Russia and Turkey maintain an interesting and volatile geopolitical relationship. The two states share many common interests and have significant economic ties to one another, and the leaders of both states have a good personal relationship. Despite the many areas of cooperation, there are still many areas of competition that fuel conflict from North Africa to Central Asia. Many experts assert that the Russia-Turkey relationship is one of cooperation based on “compartmentalization” of differences that allows the two to pursue shared goals while clashing on many fronts.
Turkey is a country primed to advance many Russian goals; it pursues a distinctively different foreign policy than the European Union and has provoked conflict with NATO allies in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Syria. Turkey does, however, clash with Russia over the annexation of Crimea, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, its position in Libya and its political initiatives, such as the Turkic Council and continued membership in NATO. There are also instances of direct confrontation between the two states in Syria, including the downing of a Russian Sukhoi fighter jet in 2015, which severely impacted diplomatic relations.
That incident in particular, and the subsequent repair of diplomatic relations, shed light on this complicated relationship. What holds the relationship together? What keeps the two sides from open confrontation? And how does the unique relationship between Turkey and Russia fuel conflict in various theatres?
Turkey and Russia share similar outlooks on the current Western-led world order. In Russia, the West is seen as an adversary which actively works to stifle Russia’s return to great power status and interferes within Russia’s sphere of influence. Turkey also views the West in a similar light. Despite being a member of NATO and previously harboring ambitions to join the EU, Turkey believes the West interferes in internal affairs and seeks to establish itself as an independent player in global affairs beholden to no one. President Putin and President Erdoğan both resent commentary by Western powers regarding their respective human rights records, both have scapegoated the West during times of internal strife, such as the 2011 Bolotnaya Square protests in Russia and the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Both states also share a common illiberal approach to governance as well as frequently refer to imperial greatness and harbor irredentist sentiments—Russia over some parts of the former Soviet Union and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is also important to note the personal relationship between Putin and Erdoğan. The two have met frequently, and the personal rapport between the two strongmen leaders has been essential to navigating troublesome periods in the Russian-Turkish diplomatic relations. The relations between the two countries were salvaged when President Erdoğan personally apologized to President Putin in a 2016 letter following months of fallout from the fighter jet incident.
Economic cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a key factor that sustains the relationship between the two states despite many areas of confrontation. Turkey is Russia’s 5th largest trading partner, and Russia is Turkey’s 2nd largest behind only the EU. The two states have prominent joint-investment projects and Turkish investment in Russia is around 10 billion USD with Russian investment in Turkey totaling similarly significant sums. Russian tourists are the largest contingent of foreigners in Turkey representing 16% of all tourist arrivals in 2019. Turkey and Russia are key partners in the energy trade. Russia is Turkey’s main supplier of oil and gas products—41% of all Turkish gas imports in August 2020 were from Russia. Turkey’s geographic location as a chokehold between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean makes it an essential transit route for Russian hydrocarbon resources. There are several pipelines including Turkstream and Blue Stream natural gas pipelines that allow Russia to bypass Ukraine transit routes. Although Russian oil and gas exports to Turkey are falling as Turkey seeks to transition towards LNG and renewable resources, Russia will remain a key player in the Turkish energy market. Turkey is currently constructing the Akkuyu nuclear power plant and has contracted the Russian nuclear company Rosatom to own, operate and supply the facility further strengthening cooperation between the two states on energy projects.
The true influence of economic ties between the two states on diplomatic affairs is best evidenced by the fallout of the 2015 fighter jet incident on Turkey’s economy. Due to the diplomatic freeze between Russia and Turkey, Russia imposed economic sanctions on Turkey and discouraged Russian tourists from traveling to Turkey. Turkish exports to Russia fell by 48%, tourism dropped by 75%, and the economic impact on Turkey was severe; it is estimated that Turkey lost 1% of GDP between 2015-2016 due to punitive measures imposed by Russia.
Militarily, the two sides have worked closely on several occasions. Despite its NATO membership, Turkey recently made a highly controversial purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system. This high-profile acquisition was decried unanimously by NATO members who believed Turkey’s use of the S-400 would jeopardize the integrity of NATO weapons systems. This purchase caused Turkey to be ejected from the NATO F-35 and patriot missile programs and prompted some to question the future viability of the alliance.
