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2023 Russia Outlook (1): The international situation is not optimistic Can Sino-Russian relations move forward?


For Russia in 2022, special military operations since February will dominate the direction of the country. Looking back at Vladimir Putin's original calculation, it should be expected that the Russian army could use blitzkrieg to force Ukraine to accept negotiations.

For Russia in 2022, special military operations since February will dominate the direction of the country.

Looking back at Vladimir Putin's original calculation, it should be expected that the Russian army could use blitzkrieg to force Ukraine to accept negotiations and become a vassal of Russia, and at the same time use this to subvert the European security structure dominated by the United States and NATO.

However, judging from today's situation, the actual development is somewhat counterproductive. The Russian army failed to defeat Ukraine's will to resist at the beginning of the operation. The online security environment has not only failed to improve, but has deteriorated rapidly, and its international situation is even less optimistic.

In January 2022, the United States, NATO, and the OSCE launched negotiations on "security guarantees" with Russia. Now there is a lot of artillery fire between Russia and Ukraine, and the negotiations have come to an end; in terms of the security situation, the hostility of the EU and NATO to Russia has risen rapidly. , Finland and Sweden have also applied to join NATO one after another, and Russia is surrounded by the "Iron Curtain" that it wants to avoid; in the economic field, most European and American countries have resorted to sanctions against Russia, including freezing assets, restricting financing, export controls, Cancel most-favored-nation treatment, kick important Russian banks out of the SWIFT system, etc. The United States and Canada have imposed an energy embargo on Russia and completely stopped importing oil, gas and coal from Russia. The EU is also reducing two-thirds of its natural gas imports from Russia in 2022. , 90% of oil imports from Russia offshore, and decided to get rid of energy dependence on Russia in 2027.

In terms of international diplomacy and public opinion, the United Nations has always refused to accept Russia's reason for war. It first held the 11th emergency special meeting on March 2, demanding that Russia immediately stop its invasion of Ukraine, and passed a resolution on October 12. , condemning Russia's "referendum not valid under international law" held in Ukraine, followed by the adoption of a resolution on November 14 demanding that Russia be held accountable for violating international law during the war, including paying reparations to Ukraine.

At the same time, Russia was also expelled from the Council of Europe and suspended from membership in the UN Human Rights Council.

Looking forward to 2023, Russia may be lingering in a relatively isolated predicament. Its influence in international politics and the world economic system will further shrink, and its diplomatic space with the West will be severely squeezed. ” and “South”.

In this context, Sino-Russian relations should be the focus of Moscow's diplomacy in the coming year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a video call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on December 30.


The isolation dilemma is difficult to solve in the short term

Focus first on Russia's isolation plight.

Looking back on 2022, the anti-Western public opinion field does express sympathy for Russia, but from a broader global perspective, Moscow's efforts have not been able to dispel outside criticism of the Russia-Ukraine war after all.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia is not as privileged as the United States. It can fight recklessly and gain global admiration. Therefore, after the special military operation began, it tried its best to defend itself with various reasons, including NATO's continued eastward expansion, and the ethnic conflict in Uzbekistan. Extermination, etc., hoping to buffer the moral condemnation and siege of public opinion from other countries.

However, although the above-mentioned efforts have played a certain role in the anti-Western public opinion field, they cannot save Russia's isolated situation.

Take two important international events in November 2022 as an example. At that time, the G20 summit and the APEC summit were held in Indonesia and Thailand.

And because of the bad situation, Moscow is trying to prove that it is "not isolated", so it will actively participate in international occasions that are not dominated by Europe and the United States. The first choice is the five Central Asian countries, the Eurasian Economic Union, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization that Russia is familiar with. Such a platform not only allows Moscow to set its agenda with confidence, but also maintains its own influence in the post-Soviet space.

In June 2022, Putin visited Tajikistan, then transferred to Turkmenistan to participate in the sixth Caspian Sea summit, and went to Uzbekistan to participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in September, and paid a working visit to Kazakhstan in October to participate in the sixth session of the "Asian Information Conference". summit.

In November, Putin went to Armenia to attend the CSTO summit.

The rest of the platforms with the color of "Global South" are also Russia's force points.

