The Wise Monkey and the Bear

Part 1

China – Russia: «Back-to-back». Why and what next?

Vladimir Putin’s visit to China and the new appointments he made in the Government and Administration of the President of the Russian Federation were actively discussed by political analysts and the world media, but almost no one connected these events or tried to analyze them as manifestations of one process. That must be done because these events are interconnected and reflect important changes taking place in the world.

So, in order to identify the “scarlet” connecting the events, let’s start with Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing.

China’s cooperation with the West and the “back-to-back” stand with Russia

As result of negotiations between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, few important agreements were reached. That includes the development in Russia of joint production of equipment that Russia is now importing and that was subject to Western sanctions; the acceleration of development of transport and energy transitions from Russia to China, as well as to other countries, including to the south to Iran, Pakistan and India; the creation and development of international financial system capable of operating independently from the existing dollar system…

And here I would like to point out that the specific details of these agreements were not disclosed.

At this level of meetings, significant part of agreements always remains hidden, but the secrecy of the past negotiations exceeded the secrecy of the previous meetings between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

This suggests that Beijing and Moscow have practically no achievements to show the people of their countries and the outside world. All achievements are either already known or that cannot be proud of.

However, there were very important issues that remain hidden to the outside world, and exactly those issues were at the center of negotiations in Beijing.

And that means that relations between Beijing and Moscow are increasingly concentrated and subordinated to one task: to become the front rear for each other, providing strategic support and guaranteeing security. As Xi Jinping said, to stand “back-to-back.”

At the same time, maintaining and developing business cooperation and trade relations with the United States and Europe remain important tasks for China. In this situation, is Xi ready to sacrifice investments and trade with the West for the opportunity to have his back protected by Russia, by Russian natural resources, scientific and military support?

China has for decades developed cooperation with the US and Europe in all areas, including cutting-edge technologies and manufacturing, and Beijing is committed to developing this cooperation. However, in recent years, the United States and Europe have begun to limit, to block China’s development and to impose sanctions against it. Washington has recognized China as “the main threat.”

That changed situation completely.

                      Balancing principles and interests

The main contradiction between Beijing and Washington is that China and the United States fundamentally differ in their vision of the future system of international relations.

The United States, Europe and their allies continue to insist on maintaining the system of international relations based on the rights of peoples and states to competition and rivalry, struggle for leadership and advantages. China, like Russia, advocates strict restrictions of those rights.

The West believes that it still dominates the world and seeks to maintain its dominance. However, China, like Russia, wants to change the world order, rebuild it on other principles that could significantly limit ability of the United States or any other state to ensure and maintain its dominance. This creates the unavoidable conflict of strategic interests between the West and China, Russia and their supporters.

The main principles of the new world order that China and Russia insist on, are, first, renunciation of all states from attempts by force and pressure to limit and hinder development of other countries and their cooperation with each other.

That principlelooks quite strange, especially in relation to Russia that launched military operation and invaded Ukraine, trying to block its entry into NATO.

However, this principle in the understanding of Putin and Xi is connected and limited by the second principle,which implies guarantees of strategic security for each country and refusal to develop relations and create alliances that pose strategic threats to other states and the world community.

If such threats arise, the parties must resolve these threats and contradictions through negotiations and search for compromises acceptable to all parties, and not try to force other countries to come to terms with the desires and plans of the strongest. And as Moscow and Beijing believe, it is the second principle that the West refuses to accept.

By war in Ukraine Russia and Beijing try to show that the existing system of international relations and its basic principles became too dangerous for all sides, including the West.

The third principle is the right of states and peoples to their own development in accordance with the traditions and laws of their civilizations, the ban on interference in the internal affairs and development of other civilizations.

This principle also contradicts existing practice in international relations. Western countries actively interfere in the affairs of other countries and civilizations, promoting the Western views and ideas, moral standards, insisting that all peoples and states comply with the rules and moral principles adopted in Western democracies, though these norms are now actively being transformed in European countries and the United States. 

Therefore, the most important decision of Xi and Putin was the strategic agreement between Beijing and Moscow to firmly implement new principles into international practice. First of all, this concerns peace negotiations and ending wars and conflicts, which Beijing and Moscow will now resolve on the principles and laws of the new world order. In particular, we are talking about the war in Ukraine.

From now on, Beijing and Moscow will defend the position that any peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine is inseparable from formation of the new global security architecture. From this moment on, the war in Ukraine and options for ending it, as well as future conflicts in the world, will be considered on the principles and laws of the new world order.

Xi Jinping expressed this decision in his rather veiled statement that the security, state sovereignty and integrity of all countries should be ensured by “new, balanced security architecture.”

