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Russia and China challenge NATO

May 11, 2011

Via Asiatimes
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/ME10Ag01.html

Consultations by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Moscow at the weekend were expected to prepare the ground for the visit by President Hu Jintao to Russia next month. In the event, however, they assumed a character of immense significance to international security.

Sustained Russian-Chinese efforts to “coordinate” their stance on regional and international issues have been taken to a qualitatively new level with regard to the developing Middle East situation.

The official Russian news agency used an unusual expression – “tight cooperation” – to characterize the new template to which their coordination of regional policies had been taken. This is

bound to pose a big challenge to the West to pursue its unilateralist agenda in the Middle East.

Hu’s visit to Russia is notionally to attend the showcase event in St Petersburg on June 16-18, which the Kremlin has been carefully choreographing as an annual event in the nature of “Russia’s Davos” – titled the International Economic Forum. Much excitement is evident in both countries that Hu’s visit will be a turning point in China-Russia energy cooperation.

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom hopes to pump 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to China by 2015 and the negotiations over the pricing are at an advanced stage. Chinese officials maintain that the stalled negotiations are finally going to be wrapped up with an agreement by the time Hu arrives in Russia.

Indeed, when the world’s fastest-growing major economy and the world’s biggest energy exporter come to an agreement, it goes far beyond a matter of bilateral cooperation. There will be uneasiness in Europe, which has been historically Russia’s principal market for energy exports, that a “competitor” is appearing in the East and the West’s energy business with Russia would have China as a “sleeping partner”. This paradigm shift provides a backdrop to the East-West tensions over the Middle East.

Identical position
The Middle East and North Africa turned out to be the leitmotif of Yang’s talks in Moscow with his host Sergei Lavrov. Russia and China decided to work together in addressing the issues arising out of the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa. Lavrov said: “We have agreed to coordinate our actions using the abilities of both states in order to assist the earliest stabilization and prevention of the further negative unpredictable consequences there.”

Lavrov said Russia and China had the “identical position” that “every nation should determine its future independently without outside interference”. Presumably, the two countries are now agreed on a common position to oppose any move by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to conduct a ground operation in Libya.

So far, the Russian position had been that Moscow wouldn’t accept any UN Security Council mandate being given to NATO for a ground operation without a “clearly expressed position” approving it on the part of the Arab League and the African Union (of which Libya is a member).

Evidently, there is a “trust deficit” here, which is becoming unbridgeable by the day unless NATO decides on an immediate ceasefire in Libya. Put simply, Russia no longer trusts the United States or its NATO allies to be transparent about their intentions with regard to Libya and the Middle East. A few days ago, Lavrov spoke at length on Libya in an interview with Russian television channel Tsentr. He expressed great frustration over the West’s doublespeak and subterfuges in unilaterally interpreting UN Resolution 1973 to do just about what it pleased.

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From → China, NATO, Russia

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