Moscow and Beijing Will Reject Anti-Asad Intervention

Text of report by the website of heavyweight Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 5 June

[Article by Vladimir Skosyrev: "Moscow and Beijing Will Reject Anti-Asad Intervention. But Accord on Gas Pipeline Construction Unlikely"]

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China begins today. During talks he will coordinate the two countries’ positions on Syria and Iran. Within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [SCO] there will be a discussion of the question of how to prevent the infiltration of extremists into Central Asia. As for bilateral ties, trade between the Russian Federation and the PRC has reached a record level. But its structure does not satisfy Russia. Disagreements on the price for gas persist.

Putin’s visit is taking place against the backdrop of upheavals in the world financial markets, the intensification of pressure on Moscow and Beijing from the West on the question of Syria and Iran, and growing risks for the two powers’ security in connection with the possibility of the hasty withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan. All this is prompting Russia and China to coordinate policy more closely in those spheres where their interests coincide. The discussion in Beijing of the most acute problems of international politics both in a bilateral format and during the SCO summit will show how close the Russian and Chinese leaderships’ positions really are.

In conversation with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Andrey Karneyev, deputy director of the Moscow State University Institute of the Countries of Asia and Africa, noted that "the current period may be considered the best in the many centuries-long history of ties between the two countries. After all, in the fifties, when the USSR and China were military allies the disagreements were hushed up. Now, however, when the ideological component in relations has been discarded, they are being built on a far firmer basis -in the light of mutual interests."

Both powers reject the West’s policy aimed at changing regimes which it calls undemocratic. The positions are close on both Syria and Iran. The same can also be said about the role of the United Nations in international affairs. Moscow and Beijing oppose intervention in Arab countries in circumvention of the United Nations.

"Of course, both powers are forced to take into account the fact that events in Afghanistan could follow an unfavourable scenario. This is fraught with destabilization in Central Asia and China’s Xinjiang. This is why Russia and China have held a series of joint military exercises within the SCO framework. On the other hand, there is no reason to hope that China, as a state possessing the most powerful financial resources among the organization’s members, will bear other states’ expenditure. Nor will it ever send troops into Afghanistan against the Taleban and will not intervene if disorder breaks out in a neighbouring state similar to that which erupted earlier in Kyrgyzstan. At the same time as Russia is promoting integration via the Eurasian Union and the CSTO, China is less interested in these organizations. In this connection it should be noted that the SCO and the CSTO operate in the same field but independent of one another," Karneyev believes.

Chinese experts are also noting the non-coincidence of interests between Russia and China on a number of important questions. In their opinion, Putin is working to involve Russia in the integration processes, first and foremost in Europe and only afterward in Asia.

"Russian-Chinese trade has reached a record level. But its structure does not suit Russia, furthermore, it offends our sense of national pride. After all, we have become suppliers of raw materials and metals and we import machinery and technical output. But it is wrong to pin all the blame on the partner. Chinese investors are frightened off by the unfavourable climate for foreign entrepreneurs in Russia. But there have been changes for the better here too. The Chinese have taken into account the Russians’ protests against the export of round timber. They are creating enterprises for the processing of timber on our territory.

Russian business is also being activated in China. The parameters of the c onstruction of an oil refinery in Tianjing with our participation have been agreed. Power units 1 and 2 of the Tianwan nuclear electric power station built according to our designs are in operation and units 3 and 4 will also be built with Russian participation."

Regarding the upcoming discussion during the summit of the verification of the state border line and cooperation in the region of the common border over 4000 km long, the expert said that in principle the border question is closed. But technical problems remain. For example, a large section of the border runs along rivers. And a river is a living organism. The waterway changes and levees affect the water course. All this requires coordination between the water supervisory organs. In other words, in this sphere too the border services must actively cooperate, the Sinologist concluded.

China needs an increase in gas supplies. Nevertheless, the accord reached several years ago on gas transport via pipeline has not been implemented. Vice Premier Arkadiy Dvorkovich has said that disagreements on price persist.

Be that as it may, the SCO is beginning to play an increasingly visible role in world politics. It is no coincidence that the Western media presented as a sensation the news that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going to Beijing to participate in the bloc’s conference. Putin will hold a separate meeting with him.

Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta website, Moscow, in Russian 5 Jun 12

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