Vladimir Putin chose not to comment on the decisions in Beijing yet, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, after negotiations in Beijing, said about “the creation of Eurasian security model” and the need to create international structures and organizations that could become “the material basis of a new Eurasian security system”.

It is noteworthy that while China and Moscow do not want to highlight these agreements, it is absolutely clear that the preparatory period for creating the new world order has ended in Beijing, in May 2024. China and Russia in the international arena are finally moving to politics within the framework of the new world order they created.

This decision of Putin and Xi will inevitably manifest itself in mid-June 2024, at the summit on Ukraine in Switzerland. At the summit, according to the plan of Zelensky, who thinks and acts within the framework of the existing system of relations, the majority of the world community should accept the conditions for ending the war in Ukraine, and this decision in the form of ultimatum will be presented to Moscow, forcing the Weak to accept the will of the Strong.

However, countries that join Russia and China and stand for the new world order will not come to Switzerland or refuse to sign anti-Russian decision of the summit. This split of the world into two camps will happen in Switzerland, and it will be impossible not to notice it.

However, not everything is going smoothly for Russia and China. The West retains many levers of influence over countries that share the views of Putin and Xi on the principles of international relations. Some of these countries are forced to take ambivalent position for now, and some, taking advantage of the moment, are using the struggle between the West and China-Russia to their advantage.

Xi’s and Lavrov’s statements mean that Moscow does not intend to conduct negotiations with Kiev taking into account only the factor of the strength or weakness of the rivals and trying to squeeze concessions from the one who is weaker.

                     China and the war in Ukraine

Of course, the realities of war cannot be ignored or abolished. Defeat on battlefield means losses. What Kiev lost by risking transferring Ukraine under the control and protection of NATO will not be returned to Kiev, if Ukraine loses to Russia. The more Ukraine loses in fighting, the less territory and population it will have left. However, the Ukraine that survives will have the right to safe existence and development, but on the condition that it switches to the principles of the new world order.

Ukraine must agree and commit not to create any strategic threat not only to Russia, but also to China, because Ukraine is the essential and important part of the “One Belt — One Road” project, and the regime in Kiev will be obliged to guarantee reliability and security for the transit of goods, cargo, people of the countries participating in the project. As well as other projects in which Ukraine will be participant: North — South, Eurasian project (or whatever it will be called in the final version).

And this makes China not just one of the important factors, but participant in the process of developing peace agreement to end the war in Ukraine. Even if China remains in the shadows. Putin accepts such combinations easily.

                              See you in Kazan!

The BRICS countries have already managed to change the world order to some extent, despite the resistance of the West. They are actively creating, developing and strengthening basic structures, mechanisms and elements of the new world order system, and in Beijing, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin undoubtedly coordinated their positions and plans for the further development of BRICS, taking into account that the next summit of the expanded BRICS will be held in October 2024, in Kazan, capital of Tatarstan, and will be chaired by Putin.

I think that it is in Kazan that the BRICS+ leaders will announce the creation of new system of international relations and demand that all other countries, primarily the USA and Europe, join the new order and act in the international arena according to its laws and principles. That is why Xi Jinping spoke in veiled manner, Putin was silent, and Lavrov made hints, albeit transparent…

However, on the way to the BRICS+ summit in Kazan, Putin will face one very important problem.

The BRICS+ countries, primarily China, India and Iran, do not need war in Ukraine. War creates problems for everyone. China is building “One Belt – One Road” zone: from the Pacific region, the Far East and Southeast Asia to Europe, where, despite the resistance of the United States and its allies, China has already created foothold zones for the transfer of production of the most modern, technologically advanced and necessary products for Europe, the products that may fall or have already come under US sanctions.

These zones include Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, France, possibly Italy, and after changing the parties in power, Germany may also become that foothold. Ukraine should become the Chinese foothold zone also after signing of peace agreement with Russia.

To do this, Putin needs to end the war, but he had no chance of doing this quickly and effectively with the army and military-industrial complex under the control of the Shoigu clan. It has also become dangerous to increase funding for the military-industrial complex and the army in the conditions of uncontrolled corruption that flourished in the Ministry of Defense for forty years, since the time of Gorbachev. Spending on the army has approached the limit that, if crossed, would be fatal for the regime.

By October 2024, by the BRICS+ summit in Kazan, Russia has to emerge victorious, and peace in Ukraine should be restored on the BRICS principles.

To do this, Putin needs, while maintaining internal stability in Russia, to carry out radical restructuring of systems of management and control in the economy and political structures, and to identify new political, economic and social goals.

That explains the events in Russia that preceded Putin’s visit to China, including reshuffles and appointments in the Government, the Presidential Administration and, most importantly, in the Ministry of Defense that are being followed by arrests.

I will dwell on these appointments and reshuffles in the next part of this article.

(To be continued)

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