Olympic Diplomacy & Ukraine Crisis: The US Cornered?

N. P. Upadhyaya
Kathmandu: It would be appropriate and timely to begin this article from what the Statesman of international repute and the British Prime Minister Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill had once talked of Russia.

He had said, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside and enigma”.

The use of the word mystery and enigma by the British Prime Minister Churchill appears more than correct which is what is unfolding now.

Enigma and mystery? Yes this is what he talked of Russia.

The present “intimacy” of Russia with China is what has been puzzling the entire world more so to the former lone Super Power-the United States of America.

Russia was puzzling then at time of Sir Churchill.

But why has the Russian and the Chinese intimacy increased over these years? Has it some internal political reasoning? Or the Russians have had to come closer to the Chinese only because of some of the erratic foreign policies acquired by the US?

Is the US at fault or the Russians who have had to inch closer to the Chinese to thwart the “designs” of the USA?

What are the US designs then?

Is it that the US in effect has a strategy against the Chinese and the Russians combined?

Isn’t it that all the three powers should replace confrontation with reconciliation or at least settle for a healthy competition in order to ensure global peace?

We shall discuss the story in details.

Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers write for the New York Times dated February 4, 2022 that “China’s leader Xi Jinping, opened an Olympic Games on Friday intended to celebrate the country’s increasingly assured global status standing defiantly with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in an increasingly ideological contest with the United States and its allies”.

A close analysis of what the NYT contributors talk of the US, China and Russia, the picture becomes more than clear that these three countries are at serious odds and that-what could also be inferred-the US and its NATO allies will have to face both Russia and China in a combined manner in the days ahead.

This tantamount(s) to direct confrontation or at best both the “opposing” poles have settled their camps for now: if the US and its allies are together in one camp then China, Russia and a host of other “fringe” countries too were in the other camp.

The fresh one-to-one meet of the Chinese President with Russian macho man Putin in Beijing on February 4, 2022, will certainly go a long way not only in cementing their ties giving the new friendship a new height in order to influence the global politics supposedly dominated by the United States, but this Beijing meet also is sure to benefit by default the far flung South Asia’s emerging power Pakistan much as it is this country that enjoys cordial ties with these emerging powers but also is in the good book of the US which is Pakistan’s former Cold War time ally.

The Pakistani choice?

Pakistan is close to both the “poles” but yet some intelligent political commentators opine that Pakistan may forge intimate ties with the camp led by Russia and China if it benefits the South Asian nation-the rival of India.

A section of the Pakistani leadership, including media and intellectuals conclude that the US used and over used Pakistan at time of the Cold War but dumped the South Asian nation when the Cold war era ended with the abrupt collapse of the USSR.

This could be Pakistani version on its former ally, however, the US appears still more than interested in having intimate ties with Pakistan.

Here again, Pakistan rebukes the US presumption or avowal that it likes or prefers to continue to love and honor Pakistan at par what existed in the Cold War days.

But Pakistan feels scratchy in digesting the USs reiteration in that the selection of Indian establishment by the US in the Security Dialogue QUAD that comprises of the United States, Australia, Japan and India, in many more ways than one disturbs the peace of mind of Pakistan-the emerging regional power.

The Pakistani standpoint can’t be dismissed simply because after the end of the Cold War, the US must not have pushed Pakistan to the wall by abruptly bringing in the South Asia’s regional hooligan and the recognized expansionist India in its friendly “Orbit”.

India easily changed the camp from the USSR to the USA and the latter knowing that India was with the other competing pole but yet invited India to its camp ignoring its longtime ally Pakistan.

Thus in international politics, if nations concentrate their minds in getting served their “national interests” even if it allows the changing of the camps then , toeing the same India line, Pakistan too has the liberty in joining the strong and friendly hands of the Russian federation-the heir apparent of the former USSR ( Union of Soviet Socialist Republic).

The news that PM Khan is likely to visit Russia and Putin to Islamabad does tell that “new equations” are in the making.

That Russia has already inched closer to China gets reflected in Russian President Putin’s op-ed article published in the Xinhua News Agency close on the heels of his visit to Beijing to attend the Winter Olympics wherein he says, “Russia is opposed to the politicization” of the sporting events which could be taken as an indirect message to the countries which boycotted the Beijing Olympics.

