Country Report: Russia (May 2015)
Preparations for the May 9 Victory Day celebrations showcased Russia’s relations in Asia more than in Europe despite the fact that May 9 has long been recognized as V-E (victory in Europe) Day. While Kim Jong-un was expected until he suddenly had a change of plans, Xi Jinping was clearly the guest of honor. Articles focused on both bilateral Sino-Russian relations and the wider Asian context in which they are evolving. Although Narendra Modi added some bulk to the podium, his presence gave rise to few indications that India’s role in Putin’s “turn to the East” holds much promise. Doubts about aspects of Sino-Russian relations were the main uncertainty in what was mainly a narrative about the polarization of Asia indicative of a new cold war, where Japan and South Korea stand with the United States and Russia is relying increasingly on China. The sunny story of inseparable strategic partners took center stage, but there were clouds in some of the coverage of China as well as skepticism about some regional arguments.
The Overall State of the Sino-Russian Strategic Partnership
On April 7 in Russiancouncil.ru, Sergei Luzianin and Zhao Huasheng wrote a joint article, reporting on a dialogue between the Institute of the Far East and Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies covering analytical monitoring of Sino-Russian relations in 2013-2014. It examined possibilities for strengthening the strategic partnership and also the difficulties and challenges it faces. Both countries, Putin declared, face a “deficit of security,” and for Russia it is especially important that China oppose anti-Russian propaganda and sanctions of the West in conjunction with the Ukrainian events. Putin and Xi met five times in 2014, and on matters of geopolitics and military cooperation—regionally and globally—the two states give priority to each other. On Ukraine, the authors argue, the positions of China and Russia continue to draw closer. There are no serious problems or dissatisfaction in the relationship; it is stable and constructive with a high level of mutual trust. This is the overview that precedes the more specific analysis.
Russia has always been threatened from the West, and now it has been drawn into a new cold war with the revival of the Western threat. In contrast, China is a reliable, stable partner. Since the May 2014 Shanghai summit, the slogan “lean to the north” has spread in China, as its relationship with Russia has turned from energy to geopolitics. There are now elements of agreement on a military-political alliance, albeit without taking a legal form. They are strengthening mutual support related to core interests, maintenance of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security. China condemns the sanctions regime for Russia as counterproductive, destroying the economic balance and stability of the world. Russia and China have similar positions on constructing the international political and economic order, on following the principles of international relations, and on managing regional problems in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula. They see their relations as contributing to a balance of forces, as in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, where there are two poles centering on US-Japan and Sino-Russian relations. Despite regional integration, mutual containment prevails. Despite some Chinese experts raising the possibility of forming a Sino-Russian alliance, this could cause big losses and risks and is not timely. Neither country wants to pay the big political, economic, or military price of an alliance. Indeed, the impossibility of fulfilling alliance responsibilities of coming to the aid of the other would risk mutual trust. Yet, relations are deepening, the report says.
Russia’s increased economic interest in China—energy, finance, supply of equipment, participation in large-scale infrastructure projects on Russian territory, and joint projects in the technology sector—results not only from the reduction in possibilities with the European Union and the United States, but also from Japan freezing cooperation in some areas important to Russia. Russia is also relaxing limits on supplying China with some of its newest military technology and is showing new interest in co-production as well as joint space exploration. Russia has served China’s interest in complicating the US rebalance to Asia, forcing it to concentrate its attention on Europe and to strengthen NATO near Russia’s borders, which distracts it from containing China in the Asia-Pacific region. Fears that Russia and China are drawing closer may also force the United States to make greater concessions to China in the political sphere and security. The Ukrainian crisis served to accelerate Sino-Russian ties, but it did not change their character or direction, as Russia proceeds with its multi-year “turn to the East.” This is the thrust of the article. It adds that the Sino-Russo-US triangle for a long time ahead is set for the weakest leg to be the Russo-US one. China’s interests could be harmed by the paralysis in international bodies such as the UN Security Council and the loss of cooperation in areas such as fighting against the proliferation of WMD and against terrorism and managing regional crises. China seeking to minimize spillover, to localize the Ukrainian crisis, is also mentioned.
