Can Bharat Save Russia from the Chinese Kiss of Death?

Recently concluded five days visit on December 29th, 2023, of the external affairs minister Dr. S Jayashankar to Russia friend-sized the neglected bilateral relationship. Both optics and chemistry of the visit seemed to be good. He not only met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, but also the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov. There is more optimism now. Compliments were very effusive. President Putin chose to have a meeting with India’s EAM on a small and cozy round table and formally invited the Prime Minister Modi to visit Russia in 2024. Indian-Russian bilateral trade is growing and is expected to top $50 billion in 2023 because of energy purchases by Bharat despite western sanctions on Russia. Dr. Jayashankar said that New Delhi was keen to sign a bilateral investment treaty with Russia as well as a free trade agreement with the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Several bilateral agreements were signed. There is a talk of Bharat building more nuclear power units in the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu with Russian assistance. Russian also floated a proposal for joint weapons production in Bharat.

This rattled some Western rightwing political commentators like Isabel Oakeshott to write an opinion piece in The Telegraph demanding that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shelve any efforts to have a free trade agreement with Bharat. She decried that India is not a true democracy and their new friend is Russia! Her argument is that Modi is a best friend of Putin, a dictator. Using the same logic, perhaps, Margaret Thacher was the best friend with Pakistani dictator General Zia Ul-Haq! Isabel Oakeshott accuses Bharat of being more concerned about money than values. She does not realize that the US and UK supped with the worst dictators in the world. Both these countries condoned the Tiananmen Square brutal killing of democracy activists and students in China by the PLA. Where was the talk of values then, my dear? Where were the values of US and UK in 1971 when a genocide was being committed in Bangladesh by their blue-eyed boy Pakistan? The former USSR came to help Bharat during those trying times! The relationship between Russia and Bharat is not new. It is a time-tested relationship between the two nations and friendship between two peoples.

However, the reality is that Russia of 2024 is in deep trouble. It is a country with a declining population (144 million), a declining fertility rate (1.50) and a demoralized civilian population that is afflicted with alcoholism (2.61%) with one third of all deaths being caused by alcohol. Russia has a GDP of only $1.862 trillion in nominal terms. Russia was short of 4.8 million workers in 2023 and this shortage will persist in 2024. The thoughtless war in Ukraine is having a toll on the Russian society and will lead to further decline of Russia as a nation. Young Russians, like young Ukrainians, are dying in thousands.

Soviet Dis-Union, CIS and the CSTO:

After dissolution of the former Soviet Union, a nebulous arrangement called CIS-Commonwealth of Independent States was created. It was never a unified entity like the Soviet Union. There was a new security arrangement, CSTO (Collective Security Treaty organization) among six post-soviet states, replacing the old Warsaw Pact which was also dissolved. But the CIS and CSTO never had any influence in international affairs. While Bharat had good relations with the USSR, during the Yeltsin era, the relationship with Russian Federation nose-dived. Boris Yeltsin was a known alcoholic, and his sole aim was to continue to stay in power and find a successor who would not prosecute him for corruption. Yeltsin years witnessed not only the humiliation of Russia and other Slavic countries but also the nose-diving of time-tested relationship with Bharat. Yeltsin tolerated the US contrived forced break-up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Yeltsin did not utter a word during the Madeliene’s (Albright) war and bombing of civilians in Serbia for 78 days. Yeltsin wanted to ingratiate his western handlers and neglected relations with Bharat. Western sanctions on Bharat were supported by Yeltsin led Russia. Cryogenic engines were denied to Bharat under Western influence causing delay in the Agni missile program

Primakov Doctrine & the RIC Trilateral:

Former Russian Prime Minister and foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov in late 1990s had enunciated the Primakov doctrine. One of the pillars was creating a multipolar world. Primakov also visualized Russia, China, and India (RIC) trilateral working together to manage the sole hyperpower in a unipolar world. China was beholden to the US at that time and was lukewarm to the idea. However, after Chinese accession to the WTO in 2001, China started a predatory mercantile policy. Emboldened by the economic success, predatory mercantilism, and massive foreign exchange cash reserves, it became the votary of the RIC trilateral process. In the mid-2000s, China became a strong votary of the RIC trilateral with Russian acquiescence.