In June 2022, Putin made a speech at the BRICS leaders summit, accusing Western countries of being the culprit of the global economic crisis, calling on the BRICS countries to unite to face the crisis, counter the West, and expand cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the African Union, and the Caribbean Community , the League of Arab States and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

In December 2022, Putin stated at the meeting of the defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States that the West deliberately provoked the Russia-Ukraine dispute in order to maintain its global dominance, but "Asia, Africa and Latin America are The formation of new centers of development, which are increasingly active in defending their national interests, sovereignty and the right to follow their own path of development ".

After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came to power in May 2019, he held four-party talks with French President Macron, then German Chancellor Merkel, and Russian President Putin in Paris in December of the same year to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine.

(Getty Images)

However, the above efforts may not be all-powerful.

Although most of the former Soviet Union countries did not participate in the sanctions against Russia and abstained from voting on the United Nations condemnation of Russia, they did not accept Russia's political arrangements. For example, few countries recognized the fact that four parts of Ukraine voted for Russia.

Many former Soviet countries took advantage of the situation to show "independence". For example, Armenia publicly expressed dissatisfaction with Russia because Russia failed to meet its needs in the Naqqa conflict, and at the same time strengthened its interaction with Europe and the United States; Tajik President He told Putin face to face at the Russia-Central Asia Forum that "we want to be respected."

Among non-Western countries, although Russia has partners, it is difficult to prevent the latter from being "sophisticated". Turkey is the most typical case.

On the one hand, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continued to show his willingness to mediate in the export of military drones to Ukraine, including urging the Russia-Ukraine peace talks and the Black Sea grain transportation agreement; in terms of geostrategy, Turkey blocked Finland and Sweden from joining NATO. On the one hand, it continues to strengthen its influence in Syria, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, and even announced that it will launch a new round of ground operations against Syria, which will naturally erode Russia's geospace.

India is also somewhat similar. Its strategic cooperation with Russia has a deep foundation and a long history. After the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, although India purchased Russia’s discounted oil on a large scale, it secretly reduced its arms purchases from Russia.

At the Shanghai Cooperation Summit in September, Modi (Narendra Modi) directly stated to Putin that "now is not an era of war", and the annual meeting of the heads of state of Russia and India was also canceled due to the "epidemic".

This is true even in non-Western countries, not to mention European and American countries.

After the war broke out, Russia and the West turned against each other in an all-round way. In addition to the above-mentioned political and economic quarrels, the relationship between Europe and Russia has undergone profound changes. European countries have cut off energy ties with Russia. Some people in the Russian strategic circle lamented the dilemma. Special military actions have damaged the diplomatic tradition of 300 years after Peter the Great, making it difficult for Russia to be regarded as a European power, a balancing force on the European continent, and an inseparable part of pan-European civilization.

Of course, such isolation will not last forever, but looking forward to 2023, Russia is basically unable to escape this dilemma.

The picture shows that on April 21, 2022, workers in a foundry in Germany were preparing to pour molten ductile iron into molds.

The company produces components, including those used in the renewable energy sector, and is one of the few companies in Europe capable of casting workpieces weighing less than 300 tons.

A gas supply disruption in Germany would stall much of the foundry's manufacturing capacity.

In addition, due to the current EU sanctions against Russia, the company is already facing several times higher raw material prices.

(Getty Images?

Sino-Russian relations are running smoothly

In this context, the steady progress of Sino-Russian relations has become a rare bright spot in Russian diplomacy in 2022.

On February 4, 2022, Putin visited China and attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. During the period, the governments, relevant departments and enterprises of the two countries signed more than ten important statements and agreements including the "Sino-Russian Far East Natural Gas Purchase and Sales Agreement".

After the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine War, even though China once fell into a whirlpool of public opinion, and was accused by the West of imminent military aid to Russia and recognition of Russia’s occupation of Ukraine, China continued to cooperate with Russia in economic and trade cooperation.

According to Chinese customs data, the Sino-Russian trade volume in 2022 will approach US$190 billion, a record high. China's imports and exports to Russia account for 3% of China's overall trade volume.

In the energy field, according to Gazprom's data, China's imports of Russian gas through the "Siberian Power" pipeline will increase by at least 50% in 2022; Russian oil imports in the first 11 months of the year will also increase by about 10% %, reaching about 80 million tons.