A subtle message is here from Vladimir Putin to the developed West.

Putin further wrote, “Our countries play an important (role) in stabilizing today’s challenging international environment, promoting greater democracy in the system of international relations to make it more equitable and inclusive”.

Putin’s implied message to the US and its allies is that “China and Russia in a combined manner henceforth shall work to shape the international politics and to maintain power balance contrary to what the US and its NATO allies have schemes in their minds.

Needless to say, the current “increased intimacy” of China and Russia is guided by their respective considerations keeping in mind the issues of Ukraine and the other surely is Taiwan.

If on the one hand Russia needs “ China’s” active support on the issue of Ukraine to challenge the combined challenges being posed by the US and its allies then , China on the other certainly requires the prompt and visible support of the Russian federation on the issue of Taiwan.

If the US and the developed West take Taiwan as an Independent nation then China considers the same as its alienable part.

It is here the West and China confront each other plus the West also takes the Human Rights violation issues by China on the Uighur Muslim issues.

China says the US should not have any reservation on the internal matters of China.

Thus the confrontation is on an increase even after the advent of the presumed liberal President Joe Biden in the US who was expected to take China as a competitor and prefer conciliation over confrontation but it is not the case with what had been presumed.

So will it be appropriate to take the present China-Russia excessive hobnob at the Beijing Winter Olympics to have obliged the Russians and the Chinese to forge a strong alliance of the sort which apparently has taken a shape already.

The countries which attended the Beijing Winter Olympics did so at the risk of deteriorating their ties with the US and its allies.

More so the presence of Saudi Arabia in the Olympic Games does tell that the SA too prefers now to keep a distance with the US under President Joe Biden.

If Saudi Arabia is missing in the “boycott” then it is the State of Qatar which has jumped closer to the US.

To recall, the Saudi Arabian rulers have had imposed an economic blockade on Qatar in the recent past so Qatar inched closer to the US.

With Biden’s initial announcement that it is not with the Saudi Arabia for some political reasons then the latter had no option other than to inch closer to the Russia-China camp for its own national interests.

Likewise, the State of Qatar found it opportune to cash in upon from the current “bitterness” of the US and SA and thus took a quantum jump and sided with the US.

Qatar has ordered 55 Boeing Jets from the US Company for its commercial use.

International equations keep on changing and the changes are made keeping its national interests supreme.

In all, the two equaling ‘camps’ have already become clear.

The one is led by the US and its allies and the other by Russia-China combine.

Says Jens Stoltenberg on increasing China-Russia friendship that “China and Russia work so closely together that NATO doesn’t consider “them” as two “separate” threats.

This adds to the supposition that Russia and China are in the same page on most global issues and were ready to “confront” the US and its ally’s challenges as and when it comes.

The five Presidents of the Central Asian nations who had attended the Bejing Olympics too perhaps would now prefer to join the R-C camps.

The Russia-China camp is swelling.

Back in South Asia:

Perhaps realizing accurately, the Indian leader Rajiv Gandhi very freshly accused PM Modi that Modi’s wrong foreign policy steps obliged Pakistan to come close to China and vice versa.

That it was Modi who had forced China and Pakistan to come closer due to wrong foreign policy steps, held Gandhi.

This too has meaning as PM Khan has just visited Beijing and met President Xi.

Writes veteran political analyst Ashok Swain, the Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, at Uppsala University, Sweden, that “the US is seriously worried over the strong alliance between China and Russia as it seriously threatens to bring a formal end to Pax Americana.

Adds Professor Swain and says, “instead of adopting a Nixonian ‘divide and rule’ policy, the US is actually facilitating the two countries to cement their partnership”.

The Swedish Professor made these comments while writing a special article for the Gulf News February 1, 2022.

The Swedish Professor while being interviewed by the Newsweek in the recent days says, “The US has already started facing challenges to its superpower status from China and that growing alliance between China and Russia has added further force to it”.

Professor Swain in one of his recent Tweets even says that “Cold War has already taken a shape”.

