Alexander Jabev, 37, and the latest in exile from Russia, is not only the director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center opening in Berlin. He has been working in the Kremlin for more than a decade, in the short season Dmitry Medvedev represented the hope of the democratic reformers. He had current CIA Director Bill Burns as his boss at Carnegie. Above all, he is one of Russia’s leading experts on China.
The Chinese were interested to hear Lukashenko’s assessment of what Putin has in mind, because he knows it well. The relationship between the two is complex, but it has been going on for over twenty years and they have spent a lot of time together. Lukashenko really does have a sense of what Putin is up to. The Chinese were certainly interested in understanding what he thought and how determined he was, specifically how Xi would be able to negotiate in Moscow when he saw it.
Is China’s “peace plan” a bona fide attempt to end the Ukraine war?
Let’s take a step back: the outbreak of war took China by surprise. When the Americans began revealing Russia’s intentions to attack in November 2021, they also informed the Chinese about it. And the Chinese handed it over to the Russians, saying that the United States was trying to create divisions between them and Moscow. They thought Putin was too pragmatic to attack. Indeed, China was among the very few countries that did not withdraw six thousand of its citizens from Ukraine on the eve of the war. They didn’t believe it.
So now Xi will pressure Putin to negotiate peace?
• Everyone in Beijing today realizes that their influence on Russia is increasing. But Putin’s obsession with this war is almost religious and remains the deciding factor. The Chinese know that the future of Russia and its regime, and perhaps its survival, depends on the possibility of not losing the war. They also know that Putin does not abandon his extremist approach. Thus, despite their growing influence, the Chinese believed that they could not control Russia. But they also believe they have nothing to gain by allying themselves with the West in its isolation.
Do they think so because the collapse of the Putin regime is not favorable to Beijing?
“Exactly. If the regime loses the war and collapses, it is not impossible to form a pro-Western government in Moscow. So China’s defeat by Putin in Ukraine would be negative, at least for now. Viewed from Beijing, a Putin-like Russia is not a threat As if Russia is pro-Western.It is a source of advanced weapons and cheap raw materials.Beijing does not want to help Putin in the war effort because Xi remains neutral on the outcome of the war.But the Chinese do not want Russia to lose.
– They want Russia and the West to weaken in the quagmire of this war. There is nothing contrary to Chinese interests in this. If Beijing can keep the Russian regime afloat, it could have economic and geopolitical benefits. Chinese companies in Russia occupy the space left by Western companies, and Russia is increasingly considering China as its exclusive or primary market for gas and oil. Putin has become a kind of inferior partner to Xi.
You are talking about Russia’s “vassal” of China. With what logic?
Â “Since 1994, when China started importing many raw materials, China has never wanted to depend on a single country for more than 20% of its supplies. Now, thanks to Russia, more diversification in gas and oil. Since Moscow has no other choice, China can dictate terms on price and purchase commitments. The yuan is imposed on Russia as an international trade currency.
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