The fit among the EEC, SCO, and Silk Road Economic Belt was a major theme in this report. So far, these three projects are developing in parallel, independent of each other, even resulting in some competition. The SCO, the authors report, should be the Eurasian bridge, joining the other two projects and managing the different Russian and Chinese visions (China seeks faster economic integration). While the mechanisms of coexistence remain unclear, there needs to be a “Eurasian compromise” for projects that the Chinese see as “different, but together.” Central Asian states do not need to choose between the Silk Road, which, while still quite amorphous in its contents, would add to their stability and development, and the EEC. Yet, the report warns that Russian thinking that the Silk Road area must enter into Moscow’s sphere of influence would mean that cooperation is not possible and both plans would fail. Clearly, the Chinese side is inserting a warning.
As China’s growth rate drops, demand for traditional Russian exports declines, causing oil and oil products to climb to two-thirds of exports. Given this reality, to reach USD 200 billion in trade in 2020 will require much greater oil exports with continued high prices for them. Imports from China are about 50 percent higher than exports to China. The report mentions dissatisfaction on the Chinese side with the heavy hand of the state in current economic cooperation, leading to large-scale projects burdened by bureaucratic formalism as well as low effectiveness. It is unjust that Russia does not complain about being a supplier of natural resources to Europe, when it constantly raises this issue with China. If Russia does not develop market mechanisms, this will bode poorly for economic cooperation, especially mutual investments. While trade between Heilongjiang and Jilin and Russia more than doubled in 2009-2013, infrastructure problems on the Russian side of the border are a limiting factor, reducing transit and causing clients not to use this route. Much more investment in Siberia and the Russian Far East is needed, but Russia has yet to establish the necessary conditions although China has the financial resources to proceed. The main problem is Russian reservations about China’s participation in the development of the area, ceding control to Chinese capital and creating a migration threat with Russian labor. The report notes that Sino-Russian cooperation is more natural in this area than Russian joint efforts with other countries. As for energy, much has been achieved, but Chinese are still seeking fuller participation in the energy sector within Russia. Russia needs to alter its thinking about transit, accepting a greater role for Central Asia, considering problems with the Trans-Siberian Railroad and agreement to joint Sino-Russian companies for the movement of east-west trade. Also mentioned are administrative barriers, excessive costs, and unwelcoming border crossings. The Chinese side is venting here about its concerns.
On April 30, Alexander Gabuev in Lenta.ru wrote about Chinese perceptions of what is wrong with Russia, acknowledging that for Russia, as Putin understands it, there is no alternative but to draw close to China. Yet, for the majority of officials and businessmen, China remains foreign and little understood. In this situation, despite the overall course of Russian policy, there are problems of financing Chinese studies, while Chinese today are little interested in Russia, considering the United States much more important. Lenta.ru has been carrying articles on whether China and Russia are really brothers ready even to sacrifice for each other. Gabuev is seen as someone who can address this urgent question.
Gabuev contends that China is not ready to sacrifice its interests for Russia. It will not force oligarchs to invest in what is not of interest to them. While not supporting the sanctions against Russia, it is not eager to engage in business with Russian and does not want to spoil its relations with the United States. At the same time, China sees that new opportunities are opening as Western companies leave Russia, but its companies will respond only where they see profits. Russia’s elite know little of China. They own homes in London, their children study in good English schools. They are used to vacationing in Europe and keeping their money in European banks. They want to be more integrated into European society, which is culturally familiar to them. If they travel to China once a year, they are afraid of it—its strong government and vast population.
