Vladimir Putin just had terrible, terrible, not good, very bad week. And it was not only about the losses in Ukraine or the need to announce a draft at home. The series of meetings—and what was and wasn’t said at them—showed just how much Russian influence is waning even in its own spheres of influence, and how China is taking advantage of that.
Start with September 7, when the No. 3 man on China’s Politburo Standing Committee, Li Zhanshu, visited Russian officials during a previously scheduled tour of the country. After the meetings, the Russian State Duma reported that Li said that “China understands and supports Russia in matters that represent its vital interests, in particular, the situation in Ukraine.” But Chinese state media told a different story, not mentioning Ukraine and stating that Moscow firmly supports China on the Taiwan issue. Much to the chagrin of China, the video is coming soon arose Li said Beijing understands Russia’s “measures” taken to protect the country’s “core interests” from pressure from the US and NATO.
In short, it appears that both sides said at the meeting that they understood each other’s core disputes with the West, but neither wanted to publicly acknowledge their mutual support to the international community.
Just a week later, it was a different story. Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan. As the Russian leader came to meet with his colleagues, so did Ukraine retransmissions the city of Izyum and preparing for the disorderly and humiliating retreat of Russian troops from the Kharkiv region.
At this meeting, the Russian position changed. This time, Putin did his best to show support for China actions in the Taiwan Strait against “provocations by the United States,” while openly accepting China’s “worries» about our own conflict in Ukraine. Noticeably, the Chinese side did not reciprocate. Xi Jinping offered no public support for Russia’s war, but did not even use the word “Ukraine” in his remarks.
It was just part of a long string of losses for Putin at the event. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been relatively friendly up to this point, reported Action of Russia in an unusually direct language. And after many years bending their power, making leaders wait for his arrival Putin was in public twice forced so embarrassing to wait around other regional leaders.
The visual theater highlights how Putin’s failed invasion is changing the balance of power. The consequences go beyond the losses in Ukraine itself and the shameful actions of the Russian military. At the same time, the Russian economy avoided a complete collapse on its face sanctionsits export of refined products has fell down 25 percent from February; more than 1000 businesses terminated their activities in Russia; and imports were cut in halfincluding with semiconductors and other critical components. of Russia economy not expected to recover for at least eight years.
While Beijing publicly expresses its continued friendship with Russia, actions speak louder. China uses every opportunity to make Russia more dependent on itself and extract further concessions from its strategic partner.
In part, this is a clear desire for influence in regions where Russia has long held sway, beginning with the tsarist conquests of Central Asia. Key to this is the promotion of a variety of diplomatic, economic and security initiatives that now put Beijing, not Moscow, in power. Promoting China Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Asia-Centered Economic and Security Initiative), Xi hopes to expand China’s influence and capabilities in a region where Russia is struggling to maintain its prominence.
On the diplomatic front, Xi was clearly the most important player in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Articles under his name were printed in Uzbek and Kazakh newspapers praise their relationship, as well as “modernizationChina’s bilateral relations with Belarus.
Economically, Central Asia is already a major center for The Belt and Road Initiative. projects, with China investing almost 70 billion dollars to the region between 2005 and 2020. These projects mainly employ Chinese workers; the expansion of these projects is also valuable domestically, but helps China boost infrastructure-related employment even as its housing market collapses.
On the energy front, China buys Russian energy carriers, but at low prices, and Russia even agreed start selling their oil to China for Chinese yuan. Central Asia could also offer more sustainable routes for oil and natural gas resources to bolster China’s energy portfolio, allowing it to avoid the geostrategic headache of shipping Middle Eastern oil through bottlenecks in the Indian Ocean. Perhaps most importantly, Russia, Mongolia and China are unofficial agreed at the event to push ahead with improvements to a major rail route and a new gas pipeline through Mongolia to help a desperate Russia supply China with energy.
Central Asian countries seem to see the writing on the wall in moving away from Russia even as they move closer to China. The government of Kazakhstan, which accepted the help of Russian troops in suppressing the January uprising, briefly refused to help Putin in Ukraine and even joined the international sanctions against Russia. In one of the clearest signs of Russia’s decline, Xi Jinping also pledged to support Kazakhstan.sovereignty.”
Most notably, the 30-year history of the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) may have played out last week. Its members are theoretically obliged to come to the defense of any member under attack, but the CSTO saw an attack on member state Armenia go unanswered. In the same week, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – members of the CSTO – began combat operations with each other, with a helpless look at Russia. Meanwhile, China is increasingly poised to replace Russia as a security guarantor; Xi laid down that China will train 2,000 people to fight “color revolutions” in the SCO countries, most likely referring to Kazakhstan near the revolution in January.
Russia and China continue to have common interests in the broader perceived strategic competition with the United States, and agreements at the meeting promise cooperation in a number of areas. For example, China continues to contribute its CIPS payment system in Central Asia as a SWIFT call and agreements at the meeting promised cooperation in the decline in the strength of the US dollarr on their economy. But what has been said and not said in recent meetings is an illustration of how power in the former Russian empire is shifting dramatically in China’s favor.
Thomas Corbett is an analyst at BluePath Labs. His specializations include China’s foreign relations, new technologies and international economics.
https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2022/09/putins-terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-week-looks-even-worse-through-china-lens/377575/ Putin’s horrible, horrible, no good, very bad week looks even worse through the lens of China