In an agreement that is likely to become known as “A Pact Between Back-Stabbers Version II,” the presidents of China and Russia signed a 30 year energy deal, and began laying out plans for a division of power over Asia which is intended to exclude US interests from most of the continent in the future.
The original Hitler-Stalin pact was meant to divide Eastern Europe between Germany and the USSR — and we remember how well that turned out.
After decades of denial, the Kremlin conceded for the first time today that ”without a doubt” the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany secretly and illegally divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence before the start of World War II. __NYT
The current pact between China and Russia must be seen in the light of President Putin’s failure to win friends and influence people in his European theatre of operations.
Five weeks of Russian inspired separatist violence in eastern Ukraine has left over 130 dead so far and the fighting continues. Russian plans to annex eastern Ukraine (the Donbas region) are not working as they did in Crimea. In Donbas the locals as well as the Ukrainian government are fighting back. The Russian supported separatists are outnumbered and in danger of being crushed. Russia cannot really afford a defeat like this, but is faced with growing anger in Ukraine and around the world. Russia makes light of Western sanctions over the Ukraine meddling, but the economic damage to Russia is already being done and there is nothing Russia can do to halt that short of getting out of Ukraine. Thus for the last few days the Ukrainian government has been holding talks with the pro-Russian separatists but these do not appear to be going anywhere, apparently because Russia has not decided what to do next. _Strategy Page
Putin is struggling for more bacon to bring home to the folks in the Gulag, and hopes that this particular Russia : China pact will at least carry him through the summer.
Unfortunately for Putin, China has no intention of sticking to the letter of this pact or any other pact. Asia is full of natural resource booty, and China intends to have it all. Let Putin grin for the hometown cameras like the KGB version of Alfred E. Neuman. China knows what it wants, and when the time comes it will veer from the agreed-upon path to take it.
Neither China nor Russia are known for openness at home, nor straight dealing abroad. Signing agreements is one thing, but sticking to agreements is a matter of convenience. In the real world of dictators, lying, cheating, stealing, and back-stabbing are de rigeur.
What is portrayed for the cameras, and what is done behind the scenes, are typically as different as fairy tales and prison cells. China has abundant natural gas reserves, and is rushing to develop the expertise to tap into them. China is also negotiating with energy suppliers around the world for better prices than the ones that Russia is — even now — willing to offer. New gas pipelines and LNG import terminals are being built to completely bypass the Russian supply lines. And China will never quit working to acquire interest and control over large sections of Russia’s Siberian oil & gas fields.
The USSR was famous for stealing western technology and copying it. But China is much better at stealing technology, and turns that skill against its Russian “allies” at every opportunity. Such double-dealing by the Chinese against its overseas “partners” has become too numerous to list. Which is why it is always naive for any outside interest to expect to get what it is bargaining for from Beijing.
While Putin is desperately playing a “tough guy” role to the folks back home and naive admirers overseas, China is playing a leisurely long game to gain all the chips in the high stakes game, despite any pieces of paper which may be signed on any particular day.
A tale of two backstabbers, reprised from the 1930s and 1940s. This could end badly.
Bonus: Which are the better hackers: Russians or Chinese?
The tortuous history of Russia-China relations shows that their long-term interests are not complementary. Putin won’t want Russia to depend on China any more than he wants it to depend on Europe. Anyway, the gas exports in the new pact, once onstream in 2018, will be about a quarter of what Russia sells to Europe. Even if the deal is enlarged later, the idea that Russia can now get along fine without the European market is nonsense.
… it’s always cause for concern when two tyrannical governments, presiding over such big and powerful countries, deepen their ties and find new ways of cooperating. In this case, however, the new alliance is unlikely to change the underlying logic of a longstanding rivalry. _Bloomberg
Following up on this deal, the Chinese are negotiating for part ownership in Russian LNG terminals and other assets: “Now China will not only have an energy partnership with Russia, but Beijing is also in talks to acquire a stake in Gazprom’s Vladivostok liquefied natural gas terminal and a 19 percent stake in Russian oil company Rosneft, according to Stratfor.” source And that will only be the beginning of China’s aggressive encroachment into Russia’s economic and natural resource assets.
Combined with aggressive Chinese migration into Siberia and rapid takeover of local business interests there, this larger-scale movement of the China dragon into the under-belly of the Russian bear foreshadows a dismal future for Russia in Siberia. And since Siberia is where most of Russia’s wealth lies, a larger shadow is cast over the whole of Russia, as it is currently known.