Monday, October 14, 2019

Will Russia Be Able to Tolerate Humiliation of being China’s Gas Station? Shevtsova Asks

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 10 – Moscow strategists are celebrating the collapse of the West, the rise of China and the emergence of what they see as a restored multi-polar world, Lilya Shevtsova says.  But they do not appear to recognize the consequences for Russia of this change, a shift that will leave them in the humiliating position of China’s junior partner.

            Today, the Russian analyst says, Russian officials have shifted from complaining about the lack of respect they felt they are due from the West to “euphoria” about the decline of the West, the exit of Britain and especially the US from their key roles in the creation of a liberal democratic world order (

            But “the Darwinian world” their exit ushers in is hardly one in which Russia will find itself in a comfortable position, Shevtsova continues.  China is rapidly becoming the dominant power in Eurasia, but the optimists in Russia without any real basis think Beijing will accord Russia “’equal status.’”

            “What kind of ‘equal status’ can there be in such a humiliating asymmetry? China’s GDP is 14.2 trillion US dollars while Russia’s is 1.6 trillion. The Chinese defense budget is 230 billion US dollars, while the Russian defense budget is 60 billion.” And with its “one path” program of linking China and Asia, Beijing is planning to play the role of “a global superpower.”

            The Chinese are prepared to allow at least for a time a bipolar world, Shevtsova suggests; but they see the United States not Russia as being the second power. Russia, for Beijing, “has become a Chinese gas station. And however strange this is, [some in Russia] are satisfied with this.”

            “We have agreed to take China’s side in its conflict with the Western world, and Chiense security is becoming a Russian national interest,” the analyst continues.  “Possibly, this is the main achievement of the Putin era. Possibly, its architects understand what they have done.” If so, that increases their “historical responsibility” for this choice.

            Shevtsova says that “we still remember the liberal order which America guaranteed. We still remember how the spineless West cajoled Russia when it sought to integrate us.” But “that time has ended. A new life has begun,” and Russia now can’t think about partnership with another superpower but about living as “a junior partner” with China.

            And that is a status China rather than Russia will define. “Who knows,” Shevtsova asks, “what China will include in the meaning of this term?” We can hope China will think about harmony, but we shouldn’t forget that “China will agree to be ‘a humane poower’ only in exchange for our agreement with its leadership.”

            That isn’t something many in Russia are going to be comfortable with. But if Russia revolts against such a status, what might China do? And what options would Russia have left?  The possible answers suggest that Russians may then regret the passing of the world led by the United States.

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