Russia and Turkey are also both essential power brokers in active conflicts in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Although the two often find themselves supporting opposing factions in these conflicts, their cooperation has been a catalyst for uneasy ceasefires in Libya, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh. Both Russia and Turkey are likely to play a larger role in Afghanistan following the departure of U.S. and NATO forces in the country. Turkey’s closeness to Russia also stems from its diplomatic isolation within the Middle East and North Africa. Turkey’s relations with the neighboring states, such as Egypt and Israel, are quite poor, while its relationship with the fellow NATO member Greece is openly hostile with Turkey’s search for natural gas deposits in disputed waters remaining a major bone of contention between the two in addition to the long-standing historical grievances. Russia benefits from cooperation with Turkey in this respect as it supports Turkey in driving a wedge within the NATO alliance and between Turkey and the EU.
Although there are many instances of cooperation between Turkey and Russia, the two states are in active competition. Competition between Russia and Turkey is unique as most of the competition occurs close to home in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. Both Russia and Turkey seem to have made military intervention, or the possibility to intervene militarily, hallmarks of their foreign policy. They see the military as key to furthering geopolitical aims and both maintain large, modernized, and powerful militaries.
Turkey and Russia are both involved in the Libyan civil war and are interested in the oil and gas reserves within Libya and off the Libyan coast. They have supported opposing sides in hopes of increasing their influence over the next government to control the Libyan territory. Russia supports the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its leader Khalifa Haftar who is also backed by France, the UAE and Egypt. Turkey opposes Haftar and has put its weight behind the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. The Libyan conflict has raged on for years as a proxy war between foreign powers with all sides seeking to stake their claim on the oil-rich territory. Russia, who maintained close ties with deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, is seeking to return to energy cooperation seen during his rule. Russian oil giant Rosneft has signed a 2017 oil exploration deal; although this deal has not materialized due to the ongoing conflict, it does signal Russia’s ambitions in the conflict. Turkey also has designs on Libya’s oil and gas but its most important goal is access to the energy resources beneath the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has become increasingly aggressive in its push to lay claim to the natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean angering neighbors and the European Union. Turkey has signed an agreement with the GNA in 2019 demarcating exclusive economic zones (EEZ) off Libya’s coast. In addition to this agreement, Turkey is also negotiating with the GNA on establishing two naval bases within the Libyan territory.
Turkey and Russia have repeatedly clashed in Syria, and it remains a particularly volatile conflict that has the potential to damage the Turkish-Russian cooperation as evidenced by the fallout following the 2015 fighter jet incident. Turkey is a staunch opponent of the Assad regime. Erdogan has called Assad a “butcher” in the past and supported Syrian rebels attempting to overthrow the regime. Russian involvement in the country has been aimed at propping up the Assad government in Damascus and establishing itself as a power broker in the Middle East where its presence had been limited. Russia has also supported some Kurdish forces in Syria to eradicate extremist groups such as ISIS. Russia has previously called for Kurdish officials to be involved in UN peace talks drawing the ire of Ankara. Russian military actions in Syria have also prompted a strong response from the Turkish citizenry. Russia’s support of the Kurds, whom the Turkish believe are linked to domestic terrorists and separatists, and carpet bombing of Sunni civilians has led 55% of Turkish citizens to view Russia as a threat. Russian and Syrian forces have also targeted Turkish soldiers in Idlib, and private military contractors (PMCs) from both sides have clashed throughout the Syrian conflict. The use of PMCs in both Libya and Syria have the potential to escalate conflict between Turkey and Russia; these groups maintain that they are not beholden to any particular state but the actions of Turkish or Russian PMCs on the ground may in reality lead to conflict at the governmental level. At this point, Turkey and Russia cooperate in Syria to a certain degree. Both are security guarantors and maintain significant influence over cease-fire/peace negotiations. Russia has also acquiesced to Turkey’s advance into Northern Syria to create a “buffer zone” between its borders and Syrian Kurds.