BRICS, SCO, Eurasian Union and beyond:

Both the BRICS and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) are China’s alternative geopolitical institutions to replace the US hegemony. Russia is a junior partner in both these groupings along with Bharat. China hijacked the Indian initiative of the New Development Bank (The BRICS Bank) and got it headquartered in Shanghai. Russian sponsored Eurasian economic union (EAEU) does not have the economic teeth and has not fulfilled the true potential. The EAEU has an integrated single market. As of 2023, it consists of only 183 million people and a GDP of over $2.4 trillion, much less than that of Bharat. Time has come for Russia to look beyond these mechanisms and embrace Bharat for an economic relationship.

Russia as a junior Partner of China in post-Ukraine war scenario:

Russia has, indeed, emerged as a junior partner of China in the post-Ukraine war era. While Chinese strongman Xi Jinping professes all weather relationship with Russia, he will not get involved directly in this war in Ukraine. Russia is heavily sanctioned and a pariah state as far as the West is concerned. China will facilitate Russia duking out US and NATO in Ukraine for an extended period, exhausting both the parties. That helps China to build up its military muscle eventually to take over Taiwan, Senkaku islands and all the islands and shoals in the South Champa Sea, West Philippines sea and the North Natuna sea. How convenient is that for the shrewd dragon! China is also learning from Russian mistakes in Ukraine and is not likely to start a hot conflict in Taiwan in the next couple of years.

Chinese intentions in Russian Far East and Siberia:

Chinese dragon’s appetite for land is voracious. It is seeking to Sinicize Russia’s Far East and the Siberian region which is distinct from the European landmass of Russia. The dragon’s lust for land is still not fulfilled with occupying Tibet and East Turkistan (Xinjiang). The same formula of demographic invasion of Russian Far East is in the offing presenting a fait accompli to Russia in 50 years’ time. Xi Jinping is leading Russia to a garden path of eventually becoming a vassal state of China.

What Russia should do?

Russia should ensure that the war with Ukraine is brought to a logical conclusion soon enough. It should not become a quagmire like Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that lasted more than a decade with disastrous consequences for the USSR. Putin should not become another political re-incarnation of Leonid Brezhnev. Russia also needs to give security guarantees to the Baltic republics that they would not be invaded in exchange for neutrality vis-à-vis NATO. Though Finland has been de-Finlandized, three Baltic Republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania should be Finlandized to bring some peace and stability in Russia’s European flanks.

Russia should again re-emerge as a responsible state in the comity of nations and not perceived as a war-mongering behemoth. The generic West (including US and NATO) does not understand that the real threat to world peace is from China, not Russia. Russia needs to distance herself from the rising hegemon China instead of taking short-term comfort from Chinese economic help. Russia should stop transfer of technology to China whether regarding nuclear ballistic missiles or SSBNs or fighter aircrafts.

Bharat as the savior:

Bharat is marching towards a $5 trillion economy that is three times the size of Russian economy. Bharat can play a role in bringing détente between Russia and the US on one hand and Russia and the EU on the other hand. The deep distrust between Europeans and Russians can be managed with the diplomatic efforts of Bharat in a new oligo-polar world.

Bharat can provide adequate human resources to Russia as there is shortage of workers in Russia. Russian factories need not be shut down in 2024 for shortage of skilled workers. Russia can build factories in Bharat because of the advantage of cheap labor. Bharat can assist Russia in providing more disciplined and law-abiding workers in the Russian Far East and Siberia instead of Russia welcoming Chinese immigrants in those regions. Bharat can also provide service personnel to Russia in computer sciences, information technology and other fields.

Fostering more people to people (P2P), business to business (B2B) and government to government (G2G) relations between Bharat and Russia will prevent Russia from inadvertently sliding into a fatal Chinese embrace. Bilateral trade between Russia and Bharat should be increased many folds and should go beyond energy and defense acquisition. Russia must import “Made in India” fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), durable goods, household appliances, mobile phones replace the Western brands thereby helping to balance the trade imbalance.

In essence Bharat has the fortitude and capability of saving Russia from the slow strangulation to death by the dragon. When will Russian bear realize this? When will the West remove blinkers from its eyes and acknowledge that the true enemy is Communist China, and not Russia?

Image (c)


More by :  Dr. A. Adityanjee

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