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Παρασκευή, 30 Μαΐου 2014

Μια μεγάλη ρωσική επιτυχία

ÖMER TAŞPINAR

o.taspinar@todayszaman.com

ÖMER TAŞPINAR

Russia's pivot to Asia


American policy makers have been talking about the U.S. pivot to Asia since 2010. Proving that deeds matter much more than words, it looks like Russia is much better at playing the pivoting game.

Last week, China and Russia finally concluded -- after nearly 10 years of negotiating -- the natural gas deal of the century. According to the agreement, Gazprom, the state-owned Russian firm, will provide over 30 years the Chinese state-owned firm CNPC natural gas worth about $400 billion. The pipeline alone that will connect producer to consumer is a $70 billion project.

This energy deal is a tremendous strategic victory for Mr. Vladimir Putin as his country is facing increasing isolation from the West. This energy deal with China enables Russia to diversify its clients at a critical time, in the post-Ukraine environment where the EU and US are threatening more economic sanctions and import restrictions on Russian gas.

The deal is a win-win for both countries because China benefits from it as well. Beijing needs as many energy sources as it can find to fuel its growing economy. But what China really needs is clean energy because the air pollution level in most urban areas is at very alarming levels. Transitioning from coal to natural gas is therefore a major priority for the Chinese Communist Party, which declared a war on air pollution earlier this year.


China is equally happy about the geostrategic side of the deal because it wants to bolster its regional partnerships at a time when it is running out of friends in the South China Sea, where the Chinese navy has been flexing its muscles. As Russia successfully pivots to Asia, the contrast with America's own attempt to court the Asia-Pacific region is remarkable.

President Barack Obama went to Japan last month but proved unable to seal a major trade agreement. Most countries in the South China Sea have serious questions about the US commitment to militarily contain China at a time when Washington is increasingly preoccupied with its own economic problems.

In the meantime China and Russia find common ground not only in economic terms but also in asserting their respective spheres of influence. Resurgent nationalism is a common theme for both countries. For Moscow, eastern and southern Ukraine look increasingly like the “New Russia” of the old Czarist era, whereas Beijing justifies its vast territorial claims in the East and South China seas based on old maps showing Chinese dominion. Both countries are also holding military exercises in addition to their economic agreements and have even signed a joint statement of concern about Ukraine. Needless to say, they also see eye-to-eye in Syria, where Western-enforced coercive regime change is anathema.

Under such circumstances, the future of America's own pivot to Asia will increasingly depend on balancing the Chinese-Russian alliance with its own strategic alliance with India. This is where the electoral victory of Narendra Modi comes in. Modi, who leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won a major victory and now has huge authority, both within his party and in the country. According to most India watchers, the country has not had such a powerful personality in charge since Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984.

Modi has a mandate for economic reform, but his core supporters are religious nationalists, steeped in the glories of a nationalist Hindu past. One can only hope that his religious nationalism and proclivity for populism will not come at the expense of good relations with the United States. America's containment strategy of China increasingly depends on balancing the rise of this next superpower with the help of India. A more nationalist and religious India will only make this job more difficult. 
ΖΑΜΑΝ, May 25, 2014, Sunday

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