The latest flare-up in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also proved to be an area of competition between Turkey and Russia. Russia was in a difficult position diplomatically due to its collective security agreement with Armenia and typically good relations with Azerbaijan. Although Russian officials clarified that the collective security agreement did not apply to the disputed territory, it attempted to support Armenia while also balancing its relationship with Azerbaijan. Turkey’s role was much more straightforward. Turkey and Azerbaijan are close allies and trading partners, they share a common culture and heritage and are often described as “one nation, two states”. In addition to its close relationship with Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia are openly hostile to one another. The Armenian genocide in Turkey during the First World War and the subsequent treatment of Armenians in Turkey have led to the borders between the two states being closed since 1993. Armenia initially made gains in Nagorno-Karabakh until the Turkish intervention tipped the scales in favor of Azerbaijan. Russia became increasingly concerned about the impact of Turkish drones on the conflict and the potential for Turkey to maintain greater influence over the peace process in its sphere of influence. Although the conflict did not escalate beyond Armenia and Azerbaijan’s borders, it had the potential to drag Russia and Turkey into direct military confrontation. In the peace process, Turkey was able to negotiate a peace-keeping monitoring post for its soldiers and to help establish a transport corridor between Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhchivan on Turkey’s border. Despite Turkey’s efforts to gain greater influence in the region through its involvement in the conflict, Russia reaffirmed its role as the primary security guarantor through its peacekeeping force and as the most powerful regional influence. However, the continued presence of Turkish troops in Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh and the potential for greater conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has the potential to escalate confrontation between Russia and Turkey.
Central Asia and Ukraine
Central Asia is another theatre of Russian-Turkish competition and has been so since the fall of the Soviet Union. Turkey was the first nation to recognize the independence of Central Asian states that broke away from the USSR, aiding in their development and promoting Turkic identity in states such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. Turkey has also sought to strengthen ties with Central Asian states through the Turkic Council, an institution that includes five founding members (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey) and Uzbekistan since 2019. Turkey’s presence and leadership within the Turkic Council allows the country to have an institutional foothold in Central Asia to counter Russian initiatives, such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Turkey is not a member. The wariness of Turkish influence in Central Asia from the Russian side is evident in Russian efforts to marginalize Turkish accession to institutions, such as the Minsk Group which mediates the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.
Turkey and Russia have also clashed over Ukraine in recent years. Turkey has been a vocal opponent of Crimea’s 2014 accession into Russia and has voiced consistent support for Crimean Tatars at the United Nations. Turkey has supported Ukraine diplomatically and militarily including through the sale of drones to the Ukrainian military—drones that proved highly effective in combat in Nagorno-Karabakh. Despite his friendly personal relationship with President Putin, President Erdoğan has been an advocate for an enhanced forward presence in the Black Sea which he described as being in danger of “becoming a Russian lake”. Erdoğan has also supported calls by Ukraine and Georgia for NATO enlargement, something Russia has previously described as a red line. Russia, for its part, has been increasingly active and aggressive in the Black Sea waters that surround Ukraine and Turkey, including an incident earlier this year where Russian planes fired warning shots at a British destroyer.
Why “Compartmentalization” and not open Conflict?
Turkey and Russia evidently maintain active competition with one another in several areas. Why have these instances of competition not led to open conflict between the two powers? Economic interdependence is a large factor in smoothing over many troublesome periods in bilateral relations. Turkey’s economy relies heavily on Russian tourism, oil and gas products and transit fees, and the Russian market for produce and other goods. The impact of economic dependence on Russia was made incredibly evident following the 2015 fighter jet incident and subsequent damage to Turkey’s economy. Russia, too, relies on Turkey as a vital transit route for oil and gas products and as a means to surpass traditional transit routes in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
Turkey, in seeking to establish itself as a more important and independent actor in global affairs, benefits greatly from cooperation with Russia in certain fields. With its economy in tatters, the prospect of EU membership increasingly unlikely and diplomatic isolation in the Mediterranean, Russia is a vital economic and diplomatic lifeline. Turkey also benefits from its relationship with Russia in the context of NATO. Seen as a constant threat to purchase Russian arms or enhance cooperation with Russia that will complicate the alliance’s efficacy, Turkey can put pressure on NATO allies for a greater role. Russia also benefits from Turkey’s role as a disruptor within the Eastern Mediterranean and NATO. Russia sees Turkey as its best prospect of fomenting division within the alliance and promoting its brand of illiberal democracy and authoritarianism. Russia also plays Turkey off of its Eastern Mediterranean competitors such as Greece to enhance its influence and economic prospects in the region.
