• Chinese-Russian Relations Enter Cyberspace

    Posted by: Misha Glenny October 24, 2014

    The biggest winner to emerge from the nasty and damaging conflict in eastern Ukraine is not even a player in the game. China is sitting quietly and watching where the crisis is taking the more engaged participants. In the process, Beijing has been able to leverage the economic difficulties that Western sanctions have created for Russia by offering Moscow new, if less lucrative, markets for Russian energy products.

    Unless the Ukraine conflict is resolved and relations between the West and Russia improve, such Sino-Russian cooperation could become a more permanent feature. That would have severe unexpected consequences.

    China is not entirely indifferent to the dynamics of the Ukraine crisis. Indeed, Chinese President Xi Jinping faces a dilemma in trying to decide which side in the conflict represents the lesser of two evils.

    The Chinese Communist Party leadership has a record of abhorring separatism in most forms because of concerns regarding China’s own Tibetan and Uighur independence movements. From this perspective, Chinese leaders may be expected to frown on the actions of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

    Yet to the Beijing leadership, Ukraine’s Euromaidan antigovernment movement, which led to the collapse of Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency in February 2014, must look suspiciously like the Tiananmen Square protests of June 1989—not to mention the dramatic demonstrations that have recently shaken Hong Kong.

    For #China, #Euromaidan is more dangerous than the pro-Russian rebels.
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    On balance, the dangers of the pro-European protests trump the concerns raised by the pro-Russian rebels. The original sin, as far as China is concerned, was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the failure of Communist parties there and in Eastern Europe to prevent the uncontrolled shift from a planned to a market economy.

    The introduction of capitalism in China has, of course, been much more carefully managed. From that perspective, Russian President Vladimir Putin is very much a man with whom the Chinese can do business, as his public assessment of the 1989–1991 period pretty much squares with Beijing’s.

    And Putin needs to do business with the Chinese if the latest horror stories dominating the Western media about a collapsing ruble, dwindling investment, and tumbling oil prices are true.

    But Putin is playing the long game. He knows the West faces immense difficulty in formulating a coherent policy with regard to Ukraine. Putin’s Russia is not a pushover like Slobodan Milošević’s Serbia appeared to be in the 1990s. Russia is a well-armed nuclear power, which means that any development resembling a move toward hostilities will have the most profound implications.

    Putin also knows that some Eastern Europeans, like the Hungarians and the Serbs, are as attracted to the apparent certainties of Russia (not to mention its energy) almost as much as they are to the benefits conferred by EU membership. Putin further realizes that an influential part of the West’s energy sector is nervous about losing Russia as a partner.

    Above all, he appreciates what the West seems not yet to have grasped but will need to at some point: that Ukraine’s economic and political problems are going to be almost impossible to solve without Russian cooperation.

    While the West and Russia play chicken over #Ukraine, Putin is deepening relations with China.
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    And so while the West and Russia play a game of chicken over who will buckle first regarding sanctions and the destabilization of eastern Ukraine, Putin is deepening relations with China. The most spectacular example of this was the $400 billion thirty-year deal that Moscow and Beijing signed in May for Russia to supply its southeastern neighbor with natural gas.

    Now, Russia and China are talking about enhanced cooperation in cyberspace—the development of a joint set of rules governing the two countries’ approach to cybersecurity, cybercrime, and, of course, what their citizens can and cannot do on the Web. Such a deal is just one of several agreements that the two sides intend to sign when Putin visits Beijing in mid-November.

    The deepening cooperation between Moscow and Beijing with regard to the Internet is important. The revelations published by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden inflicted immense damage on the United States. The leaks led many other governments, even ones friendly with Washington, to question the immense influence that U.S. institutions exercise over the technical and political administration of the Internet.

    China and Russia are striking out on their own to project a vision of the Internet that is increasingly attractive to fellow BRICS countries and to other emerging economies. There are some indications that India and Brazil, important and growing cyberpowers, prefer the Sino-Russian Web strategy to the U.S. approach.

    Steps toward global Web governance are disappearing like footprints in the snow.
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    Until the Ukraine crisis, the United States and Russia had been edging toward a long-term understanding on what Internet governance across borders might look like. The two sides signed a deal on confidence-building measures, and there was some hope that China and Europe may have engaged in further conversations. These talks were critical in attempting to dampen the extraordinary levels of crime and espionage for which the Internet is now responsible.