As for Putin’s view of China, Gabuev thinks that he sees no alternative. Although Japan and South Korea, want to actively cooperate, they are under pressure from the West. India and the other BRICS are far away and also not well understood. Only China is left standing. Putin and Xi are similar in age and outlook, to the point that Xi is even trying to copy the Russian leader. In private settings, they are said to show sympathy to each other and have personal chemistry. Following Putin’s lead, the elite need to draw close to China too, but they see Xi more interested in spending time with Obama than with Putin, and many are waiting, however in vain, for the turn to China to end in order to resume business as usual with Europe. A lone exception is Oleg Deripaska, who has gathered a group of China experts around him and studies Chinese and China’s history and culture. Among officials, there is Igor Shuvalov, who heads the inter-governmental Russia-China commission on investment cooperation. He may not now know so much, but he bores into problems and listens to independent experts. Yet, his preoccupation is Russia’s budget. With so many commissions and officials having a hand in relations with China, Russian companies do not know with which it would be simpler to resolve any problems.
With so many people calling for drawing closer to China and commissions at work, how does it happen that so little about China is understood, Gabuev was asked. His response: 1) long-term elite indifference to China and Asia as a whole on the assumption that being a natural resource provider to Asia is bad, but to Europe is normal; and 2) a catastrophic shortage of specialists on China after the Soviet period, despite numbers and money, had driven good experts into antiquities freer of ideological pressure, and then the collapse of financing in the 1990s led to today’s conundrum of specialists complaining of no money, at the same time as businesses and officials refuse to allocate funds due to the low level of expertise. While recent rhetoric has prioritized the East and China studies, there are few actual changes. The corporations are in need, turning to international consultants to open offices in Beijing, leading to foreigners being hired. There is a need for expertise on internal Chinese politics, macroeconomic policies, and the Silk Road Economic Belt, but persons with a good command of Chinese and area studies leave for China or find work with Western companies in their centers of experts. Gabuev portrays a field in crisis.
Chinese have lost interest in Russia, Gabuev adds, suggesting that the only subject on their minds was the collapse of the Soviet Union and how China could avoid it. While schools and personnel were preserved there, they are marginal compared to the rapidly developing study of America. China does have a small number of good specialists on Russia, better funded than Russian specialists but having little contact with leaders. With young people showing little interest in Russia, the exception is the image of Putin as a man who fights corruption and the oligarchs—a reaction to anti-American sentiments. If Putin previously was contrasted to Chinese leaders for his energy, Xi’s popularity makes that image outdated. While an older stratum welcomes an alliance with Russia against the United States and Japan, on the whole Chinese see Russia as degraded, not a great power, due to corruption and ineffective management, left only with resources, a large territory, and nuclear weapons. Another question asked of Gabuev is whether Chinese views of the United States indicate that a conflict lies ahead. He responded that China’s elite are very westernized, sending their undeclared wealth and relatives abroad, mainly to the United States. Thoughtlessly, acting from dogmatic principles, the United States could cause a conflict, and Chinese often do not understand the real US motives; so Gabuev does not rule out a conflict. China is building its military to resolve local issues, but it is not striving to become a world hegemon, he adds. Xi is now preoccupied with a transition in China’s economy and a battle against corruption, seeing it as the cause of the downfall of other states, e.g., the Soviet Union. This logic casts doubt on a looming Sino-US clash.
Sino-Russian Economic Relations
On April 26, Vladimir Skosyrev in Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote that economic relations are trailing political ones in Sino-Russian ties after trumpeting the overlapping thinking about history in the two states. The shared goal of the two countries, which he reports as having had the largest casualties in World War II (35 million for China and 27 million for Russia), is that they are determined not to permit the revival of fascism as well as a new war and militarism. In this language, Russia is echoing China’s accusations against Japan and linking the dangers each state supposedly faces near its borders. They are bound by Russia’s role in the liberation of China, as seen in remains just uncovered of Russian soldiers who died in Heilongjiang province. While China is known to respect the territorial integrity of other states, Putin’s use of the term “return” to refer to regaining Crimea may suggest a parallel with China’s demand for the “return” of Taiwan. These territorial issues are placed in the context of history, where the two states are together.
