Saturday, October 9, 2010

Russia should look to the US as an Ally and get on our side

Russia needs to begin to think into the future.
Eighteen million Russians scattered across the India-size expanse of the Far East and Siberia face 250 million Chinese cramped across a common border in China’s northern provinces.

A radical Iran with Nukes is a direct problem for Russia. What are they thinking?

A Chinese 'Invasion'
Vladimir Radyuhin, The Hindu (centrist), Chennai, India, Sept. 23, 2003

A Chinese guard on the Chinese-Russian border in Suifenhe, China (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP-Getty Images).

Russia’s latest census has produced a bombshell result: Over the past decade, the Chinese have emerged as the fastest-growing ethnic minority in Russia. While official data of the October 2002 census will be published only next month, preliminary figures leaked to the press show that Russia’s Chinese population has grown from just over 5,000 in the late 1980s to 3.26 million today.

This makes the Chinese the fourth biggest ethnic group in this country after Russians (104.1 million), Tatars (7.2 million), and Ukrainians (5.1 million)—all indigenous inhabitants of Russia. More than three-fourths of Chinese immigrants have settled down in Siberia and the Far East.

The census results lend chilling reality to Russia’s age-old nightmare of a Chinese takeover of the Asian part of Russia. Eighteen million Russians scattered across the India-size expanse of the Far East and Siberia face 250 million Chinese cramped across a common border in China’s northern provinces. In the past the huge Chinese demographic pressure was contained by a tightly sealed barbed-wire border, but when the Soviet Union collapsed, the 4,300-kilometer Russian-Chinese border was thrown open to bilateral trade. Chinese traders poured in to sell clothes and other necessities to Russians struggling with a deep economic crisis. They took back to China Russian timber, scrap metal, ginseng roots, frogs, and jellyfish. New glittering towns have sprung up in recent years on the Chinese side of the border, thanks to the booming cross-border trade, while Russian border regions have remained stagnant.

Russia’s main Pacific port and naval base of Vladivostok, once closed to foreigners, today is bristling with Chinese markets, restaurants, and stores. The former mayor of Vladivostok, Viktor Cherepkov, estimates that Chinese businessmen control 30 to 40 percent of the economy in the Far East and 100 percent of its light industry. Russian officials concede that the region needs Chinese workers to compensate for a shrinking local population. “We face a bad shortage of manpower as Russians are leaving the Far East by the millions,” complains the presidential representative in the Far East, Konstantin Pulikovsky.

The problem is not confined to the Far East. Russia’s population is declining at a rate of close to a million people a year and may shrink by 30 percent from today’s 145 million to 101.9 million by the end of 2050, according to the State Statistics Committee. The country needs millions of foreign workers from the former Soviet republics to keep the economy ticking. However, in no other part of Russia has there been such a massive influx of migrants from such a powerful neighbor. Experts predict that the Chinese community in Russia will swell at least to 10 million by 2010. Interestingly, Beijing’s main condition for supporting Moscow’s bid to join the World Trade Organization is to give Chinese labor free access to the Russian market.

“The Chinese have used various ways to legalize their presence in Russia, including through mixed marriages, and gained economic footholds by acquiring considerable assets in a number of Russian regions,” said the head of Russia’s Federal Migration Service, Andrei Chernenko.

The Russians are particularly concerned over the emergence of compact Chinese settlements on Russian territory. “Foreigners who obtain residence status get the right to vote. It is easy to guess whom they will elect if they live in a compact ethnic community of 3,000 or 10,000,” the migration chief, Chernenko, said, describing such communities as a “ticking time bomb.”

The history of Chinese territorial claims to Russia feeds Russian fears of a demographic invasion. Former Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping are both on record as saying that Russians had taken too much territory and that Vladivostok and Khabarovsk by right should be Chinese. Chinese tribes had settled in the Far East long before the Russians came there. However, the region was never part of the Chinese empire, and when Russia established its control over the Far East in the mid-19th century, it signed a treaty with the Chinese emperor asserting Russian sovereignty over the region.