Another factor that allows for the compartmentalization of Russian-Turkish conflict is the use of mercenaries and proxy forces in
areas of conflict. The two sides rarely engage in combat between traditional military forces with a few exceptions in Syria. Instead, the two support opposing sides and use PMCs to avoid the diplomatic fallout that accompanies direct conflict. It is important to note, however, that the use of PMCs and proxy forces does not necessarily prevent retaliation. For example, Ezgi Yazici notes that Russia conducted airstrikes against Turkish-backed forces in Syria following reports of Turkey recruiting Syrian mercenaries to support Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey and Russia have been able to “compartmentalize” instances of conflict and continue to cooperate on many fronts. However, with Turkey seeking to play a greater role in Central Asia and the prospect of escalating conflicts in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh it is difficult to discern whether the two will be able to maintain the status quo.
From our partner RIAC
ICC’s Arrest Warrant Limits Putin’s External Visits
The first simple interpretation of the warrant issued by International Criminal Court is that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be arrested in 123 member states around the world. These members are now legally bound to arrest, detain and hand him over to the court.
According to a press release from the International Criminal Court, there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that “each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population” under Article 8 (war crimes) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
As there are currently 123 states parties to the Rome Statute, Putin and Lvova-Belova’s arrest warrants are binding in 124 states (123 states parties plus Ukraine, which granted the ICC jurisdiction over its territory for crimes committed there since 2014).
On 17 March 2023, pre-trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued warrants of arrest for two individuals in the context of the situation in Ukraine: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, says the website of the ICC.
Generally, the court participates in a global fight to end impunity, and through international criminal justice, the court aims to hold those responsible accountable for their crimes and to help prevent these crimes from happening again.
The court does not reach these goals alone. As a court of last resort, it seeks to complement, not replace, national courts. Governed by an international treaty called the Rome Statute, the ICC is the world’s first permanent international criminal court.
According to Russian BBC service, citing Kevin Jon Heller, professor of international law at the University of Copenhagen said” “This is an incredibly important event. It’s not every day a sitting head of state is accused by the international court. But of course, the likelihood of Putin being detained any time soon is quite low.
From a legal point of view, any ICC member state is obliged to execute this ruling. If Putin arrives on the territory of this country, it should arrest him and hand him over to the court. But in reality, states don’t always do that.
For instance, serious accusations were made against the President of Sudan, and he visited several ICC member states after that but was not arrested in any of them. So an arrest warrant is no guarantee that Putin will be handed over to the ICC. Yet from a legal point of view, countries are obliged to do that.”
Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International said: “This announcement is an important signal – both for Ukraine and the rest of the world – that those who are allegedly responsible for crimes under international law in Ukraine will face arrest and trial, no matter how powerful they are.”
She added: “President Putin is now officially a wanted man. Following the ICC’s indictment of President Putin and Children’s Commissioner Lvova-Belova for the war crime of forcible transfer of children, the international community must stop at nothing until they are arrested and brought to trial. Should President Putin or Ms Lvova-Belova leave Russia, states must deny them safe haven by arresting them immediately and surrendering them to the ICC.”
Secretary General Callamard explained further that “the arrest warrants are an impressive first step, but they are so far limited to the war crime of unlawful deportation of children. This doesn’t reflect the plethora of war crimes and crimes against humanity for which the Russian leadership is potentially responsible. We expect the ICC and other justice actors to issue further arrest warrants as their investigations into crimes under international law committed in Ukraine begin to show results.”