In the article, it is reported that China is the one that complains about economic relations failing to reach their potential. The example is mentioned of the 2014 agreement for a fund in rubles and yuan to reach USD 45 billion, but Russia has stalled in implementing it, seen partly as a result of the fall in the value of the ruble. Despite talk of the need to improve the investment climate for each other, Skosyrev notes that in 2014 the declining growth in the Russian economy halted Chinese activity in Russia, while the total annual level of Russian investment in China is a meager USD 40 million. Yet, the article ends optimistically that the record level of USD 95 billion in trade in 2014 is a sign that the goal of USD 200 billion in trade in 2020 is within reach, a conclusion that seems predetermined.
On April 10, Nezavisimaya Gazeta explained that the newly in effect currency pooling agreement among the five BRICS countries would help Russia in the face of Western markets closed to it and, hopefully, would contribute to more independence from the international financial system. The agreement was reached in 2012, signed in 2014, and now takes effect just when Russia has the financial difficulties identified as triggering support from this group of countries. The proposed pool of funds is USD 100 billion, USD 41 billion from China and USD 18 billion from Russia. Yet, the article acknowledges that use of up to 70 percent of the funds is limited to cases where the IMF has approved a stabilization program, even if the role of the IMF is minimized, one expert insists. Whereas the BRICS were previously all rapidly developing, now only India and China are, the piece admits. The implication is that Russia is counting on China to set up a rival financial order.
In the April 20 Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Varvara Remchukova noted that Obama opposes China writing the rules of the global economy. Despite the supposed openness of TPP, there is little likelihood that China will join in the near future. It is neither on China’s agenda nor on that of the TPP states. This unprecedented, large-scale trade organization will harm China’s interests, diverting trade flows and foreign investment while reducing its competitiveness. However, China already has a superb system of trade and production relations, including with many TPP states, and its new silk road envisions construction of infrastructure by land and sea to facilitate the movement of all things Chinese. The author downplays concern of a Sino-US economic deal that would come at Russia’s expense.
A May 12 article in Kommersant highlighted the agreement for China’s banks to provide an additional USD 25 billion in capital to Russia, explaining that the funds over two to three years would be used beyond the energy sector as a joint investment bank would be established. First Vice-premier Igor’ Shuvalov has held many talks with the Chinese to this end. Major Russian companies could tap these funds, although some details are not yet clear. Another agreement is an agricultural fund concentrated on links between Heilongjiang and the Russian Far East and Siberia. Some economic progress is reported at the summit.
On May 8 in EKD.me, Vladimir Petrovskii and Igor’ Denisov asked why Xi Jinping was going to Moscow. They focused on the goal of making bilateral relations more balanced through stress on economic ties and uniting the SREB and EEC. Noting that the two countries have a shared historical memory, the article stresses that the visit is about the future. Given China’s AIIB initiative and Silk Road infrastructure plans to Europe along the shortest overland route, the EEC survival depends on using China’s funds and taking advantage of the new transportation system. The weak point of the Silk Road plan is security for its projects, for which Russia can guarantee political security in the region. The article describes China as an objective ally in regard to Crimea in opposition to sanctions and capable of doing a lot to get the West to lift sanctions in a compromise arrangement. Yet, it also indicates that until Crimea has a legal status China will not invest in it. China has kept its embassy in Ukraine and does not chastise the regime there the way Russia does; so it is in a position to quietly conduct talks to reduce tensions.
