Russian company Northern Caucasus Resorts (NCR OJSC) and Chinese Dalian Wanda Group Corporation and China Oceanwide Holdings Group – in the presence of Heads of both states – signed a Memorandum of Intent regarding China’s investment in the development of Northern Caucasus resorts.
The amount of the said investment is expected to reach about USD 3 bl. to facilitate building of residential premises, trade, hotel and commercial complexes.
Chinese companies intend to invest in projects on the territory of Northern Caucasus federal district, the Krasnodar territory and the Republic of Adydea. According to Russian representatives the key investments are expected to target the regions of the Caspian Lowland in Dagestan, the city of Sochi and resort Arkhyz in Karachayevo-Circassian Republic.
Earlier this region was deemed a potential target by South African, French and Turkish investors. However, the amount of the expected investments was way smaller than those announced by China.
Thus, in June last year NCR OJSC entered into a similar contract with French Caisse des Depots et Consignations group which intended to invest about USD 1.7 bl. in building of recreation infrastructure in the Northern Caucasus. At the same time, public authorities promised back then to increase capitalization of NCR to USD 2 bl. Northern Caucasus is – in theory – an attractive target for investors in tourism infrastructure. Unique climate and rich natural resources make it a promising direction for the development of this business sector. At the same time, however, high rates of crime, separatism, economic underdevelopment and the fact that the main contribution into the gross regional product is made by public administration and social (including community) services sector, abate the investment attractiveness of the region. That is why the volumes of state investments here reach 60-90%, the average Russian indicator being 30%.
High birth and unemployment rates along with the cultural and religious peculiarities bring investment risks to the maximum. The average unemployment rate in the Caucasus (18%) twice exceeds that of Russia in general. This indicator is highest in Chechnya (43.1%) and Ingushetia (49.7%).
Unfavourable social and economic indicators cause destabilization of the situation. According to Caucasian Knot periodical for the first quarter of 2012 no less than 258 people became victims of the armed conflict in the Northern Caucasus. Thus, 163 people were killed and another 95 injured. 82 of them were announced members of an underground armed organization.
Relative stability in the region today is mainly achieved due to Kremlin financing. The Northern Caucasus receives around USD 5.6 bl. annually. The main objectives of public authorities in terms of NCFD development by 2025 are annual gross regional product growth at the level of 7.7%, annual industrial growth of over 10%, reduction of the scale of unemployment to 5%.
At the same time, tremendous rates of corruption will not allow using this support to the benefit of the whole population. Thus, Plenipotentiary Envoy of the President of the Russian Federation in the NCFD Aleksandr Khloponin stated that the Northern Caucasus is the Russia’s leader in terms of money laundering.
According to the obtained information the separatist mood in the region remains the same, and in some districts even grows. In this situation, the Kremlin will need to increase financial support in the nearest future which will be distributed among the local elite. In our opinion, such strategy is not efficient, and the Kremlin’s attempts to set the vertical of the recreation industry in the Northern Caucasus are ill-fated because these tactics of implementation of projects ‘from Moscow to the regions’ is a priori much less effective than allowing local authorities to participate in their management. This will not allow for the full-scale involvement of the local elite in the projects and creation of the interested local powerful forces to ensure their secure functioning. The present-day business model de facto has nothing to do with the attempt of real integration of the NCFD in the RF economy and has a large corruption element instead.
According to our estimations Russia has faced a serious deficit of resources which are of crucial importance for the harmonious development of all the country’s regions. This triggers the necessity of attracting foreign capital to be allocated in the most underdeveloped regions. A similar scheme is now being implemented in Siberia and in the Far East where the same Chinese capital is being actively raised. Therefore, Moscow is striving to ensure provision of the necessary financial resources to the economically depressed Russian regions.
It is worth noting that on May 21st this year Vice-President of China Oceanwide Holdings Tsi Tszysin highlighted the lack of specifics of investment projects in the NCFD and the need to conduct serious work in this direction. Therefore, at the time of signing, the determination of investment volumes could not be based on the actually existing projects. Consequently, the amount of investments can hardly be deemed justified.
Press Secretary of RF Prime-Minister Dmitriy Peskov said that Chinese investors asked for support in entering investment markets of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg in lieu of the Northern Caucasian projects. According to the information provided by the sources in Moscow government, however, these Chinese companies never addressed the Mayer’s office with development project proposals. At the same time, China is one of the key foreign investors in Saint-Petersburg which may be a proof of existence of secret covenants between Moscow and Beijing related to investments in the Northern Caucasus.
