Thursday, May 30, 2019

Were There Any Other Options?

I don't buy for a second all those Russian-China economic "integrationism" arguments, despite obvious attempts by China and Russia to form some sort of common Eurasian market. Russia and China are neighbors and economic... competitors. But, right now many Russian-Chinese broad economic, social, scientific and military  contacts make total sense in a face of unruly and ungovernable United States. In fact, those are only natural. Yet, there is one item on Russian-Chinese agenda which sets Russia apart from everyone else for China. As South China Morning Post notes in its opinion piece: 
Beijing is stepping up efforts to seek support from regional and global players such as Russia and Central Asian nations as its geostrategic rivalry with Washington heats up. President Xi Jinping is expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month, when he will also address the St Petersburg International Economic Summit, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told state-run TASS news agency earlier....The latest flurry of diplomatic activity comes as competition between China and the US intensifies on several fronts including trade and technology, the South China Sea and the Arctic, where Beijing’s partnership with Moscow –funding and building ports, berths and icebreakers off Russia’s shores– has drawn criticism from Washington. It will be Xi’s second time at the St Petersburg forum, and observers expect the Chinese leader will reaffirm Beijing’s commitment to multilateralism and promote the nation as a champion of openness and cooperation.
Pay attention to the highlighted, as well as rather realistic assessment by this very same South China Morning Post in this title of its other analytic piece.  
Russia launches nuclear icebreaker Ural to exploit Arctic’s commercial potential – with two more to follow...The drive is part of a push to strengthen Moscow’s hand in the High North as it vies for dominance with traditional rivals Canada, the United States and Norway, as well as newcomer China.  
A-ha, warmer now. In continuation of my yesterday's piece on competitiveness and a series of my articles on this issue (such as this one), I suggest to pull back a bit and try to take a look at a larger picture. No, I am not talking about a Huawei affair dominating current headlines all over the world, I am talking about things even more important than US-China trade war--I am talking about fundamental conditions which will allow China to win this war. But first let's talk about conditions which already now prevent China from winning such a war. I wrote also, not for once, about it--China is not competitive with the United States where it really matters, Shipping Lanes Of Communications (SLOCs), especially Indian Ocean SLOCs, which are crucial for China's trade. PLAN is simply not a competitor for US Navy in the open ocean. For now. When and IF (I stress it--IF) PLAN will be able to compete with the US Navy underneath the waves, until then the Arctic looms large, very large, for China's sea trade. If the United States, in the feat of desperation (it is possible, but who knows how probable) decides to cut China's Indian SLOCs before a bulk of Chinese trade is removed within Eurasian landmass, the whole Huawei affair will look like a fart in the hurricane. 

The time is ticking away. Enter Russia, the issue here is not just Russia's massive, largest and most advanced ice-breaker fleet in the world, it is the fact that Russia develops her Arctic at a break-neck speed, developing both civilian and military infrastructure, including building fully operational airfields capable to base latest in Russian ASW/Patrol Aviation such as IL-38Ns and full blown Air Defense (S-400, S1, the works, a whole shebang) areas such as Kotelnyi Island, which pretty much explains what is Russia up to in terms of her capabilities in this very Arctic and why it will be almost impossible to rival those by anyone from USA to Canada, to China, not to speak of Norway. Considering also the way Russia treats her submarine forces, one may easily see that Northern Sea Route will be defended extremely well. So, there is very little, in fact zero, doubt that China is very interested in this route, because unlike in the Indian Ocean where US submarine forces may run rampant against China's marine commercial traffic and PLAN will have a hell of a time trying to do much about it, Arctic Route is a different game--friendly Russia is there and Russia's combat and patrol aviation, and submarine forces will be able to keep this SLOC opened for China, not for free, of course. 

Add now also a purely geopolitical aspect here. China only now begins to experience what Russia has an unrivaled experience in--a serious stand-off against major power(s). Russia's game till now was huge militarily--from Ukraine, to Syria, to Arctic, to new weapons systems, Russia is in a kinetic mode non-stop. China is yet to make a full claim to real superpowerdom and for that she needs Russia and her immense military potential, capable to defend most of Eurasia against any attempt on Eurasian integration. China doesn't have such capability and so the dance between comrades Putin ans Xi continues. No, of course, both men have excellent relations which can be called friendship, but Putin knows damn well that China needs Russia now in a really big way, including this very important moral support factor, which can be described in boxing terms as old experienced trainer patting his new talented protege, title challenger, on the back before his fight with an intimidating champion and telling him: "Don't worry, son. You'll be OK". People who underestimate an immense importance of  this moral support factor in international relations, they know very little about international relations. Enough to take a look at an insatiable American appetite for "high moral ground" and to be admired. Look what happened once this moral ground was lost--it is in a front of your eyes. 

So, China can win only with Russia's help which is expressed apart from, already mentioned, moral support factor in being cooperative with China's supply lines and throwing around Russia's significant economic and immense military weight. China, unlike the United States, does have geopolitical currency "to buy" Russia. But as any seller who knows a real value of what he (or she) sells, Russia will ask a "fair" price and China will agree. The world now needs Russian-Chinese close cooperation and, possibly, some form of a formal alliance, while transitioning into new geopolitical and economic paradigm. But as never before, it becomes clear that two great cultures and empires are on the even footing vis-a-vis each-other, far from wet dreams by many Western "analysts" predicting for Russia a complex of "junior partner" in relations with China, when in reality it is Russia who went to hell and back in 20th and 21st century who has a well earned privilege to pass judgements on how China may come of age as a true superpower by means of facing off with her largest foe. But then again, did China even have  options other than getting together with Russia whose energy and military power is and will continue to be one of the drivers of Chinese successful entrance into the ring with the United States for a real fight? I don't think so. After all, as Marx stated--the freedom is a comprehended necessity. 

P.S. Meanwhile, the video of the assembly of the first serial SU-57s. 

I am sure very many arm-chair aerospace "analysts" are about to make their "opinions" heard;))

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