My latest looks at Russia’s turn east (and south), expanding its economic ties to China and India (as well as its presence in Africa, which I argue is related in the same way that President Obama’s promised “pivot to Asia” includes competing with China for access to emerging African markets and natural resources):
In the face of these punitive economic measures, Russia has, quietly, been expanding its economic and military activity into Asia, conducting its own “Asian pivot” along the lines of US President Barack Obama’s promised, though unfulfilled, plan to refocus American foreign policy attention away from Europe and the Middle East and on to the Asia-Pacific region. In April, it was reported that the Russian natural gas firm Gazprom was “close” to reaching a long-term deal to supply natural gas to China (via a pipeline that would be built as part of the deal). Russian and Chinese officials have been negotiating such an agreement for over a decade, with Russia reluctant to reduce its prices in order to compete with the gas that China has been buying from former Soviet Republic Turkmenistan. However, tensions over Ukraine and the possibility of Europe looking elsewhere — to America, to Qatar, or even to Iran — for its energy needs, and the potential collapse of Russia’s under-construction Black Sea South Stream pipeline, may have spurred Gazprom to make concessions, possibly reducing its prices in exchange for considerable up-front payment by China (though the Ukraine crisis has likely weakened Gazprom’s negotiating leverage).
Economic ties between Russia and China are increasing in general. China has not joined Western sanctions against Russia, and its banks are expanding their business in Russia even as American banks are scaling back. There is a strong likelihood that a Chinese government firm, the China Railway Construction Corporation, will be involved in constructing a car and rail bridge to connect mainland Russia directly to newly-annexed Crimea, and Chinese investors are backing a multi-billion dollar natural gas exploration effort on Russia’s northern Yamal Peninsula.
On the subject of sanctions: it should be apparent by now that I am no fan of Vladimir Putin, but the degree to which the US and EU are committed to punishing Russia for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, while absolving the crew of the USS Incompetent who are supposed to be in charge in Kiev of any responsibility whatsoever, is starting to become ridiculous. If what happened in Odessa last week had happened while Yanukovych was in power, or if something similar happened in a country whose government was not a Western client, we would without a doubt be expressing our disapproval for a government that has shown no interest in or ability to protect its citizens or their right to dissent from that government. But in this case, we’re blaming Russia because…um, Vladimir Putin is a Bad Man who does Bad Things, so it’s all his fault.