Putin’s Firebird versus Chinese Dragon

Anna van Densky. OPINION.

The predictions are plentiful at the IV inauguration of the very same Russian ruler. However only few are optimistic ones, the majority is fearing the deepening schism between Russia and the West, the revival of the Cold War modus operandi, and even risk of the accidental eruption of the III World war. But if not following the extreme scenarios, what the EU can expect from the IV mandate of Vladimir Putin? Clearly not much in terms of science, progress or respect of human rights, but highly likely the continuation of stagnation  with the subsequent loss of traditional Russian spheres of influence like Balkans, Caucasus, and Central Asia.

The recent events in Armenia showed the fragility of the only ally in the Caucasus, and the switch of Kazakh alphabet to Latin letters indicated to direction of the development the leadership has chosen, clearly not impressed by Kremlin’s achievements. For traditional allies and neighbours Russia is not an attractive construct: rusting vertical of power, causing corruption at all levels, elite openly preferring to keep their fortunes and families abroad; economy firmly becoming a global supplier of raw materials; and declining population. The latter deserves some special attention, because with the current trends Siberia is rapidly inhabited by Chinese neighbours, hardworking and politically inactive, filling working places of those Russians who leave for the European part of the country, or void of many of extinct villages. The process called by the Siberians themselves as ‘Chinese colonisation‘.

When voting Putin for the fourth time, Russian have chosen for a traditional biologic cycle of political power change, it means that the current model will come to a natural end in 15  year from now, when Putin‘s close cercle reaches the age it would be physically unable to keep a grip on power, and even on their own fading away lives. No one is immortal. But what kind of Russia will the West encounter then?..

Culturally in 15-20 years Russia will be a different place. At present 38 million Chinese live in bordering Heilongjiang province, while in the entire Siberia just 36 million, and lately in the province the Communist party allowed to have a third child to the couples with the higher income. Growing population with growing needs, and limited resources, but remembering Deng Xiaoping advise they keep low profile, while “aiming to do something big.” In social media Russians share posts about Chinese taking over enterprises and territories. Siberians have collected 140 000 signatures under petition to Putin, asking him to stop the commercial destruction of forests, but in vain.

Cornered by the Western sanctions, Kremlin has little choice to turn to the East, selling natural resources, and welcoming Chinese workers to cope with the economic trouble caused by the stance of the West. Above it all the Chinese are so much friendlier to Kremlin, never reminding about Human rights, Freedom of speech, or requesting the liberation of political prisoners. What a stark contract with the West!

However the Chinese factor is not the only one, the other element is rapid spreading of Islam over Russian territory. In case the current trends stay in 20 year from now the country’s population will transform from predominantly Orthodox to Muslim. One more challenge for Europe, desperate to cope with radical Islam and home-grown terrorists.

In his inauguration speech Vladimir Putin compared Russia to Phoenix – magic Firebird, living rebirth. However even a very myopic observer could notice, that after each crisis Russian Firebird comes smaller in size, with further shrinking population. Would it come back as a Firebird after a quarter of a century of Putin‘s uninterrupted rule? Or will it be consumed by the Chinese Dragon? (The President himself has well prepared his children, who learned Chinese language at school:)

To conclude, the fourth inauguration of Vladimir Putin is a turning point, a clear choice for decline and Russia’s disintegration. Subsequently the EU needs to adjust its four road maps with Moscow, conducting its foreign policy having in view the upcoming Russia‘s ethnic, and religious change. Abyssus abyssum invocat! (One abuse leads to another).

Image: Siberia becoming a desert, while the forests are cut out in barbaric way, and sold to Chinese companies. Source: social media.

Siberian forest cut out

No new Russian envoy to new NATO headquarters

Russian decision to postpone  the appointment of a new ambassador to NATO announced today marks a new low in rapidly deteriorating relations between the East and the West, but even more it underlines Kremlin assertiveness, and claims of parity,  turning the page of a period when one could label Russia as a “regional power“.

However while looking at new splendid NATO headquarters in Brussels one wonders what it the purpose of the Alliance today? What’s the raison d’être? If it is the revival of the Cold War, what is its aim this time? The Communism has fallen, and there is no official state ideology in Russia to defeat. The authoritarianism, human rights and rule of law issues can hardly be targets of criticism, while NATO ally Turkey’s ‘Sultan’ Erdogan openly, and literally conducts purges against his political opponents, and wages a war against Kurds, describing it the ‘Olive Branch’ operation against Islamic State.

Meanwhile the radicals are not shy about showing faces in Afghanistan. After a decade of military campaign, NATO has withdrawn its troops in 2014 without any definite conclusion, but rapid and widespread rise of Taliban. Nowadays the Islamists are taking grounds, imposing unprecedented levels of violence, and there is hardly a week without news of terrorist attacks, and numerous victims among civilians. Unlike the time of the beginning of the US military mission Jawbreaker (2001)  against Osama Ben Laden in Tora Bora, the radicals are not hiding in the caves, they are claiming  power,  and constructing networks in real and virtual world, controlling two-thirds of Afghan  territory. The airstrikes in defeating the radicals do not help much, but turn against the Kabul and the West the entire population of the provinces for ‘collateral damages’.

However even the rapid progress of Taliban does not motivate NATO to start a coordinated action with Moscow, in spite of the obvious interest of both sides to defeat terrorism,  there are instead allegations of Russians ‘arming Taliban’.

“They say they wouldn’t mind if we gave them weapons, but they don’t need weapons. They say ‘give us money, we’re buying weapons from the stocks of the Afghan army and police’,” Ambassador Zamir Kabulov was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

Ambassador said  that in their talks with the Taliban, the group’s representatives said they buy all their weapons illegally from the Afghan government and police, and asked for financial support for that.

While the West argues with Russia, reducing diplomatic missions and expelling staff, the Taliban actively uses an opportunity to expand, and it will succeed until there is a comprehensive joint NATO-Russia strategy for counter-terrorism. However within the current political situation, the low tight in diplomatic relations does not provide with an effective response to the rapidly growing terrorist threat.

Moscow reacts with reserve on Washington sanctions

The signing of a law on tougher US sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran by President Trump does not change anything de facto in the current situation, the Russian President’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian TASS news agency.

“The very fact of signing the law doesn’t change anything,” he said when a reporter asked him about the impact of the sanctions and a possibility of retaliation from Russia.

“What kind of measures?” Peskov went on. “No new steps. Retaliatory measures have already been taken.”