On May 12 in Kommersant, Aleksandr Gabuev asked what did Xi Jinping take back from Russia. It was a “win-win” mutually symbolic victory and a broad declaration of good intentions, but he adds, the struggle has only begun to extract some practical benefit while understanding the real divergence in forces between the two countries. The victory for Putin comes from Xi’s presence—a world leader of the stature to demonstrate that Russia is not internationally isolated. Xi also wins by showing to the Chinese people the face of a decisive leader who does not look to the West to make decisions, and he will benefit further when Putin goes to China for the September 3 celebration, when there will also be a diplomatic battle, if less dramatic than the one surrounding the May 9 events. Abe could hardly attend a parade celebrating the victory over Japanese militarism, which along with the situation in the South China Sea, will put Japan’s allies and many states of ASEAN in an awkward situation. A historically symbolic alliance with Putin, who is popular in China, is very useful to him, Gabuev adds, qualifying his conclusion with the observation that China is steadily turning Russia into a junior partner under the facade of sustaining an equal partnership. He sees some of the 32 documents signed in the Putin-Xi meeting as symbolic too, e.g., the western route gas deal, which repeats the agreement in November 2014 and faces a long road ahead, as seen in prior talks over the eastern route. The main audience is Western consumers, whom Gazprom is warning could lose the gas Russia supplies, even if the projected volume to China would still be much lower than that to European states and the price offered by China (in light of cheap Turkmen gas that it is already receiving) would be considerably less than what Germany now pays for gas.
Gabuev finds China to be in no hurry on agreements about other energy projects. There is the threat of new Western sanctions against investors in one project, the uncertainty about oil prices, Russia’s shifting tax policies, and new plans for consolidation of the oil and gas sector in China. An agreement on information security also appears to him to be just symbolic in nature in defense of the sovereign rights of states over the Internet. Threats to establish a parallel Internet do not greatly frighten the United States and its allies, and China’s economy relies too much on the Internet as a driver to severe its connections.
The most important economic takeaway from the summit may have been the access given to Russian companies to Chinese financial sources, especially credit lines in yuan, even if this does not mean the goal of escaping the use of the dollar and euro in joint accounting is within reach until at least mid-century. Should the situation escalate in Ukraine, Russia is aware of discussions in Washington of the possible exclusion of its biggest banks from transactions in the United States and the European Union and is need of alternate currencies, but the Chinese currency is not freely convertible. Earlier Russian dreams about leaving the dollar, using the ruble in international accounts, are gone. Talk now focuses on the yuan.
Gabuev figures that the most important document for China may have been the joint declaration on the establishment of the EEC and the SREB. Chinese experts had been concerned that the September 2013 initiative of Xi would be seen as a threat to Russia’s position in Central Asia and to Putin’s main geo-economic project, the EEC. In May, the two sides indicated readiness to find compatibility, and now they identify the SCO as the coordinating arena for dialogue between the two initiatives and even for examination of long-term goals for an FTA between the EEC and China. The two integrating initiatives, for the time being, are deemed to be partners as Moscow and Beijing pursue their tactical objectives. Russia is counting on the Silk Road fund to provide it with money for its own infrastructure, but negotiations on infrastructure projects with China are difficult, Gabuev notes, citing the example of the Moscow-Kazan’ high speed railroad, on which the two signed a memorandum on May 8, for which Russia firmly insists on a significant role for its companies and localization of up to 60 percent of the technology. Russia hopes that China will build infrastructure to Europe through its territory, but only two of six routes do so.
China seeks to use its own firms and labor in conditions of a slowing economy, and that is acceptable to Kazakhstan, through which three routes are to pass. Although all of the leaders of the EEC were in Moscow at the time, they did not sign the accords, nor did the Eurasian Economic Commission, which the Kremlin treats as an independent organ of international standing, but now has been devalued. Beijing, it seems, will deal with each of the EEC countries separately. Gabuev warns that unless Moscow informally discusses with its partners in Central Asia proceeding with a single position instead of attempting to speak for them it risks losing its influence in the region as each country pursues its own interests. He concludes with two appeals: 1) to avoid irresponsible tactical maneuvering to send emotional signals to the West in favor of turning to China with a broad, long-term vision; and 2) to understand China well, designing policies cognizant of alternate variants of its development, for the clarification of which Russia needs its own experts on China.