In view of the aforesaid, we believe that involvement by Moscow of significant geopolitical players in the NCFD is aimed at ensuring capital inflow to the region for the purpose of levelling social and economic destabilization factors the influence of which is now growing.
The main interest for China, in our opinion, lies in the area of consistent interstate arrangements. Today Russian and China have a number of strategic projects related to the joint use of raw materials and high technologies. This refers to aircraft engineering, nuclear energy, oil and gas industry etc. Investments in the Northern Caucasus district may be one of the aspects of some broader arrangements, a sort of payment for the compromises in other areas of cooperation.
We believe that China’s participation in investing in this region will allow it to increase geopolitical competition with Turkey. Quite a lot of Turkic peoples inhabit the territory of the Northern Caucasus, the largest of them being Kumyks, Karachais, Balkarians, Nogais, Azerbaijani, Akhaltsikhe Turks. China with its serious problems with the Uigurs and concern about the activation of pan-Turkish sentiments in the region may consider investments in the Northern Caucasus as a way to strengthen its position, thus opposing Ankara. A similar system of geopolitical behaviour may be also caused by the concern about the enhancement of radical Islamist activities within the region. At this point, the key goal of Chinese geopolitics in the Caucasus is strengthening of economic connections with the region aimed at decreasing the possibility of penetration of pan-Turkism and Islamic fundamentalism in China.
These interests go in line with those of Moscow which due to the strengthening of China slows down the rapid growth of Ankara’s influence. It is not impossible that the choice of French investors in 2011 was determined by the peculiarities of France-Turkey relations. Therefore, Moscow may select investors for cooperation in the NCFD purposely – those who would have interests in the Northern Caucasus similar with the Kremlin’s aimed at the creation of a system of external balances and geopolitical counter weights in the region.
Putin’s post-Soviet world remains a work in progress, but Africa already looms
Russian civilisationalism is proving handy as President Vladimir Putin seeks to expand the imaginary boundaries of his Russian World, whose frontiers are defined by Russian speakers and adherents to Russian culture rather than international law and/or ethnicity.
Mr. Putin’s disruptive and expansive nationalist ideology has underpinned his aggressive
approach to Ukraine since 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and the stoking of insurgencies in the east of the country. It also underwrites this month’s brief intervention in Kazakhstan, even if it was in contrast to Ukraine at the invitation of the Kazakh government.
Mr. Putin’s nationalist push in territories that were once part of the Soviet Union may be par for the course even if it threatens to rupture relations between Russia and the West and potentially spark a war. It helps Russia compensate for the strategic depth it lost with the demise of communism in Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
However, equally alarmingly, Mr. Putin appears to be putting building blocks in place that would justify expanding his Russian World in one form or another beyond the boundaries of the erstwhile Soviet Union.
In doing so, he demonstrates the utility of employing plausibly deniable mercenaries not only for military and geopolitical but also ideological purposes.
Standing first in line is the Central African Republic. A resource-rich but failed state that has seen its share of genocidal violence and is situated far from even the most expansive historical borders of the Russian empire, the republic could eventually qualify to be part of the Russian world, according to Mr. Putin’s linguistic and cultural criteria.
Small units of the Wagner Group, a private military company owned by one of Mr. Putin’s close associates, entered the Centra African Republic once departing French troops handed over to a United Nations peacekeeping force in 2016. Five years later, Wagner has rights to mine the country’s gold and diamond deposits.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Russian mercenary presence persuaded President Faustin-Archange Touadera that the African republic should embrace Russian culture.
As a result, university students have been obliged to follow Russian-language classes starting as undergraduates in their first year until their second year of post-graduate studies. The mandate followed the introduction of Russian in the republic’s secondary school curriculum in 2019.
Mr. Touadera is expected to ask Mr. Putin for Russian-language instructors during a forthcoming visit to Moscow to assist in the rollout.
Neighbouring Mali could be next in line to follow in Mr. Touadera’s footsteps.
Last month, units of the Wagner Group moved into the Sahel nation at the request of a government led by army generals who have engineered two coups in nine months. The generals face African and Western sanctions that could make incorporating what bits of the country they control into the Russian world an attractive proposition.
While it is unlikely that Mr. Putin would want to formally welcome sub-Saharan and Sahel states into his Russian world, it illustrates the pitfalls of a redefinition of internationally recognised borders as civilisational and fluid rather than national, fixed, and legally enshrined.