After two decades of “eternal friendship,” the two countries fought a short but bitter border battle in 1969, when Chinese troops occupied a Russian island on the Amur River and the Russians fired Grad multi-barrel missiles to wipe out the intruders. In 1997, Russia and China signed a border demarcation accord, which settled most of their border disputes except over three islands on the borderline rivers. As grueling negotiations over the disputed islands continue, the Chinese have been spotted trying to link their territory with the islands by dropping rocks into the river and sinking sand-filled barges in order to have more grounds for claiming the islands.

Two years ago, Russia and China concluded a 20-year political treaty that declared the two countries “friends forever, enemies never.” The treaty stated for the first time that the two sides had no territorial claims to each other’s land. Russia is the only country with which China has such a treaty, and this is a reflection of its foreign policy doctrine, which calls for “relying on the North (Russia), stabilizing the West (India), and concentrating on the East (Taiwan) and the South (Spratly Islands).” Russia also needs China as a geostrategic partner and a vast market for Russian weapons, commodities, and manufactured goods.

Yet Russians remain suspicious of China’s longer-term intentions. Chinese historians continue to denounce the current borders as unfair and imposed on China by Russia in the 19th century, and Chinese children are still being taught in school that Russia took away the Far East from China by force.

Even though China, like India, is officially rated as Russia’s “strategic partner,” it does not have unrestricted access to the top-of-the-line Russian weapons that India has.

While a Chinese military threat to Russia appears remote, Chinese demographic expansion is seen as a real danger. Russia has canceled visa-free travel for Chinese traders that was introduced to encourage border trade after the breakup of the Soviet Union and has imposed new restrictions on the Chinese trying to settle permanently in Russia. The Khabarovsk Territory governor, Viktor Ishayev, has banned granting citizenship to Chinese men who marry Russian women, even though foreigners have this option under federal legislation, while authorities in Russia’s easternmost Sakhalin Island have restored the Soviet-era border checkpoints to prevent illegal Chinese migrants from getting to the island from mainland Russia. However, these measures are ineffective, and demographers predict that the Chinese may become the dominant ethnic group in the region 20 to 30 years from now.

“The situation is not hopeless but very dangerous,” says the minister for economic development and foreign trade of the Khabarovsk Territory, Alexander Levental. “If things remain as they are and the regime for Chinese migrants is not tightened, several decades from now they will be in a position to vote in a referendum for acceding to China.”

Experts say it is not Chinese immigration as such, but deindustrialization and progressive depopulation that threaten Russia’s hold on Eastern Siberia and the Far East. “The matter isn’t one of someone causing a military threat to Russia in this region, though under certain circumstances this could happen,” says the well-known political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky. “The problem is that if current trends continue, these territories will drift away of their own accord first economically and then demographically....The main security issue today, and perhaps the key to Russia’s survival in the first half of the 21st century, is whether Russia can hold on to its territory in Siberia and the Far East.”

The thoughtless shock reforms of the past decade have hit the Far East worse than the rest of Russia and have all but cut it off from the industrial centers of European Russia. Only 10 percent of the region’s economic ties today are with other Russian regions, as sky-high rail and air tariffs have forced Russia’s eastern provinces to turn to China, Korea, and Japan for supplies. While elsewhere Russians drive left-hand-drive cars, in Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, and Irkutsk they have long switched to right-hand-drive Japanese cars.

There are indications that the federal government is finally awakening to the problem. It has drawn up a program of economic reconstruction of the region to be driven by the development of rich energy and mineral resources and the building of a rail transport corridor from Eastern Asia to Europe. The government is also trying hard to attract Japanese, American, and other foreign capital to the region. During a visit to the Far East last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged local authorities to do more to revive the economy.

“If people here do not regenerate their region and economy, they will all be speaking Chinese or some other Asian language,” Putin warned.

