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Foreign Policy

Pompeo Needs to Learn a Few Things

Oct 27, 2020
  • Ma Shikun

    Senior Journalist, the People’s Daily

On Oct.16, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that the United States had thrown diplomatic principles to the wind by publicly declaring that Russia should “help the U.S. contain China.” He dismissed this as a despicable and shameful move.

“We have no reason to abandon China in favor of the U.S. and will not be so foolish as to give up the existing Russian-Chinese consensus,” Lavrov said.

Russian experts commented that the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to form an alliance with Russia to counter China show his complete ignorance of the state of Russia’s relationship with both the U.S. and China. This hit the nail on the head.

Let’s talk about Russian-American relations:

The demise of the Soviet Union occurred in late l991. At that time, a considerable segment of the Russian people aspired to align with the West. The United States also wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to pull Russia into the democracy camp, so it sent political and economic experts to help Russia with its economic reforms and democratization.

Following the advice of American adviser Jeffrey Sachs, 35-year-old acting Prime Minister Yegor Timurovich Gaidar undertook a sort of shock therapy in a desperate attempt at privatization. One of the most important moves was the government’s free gift of state assets to everyone. At that time, the total assets of the Russian Federation amounted to 1.5 trillion rubles, and the population of the country was 150 million, each of whom received 10,000 rubles in privatized securities with which they were free to buy shares.

This was followed by a devaluation of the currency, and in October of that year, 10,000 rubles could only buy one pair of fine leather shoes. Numerous securities were sold at low prices, and a large number of enterprises fell into the hands of the privileged and the wealthy. Russia’s economy nearly collapsed. The $24 billion loan package and $6 billion ruble stabilization fund promised by the United States and other Western countries were nowhere to be seen.

The shock therapy ended in total failure. The Yeltsin government continued to pursue pro-Western policies, but the U.S. fell out of favor with many Russians, who felt that its practices did not suit Russia and that the Americans were untrustworthy and unreliable.

In December 1999, Yeltsin ceded the presidency to Vladimir Putin, from whom the world heard the pledge: “Give me 20 years, and you will not recognize Russia.” What followed was a head-on collision between American global domination and Russia’s dream of revitalization.

The world view of Russia and the United States, and their respective strategic concepts, are very different: Russia hopes to build a “post-Western world,” of which the United States is only a member, whereas the U.S. pursues hegemony. Russia advocates the maintenance of the existing international order and pursues multilateralism and is opposed to the United States constantly withdrawing from international treaties and organizations in violation of agreements, disrupting the balance.

Because of the great disparity in national strength between Russia and the United States, the bilateral relationship is characterized by containment and anti-containment as well as squeezing and anti-squeezing. In light of this, the countries’ contacts on trade, economy and various other areas are highly disproportionate to their status as great powers. For example, the volume of bilateral trade has hovered around $20 billion for years.

In the area of military security, Russia and the United States are each other’s main rivals. NATO is expanding its influence to the east, and its endless military drills approach Russia’s borders. Russia feels threatened by the increasing military spending of the United States, which is more than 10 times Russia’s, and by the proliferation of sophisticated weapons. Russia, on the other hand, has responded asymmetrically, constantly developing killer weapons such as supersonic missiles. The nuclear strategic game between the two countries has intensified.

With regard to the current state of Russian-American relations, Putin said in an interview in June that during the Trump presidency the U.S. had imposed or expanded sanctions on Russia 46 times and that the bilateral relationship “is becoming worse and worse.”

Now let’s talk about Russia-China relations. The two countries share a long border of 4,400 kilometers and maintain close contact. In recent years, the bilateral relationship has been warming.

In the fields of trade and economy, the two sides are complementary. Russia is a resource-rich power, with oil and natural gas reserves and production that places it among the world’s best. Russia had been the top oil exporter to China for many years until it was replaced by Saudi Arabia in 2019. But its oil exports to China remains at an average daily volume of 1.55 million barrels.

In 2014, China and Russia signed a 30-year contract worth more than $400 billion, with an annual supply of 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas to China. Russia’s large and stable supply of oil and gas is of great importance to China’s energy security. In 2015, Russia sold Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 anti-aircraft systems to China. China, in turn, exported industrial and household goods to Russia.

The two countries are both members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS. They are both advocates and active promoters of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative. And they engage in fruitful cooperation. The two countries share a high degree of common understanding of the international situation, the application of diplomatic strategies and the handling of current international hot-spot issues.

In June last year, China and Russia upgraded their relations to what China called a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership in the new era.” This was the first time China had used this term in its foreign relations to define state-to-state relations, demonstrating the solid political mutual trust and a higher level of strategic collaboration between China and Russia, as well as their mutual support and coordination on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns.

Russia has expressed its firm support for China’s handling of the Hong Kong and Xinjiang questions. It is opposed to foreign interference in China’s internal affairs, to the U.S. trade war against China and to the U.S. ban of TikTok in America. Russia has also expressed its willingness to carry out technical cooperation with Huawei and to strengthen cooperation with China in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and in vaccine research.

Strategic cooperation between China and Russia is also demonstrated by the high degree of consistency in their voting in the United Nations Security Council. In the past year or so, the two countries have worked together to repeatedly veto unhelpful U.S. proposals. These include the draft resolution on Venezuela submitted to the Security Council on March 1 last year and the U.S.-backed draft resolution on cross-border humanitarian relief in Syria on Dec. 22. The latter attempted to bypass the Syrian government and politicize humanitarian issues. In addition, on Sept. 14, China and Russia voted against the U.S. demand for the reinstatement of sanctions on Iran.

Friendly and cooperative China-Russia relations have a solid popular foundation. According to the results of a survey conducted by the Russian polling agency Levada Center, 70 to 78 percent of the Russian public has a positive opinion of China, compared with about 20 to 24 percent with a positive opinion of the United States.

The Russian government has repeatedly rebuffed the notion put foward by Pompeo and others that the U.S. should form an alliance with Russia to counter China. As far back as Dec.12, Lavrov said, “We will not degrade relations with China to please the Americans. ... President Putin has repeatedly stressed that there is no plan to establish a military alliance between Moscow and Beijing, but politically — in the maintenance of the polycentric system relating to international law and international relations — Russia and China are allies.”

As the proverb goes, “Greed can blind.” It is pure political greed that leads Pompeo ignore the reality of U.S.-Russia and China-Russia relations and continue his futile campaign to form an anti-China alliance.

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