Re-“Orientation”

Good news on Russia becoming closer to China. Russia’s days as a European power are rapidly fading, as Russia is not economically, culturally, or politically on the same track as either the EU or the borderlands. Rather, Russia’s best seen as a Central Asian state, with a Central Asian route to development. Embracing China as a major customer for raw materials is a good move for this once great power:

The Weekly Standard
In the lead-up to Medvedev’s visit, the Chinese media made a special point of reporting on a recent survey of the Russian public. In the poll, conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, China was mentioned most frequently when Russians were asked “Which country is friendliest towards Russia?”

Beyond the cordial welcome, Beijing’s assessment is that Medvedev’s decision to travel to China so soon after his inauguration reflected a number of geopolitical considerations. In addition to further consolidating bilateral ties which had reached “a historical high” under Putin, Medvedev saw in China “a breakthrough point” and “a special diplomatic arena” at a time when Moscow’s relations with Georgia, the EU, and the United States have all been strained.

Liberation Daily predicted that despite Medvedev’s “looking East,” Moscow will continue to strive for “a balanced diplomacy”:

Further, friendship with Russia removes possible friction for China, allowing her to rise without that pesky natural resource exporter on her northern frontier from causing too much trouble.

3 thoughts on “Re-“Orientation””

  1. Thinking about Russia recently lead me to ask: Can we conceptualize a positive outcome for Russia in the 21st century? I mean, we have our pick of former communist countries and even former imperial powers to look to as examples, but Russia was special. Is there a country in the world that presented as much of a strategic threat to Europe for decades, maintained a global empire and exported a revolutionary ideology that was down right dangerous to the global order of the time? A country that financed insurgencies against their global rivals and sent advisors and even combat troops abroad to fuel proxy wars designed to bleed their rivals dry? Can we find such an example? A country that might allow us to imagine what Russia might be like in a decade or two? My answer: France.

    Now France was never a massive oil and gas exporter, so I realize the analogy isn’t perfect. But I do think Putin has been sounding very De Gaulleesque in the last couple years. From comparing Bush to Hitler to withdrawing from the conventional weapons treaty in Europe, it all reminds me of some of the more cantankerous stunts that De Gaulle pulled [1] as France settled into their postwar role as a second rate power (De Gaulle’s “stunts” included demanding gold instead of U.S. dollars, threatening to target England with France’s nuclear stockpile and quiting NATO; all far worse offenses then anything we’ve seen from Russia).

    And of course France, like Russia, has had plenty of ups and downs on their route to finding a system of government [2] that works for them.

    France’s obstinate post war attitude was, I believe, rooted in a sort of “stabbed in the back” national myth that held that England and the U.S. didn’t do enough to thwart German rearmament in the inter war period. Russia, as I understand it, is currently kicking around a “stabbed in the back” myth of their own, that holds that the west didn’t do enough to help Russia avert an economic collapse after the Soviet Union dissolved.

    Two decades hence, when we look at Russia, hopefully we’ll be able to see what we see today when we look at France; a cranky neutered super power with a declining population and often contrarian yet ultimately inert foreign policy.

    [1] http://academic.umf.maine.edu/~erb/200607/1eur4.htm
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_French_Republic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *