The Kremlin Bets That US Sanctions Will Hurt Europe Worse Than Russia

News Analysis While the United States continues to prepare a robust sanctions regime in the event of a Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine, Moscow announced on Feb. 2 that gas agreements will be a central focus of the upcoming meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. This strategic move reaffirms the Sino-Russian relationship two-fold: it demonstrates the rapidly expanding bilateral trade relationship between the two countries, especially in energy; and it also signals to Washington that its attempts to economically isolate countries it doesn’t agree with can be overcome. “Energy supplies to China have reached record highs,” said Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov. He went on to reference the Chinese gas market as one of “the most promising and dynamically developing” markets in the world. It’s no random coincidence that the Kremlin would choose this moment of heightened international tensions in Eastern Europe to publicly tout its growing energy cooperation with Beijing. Ushakov notably mentioned the importance of “[keeping] a strong focus on the creation of financial infrastructure aimed at securing the Sino-Russian cooperation from the sanctions pressure of third countries.” This move by Moscow is ostensibly meant to demonstrate to the West that it is Europe, not Russia, that will suffer most from a deteriorating relationship. The continent remains extremely dependent on imports of Russian natural gas, even as the United States redirects an increasing amount of its liquefied natural gas exports toward Europe. Rising gas prices have led some members of the 27-country bloc to break rank with Washington and prioritize their energy security. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently met with Putin in order to secure the expansion of a 15-year gas contract with Russian majority state-owned company Gazprom. After initially refusing to commit to the U.S. sanctions regime, Germany has only recently stated that it may halt the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine. It remains to be seen whether Berlin would actually follow through with this, as the country is heavily reliant on imports of Russian gas. This dependency will be exacerbated as Germany aims to close all of its nuclear power stations by the end of the year. A ship works offshore in the Baltic Sea on the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany, on Nov. 11, 2018. (Bernd Wuestneck/dpa via AP) It’s clear that Europe will have to impose adaptive measures if a large-scale economic conflict with Russia ensues from aggression in Eastern Ukraine. Putin, however, is determined to demonstrate that he has other economic outlets if the West should turn its back on Russia. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) shares the same goal of undermining the U.S.-led international order, and is therefore keen to provide this outlet (in addition to the fact that Russian energy exports are certainly needed by Beijing). Chinese scholar Wan Chengcai of the Xinhua Center for Global Studies recently discussed the need for Beijing and Moscow to cooperate in confronting Washington’s intimidation. Wan described the “highly intertwined” nature of the Sino-Russian relationship as encompassing four key areas: a resolved border issue; supporting economic development, which can be increased by confronting U.S. sanctions together; adhering to a similar concept of “the new world order”; and working together to oppose U.S. hegemony and disrupting Washington’s liberal order. The Sino-Russian relationship was further expounded upon in a recent article by China’s state-run media Xinhua, celebrating the achievement of “Xiplomacy” in building China-Russia relations in the lead-up to the Winter Olympics. “We share similar views on the international landscape and approaches to national governance,” Xi is quoted as saying in an interview with Russian media. As explained by Wan, the international landscape that Xi is referencing is one in which the United States is a diminished player. The second to last paragraph of the article reads as follows: “Taking a clear-cut stand against certain countries’ attempts to incite ideological conflict and confrontations over social systems, China and Russia have been advocating harmonious coexistence among different ethnic groups, systems and civilizations.” These statements make it clear that the world’s two most powerful authoritarian regimes are increasing their support of one another in order to obstruct U.S. foreign policy. This fact also suggests that the sanctions regime being currently proposed by Washington will be inadequate to deter a Russian move into Ukraine. The White House has acknowledged as much, which is evidenced by the decision to continue increasing the U.S. troop presence in the region. Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Follow Dominick

The Kremlin Bets That US Sanctions Will Hurt Europe Worse Than Russia

News Analysis

While the United States continues to prepare a robust sanctions regime in the event of a Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine, Moscow announced on Feb. 2 that gas agreements will be a central focus of the upcoming meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This strategic move reaffirms the Sino-Russian relationship two-fold: it demonstrates the rapidly expanding bilateral trade relationship between the two countries, especially in energy; and it also signals to Washington that its attempts to economically isolate countries it doesn’t agree with can be overcome.