    But such tentative steps toward a global governance of the Internet are now disappearing like footprints making way for a fresh, hard snowfall. If the Ukraine crisis remains unresolved and relations between Russia and the West worsen further, the implications will be grim in several unexpected areas. Among the most damaging effects of this trajectory could be the emergence of a solid Sino-Russian bloc on the Internet.


  • Whatever Happened to the End of History?

    Posted by: Roderick Parkes Thursday, October 23, 2014 2

    Tensions in eastern Ukraine do not mark the start of a new cold war. But they may be the prelude to a global conflict that is deeper, wider, and colder still.

  • Judy Asks: Will Elections Help or Hinder Ukraine?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, October 22, 2014 1

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Four Reasons Why European Foreign Policy Sleeps

    Posted by: Jan Techau Tuesday, October 21, 2014 1

    Despite a range of challenges and threats, EU member states show little sign of developing a robust, unified foreign policy anytime soon. Four major weaknesses are to blame.

  • Can Merkel Deal With Putin’s Myths?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, October 20, 2014 2

    Vladimir Putin is perpetuating a number of illusions about Russia and Ukraine. As long as that continues, it is hard to see how relations with the West can be restored.

  • Understanding Turkey’s Take on the Islamic State

    Posted by: Marc Pierini Friday, October 17, 2014 5

    Ankara should acknowledge that political realities and threats in the Middle East are changing fast. And the West should support a change in Turkish policy.

  • Full Circle in the Middle East?

    Posted by: Richard Youngs Thursday, October 16, 2014 1

    To address the root causes of chaos and disorder in the Middle East, the EU needs to develop a two-pronged approach that focuses on both security and political reform.

  • Judy Asks: Should Europe Pay to Rebuild Gaza?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, October 15, 2014 2

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Notes From a Visit to Moscow

    Posted by: Ulrich Speck Tuesday, October 14, 2014 2

    The EU and Russia are increasingly at odds with each other. The two worlds are drifting farther apart.

  • The EU’s Wavering Over Russia

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, October 13, 2014 3

    By delegating its responsibility, the EU is playing an ambiguous role in the Ukraine crisis. The only country to benefit from that ambiguity will be Russia.

  • Kobanê and Beyond: Unfathomable Risks for Turkey and the Kurds

    Posted by: Marc Pierini Friday, October 10, 2014 3

    If Islamic State militants were to gain control of Syrian Kurdish areas, it would trigger a political earthquake among the Kurdish communities of Turkey and Western Europe.

  • Sanctions and the OSCE’s Mission in Ukraine

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Thursday, October 09, 2014 1

    The ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine appears to be holding. Could that be enough for the EU to ease sanctions against Russia?

  • Judy Asks: Is TTIP Really a Strategic Issue?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, October 08, 2014 1

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Welcome to the Bubble, Mrs. Mogherini

    Posted by: Jan Techau Tuesday, October 07, 2014 1

    The EU machinery suffers from a culture of nonexecutive nonchalance. That may well be the biggest stumbling block for the union’s incoming foreign policy supremo.

  • The West Is Losing Russia

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, October 06, 2014 8

    Russia is drifting away from the West, with dangerous consequences for both. Europe can salvage some of the relationship by keeping the door open to cultural and academic exchanges.

  • Parliamentary Elections Will Deepen Divisions in Ukraine

    Posted by: Gwendolyn Sasse Friday, October 03, 2014 2

    Ukraine’s forthcoming parliamentary election is essential for rebuilding the country, but its short-term effect will be to entrench existing divisions between east and west.

  • Germany’s Grounded Planes and Soldiers

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Thursday, October 02, 2014 8

    Germany’s armed forces are so badly equipped that they would be unable to support another NATO mission. This is bad news for Germany and for the EU’s foreign policy ambitions.

  • Judy Asks: Is Renzi’s Italy Back in the EU Game?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, October 01, 2014 1

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • A Battle Plan for NATO’s New Secretary General

    Posted by: Jan Techau Tuesday, September 30, 2014 3

    NATO’s new boss, Jens Stoltenberg, enters office at a crucial time of strategic positioning for the alliance. He has a number of difficult tasks ahead of him.

  • NATO Stays Far Away From the Islamic State

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, September 29, 2014 1

    NATO has been almost completely absent in the debate about how to deal with the Islamic State. That is down to a number of fundamental differences among members of the alliance.


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