August 2, 2003 Saturday Jumadi-us-Sani 3, 1424
Russians fear Chinese ‘takeover’ of Far East regions

By Peter Baker

KHABAROVSK (Russia): In one stall of the teeming marketplace, Chinese merchants with chopsticks pick at plastic containers of noodles. Across the way, a gaggle of aging Chinese men hunch over their mah-jongg game. A loudspeaker blares out announcements in Chinese as other Chinese sellers collect wads of rubles for plastic sandals, compact disc players and leopard-print bikinis.

Outside the market’s entrance sits a different group of men who are playing cards and grousing. They are Russians working as gypsy cab drivers — men who once had it better. There is a former engineer, a former teacher and several former military men.

Look at that Chinese with the fancy foreign car, grumbles one, who gives his name only as Sergei. “They’ll take over and invade our country without weapons. Eventually, they will kill us.”

The tense divide between Russia and China is on display every day at the market here in Khabarovsk, the Russian Far East’s capital, which overlooks the picturesque Amur River that for much of its course separates the two giant powers. The “River Love,” as one author called it, in fact bisects a region of hate — or at least suspicion, envy and fear.

The Chinese have been slipping across the border for the last many years. At first, they were a welcome flow of low-wage migrant workers willing to do the menial construction and farming jobs that did not interest Russians in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse. But as the years wore on, the Chinese began putting down roots here and starting their own businesses. The Russians who once hired them now often find themselves as employees.

Today, according to regional experts, at least 200,000 Chinese live in Russia’s Far East, a region roughly 5,000 miles from Moscow, and many more stay for long stretches of time. They have helped transform the towns along the border in their own image. In Nakhodka, on the Pacific coast, a shopping center built to resemble the Great Wall beckons customers. The Chinese who have settled in Vladivostok, once closed to foreigners as home to the Soviet fleet, have taken to calling the city by its old Chinese name, Haishenwei.

Here in Khabarovsk, nine Chinese restaurants, two Chinese hotels and 300 other Chinese businesses have opened, while ferryboats carry shuttle traders with packs of cheap Chinese consumer goods each day to and from Fuyuan, on the other side of the border.

The demographic arithmetic helps explain the tension. On the Russian side of the border is vast, empty space, rich with natural resources and occupied by a dwindling population of 7 million Russians. On the Chinese side is a bursting-at-the-seams society desperate for breathing space and raw materials to feed its modernizing economy. About 77 million Chinese live in three provinces that border their northern neighbour.

“Nature doesn’t tolerate emptiness,” said Sergei Drozdov, head of passport and visa services in Khabarovsk. “When there’s a full bottle there and it’s empty here, at some point the bottle will burst and spill over to here.”

President Vladimir Putin warned a couple of years ago that if Russians in the Far East did not do more to regenerate their region and economy, they would all be speaking Chinese or some other Asian language. Local officials decry Chinese men marrying Russian women. Some locals suspect the Chinese of poisoning Russian rivers.

“When things don’t work, they all scream, ‘The wolves are coming, the wolves are coming’ — and the wolves are Chinese,” said Chen Gopin, the Chinese consul general in Khabarovsk. “This isn’t even hidden anymore. They all talk about the Chinese expansion.” For the record, he disavowed any aspirations of a Chinese takeover of the Far East as “nonsense.”

Li Tianzeng, 22, who arrived two years ago, complained: “They don’t want to be friends. Why should they be afraid?”

In the face of often open hostility, Chinese as well as the Japanese and South Koreans living here largely stick to themselves. While virtually everyone drives a right-hand-drive Japanese car in the Russian Far East, the streets have fewer Asian faces on them than, say, San Francisco or Seattle. Even on one recent night, when a Japanese bank put on a fireworks display along the riverfront to celebrate the opening of its first branch in Khabarovsk, the crowd was predominantly Russian.

Russians have seen their trade grow with China — exports to China from Khabarovsk alone increased from $82.4 million in 1997 to $628 million last year, according to an official. Yet because the Russian exports consist largely of timber, oil and other raw materials, many Russians fear the Chinese are simply stripping the Russian side of natural resources.

Russians here grow particularly sour as they look across the river and see rapidly developing Chinese cities with gleaming new buildings, radiating the wealth that some Russians are certain China has been stealing from them.

