America’s colonial takeover of Ukraine and Europe’s siding with them was a serious factor in the stepping-up of integration processes on the Eurasian continent.
In particular, the real breakthrough came with the formation of a strategic partnership between Russia and China. In addition to the 51 major agreements that were reached following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China on 20-21 May 2014, a joint statement was also adopted establishing a new stage of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation. The alliance is a geopolitical one. In the joint statement (1) adopted by the leaders of the two countries, both sides agreed to strengthen a close coordination of activities in their foreign policies that will lead to a strengthening of their positions and influence in the international arena in the interests of establishing a fairer and more rational world order.
Echoes of the Ukrainian crisis are reflected in a number of the document’s provisions… For example, Russia and China will oppose any attempts and methods of intervention in internal affairs, and support strict adherence to the fundamental provisions of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, unconditional respect for the rights of their partner to independently choose their own development path, and the right to preserve and defend their own cultural, historical, ethical and moral values. Far removed from the European fronts of the Second World War, meanwhile, China has expressed its willingness to take part in the 70th anniversary of the defeat of German fascism and continue their “resolute opposition to attempts to falsify history and undermine the postwar world order”. The two countries also emphasised the need “to respect the historical legacy of countries, their cultural traditions and independently-chosen social and political systems, their value systems and development paths; to oppose interference in the internal affairs of other countries, to reject the language of unilateral sanctions, or organising, aiding, financing or encouraging activity aimed at changing the constitutional system of another country or drawing it into any multilateral bloc or union.”
By way of practical measures to counter America’s expansionist policy, both sides resolved “to establish close cooperation in the financial sphere, including an increase in direct payments in the Russian and Chinese national currencies in trade, investments and loan services, and to deepen the dialogue on macroeconomic policy issues.” During the visit, the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and the People’s Bank of China signed an agreement to pay each other in domestic currencies for transactions between the two countries. Needless to say, such a decision is a significant blow to the domination of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
The joint statement also contains a response to and condemnation of the activities of the West to develop a global missile defence system, as well as plans to strengthen alternative international structures to Western ones like the G20, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Russia-India-China trilateral and so on.
As Putin declared in an interview summing up the visit, “a new geopolitical centre is emerging in the world, a “G2” if you like, represented by Russia and China. So, whether they like it or not, this is something that every world power is going to have to reckon with” (2).
Worthy of special attention is the package of agreements signed in China on the supply of Russian gas to China, which became the largest contract in the history of the USSR and Russia. A key geopolitical consequence of this contract is the opportunity it opens up for Russia to diversify supplies from west to east and from east to west. And this, in turn, makes gas blackmail by the US and the European Union impossible.
The geopolitical implications of the gas agreements extend much further than just eliminating the possibility of Russia being blackmailed by a united Europe and Washington. The Japanese are once again talking about their desire to import Russian gas, for which the construction of a gas pipeline in Japan along the bottom of the sea has been proposed. It is not the first time that proposals like these are being heard, but this time they could actually get off the ground. Until recently, Russia had treated the initiatives of the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ with reserve, not just because of the project’s technical complexity, but also because of allied relations between Japan and the US. According to a member of the Expert Council of the State Duma Committee on Economic Policy, Innovative Development and Entrepreneurship R. Teryokhin, “Japan is a profitable customer for Russia, but taking into account that it is not a very easy country and quite a risky partner, especially in terms of its commitment to US policy and its territorial disputes with Russia, a pipeline construction project in Japan in reality seems economically unjustified” (4).
Nevertheless, Japan’s latest steps in its foreign policy give reason to suppose that the country is gradually moving away from the dictate of the US and making timid steps towards its partners in the Asia-Pacific Region. In particular, the free trade agreement imposed by Washington was never signed, Japan and China are extending an agreement on giving up the dollar in mutual trade, and the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzō Abe, proved to be the only G7 leader to attend the Sochi Olympics. His Sochi meeting with Putin was the sixth such meeting in the last year.
In order to assess the importance of intensifying the dialogue between the Moscow-Beijing-Tokyo triangle, one only needs to remember that until relatively recently, these countries were practically enemies, divided by a number of mutual territorial claims. Now, however, it seems that America’s attempts to play on territorial disputes are giving way to economic feasibility. And that, in turn, could jeopardise the whole system of America’s allied relations in the Asia-Pacific Region.
One can also note a number of other seemingly insignificant events. Recep Erdoğan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, another of America’s strategic allies, declared that if Turkey joined the SCO, then it would withdraw its application to join the EU (5). In addition, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev said that Turkey could become an associate member of the recently established Eurasian Economic Union.
During a visit to India on 8 June 2014, Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi emphasised China’s willingness “to reach a final solution” on the border issue with India (6). Although there are still no discernible arrangements for resolving the issue, it is a significant statement.
May was marked by one more breakthrough in the sphere of Eurasian integration. On 29 May, an agreement was signed in Astana on the creation of a Eurasian Union, which is highly undesirable for the US. As US State Secretary Hillary Clinton announced at the time, “The US is trying to prevent Russia from recreating a new version of the Soviet Union under the ruse of economic integration. There is a move to re-Sovietise the region. It’s not going to be called that. It’s going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that. But let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it” (7). So far, attempts are failing. A number of countries, including US allies such as New Zealand, Turkey and Israel, are willing to sign free trade agreements with the EaEU.
But the most important aspect regarding the creation of the Eurasian Union is the fact that it can incorporate other organisations established in the former USSR. In particular, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko noted that in the future, the CSTO could become the military component of the Eurasian Economic Union: “I think we will soon see the Collective Security Treaty Organisation become part of the union. It will be our military organisation.”
Of course, it would be incorrect to say that these tectonic shifts happened solely as a result of US and EU aggression against Ukraine. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian tragedy accelerated a number of unification processes on the Eurasian continent that in different circumstances could have taken much longer. As noted by Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, “Following the US’ threats towards Russia, many other world powers are raising the alarm, since they see themselves as potential targets of the American authorities” (8).
There are grounds for such fears, since Washington is already imposing economic sanctions against Russia that are damaging to the EU economy and jeopardising the continent’s energy security. The world also cannot fail to understand that the White House’s foolhardy policy aimed at instigating a full-scale war involving Russia bears a direct threat to every country without exception. Nobody will be left on the sidelines.