For now, African states do not fit Mr. Putin’s bill of one nation as applied to Ukraine or Belarus. However, using linguistics as a monkey wrench, he could, overtime or whenever convenient, claim them as part of the Russian world based on an acquired language and cultural affinity.
Mr. Putin’s definition of a Russian world further opens the door to a world in which the principle of might is right runs even more rampant with the removal of whatever flimsy guard rails existed.
To accommodate the notion of a Russian world, Russian leaders, going back more than a decade, have redefined Russian civilisation as multi-ethnic rather than ethically Russia.
The Central African Republic’s stress on Russian-language education constitutes the first indication in more than a decade that Mr. Putin and some of his foreign allies may expand the Russian world’s civilisational aspects beyond the erstwhile Soviet Union.
Some critics of Mr. Putin’s concept of a Russian world note that Western wars allegedly waged out of self-defense and concern for human rights were also about power and geopolitical advantage.
For example, pundit Peter Beinart notes that NATO-led wars in Serbia, Afghanistan, and Libya “also extended American power and smashed Russian allies at the point of a gun.”
The criticism doesn’t weaken the legitimacy of the US and Western rejection of Russian civilisationalism. However, it does undermine the United States’ ability to claim the moral high ground.
It further constrains Western efforts to prevent the emergence of a world in which violation rather than the inviolability of national borders become the accepted norm.
If Russian interventionism aims to change borders, US interventionism often sought to change regimes. That is one driver of vastly different perceptions of the US role in the world, including Russian distrust of the post-Soviet NATO drive into Eastern Europe and independent former Soviet states such as Ukraine.
“People with more experience of the dark side of American power—people whose families hail from Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Haiti, or Mexico, where US guns have sabotaged democracy rather than defended it—might find it easier to understand Russian suspicions. But those Americans tend not to shape US policy towards places like Ukraine,” Mr. Beinart said.
Neighbours and Crises: New Challenges for Russia
Through all the discussions that accompanied the preparation of the Valdai Club report “Space Without Borders: Russia and Its Neighbours”, the most clear question was whether Russia should or should not avoid repeating the historical experience of relations with its near abroad. This experience, in the most general terms, is that after Russia pacifies its western border with its foreign policy, the Russian state inevitably must turn to issues related to the existence of its immediate neighbourhood. With a high degree of probability, it will be forced to turn to its centuries-old method for solving problems that arise there: expansion for the sake of ensuring security.
Now Russia’s near abroad consists of a community of independent states that cannot ensure their own security and survival by relying only on their own forces; we cannot be completely sure of their stability. From Estonia in the west to Kyrgyzstan in the east, the existence of these countries in a competitive international environment is ensured by their link with one of the nuclear superpowers. Moreover, such connections can only complement each other with great difficulty. As the recent developments in Kazakhstan have demonstrated, they are not limited to the threat of an external invasion; even internal circumstances can become deadly.
The dramatic events in that country were intensified by external interference from the geostrategic opponents of Russia, as well as international terrorists, but it would be disingenuous to argue that their most important causes are not exclusively internal and man-made. We cannot and should not judge whether the internal arrangements of our neighbours are good or bad, since we ourselves do not have ideal recipes or examples. However, when dealing with the consequences, it is rational to fear that their statehood will either be unable to survive, or that their existence will take place in forms that create dangers which Russia cannot ignore.
In turn, the events experienced now in relations between Russia and the West, if we resort to historical analogies, look like a redux of the Northern War. The Great Northern War arose at the beginning of the 18th century as the result of the restoration of Russia’s power capabilities; the West had made great progress in approaching the heart of its territory. Within the framework of this logic, victory, even tactical victory, in the most important (Western) direction will inevitably force Russia to turn to its borders. Moreover, the reasons for paying more attention to them are obvious. This will present Russia with the need to decide on how much it is willing to participate in the development of its neighbours.
The developments in Kazakhstan in early January 2022 showed the objective limits of the possibilities of building a European-style sovereign state amid new, historical, and completely different geopolitical circumstances. More or less all the countries of the space that surrounds Russia, from the Baltic to the Pamir, are unique experiments that arose amid the truly phenomenal orderliness of conditions after the end of the Cold War. In that historical era, the world really developed under conditions where a general confidence prevailed that the absolute dominance of one power and a group of its allies creates conditions for the survival of small and medium-sized states, even in the absence of objective reasons for this.
The idea of the “end of history” was so convincing that we could accept it as a structural factor, so powerful that it would allow us to overcome even the most severe objective circumstances.