The China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline is also operating smoothly. From December 2, 2019, when it was officially put into operation to the end of October 2022, Russia's gas supply to China has exceeded 27 billion cubic meters.

On December 21, Russia's Kovikta condensate gas field and the Kovikta-Chayanda section of the "Siberian Electric Power" natural gas pipeline were officially put into operation, marking the full completion of the China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline.

In addition, China and Russia are also speeding up the China-Russia Far East pipeline project, and conducting exchanges on China-Mongolia-Russia pipeline cooperation.

On September 15, 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping held a bilateral meeting with Russian President Putin at the Samarkand State Guesthouse to exchange views on Sino-Russian relations and international and regional issues of common concern.

(Xinhua News Agency)

In the political arena, China, like other neutral countries, abstained and vetoed the votes on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the United Nations General Assembly on March 2, October 12 and November 14, and did not participate in the sanctions against Russia. , but could not support Russia's stance on war, but advocated that the two sides return to the negotiating table to resolve disputes, and emphasized that the UN Security Council should play an important role and play a constructive role in resolving the Ukraine issue; Dialogue on European security issues to form a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism.

Of course, China attaches great importance to the interaction with Russia, but the premise is that China-EU and China-US relations cannot be overly affected. Therefore, it can be found that with the protracted trend of the Russia-Uzbekistan war, the expression of "endless, no restricted areas, and no upper limit" for Sino-Russian relations is Gradually faded out of China's official discourse system; Chinese companies, banks and other relevant entities also chose to follow the European and American sanctions against Russia in order to avoid secondary sanctions.

However, although China is unwilling to be overly strategically bound to Russia, it will not give up its "back-to-back" strategic posture with Russia. There is no other reason. The strategic oppression of the United States is too great.

For China, it has no intention of subverting the current international order, but hopes to have an international status that is "more compatible with its own strength", while creating a political and economic space that is "relatively free from US interference".

Under such circumstances, it is in China's international interest to win over Russia, which is at odds with the West and is less hostile to China.

During the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in April 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) explained his "China Plan" to a number of dignitaries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(Getty Images)

Looking back on the past, Russia has long regarded the "East" and "South" as bargaining chips for "anti-Western". "East" and "South" as political subjects.

In addition, in the past, Russia hoped to become an Eastern influence center "independent of China", and was not happy to see Chinese-led projects such as the "Belt and Road" enter the space of the former Soviet Union, believing that Beijing's economic and political presence would cause harm to Russia.

However, the above-mentioned obstacles and concerns quickly gave way to national survival considerations after the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Today, Russia has become a public enemy of the West, and relying on China is the only way for it to go, although the space for cooperation that China can provide is limited to the economic field. However, Russia cannot be too picky, after all, it cannot afford the strategic risk of alienating China at the moment; and for China, to counteract the strategic pressure of the United States, a disintegrated and collapsed Russia is useless, but a disintegrated and collapsed Russia has no way out. Russia, longing for China, has plenty of room for cooperation.

Looking forward to 2023, China's position on persuading and promoting peace talks on the Russia-Ukraine war will not change. At the same time, China will continue to communicate and cooperate closely with Russia, especially on major issues of Eurasian affairs.

Even if the Russo-Ukrainian War may end in 2023, it will be difficult for Russia and the West to normalize relations in the short term. Under this atmosphere, there will be more room for improvement in Sino-Russian relations.

Why did Russia fall into isolation after the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian war?

Russia's reason for war is difficult to convince the international community. European and American countries strongly suppress it, while most non-Western countries remain neutral. Although they do not participate in economic sanctions against Russia, they cannot agree with its war stance.

Why is the relationship between China and Russia going forward steadily?

In the face of U.S. oppression, although the two countries are not allied, they must operate a back-to-back strategic posture.

Is it a military decision or a political decision for Russia to change positions again?

Russia's backyard "competition" Iran involved in which Russia-Iran relations?

Why did China and Russia "diverge" after the SCO summit?

The SCO summit under the frustration of the Russian army: If the United States cannot drag Russia down, there will be no ceiling on Sino-Russian cooperation

Source: hk1

All news articles on 2023-01-18

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