Russia Looks East for Support; Finds Little Encouragement
Russia turned to its fellow members in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (formed to build relations between China and former Soviet republics) for backing in its actions against Georgia and specifically in its recognition of the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.The member states of the SCO are Russia, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. States with “observer” status are India, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia. (Bloomberg) Eurasia.Net predicted that Russia would find “succor” in the East. Didn’t quite go that way. Condemned by its fellow G8 members (BBC 8-27-08) and looking for support from its fellow SCO members, Medvedev seems to have met mainly with shrugs.
Foreign policy is most definitely not my field, but that seemed like sort of a no-brainer to me.
[T]he Shanghai organization….took a neutral stance, urging Russia and Georgia to resolve their differences peacefully.
“The S.C.O. states express grave concern in connection with the recent tensions around the South Ossetia issue and urge the sides to solve existing problems peacefully, through dialogue, and to make efforts facilitating reconciliation and talks,” the summit meeting’s final joint declaration said. (NYT)
This issue is one on which China in particular feels very strongly.
Beijing’s foreign policy continues to emphasize the inviolable sovereignty of nation states, and the country often condemns American overseas military actions. On Wednesday, China expressed “concern” over Russia’s actions in Georgia, which Russia had argued were essential to preventing Georgian aggression against South Ossetia….
In the tug of war between Russia’s desire to secure international backing and China’s fear of encouraging any separatist movements, the Chinese position apparently won out. Beijing is concerned not only about Xinjiang but also about an independence movement in Taiwan, which it claims as a renegade province, and the claims for greater autonomy in Tibet.
“Even if it is eager to support Russia in its conflict with the West — and this is not clear — China is not eager to somehow put at risk its own problems with succession and regions,” Mr. Petrov [Nikolay Petrov, an expert in Russian politics with the Carnegie Moscow Center] said. (NYT)
It seems highly unlikely, even to this ignorant layperson, that China would want to appear to encourage secessionism.
“China’s reaction to this dispute has been very muted because we’re also very aware of the secessionism in Xinjiang, Tibet, and the Central Asian countries also have the same worries,” said Zhu Feng, a security expert at Peking University’s School of International Studies.
The Shanghai organization has condemned an attempt by Taiwan to seek greater international recognition and unrest in Tibet. (Bloomberg)
At Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Robert Farley comments:
[T]erritorial integrity is a value that Russia really shouldn’t have expected China to have a sense of humor about. In every international forum worth the name, China has fought for the supremacy of territorial sovereignty over the right of self-determination, and Russia is invoking the latter in defending its actions in South Ossetia.
And there’s also this:
China is now far more deeply integrated in the international economy than Russia, and one consequence of that integration is that China has little interest in rocking the boat for its own sake. (Lawyers, Guns, and Money)
As for the former Soviet Republics, they have their own concerns.
[T]he Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan fall within what Moscow considers its sphere of influence, and all seem to accept Russian hegemony to a certain degree, they nevertheless strive to limit Moscow’s reach and preserve their own independence of action.(NYT)
It’s true that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a staunch ally of Russia, “said he viewed Russia’s actions in Georgia with “understanding.” Russia “either had to just walk past or stop the bloodshed of that long-suffering people,” he said.” (Bloomberg)
And it would seem easy enough to have predicted Iran’s response:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declined to say whether his country supported R