The Cold War era created the experience of the emergence and development of new countries, which until quite recently had been European colonies. Despite the fact that there are a few “success stories” among the countries that emerged after 1945, few have been able to get out of the catch-up development paradigm. However, it was precisely 30 years ago that there really was a possibility that a unipolar world would be so stable that it would allow the experiment to come to fruition. The visible recipes of the new states being built were ideal from an abstract point of view, just as Victor Frankenstein was guided by a desire for the ideal.
Let us recall that the main idea of our report was that Russia needs to preserve the independence of the states surrounding it and direct all its efforts to ensure that they become effective powers, eager to survive. This desire for survival is seen as the main condition for rational behaviour, i.e. creating a foreign policy, which takes into account the geopolitical conditions and the power composition of Eurasia. In other words, we believe that Russia is interested in the experiment that emerged within the framework of the Liberal World Order taking place under new conditions, since its own development goals dictate that it avoid repeating its past experience of full control over its neighbours, with which it shares a single geopolitical space.
This idea, let’s not hide it, prompted quite convincing criticism, based on the belief that the modern world does not create conditions for the emergence of states where such an experience is absent in more or less convincing forms. For Russia, the challenge is that even if it is technically capable of ensuring the immediate security of its national territory, the spread of the “grey zone” around its borders will inevitably bring problems that the neighbours themselves are not able to solve.
The striking analogy proposed by one colleague was the “hallway of hell” that Russia may soon face on its southern borders, making us raise the question that the absence of topographic boundaries within this space makes it necessary to create artificial political or even civilisational lines, the protection of which in any case will be entrusted to the Russian soldier. This January we had the opportunity to look into this “hallway of hell”. There is no certainty that the instant collapse of a state close to Russia in the darkest periods of its political history should be viewed as a failure in development, rather than a systemic breakdown of the entire trajectory, inevitable because it took shape amid completely different conditions.
Therefore, now Russia should not try to understand what its further strategy might be; in any case, particular behaviour will be determined by circumstances. Our task is to explore the surrounding space in order to understand where Russia can stop if it does not want to resort to the historical paradigm of its behaviour. The developments in Kazakhstan, in their modern form, do not create any grounds for optimism or hopes for a return to an inertial path of development. Other states may follow Ukraine and Kazakhstan even if they now look quite confident. There are no guarantees — and it would be too great a luxury for Russia to accept such a fate.
This is primarily because the Russian state will inevitably face a choice between being ready for several decades of interaction with a huge “grey zone” along the perimeter of its borders and more energetic efforts to prevent its emergence. It is unlikely that Moscow would simply observe the processes taking place on its immediate periphery. This is not a hypothetical invasion of third forces — that does not pose any significant threat to Russia. The real challenge may be that in a few decades, or sooner, Moscow will have to take on an even greater responsibility, which Russia got rid of in 1991. Even now, there seems to be a reason to believe that thirty years of independence have made it possible to create elements of statehood that can be preserved and developed with the help of Russia.
from our partner RIAC
Do as You’re Told, Russia Tells the Neighborhood
The Kremlin has always argued that it has special interests and ties to what once constituted the Soviet space. Yet it struggled to produce a smooth mechanism for dealing with the neighborhood, where revolutionary movements toppled Soviet and post-Soviet era political elites. Popular movements in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and most recently Kazakhstan have flowered and sometimes triumphed despite the Kremlin’s rage.
Russia’s responses have differed in each case, although it has tended to foster separatism in neighboring states to preclude their westward aspirations. As a policy, this was extreme and rarely generated support for its actions, even from allies and partners. The resultant tensions underlined the lack of legitimacy and generated acute fear even in friendlier states that Russia one day could turn against them.
But with the activation of the hitherto largely moribund six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Kazakhstan seems to be an entirely different matter. Here, for the first time since its Warsaw Pact invasions, Russia employed an element of multilateralism. This was designed to show that the intervention was an allied effort, though it was Russia that pulled the strings and contributed most of the military force.
CSTO activation is also about something else. It blurred the boundaries between Russia’s security and the security of neighboring states. President Vladimir Putin recently stated the situation in Kazakhstan concerned “us all,” thereby ditching the much-cherished “Westphalian principles” of non-intervention in the internal affairs of neighboring states. The decision was also warmly welcomed by China, another Westphalia enthusiast.