Russia’s State Duma, the lower House of Representatives, condemned the action taken by the ICC. “Yankee, stay away from Putin! All that nonsense from the Hague means that West is hysterical. The papers of the alien Hague court do not apply to Russia,” emphasized Vyacheslav Volodin, the Chairman of the State Duma.
According to him, Washington and Brussels have exhausted all possibilities of sanctions and hostile actions. “They have failed to break the citizens of the Russian Federation and destroy the economy of our country. Washington and Brussels understand that if there is Putin, there is Russia. That is why they try to attack him. Putin’s strength is in the people’s support, consolidation of society around him. We consider any attacks on the President of the Russian Federation as acts of aggression against our country,” added Volodin.
Chairman of the Russian Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin has requested providing the legal assessment of German Justice Minister’s statements on arrest of Russian citizens on German territory, the press service of the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
“Chairman of the Russian Investigative has tasked its central office within the framework of the ongoing inspection with providing the required legal assessment of statements by German Justice Minister on fulfilling the International Criminal Court’s unlawful requirement to arrest Russian citizens on German territory,” the statement reads.
German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said earlier that the country would comply with the demands of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for issuing an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin and arresting the Russian leader if he set foot on German soil.
The ICC issued arrest warrants for Putin and Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova. The court’s statement said they could be responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
Commenting on this decision, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that Moscow did not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC. “We view the very approach to the matter as outrageous and unacceptable. Russia does not recognize this court’s jurisdiction. Hence, any such decisions are null for Russia from the legal standpoint,” he said. In turn, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the decisions of the ICC had no meaning for Russia, with possible arrest warrants legally void.
The ICC jurisdiction is valid in the countries that have ratified the Rome Statute. Ukraine is not party to the Rome Statute, but Ukraine has granted the ICC the right to investigate crimes committed on its territory.
The Rome Statute has been ratified by 123 countries, including South American countries and nearly half the countries of Africa, so they must consider warrants issued by the ICC. China, India, Belarus, Türkiye and Kazakhstan are among the countries that have not ratified the statute. Russia, like the United States, signed the statute but later revoked its signature.
The first head of state in history to be prosecuted by the ICC was Laurent Gbagbo, fourth President of Côte d’Ivoire, in 2011. He was accused of crimes against humanity committed during an armed conflict in the country in 2010-2011. Eight years later, in 2019, Gbagbo was acquitted.
Uhuru Kenyatta, who later became President of Kenya, was accused by the ICC of committing crimes against humanity during the political crisis in Kenya in 2007-2008. The accusations were revoked in 2014 due to the lack of evidence.
Omar al-Bashir, the seventh President of Sudan, is in custody in Sudan and is waiting to be handed over to The Hague. He is accused by the ICC of organising and carrying out a genocide.
The first head of state to be convicted was Charles Taylor, 22nd President of Liberia. He was prosecuted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The court found him guilty of assisting in and inciting war crimes and of complicity in crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison on 30 May 2012.
Former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević died in the UN prison in The Hague before being sentenced. He was prosecuted by a predecessor of the ICC – the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal located in The Hague, Netherlands. It is the first and only permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. The ICC began operations on 1 July 2002.
China-Russia’s Dichotomy: Cooperation or Confrontation on Global Questions
As geopolitical confrontation intensifies between the United States and Europe on one side and China and Russia on the other, it has increasingly become tight for offering much information publicly. And of course, that would be the case especially with Russia facing criticisms for its ‘special military operation’ in the neighbouring Ukraine. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Kremlin administration have been extremely cautious the least on leaders visiting Moscow.
Local Russian media have reported that the Kremlin would not comment on the agenda of possible talks between Presidents Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping until their meeting is officially announced. “I don’t know. Once we make an announcement, we will be able to say something,” Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS this March 14, when asked if Putin and Xi could discuss China’s plan to resolve the situation in Ukraine. “We haven’t made any announcements (about the Chinese president’s visit). Every contact between the two leaders is an additional impetus for stepping up cooperation on a variety of tracks,” Peskov pointed out, adding that the two sides usually announced such visits simultaneously.