Sino-Russian Geopolitical and Geo-economic Relations
Kommersant opened an article on May 6 with the remark that Putin and Xi would meet in 2015 more than in any prior year, at least five times. The article explains that Xi would not only be in Moscow on May 9, he would attend the BRICS and SCO summits in Ufa in July. Looking for a global counterweight to the West, Moscow is focusing on a Big-2 (Bol’shaia Dvoika) with China, even if Beijing is proceeding with active cooperation with the West and is not opposed to sharing world leadership with Washington. Visiting three states of the EEC—Kazakhstan and Belarus’ too—, Xi’s stop in Moscow is part of a wider agenda. If the memo of understanding last November for the western gas pipeline to China has yet to lead to a signed contract, there are planned investment agreements in various fields, and the two sides plan to discuss cooperation in forming the SREB and the EEC. A Chinese official is quoted as saying that bilateral cooperation and joint action is needed to support the international balance of power and also preservation of the postwar world order. Recalling comments in the West that a G-2 is taking shape, Alexander Lomanov argues that they were correct, but they were mistaken to think it was Washington and Beijing, when it really is Moscow and Beijing. He adds that China seeks Russia’s support on history, feeling disparaged because the Western allies, led by the United States, do not value the many millions of Chinese who were killed. To realize the “China Dream,” China is assigning an ever larger role to Russia, according to Iuri Tavrovskii, but the article also cites Georgii Kunadze, who sees China treating Russia as a transit country and the idea that China would establish a new financial system based on the yuan as utopian. Without normal relations with Europe, the United States, and Japan, Kunadze adds, reliance on China would only deepen Russia’s imbalance. Moscow talks of an alliance, not Beijing. Beijing has never openly supported Russia in the Ukraine crisis. Xi has been active in relations with the West, including a planned September visit to Washington. In order to realize its internal goals, including the “China Dream,” Xi seeks to avoid conflict with the West. This is a message at odds with the prevailing tone in the Russian media, throwing some cold water on the high hopes for the summit.
In Mezhdunarodnaya zhizn’ No. 3, Mikhail Titarenko wrote about Sino-Russian relations and the new world order with much less ambivalence. Observing that in ties with the West earlier contradictions, tensions, and threats have been aggravated, he warns against the hegemonic policies of the United States and its allies. Charging that the United States planned and provoked the conflict in Ukraine with the aim of weakening and isolating Russia, he finds the Asia-Pacific the only relatively stable region, despite the dangerous sparks from the Korean Peninsula and territorial disputes. Accusing the policies of the West of causing a “clash of civilizations,” he calls for a new equal relationship between the developed countries under US leadership and the developing world, seeking reform in the mechanism of global management. Given that US actions have been aimed at revising the basic norms of international law and even undermining the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, Titarenko puts all the blame on it for insisting on strengthening its hegemony and interfering with the balance of forces in the world.
Russia’s response is wide-ranging, but it prioritizes Eurasian integration of the states formerly in the Soviet Union and also turning to Asia to the point of transforming national identity so Russians see their country as a Eurasian Pacific power. Above all, Tirorenko points to three partners in the region China, India, and the states of ASEAN. Yet, as in so many recent articles, ASEAN is little more than an abstraction, India’s recent redirection in foreign policy is slighted, and the contradictions between unmitigated praise of China as the natural partner in opposing the United States and its allies and the invocation of the other countries is left unnoticed. While China has refrained from openly supporting Russia on the Ukrainian question, this is dismissed as a spillover from not wanting to give any excuse to separatist tendencies in its autonomous regions and not wanting to risk a confrontation with the West over Russia. Titarenko finds China eager to help Russia in its difficult situation, working to nullify the sanctions, and seeing parallels with sanctions imposed on it in 1989. Linking the humiliation of Russia for the loss of its empire over the past 25 years and the humiliation of the BRICS and G-20 for centuries of colonial rule by the West, he sees overlapping consciousness in the cause of the current crisis. At the same time, Titarenko praises China’s SREB as a complex megaproject of a new type serving as a stimulus across Eurasia. Combining the promise of the BRICS, an expanded role for the SCO, and strengthened Sino-Russian ties in many areas, Russia’s “turn to the East” will succeed in the view of Titorenko.
