Sunday

20th Sep 2020

Chinese diplomat voices sympathy for Russian 'security concerns'

  • China needs Russian oil and gas (Photo: Patrick Rodwell)

China’s ambassador to Belgium has said the West should pay more heed to Russia’s “security concerns” in order to solve the Ukraine crisis.

Qu Xing spoke out last week in an interview with China’s state mouthpiece, Xinhua, in a rare intervention on the conflict.

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The Russian narrative says the West orchestrated a “coup” in Kiev last year in order to expand its influence in the former Soviet sphere, with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, at one point, describing the Ukrainian military as “Nato’s foreign legion”.

The EU, the US, and Ukrainian people themselves see the revolution as a popular uprising against the egregious corruption, and, to an extent, the Russia-subservience of the former regime.

They also note that Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine prompted the war, which now threatens to escalate beyond Ukraine’s borders.

For his part, Qu was cautious to steer a middle way.

He told Xinhua the revolution started out locally, but later became a geopolitical event.

"There were internal and external reasons for the Ukraine crisis. Originally, the issue stemmed from Ukraine's internal problems, but it now is not a simple internal matter. Without external intervention from different powers, the Ukrainian problem would not develop into the serious crisis as it is”, he said.

"The major powers need to seek a win-win situation rather than zero-sum security”.

Qu’s other remarks leaned toward Russia’s version of the story, however.

He indicated that Ukraine’s pro-Western vector, which entails the possibility of future EU or Nato membership, is a legitimate issue of concern for Moscow.

"The West should … take the real security concerns of Russia into consideration," the ambassador said.

With Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, claiming the Western powers are trying to distort the recent, so-called, Minsk 2 ceasefire pact to extend their control over the situation, Qu also questioned the Western side’s integrity.

He said the fact that France and Germany, but not the US, took part in the Minsk 2 talks, gives the trans-Atlantic alliance a get-out clause.

"Even though a latest ceasefire agreement had been achieved, it is still possible for the Western parties to change the original decisions in the future for the excuse that the United States was not involved in the negotiations," he noted.

Qu’s statements amount to a novelty in China’s policy of non-intervention in overseas crises which do not directly abutt its Asian borders.

Last March, it abstained in a UN vote on non-recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and, in the intervening year, it has said little beyond calling for a peaceful and diplomatic solution.

The Qu remarks are likely to be taken by Russia as a sign that it isn’t isolated on the world stage, amid attempts to build new political and economic ties with non-aligned states, including also Brazil.

But at the same time, analysts note that China is keen to take advantage of Russia’s rift with Europe.

Last year, it negotiated a rock-bottom price for gas supplies in a new Russia-China pipeline.

Meanwhile, a contact in the US military told EUobserver that China poses a greater strategic threat to Russia in the long term than either EU or Nato expansion.

He said China’s mushrooming need for the hydrocarbons which Russia possesses in vast abundance in its desolate, far-eastern territories, should make the Kremlin pause for thought.

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