Moscow and Beijing have established friendly relations based on partnership and intend to develop them further collaboratively against the collective West. “The Russian-Chinese dialogue continues. It is of a friendly, partnership-based, strategic nature. It will remain on course. The relationship is multidimensional, and it is important for both sides. And both sides devote significant attention to the theme of developing this relationship further,” Peskov said.
Nevertheless, the main news-stream are all awash with the forthcoming visit, various analysis and presumptive expections. The Chinese media have earlier followed up to splash the news over their media space and global foreign media, and that Xi Jinping intended to visit Moscow for a meeting with Putin as early as next week.
Our media monitoring, for instance, shows that the two leaders last met in person on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand in September 2022. In late December, Putin held a video conference call with Xi Jinping, inviting him to make a state visit to Moscow in the spring of 2023.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that China’s Xi expected to make symbolic visit to Russia, and that comes off, soon after he was awarded a third term to lead China during the 14th National People’s Congress. Over the years, Xi Jinping has performed excellently, transforming the internal economy and prominently put his Asian country on the global stage. In addition, he consolidated the Chinese economic presence or footprints around the world. China is considered as an emerging global leader.
However, just like in any other country, authorities in China do not discuss everything openly and they sometimes allow leaks. These include a Reuters report saying that Xi will visit Russia next week. His visit will take place sooner than expected, and the news is important, for it is China who proposed a peace plan for Ukraine. Since Beijing has been providing diplomatic support to Moscow, the West was skeptical about the peace plan.
Scientific Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of China and Contemporary Asia Alexander Lukin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that visits are paid every year, but that they were postponed during the pandemic. “Now, it’s the Chinese leader’s turn to visit Russia. This is fine. Of course, the international situation has changed. I think, they will discuss this as well as the political and economic cooperation which has been growing by leaps and bounds in price terms. Often, new contracts get signed and new gas or oil pipeline projects are approved during such visits,” Lukin said.
“Over the past decade, China has seen a significant consolidation of power in the hands of Xi Jinping, and the Communist Party’s supremacy over the state and society has also become more apparent,” Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations Alexander Lomanov told Kommersant. According to him, the next decade will be a difficult one for China, given that the old economic development model is exhausted, with cheap labor and free resources no longer available, while the external environment – relations with the US and its allies – is getting more and more toxic.
“In this situation, the old structure of power, which involved fighting factions and looked like collective leadership from the outside, has lost its usefulness as it does not allow decisions to be made quickly when responding to threats and challenges. In contrast, Xi Jinping’s current model of government is aimed at ensuring stability amid internal and external difficulties. Hopes for the liberalization of this model may emerge only when China is confident that the hardest times are behind it,” Lomanov concluded.
The likelihood that the United States and China will continue consistently engaging in a direct confrontation is quite high, political scientist Vladimir Kireyev told Izvestia. According to him, some predicted back in the early 2000s that as China’s economic and hence political influence in the world increased, the country would “inevitably start collapsing the US-centric system” by the simple fact of its existence.
“These forecasts were made in the US political, expert and military communities. In the mid-2010s, this understanding drove (44th US President Barack) Obama and then (45th US President Donald) Trump to adopt a policy to contain China, which reflects real US interests aimed at preserving its global dominance,” the political scientist pointed out, added that economic tensions were invariably pushing political elites in both countries towards a confrontation, in one form or another.
According to the analyst, Washington has started to realize that it “wasted too much time,” because the best moment to contain China was ten years ago. However, the Americans’ focus was on Russia back then, Kireyev stressed. “Now, the probability that the US and China will come to a direct conflict is quite high. It is the US that is provoking the situation as the window of opportunities to cause serious damage to China is closing. China is trying to postpone the conflict as much as possible and even avoid it altogether. The reason is that taking into consideration economic development, in 10 to 15 years, China will be much stronger than the US and the Chinese won’t need to engage in a conflict to protect their interests,” the expert concluded.
In spite of the arguments and debates on vaious important global issues involving China and Russia, however, the South China Morning Post said that Russia’s special military operation has harmed China’s national interests. What is of the most common interest and concern relates the emerging new configuration, multipolar system which should necessarily work integratively and suitable solution to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis. China has called for cooperation while Russia adopts more confrontation approach.