In Rossiya v Global’noi Politike on May 13, an article by Fyodor Luk’yanov, which was originally printed in Russiskaya Gazeta, contrasts the declarative nature of earlier Sino-Russian agreements with the concrete character of the Putin-Xi results this time. Their resolve is centered on a similar approach to history—no tolerance for revisionism. Not only will the EEC and SREB develop in parallel, they will become overlapping, and China has agreed to conduct dialogue with the EEC as a single entity, he adds, switching from its earlier stance of conducting bilateral talks with each country. In contrast to past Asian development, the impulse will come from east to west and the continental factor will surpass the maritime one. Luk’yanov plays down the necessity of competition between Moscow and Beijing in Central Asia, given this configuration, but he acknowledges barriers ahead, particularly within the EEC, where the foundation is shaky. He concludes by mentioning initial efforts in Russia to grasp this new Eurasia.
An article in Kommersant on April 9 also commented on Ashley Carter’s travel to East Asia, aimed at increased investment in high tech armaments and joint development of cyber security. Although one of the main aims of Carter’s stops in Tokyo and Seoul was to limit the growing influence of China in the region, strengthening cooperation in both countries threatens to complicate their relations with Moscow. A Russian expert noted that after last year’s downing of the Boeing flight from the Netherlands, Tokyo has noticeably toughened its stance toward Moscow, which from the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis had been visibly different from that of Washington. According to the article, Washington seeks to intensify that trend. In contrast, Seoul has cooperated in military technology with Moscow and shown an interest in Russian weapons, but after this visit of Carter the prognosis with Seoul is cloudier, a Russian expert concludes.
On April 24, Nezavisimaya Gazeta carried a piece by Valerii Kistanov on US-Japan relations, headlined as “carte-blanche” and focused on their joint interest in containing China near its shoreline and in arenas. Arguing that not only China but other countries of the region are not pleased with the new international role of Japan’s armed forces, the author points to Russia’s concerns, especially Japan joining in a global missile defense system, which he contends is aimed, above all, against Russia. He raises some doubts as TPP talks continue and the Okinawa base transfer remains uncertain, but Kistanov leaves little doubt that Russia’s hopes for Japan have been dashed and its US alliance is against Russia’s interests. The article closes with the claim that to balance the visit of Abe, Xi Jinping has sounded out the possibility of speaking to a joint session of Congress, and if that occurs, he is bound to set forth his concept of a “new type of major power relations.”
US-Japan Relations and Vietnam
On April 9, Vladimir Skosyrev in Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote about the strengthened US-Japan military alliance, while showing concern about how the Sino-Vietnamese quarrel is complicating life for Gazprom. Interpreting the changes in the alliance as allowing Japan to participate in wars together with the United States anywhere in the world, especially to respond to US calls for sending aircraft to the South China Sea, is raising alarm in Beijing as a sign of the revival of Japanese militarism. Skosyrev specifies that the seventieth anniversary is about the defeat of fascist Germany and militarist Japan, and the problem now is that the strengthened US-Japan alliance is threatening the peace and tranquility of the Asia-Pacific region. He sees Japan’s growing role in the South China Sea, sought by Washington, as interfering in the territorial conflicts of China and its neighbors. Having blamed the allies, the article suddenly shifts course and discusses problems that now are keeping Gazprom from exploring two areas on Vietnam’s shelf. Although so far China has still not openly protested, there is no doubt it would seriously do so, and there would be no prospect of proceeding quietly. Talks between Sergei Lavrov and Wan Li have concluded that disagreements on specific issues, such as this, should not interfere with joint observance of the victories in WWII, this wide-ranging article observes.