Staunton, August 27 – That Vladimir Putin would like to absorb at least Ukraine and Belarus into a renewed “Soviet Union” dominated by Moscow is no news, but Aleksandr Aritshchenko says that China favors that outcome as well because such an entity could serve as a bridge between China and Europe and “if need be, a buffer” between the two as well.
On the Versiya portal, the Russian journalist says that “today’s Minsk visit by the head of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev marks the beginning of a new historical era.” Earlier, he reached agreement with China “concerning the future of Ukraine and Belarus” (versia.ru/belorussiya-i-ukraina-nezavisimye-respubliki-kitajskogo-kontura-v-sostave-rossii).
According to Artishchenko and he is the only one reporting this so far, Beijing has signaled that in its view, “the former Soviet republics must become part of a union state with Russia (or be absorbed into Russia” because that would benefit China. The journalist likely has heard something like this from Kremlin sources who would be pleased if this is true.
To encourage Alyaksandr Lukashenka to go along, he continues, Patrushev has taken to Minsk the dossiers of those in the Minsk government who have been preparing a coup against the Belarusian president. That will allow him to move against them and guarantee his gratitude to Russia.
Chinese money will follow, and funds from Beijing are likely to play an even larger role in getting the Ukrainian government of Vladimir Zelensky to agree to a new and closer relationship with Moscow. If Kyiv agrees to that, Moscow will care far less about where the border between the two countries lies.
A major “intrigue,” Artishchenko adds, is what this “’new reality’” will mean for the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Are they going to be absorbed or subordinated to Chinese dominance? Tajikistan has already yielded territory to China, and that may be the harbinger of other things.
Artishchenko’s outline of the future seems so outlandish that it is difficult to believe there is anything to do. But there are at least three reasons to think there may be something to it, even if nothing like the apocalyptic transformations it would represent for the countries of the former Soviet space.
First, it almost certainly reflects what some in the Kremlin would like to believe, that the Chinese will back Putin in his neo-imperialism and have good reasons of their own to do so. Second, China may have its own reasons for sending such signals, either to ensure stability on the road between China and Europe or to weaken Moscow – or quite possibly both.
And third – and this is the most important consequence – this testing of the waters suggests that Putin may be preparing for some far larger play than anyone now thinks – and has been talking to the Chinese about how Beijing would react if he makes some move. For that reason alone, such reports, however superficially outlandish, must be attended to.