Our monitor shows that majority of global leaders, researchers and analysts has already lifted their up for China’s expected muscular role, efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. Under its headline “White House hails possibility of Xi Jinping speaking with Ukrainian president Zelensky” published March 14, South China Morning Post wrote that a senior White House official has praised a reported plan by Chinese President Xi Jinping to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and confirmed US President Joe Biden’s “willingness” to schedule a talk with the Chinese leader.
“We have been encouraging President Xi to reach out to President Zelensky because we believe that the PRC and President Xi himself should hear directly the Ukrainian perspective and not just the Russian perspective on this,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Sullivan was referring to a Wall Street Journal report which, citing people familiar with the plan, said that Xi would make the call after visiting Moscow next week. Beijing’s recent engagements with Moscow, including a trip there by its top diplomat Wang Yi last month, have prompted US and other Western governments to accuse the Chinese government of siding with Russia in the war, which has dragged on for more than a year.
A 12-point peace proposal Beijing offered on the war’s one-year anniversary did little to change that assessment, partly because it did not call on the Kremlin to withdraw its forces. Reports that Xi would visit Moscow soon have thrown more doubt on Beijing’s claims to be impartial. Sullivan cast some doubt on the Xi-Zelensky call plan when he added that Kyiv officials were not able to confirm the report.
For the discussions here, it is necessary to consider carefully here, in the context the China’s Global Security Initiative (GSI) that could play important role in resolving he Russia-Ukraine crisis and many others around the world. In the first place, China prominently places “cooperation” as the key component in its foreign policy, as oppose to Russia that is confrontational and yet talk about multipolar – in fact ‘multipolar’ in its basic sense means inclusive and integrated approach to global developments including conflict resolutions.
According to the concept, the Global Security Initiative aims at eliminating the root causes of international conflicts, improve global security governance, encourage joint international efforts to bring more stability and certainty to a volatile and changing era, and promote durable peace and development in the world.
The concept is guided by six commitments or pillars, which are (i) pursuing common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security; (ii) respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries; (iii) adhering to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter; (iv) taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously; (v) peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation; and (vi) maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains.
Gleaning from these core principles, it’s safe to say that the GSI could and probably would become a catalyst for the world to chart a new path to building sustainable peace, stability and development. The Global Security Initiative (GSI) was first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference on April 21, 2022.
One year on, here’s how the Ukraine conflict is changing the world order
In his recent landmark address to Russia’s parliament, President Vladimir Putin cited the war in Ukraine and US/NATO involvement in the conflict as the main reason for his decision to “suspend” Moscow’s participation in the 2010 New START Treaty on strategic nuclear weapons. Putin also suggested that Russia should be ready to resume nuclear testing.
Effectively, this announcement, promptly turned into law by the Russian parliament, means a formal end to the long-ailing institutions of strategic arms control that began over 50 years ago. If New START is followed by the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) and then the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), strategic deregulation will be complete. Putin’s logic is that the United States cannot be allowed to inspect Russian missile bases while at the same time pursuing a policy of “strategically defeating” Moscow in Ukraine.
The Kremlin’s decision was anything but a bolt from the blue. The proxy war in Ukraine came as the culmination of a decade-and-a-half-long process of steady deterioration of Russian-American and Russian-EU relations. Ever since it became clear – somewhere in the mid-2000s – that Russia would not fit into the US-dominated order, and that Washington, and its, allies would not let Russia sign up on terms that Moscow would find acceptable, the trajectory of the relationship has generally pointed toward confrontation.
True, there was a brief period, which coincided with the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev (2008-12), which witnessed, besides the signing of New START, an attempt to build a strategic partnership between Russia and NATO and modernization and technology partnerships between Russia and key Western countries, including the US and Germany. That attempt, however, turned out to be the last hurrah of the efforts to integrate Russia into, or at least with, the West following the end of the Cold War.