“In the past, Chinese were considered cheap labour and Russian employers tried to get as many of them as they could,” said Alexei Mortsev, 30. Mortsev is a former Russian navy sailor from Fokina, a city between Vladivostok and Nakhodka where submarines were built and that is still closed to outsiders. “Now the Russians are cheaper labour. Russians aren’t owners anymore.”

Lyudmila, 65, a retired teacher, groused about the Chinese as she lugged a couple of sacks of Chinese goods out of the market here. “They’re behaving as masters of the land,” she said. Lyudmila said she was convinced that Khabarovsk’s days as a Russian city were numbered. “Why did we warm up the place for them? They’re building their economy on us.”

And the men who work as gypsy cab drivers continue with their card games and sullen grievances. Slava, who spent 20 years in the Soviet navy and who, like the others, would not give a last name, said it was time to take action. “They have to be kicked out because Russian Ivans should work this land,” he said. If not, he added, “soon we’re going to be refugees.”

Russia and China have a long history of tension along their 2,200-mile border. In the mid-19th century, after hundreds of years of expansion and conflict, Russia secured much of the Far East by treaty with the Chinese emperor and claimed control of the port city of Vladivostok in 1860 as a bulwark against China. In the 1930s, during Joseph Stalin’s rule of terror, the Russians forced out many of the Chinese who had been living alongside Russians for decades.

For a time following the Communist takeover in China in 1949, the two powers enjoyed a closer relationship. But they fell out in the 1960s and fought border clashes. Barbed wire fences went up along the border and Russian guards would smooth out the ground so they would see footprints of intruding Chinese.

Russians have long expressed worry about Chinese designs on their land. Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping were both quoted as saying that the Russians took too much territory more than a century ago. Mao reportedly even said Vladivostok and Khabarovsk by right should be Chinese.—
HANOI, Jul. 18, 2010 (Kyodo News International) -- Foreign ministers from 27 countries will discuss ways to promote confidence-building at an annual Asian regional security forum here from Tuesday amid China's rapid military-building that has raised the concern of neighboring countries and sparked an arms race in the region.

The ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other major powers, including the United States, Japan, China and Russia are gathering in the capital of Vietnam for the ASEAN Regional Forum.

The buildup, meant to protect its growing economic clout, has been one of the main factors prompting China's economically dynamic Southeast Asian neighbors to sharply raise their defense spending and modernize their ageing military equipment in recent years.

''China's military has been developing quite fast in the past few years, especially its naval power,'' said Huang Jing, a scholar on the Chinese military at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

''It has already affected Southeast Asian countries. China is now an engine for the entire region, which has become more integrated with China's economy. However, in terms of security and military, the Southeast Asian countries are trying to hedge against China,'' he said.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's Arms Transfers Database, arms deliveries to Southeast Asia nearly doubled from 2005 to 2009 compared to the five preceding years, with weapons deliveries to Malaysia jumping by 722 percent, Singapore by 146 percent and Indonesia by 84 percent.

Singapore was the fourth-largest buyer of weapons in Asia during the period after China, India and South Korea. The wealthy but small city-state's recent arms purchases included eight F-15E combat aircraft with advanced air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles from the United States, two La Fayette frigates from France and 40 tanks from Germany. Last year, Malaysia acquired combat aircraft with advanced missiles from Russia, its first submarines from France and Spain, frigates from Germany and tanks from Poland.

China already has the most powerful military in the region, Huang said. ''If you take out the United States and Russia, nobody can overtake China in terms of military power in the region,'' he said. ''Ten years ago, there was a 40-year gap between the military capability of China and that of the U.S., now that gap has been shortened to 15 years.''

The Chinese navy, which used to be very backward in the mid-1990s, lagging behind the United States or Japanese navy by least 40 years, is already on the verge of operating across the deep waters of open oceans. ''Right now China already has navy that can go into blue water,'' Huang said.

China last year made the unprecedented move of sending its naval fleet on its first escort mission against pirates in the waters of the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. And in an apparent sign that the country is intent on securing its maritime interests and projecting force in the region and beyond, the Chinese military is building a naval base on Hainan, an island in the South China Sea, for nuclear submarines capable of firing ballistic missiles.

