as crucially important.

So far the best example of increased ties has been the $400 billion 30-year deal that Moscow and Beijing signed in May for Russia to supply China with natural gas. While the deal is nowhere near as lucrative as those Russia has with EU member states, Russia probably hopes it will open the door to much deeper and broader cooperation.

Indeed, today China and Russia are in talks about deepening cooperation in many other areas, including in cyberspace — in other words, Internet governance — with the two leaderships also set to sign a whole swathe of agreements when they meet in Beijing in November There is also interest from other BRIC members in following the Russia-China Internet governance strategy, and other emerging economies, including Turkey and a number of states in Central Asia, may also be interested.Unless there a resolution to the crisis with Ukraine, Russia and China will further deepen their ties, which will considerably boost Chinaand#39s economic power and regional strength and influence, hence ultimately China could have a much broader impact on global international relations.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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