Essentially, while Moscow was looking for equal and indivisible security, as well as technology and business opportunities, Washington and Berlin were mostly interested in softening and diluting Russia’s domestic political regime. There was also no question of treating Russian security concerns about NATO’s enlargement seriously: Moscow had to accept the post-Cold War order in which it no longer had a decisive voice. That mismatch of key goals could not last long. Already by 2011-12, the outlook for Russia-West relations could be summarized as something like: it will get worse before it gets worse.
Right now, we are still on the same trajectory – things can become even more grim than they are now.
Hopefully, the credible threat of complete annihilation – the heart of nuclear deterrence – will still protect us from the very worst outcome, but the changes wrought by the Ukraine war on the global strategic landscape during its first year are indeed massive. Strategic deregulation between Moscow and Washington has already been highlighted. In practice, this will mean that each party will be free to build, structure, and deploy its strategic forces as it sees fit, and rely on its own so-called national technical means – such as spy satellites and other forms of intelligence – as the prime source of information about the other. It is natural to expect that under such circumstances both parties would have a powerful incentive to engage in worst-case-scenario planning.
It is true that of the five ‘established’ nuclear powers and the four other countries that possess nuclear arms, only two – America and Russia – have historically engaged in nuclear arms control. For years, Washington sought to find ways to link Beijing to the US-Russia strategic dialogue, thus leading to a tripartite arrangement. China, which was never interested in the US offer, is now believed to be in the process of substantially expanding and improving its strategic nuclear forces. Whether and when Beijing will be ready to engage Washington in strategic arms talks is anyone’s guess. After the the US formally designated China as its principal adversary, Sino-American relations have been growing increasingly tense. In any event, managing a strategic equation among the three leading nuclear powers, one of which regards the other two as its adversaries, will now become more difficult.
Strategic deregulation is not just the absence of binding treaties. It is also likely to mean the unraveling of the conceptual framework for arms control, which was originally developed by the Americans in the 1960s and then accepted by the Soviet Union. Any future arrangements among the world’s nuclear powers – whenever it comes – will require a wholly new concept that might be based on the agreed-upon and mutually fitting elements developed by the participating countries, with their vastly different strategic environments and cultures. It will certainly be a most daunting task.
Putin’s angry reaction to NATO’s call for Russia to observe New START and let US inspectors in has opened up another relatively minor issue: the nuclear weapons of Britain and France. The Soviet Union had long insisted on including those two countries’ nuclear arsenals in the US ceilings, and only relented during Gorbachev’s perestroika. With Paris and London taking an active role in the proxy war in Ukraine, Moscow is no longer pretending that UK and French nuclear forces are there solely to defend their own countries. They are seen as part of the combined arsenal of the adversarial, US-led West. This is no big deal for the moment, but any conceivable future arrangement would have to address the issue of the Anglo-French forces.
In geopolitical terms, the war in Ukraine energized Washington to build a global coalition to oppose Russia. This is often presented as a major achievement of the administration of President Joe Biden. Yet, to look at this from a different perspective, the Russia (and China) policies of the three successive US administrations – Obama’s, Trump’s, and particularly Biden’s – have led to a major split among the great powers that widened from competition to bitter rivalry (with China) and proxy war (with Russia in Ukraine).
US efforts to get China to distance itself from Russia appear ridiculous in a situation where Washington’s strategy appears to be to defeat/contain its two main adversaries one by one, and, moreover, to pit them against each other. The famous Kissingerian triangle is now pointed in a different direction: it is Washington that has the worst possible relations with the other two. As for Moscow and Beijing, they are getting even closer as a result.
Closer cooperation and coordination between China and Russia amid the war in Ukraine, which is gradually emerging on the platform of common strategic interests, represents a major shift in the world power balance. What is more – and what goes well beyond the usual Western concept of ‘great power competition’ – is the rise of over a hundred actors of different caliber in many parts of the world that have refused to support the US, and its allies, on the Russia sanctions and have maintained or even expanded their trade and other relations with Moscow. These countries insist on following their own national interests as they see them and seek to expand their foreign policy autonomy. At the end of the day, this phenomenon – call it the Rise of the Global Majority (no longer silent) – could be the single most important development so far en route to the new world order.
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