In many ways, Russia always wanted to imitate the US, which in its unipolar moment used military power to topple regimes (in Afghanistan and Iraq) and to restore sovereignty (in Kuwait.) Liberal internationalism with an emphasis on human rights allowed America and its allies to operate with a certain level of legitimacy and to assert (a not always accepted) moral imperative. Russia had no broader ideas to cite. Until now. Upholding security and supporting conservative regimes has now become an official foreign policy tool. Protests in Belarus and Kazakhstan helped the Kremlin streamline this vision.
Since Russia considers its neighbors unstable (something it often helps to bring about), the need for intervention when security is threatened will now serve as a new dogma, though this does not necessarily mean that CSTO will now exclusively serve as the spearhead of Russian interventionist policy in crises along its borders. On the contrary, Russia will try to retain maneuverability and versatility. The CSTO option will be one weapon in the Kremlin’s neighborhood pacification armory.
Another critical element is the notion of “limited sovereignty,” whereby Russia allows its neighbors to exercise only limited freedom in foreign policy. This is a logical corollary, since maneuverability in their relations with other countries might lead to what the Kremlin considers incorrect choices, like joining Western military or economic groupings.
More importantly, the events in Kazakhstan also showed that Russia is now officially intent on upholding the conservative-authoritarian regimes. This fits into a broader phenomenon of authoritarians helping other authoritarians. Russia is essentially exporting its own model abroad. The export includes essential military and economic help to shore up faltering regimes.
The result is a virtuous circle, in the Kremlin’s eyes. Not only can it crush less than friendly governments in its borderlands but it also wins extensive influence, including strategic and economic benefits. Take for instance Belarus, where with Russian help, the dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka managed to maintain his position after 2020’s elections through brutality and vote-rigging. The end result is that the regime is ever-more beholden to Russia, abandoning remnants of its multi-vector foreign policy and being forced to make financial and economic concessions of defense and economics to its new master. Russia is pressing hard for a major new airbase.
A similar scenario is now opening up in Kazakhstan. The country which famously managed to strike a balance between Russia and China and even work with the US, while luring multiple foreign investors, will now have to accept a new relationship with Russia. It will be similar to Belarus, short of integration talks.
Russia fears crises, but it has also learned to exploit them. Its new approach is a very striking evolution from the manner in which it handled Georgia and Ukraine in 2008 and 2014, through the Belarus and Armenia-Azerbaijan crises in 2020 to the Kazakh uprising of 2022.
Russia has a new vision for its neighborhood. It is in essence a concept of hierarchical order with Russia at the top of the pyramid. The neighbors have to abide by the rules. Failure to do so would produce a concerted military response.
Author’s note: first published in cepa
1.5 million children lack treatment for severe wasting in Eastern and Southern Africa
At least 1.5 million children are not receiving life-saving treatment for severe wasting in Eastern and Southern Africa, warned the United Nations...
UNRWA condemns demolition of Palestinian home in East Jerusalem
The UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, on Thursday urged Israeli to immediately halt all evictions and demolitions in...
India’s Unclear Neighbourhood Policy: How to Overcome ?
India has witnessed multiple trends with regards to its relations with its neighbours at a time vaccine diplomacy is gaining...
Post-Protest Kazakhstan Faces Three Major Crises
Kazakhstan suffered greatly from the biggest protest since its independence. As I recently returned to Almaty, I saw that everyday...
Maximizing Indonesia’s Public Diplomacy Through Indonesia’s First Mosque in London
Indonesia and UK have established bilateral cooperation in December 1949 in which the bilateral cooperation includes economic cooperation, tourism, energy,...
Is British Democracy in Danger?
On Sunday 12th of December 2021 Boris Johnson went on national television to warn about a tidal wave that would...
The Global (Dis) Order Warfare: The Chinese Way
Since the ascension of Xi Jinping, two important developments have come to dominate the global headlines. One, the so-called wolf...
East Asia4 days ago
The Spirit of the Olympic Games and the Rise of China
Science & Technology3 days ago
Closing the Cyber Gap: Business and Security Leaders at Crossroads as Cybercrime Spikes
Crypto Insights4 days ago
Metaverse Leading the Gaming Revolution: Are NFTs Truly the Future of the Industry?
Defense3 days ago
Spotlight on the Russia-Ukraine situation
New Social Compact3 days ago
The Social Innovators of the Year 2022
Development4 days ago
Naftali Bennett Highlights Tech and Trade, Bridge-Building and Climate Change
Science & Technology3 days ago
First Quantum Computing Guidelines Launched as Investment Booms
Economy2 days ago
2022: Small Medium Business & Economic Development Errors