It started to build up its military vigorously after the Taiwan crisis in the mid-1990s, when China test-fired missiles over the island that it regards as a renegade province. Today, China's military is strong enough to extend its tentacles beyond Taiwan.

In March this year, the Chinese government officially conveyed a new state policy to the United States, saying that it considers the South China Sea as part of its ''core interests'' that concern China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. By adding the South China Sea to its core interests, China has made clear its determination to secure maritime interests in strategic waters that connect Northeast Asia and the Indian Sea and are a source of territorial disputes between China and other countries in the region.

In recent years, China has asserted that its military will not only defend Chinese territorial boundaries but also China's national interest. This adds a sense of uncertainty to other countries in the region as China's economic interests could reach as far as the Straits of Malacca, Africa and the Middle East.

Several ASEAN countries, notably Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei, have a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, particularly over the resource-rich Spratly islands.

As part of confidence-building efforts, ASEAN has been working to elevate a 2002 declaration signed with China on the South China Sea into a ''Regional Code of Conduct,'' but it has not been an easy task to get China to agree to it. So far they have agreed on several joint cooperation projects but there are still disagreements on even the guidelines to get the projects going. For example, China is against any mention in the guideline that ASEAN members will get together first before meeting China, because China does not want to multilateralize an issue that it regards as bilateral.

Li Mingjiang, assistant professor on China and East Asian security at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said, ''A lot of people in China are worried about safety of navigation in the Malacca Straits, a possible scenario is the U.S. using forceful means to block the Malacca Straits and prevent the supply of Chinese oil and gas and other commercial goods from passing through the Malacca Straits.''

The problem with China is that it does not have a clearly defined national or regional defense strategy due to its breakneck economic growth in recent years that has outstripped its traditional defense strategy.

In the past, China's defense strategy had been pointed toward cracking down on internal stability and preventing Taiwanese independence moves. ''But now, Chinese military force has gone beyond all that, China now has military capability,'' Huang said.

Iran’s Help in Training the Taliban; Whither Putin’s Russia?
March 2010

Today’s London’s Sunday Times shed light on even more damning evidence of Iranian involvement with the Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The article says, in part:

TALIBAN commanders have revealed that hundreds of insurgents have been trained in Iran to kill Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The commanders said they had learnt to mount complex ambushes and lay improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have been responsible for most of the deaths of British troops in Helmand province.

The accounts of two commanders, in interviews with The Sunday Times, are the first descriptions of training of the Taliban in Iran.

The article goes on to discuss why Shia Iran has come to the aid of the Sunni Taliban. It should come as no surprise, but to many, it will.

A couple of questions for Mister Putin in Russia: Is this the same Iran for whom you will be launching the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor? Have the Iranians agreed suddenly to IAEA inspections of the Bushehr site? If so, why have you not announced that to the West?

Here is a suggestion. Let us not harbor delusions about either regime, Iran or Russia, as we seem desperate to do with China.

Iran is a fiercely anti-Western Islamic theocracy bent on the destruction of Israel and subjugation of the non-Muslim world. They are seeking nuclear weapons, for sale to Non-State Actors (who would not hesitate to use those weapons in Amsterdam or Los Angeles), and for their own use, atop missiles that can range Tel Aviv and beyond. Iran’s assistance to the Taliban (as well as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda) is part and parcel of such an anti-Western policy.

Russia, ruled by neo-Stalinist Putin, is actively helping Iran with its nuclear efforts. Putin is deliberately frustrating US aims at sanctions against Iran, and is well aware of Iran’s activities in Gaza and Afghanistan. Russia is not an American ally, nor a partner, except in those rare instances when doing so (or appearing to do so) gains Russia an advantage. Russia is a rival and an adversary, and a dangerous one. Even without the military might she once had (and is anxious to rebuild at first opportunity), Russia has the economic and technological weapons to be that dangerous adversary, and uses them at every opportunity.

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