The real winner on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wasn’t anywhere near the shooting or the negotiating table, argues Yale’s Timothy Snyder. The West may be cutting Russia off, but Beijing is still open for business. USNI News reports on Snyder’s recent presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies:
The reason is twofold: “Russia is a much weaker negotiator on [the price] of natural gas,” having recently completely a sales agreement with China to replace potential losses under sanctions in Western Europe, [Snyder] said. At the same time, China completed negotiations with Ukraine to lease about nine percent of its grain-producing lands to feed its own people. This Russian tilt toward China will have longer-term consequences.“In foreign policy, you like to have options of playing one side against the other,” as Russia did with the European Union and China — both economically stronger than Moscow, Snyder said.Russia moved closer to China and, “the tilt toward China is going to be a downhill slide” for Russian President Vladimir Putin that he or his successor will need to correct, Snyder said in answer to a question.
If you sound off the positions of the various players, China does appear to be sitting pretty: Russia faces stiff sanctions that will cause real economic pain in the medium and long terms, induce capital to flee to other shores, and isolate Moscow from much of the world. Europe and the U.S., for their parts, have responded haplessly to the first land war in Europe since WWII, and can now look forward to an emboldened Putin testing NATO’s resolve for years to come.But China is just as willing to do business with Russia as ever, except now it knows that Russia doesn’t have many other options when it comes to places to take its business. That’s a good card to have in hand when you are trying to make a major deal on, let’s say, energy.