In February 2014, the XXII Winter Olympic Games took place in Sochi, Russia. Just a few days after completion, Moscow began the process to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine with its gigantic naval base in Sevastopol, facing the Black Sea.
A few years earlier, in 2008, when Beijing was hosting the Olympic Games in August of that year, the South Ossetian War broke out. The conflict between Russia and its separatist allies against Georgia ended with el dispossession of an important portion of the territory of that country and left Moscow in control of the secessionist region and of Abkhazia.
Temporary coincidences, perhaps, sports and those dramas.
But in these hours that the People’s Republic is once again the venue for some peculiar Winter Olympics, the ghost is hovering that these movements are repeated this time with Ukraine and the dreaded invasion. The US has rightly reiterated over and over again that this February was the date of the alleged Russian attack which, if it occurred, would crown the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Things, however, don’t seem to be going that way.. Russia has lately adopted with increasing resonance the narrative that invading Ukraine would be playing into the hands of its American adversary. Russian officials repeat the litany that “We are not going to invade or attack anyone.”
The Russian ambassador to the UN has proclaimed, like his colleagues in the Kremlin, that “it seems that the White House is looking forward to it.”
According to this assumption, the government of Joe Biden pressures Russia by sending soldiers to Eastern European countries or highlighting the possibility of Ukraine or Georgia joining NATO, so that Vladimir Putin slides into a military quagmireanother Afghanistan like the one that devoured the Soviet Union in the late ’80s.
Beijing in 2018. The Russian president reviews a guard of honor in front of the Great Hall of the People. AP Photo
This vision coincides with two significant aspects. The Russian interest in a diplomatic solution would be based on the safest alternative now of which would add an effective profit to your inventory.
Some of that is already beginning to take shape with the negotiations vigorously led by Frenchman Emmanuel Macron with the assistance of Germany, both concerned about the costs of the crisis due to Europe’s energy dependence on Russian oil and gas.
Just keep in mind that according to the EU statistics office (Eurostat), the Kremlin places up to 75% of its gas in Europe and a little less oil. Germany receives the largest torrent of natural gas with a 50% floor, above the 40% average in the bloc.
Next to the diplomatic exit but on the western side arises the other element that pulls towards a stop: the conviction that multiplying pressure on Russia entails the collateral cost of consolidate the already very strong alliance of that adversary with the other more feared and competitive one, Chinawhich seeks a place of global hegemony in the medium term.
This Friday at the opening of the Beijing Games, Putin and President Xi Jinping star in an image that would make many statesmen in recent American history bristle.
Russian is ehe chief guest of the Chinese regime to that competition that, under the pretext of the violations in Xinjiang, the US and some of its allies decided to boycott as part of the technological leadership battle that the White House is holding against the Asian giant, paradoxically one of its largest trading partners .
The greeting and the good chemistry exhibited by these two autocrats highlights a geopolitical format that rightly fills the most sophisticated analysts on this side of the world with doubts. The reflection point is How will Russia continue when the clash with China escalates? that he is the player that is obtaining the most profits from the conflict between Washington and Russia over Ukraine.
Expert Alexander Gabuev of the Asia Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center points out the obvious in a comment to the CNN. “The secret seasoning of the ever-closer ties of these powers has been their simultaneous confrontation with Washington.”
“For Russia (relations with the US) They have gone from bad to worse... and with China we have seen a consistent US policy to compete with the Chinese.”
The Russian missile ship Marshal Ustinov during exercises this month. AP Photo
Putin has paved the way for this rapprochement, lately with the jump to major binational military exercises and the multiplication of commercial, energy and space projects.
Among the most significant is the huge gas pipeline from 4,000 kilometers which will send the fluid from Siberia to southern China and the Russian MC-21 and Chinese C919 commercial aircraft plant with which both countries are getting ready to compete with Boeing and Airbus.
Of course, for Putin, all this development is carried out without losing sight of the risk that his country, with a very poorly diversified economy, ends up dissolving in the web of China, which exhibits a GDP ten times greater than its partner and with an extraordinarily superior growth dynamics.
The possible and necessary Russian de-escalation has grown as a possibility from some coincidences that have been forged in the negotiations with the US and that seek to supervise the Europeans to exercise some kind of control on both sidewalks.
A mistrust with foundations. Katrina vanden Heuvel editor of The Nation and veteran Russia specialist, argues that “Putin is under fire in Russia for failing to take the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine in 2014, when the Russian military could have intervened.”
“In Washington,” he adds, “Biden is under fire for not being tough enough. Hawks on both sides are peddling false historical lessons and analogies, assuming the other side will back down. His strategy is based on bragging and prayers”.
A few hours ago a European newspaper, interesting fact that origin, the prestigious The country of Madrid, revealed details of the written documentation that the US and NATO sent to Moscow to respond to their demands.
Those confidential papers with the fine print of the negotiations show the “American willingness to dialogue” as justified by the Pentagon when confirming the validity of the documents. But the objective fact is that they exhibit a openness to sensitive concessions Beneath the noise of belligerent declarations.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that it is the Europeans who reveal the existence of this back door to the conflict in order to ensure it. A novelty that Russia is also interested in transcending. It should also come as no surprise that Washington announced this week that it will stop “describing as imminent” a possible invasion of Russia.
The documents show that the western side maintains its firmness with respect to preserving the post-cold war pacts that Russia intends to rewrite, that of Paris in 1990 or the NATO-Russia of 1997 that advanced on the spoils of the USSR.
But at the same time, a “mutual reciprocal commitment on arms control” is proposed in the region and the acceptance of the US to discuss a complex device that Putin places at the top of his agenda: the principle of “indivisibility of security”.
That notion was approved in 2010, during a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, a key organization that associates 57 states from Asia to the Americas, including especially the US, the Europeans and the Russian Federation. That belonging is significant, it goes from one side of the world to the other in its commitments.
At the conference of that organization in Astana, Kazakhstan, that year, it was determined that “the security of each participating State is inseparably linked to that of all the others. Each participating State has the same right to security.”.
The following lines are particularly crucial: “Every state has the right to neutrality. Each participating State will respect the rights of all others in these areas. They will not enhance their security at the expense of other states.”
That provision certainly involves both parties, but it is the Russian argument to stop the militarization of Eastern Europe. What is interesting is Washington’s disposition, which cannot be seen in the documents that NATO simultaneously sent to Russia, to discuss the indivisibility of security –and our respective interpretation of this concept- as stated in article 1 of Russia’s bilateral work project”.
In other words, the document that the Kremlin delivered with the bases of a future legal agreement, a treaty, that preserves its security.
The document adds another central reciprocal commitment in these hours. The two sides “will refrain from deploying offensive ground-based missile systems and standing forces with a combat mission on the territory of Ukraine.”
Putin takes his time responding to those texts as he hugs Xi Jinping in Beijing. Everything is on the table But it is probable and even possible that this edition of the Olympic Games, unlike the previous ones, will not give way to another issue than the friendly dispute over sports trophies.
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