Perhaps Prof. Swain is the first international scholar to make such hair raising comments but yet the intellectual appears close to the truth if and when the two camps come face to face.

The arrival of Putin and PM Imran Khan in Beijing speaks so many things unspoken and the meet of the three political stalwarts, Putin. Xi and Khan, should sound the US that the US now must urgently review its foreign policy priorities in the world more so for the regions like Central Asia and the South Asia-a region that the devil rules.

The US under President Joe Biden needs to appraise its somewhat egotistical Foreign policy and replace ‘confrontation with competition and reconciliation both with China and Russia.

As the US hobnob with India-the regional scoundrel, increases, Pakistan is sure to attract the attention of Russia and China more for obvious political reasons.

In such a scenario, Russia and China will both be obliged to support Pakistan for South Asian regional balance.

In yet another not so good news for the US, Alexander Cooley-A political science Professor at Colombia University’s Barnard College in New York says talking to the Newsweek that “ the US has already ceded global hegemony, while its worldwide influence continue to wane”.

Professor Cooley adds stating that “in certain parts of the world, such as Central Asia, Russia and China are now playing critical roles in providing regional economic leadership and security”.
Perhaps Prof. Cooley is hinting at the likelihood of the increased regional commerce in and among the CAR’s, Pakistan included, with the tacit support from Russia and China whose net result is the US loss in this part of the world.

It is this moment which could be exploited by PM Khan as it is his country that enjoys cordial ties with both and more so it assumes more significance in that the Russian President Putin is most likely to visit Pakistan any time soon which we have already discussed in earlier paragraphs.

A tough time which shall test the Pakistan’s “weak” diplomatic skills.

To be with Russia, China and the US at the same time is indeed a difficult proposition for Pakistan but it can’t escape.

However, it will need high diplomatic wisdom in balancing ties with these countries as the US at the moment has soured its ties with both China and Russia and has inched closer to South Asian devil-India.

Yes, if Pakistan is to enjoy cordial and intimate ties with the Central Asian nations then in that case, it will have to take both China and Russia into confidence as the countries of the CAR’s too possess intimate ties with China and Russia-both being world powers.

Given the fact that the Central Asian nations are breakaway parts of the former USSR so the former in many more ways than one were close to the heir apparent of the USSR that is today’s Russian federation.

And China’s intimacy too is increasing with the CAR’s so a “real” political balance has to be maintained in taking trading and other political advantages from the countries of the CAR’s.

Now back to Russia-China Summit in Beijing:

Both Russia and China in Beijing opposed the expansion of NATO and issued a veiled rebuke to the US, criticizing “certain states” for trying to impose democratic standards on other countries.

Winding up all the threads together, what is for sure is that China and Russia appear more than ready to take up to the Western challenges which is sure to ensure the re-emergence of Cold War as hinted by Swedish Professor Ashok Swain.

Time to confirm your camp: whether you are with the WEST or with China and Russia?

And for the Road, Prof. Ashok Swain writes once again: Five Central Asian leaders refused to visit Delhi for the 26 Jan. Republic Day Parade. But they promised Prez Xi on 25th to be in Beijing Olympics. Xi could give a $ 500 million grant in aid and 50 million Covid vaccines. Gasbag had nothing to offer.

To wind up, let’s look what the Editorial board of the Washington Post has written on Xi-Putin meet in Beijing:

The WP writes, “they matched that show of unity with substance: a remarkable joint statement running more than 5,000 words that can be described only as a blueprint for combined confrontation with the United States.

The two countries endorsed each other’s foreign policy wish lists, with Russia affirming China’s opposition to “any forms of independence of Taiwan” and China denouncing “further enlargement of NATO.”

And China agreed to buy $ 117.5 billion worth of oil and gas from Russia.

The WP adds that “Russia and China have many potential points of conflict-economic, territorial and otherwise-that could eventually divide them as they did 60 years ago”.

Will this console the US and its allies?

Understand the subtle message contained therein the joint statement.

#Stop press: President Emanuel Macron of France, hoping for de-escalation of the crisis, met with V. Putin, who said Mr. Macron had some “ideas” worth pursuing, reports the Reuters dated February 7, 2022.

That’s all.


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