“Energy supplies to China have reached record highs,” said Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov. He went on to reference the Chinese gas market as one of “the most promising and dynamically developing” markets in the world.

It’s no random coincidence that the Kremlin would choose this moment of heightened international tensions in Eastern Europe to publicly tout its growing energy cooperation with Beijing. Ushakov notably mentioned the importance of “[keeping] a strong focus on the creation of financial infrastructure aimed at securing the Sino-Russian cooperation from the sanctions pressure of third countries.”

This move by Moscow is ostensibly meant to demonstrate to the West that it is Europe, not Russia, that will suffer most from a deteriorating relationship. The continent remains extremely dependent on imports of Russian natural gas, even as the United States redirects an increasing amount of its liquefied natural gas exports toward Europe.

Rising gas prices have led some members of the 27-country bloc to break rank with Washington and prioritize their energy security. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently met with Putin in order to secure the expansion of a 15-year gas contract with Russian majority state-owned company Gazprom.

After initially refusing to commit to the U.S. sanctions regime, Germany has only recently stated that it may halt the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine. It remains to be seen whether Berlin would actually follow through with this, as the country is heavily reliant on imports of Russian gas. This dependency will be exacerbated as Germany aims to close all of its nuclear power stations by the end of the year.

Russia to Germany gas pipeline
A ship works offshore in the Baltic Sea on the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany, on Nov. 11, 2018. (Bernd Wuestneck/dpa via AP)

It’s clear that Europe will have to impose adaptive measures if a large-scale economic conflict with Russia ensues from aggression in Eastern Ukraine. Putin, however, is determined to demonstrate that he has other economic outlets if the West should turn its back on Russia. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) shares the same goal of undermining the U.S.-led international order, and is therefore keen to provide this outlet (in addition to the fact that Russian energy exports are certainly needed by Beijing).

Chinese scholar Wan Chengcai of the Xinhua Center for Global Studies recently discussed the need for Beijing and Moscow to cooperate in confronting Washington’s intimidation. Wan described the “highly intertwined” nature of the Sino-Russian relationship as encompassing four key areas: a resolved border issue; supporting economic development, which can be increased by confronting U.S. sanctions together; adhering to a similar concept of “the new world order”; and working together to oppose U.S. hegemony and disrupting Washington’s liberal order.

The Sino-Russian relationship was further expounded upon in a recent article by China’s state-run media Xinhua, celebrating the achievement of “Xiplomacy” in building China-Russia relations in the lead-up to the Winter Olympics.

“We share similar views on the international landscape and approaches to national governance,” Xi is quoted as saying in an interview with Russian media. As explained by Wan, the international landscape that Xi is referencing is one in which the United States is a diminished player.

The second to last paragraph of the article reads as follows:

“Taking a clear-cut stand against certain countries’ attempts to incite ideological conflict and confrontations over social systems, China and Russia have been advocating harmonious coexistence among different ethnic groups, systems and civilizations.”

These statements make it clear that the world’s two most powerful authoritarian regimes are increasing their support of one another in order to obstruct U.S. foreign policy. This fact also suggests that the sanctions regime being currently proposed by Washington will be inadequate to deter a Russian move into Ukraine. The White House has acknowledged as much, which is evidenced by the decision to continue increasing the U.S. troop presence in the region.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Dominick Sansone writes on international relations with a focus on comparative politics, U.S. foreign policy, and Russia-China relations. Previously a Fulbright recipient in Bulgaria, he has also lived in North Macedonia and Bologna, Italy. His writing has been published in the National Interest, RealClear Defense, and the American Conservative.