Crimean Crisis Paints China Into A Corner

On Friday, s Parliament expressed support for a vote by Crimea to separate from Ukraine and become a new region of the Russian Federation.

Crimea has a referendum scheduled for March 16 on whether to secede from Ukraine.

In addition, Russia’s ambassador, Georgiy Mamedov, to Canada told The Globe and Mail that economic sanctions will only hurt Europe because China will blunt any impact sanctions might have on Russia.

“Those who think they can isolate us should look at the map for a change. Half of us is in Europe, but the other half is in Asia. And we have the longest border in the world with China,” he told the paper in an interview.

China finds itself in a bind where Ukraine is concerned because it does not want to endorse Russia’s actions but cannot criticize one of their only allies either.

So, China has reverted to using its old gameplan of slamming the West for its incompetence. Xinhua, China’s state newspaper, insisted Ukraine’s crisis is an example of “another great country torn apart because of a clumsy and selfish West that boasts too many lofty ideals but always comes up short of practical solutions.”

The paper asserts the “Ukrainian people do not get the democracy or prosperity the West promises. Instead, all they can see in their beloved country now is political confusion and economic depression,” while the West “itself also becomes a loser as the fiasco in Ukraine will surely erode its credibility.”

But the world does not need to be too pessimistic. The game in Ukraine is far from over. The international community still has the opportunity to salvage the country by working together.

“What is behind China’s failure to stand up for Moscow? As Voice of America has reported, China has strong business interests in Ukraine that would undoubtedly be threatened were China to come out in support of Russia. Ukraine is a major source of arms for China and a growing partner in China’s resource quest,” says Elizabeth Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations.

China is not alone in finding itself between a rock and a hard place. NATO, for example, has resisted allowing Ukraine to join the alliance and now feels compelled to extend membership to the nation in crisis.

Olga Oliker contends that one of the reasons why Ukraine is not part of NATO is that “s behalf a war that stood the (small but real) risk of nuclear escalation,” which means it is almost certain diplomatic measures will be the only means they will use to respond.

“In the short term, it may not be possible to get Russian troops out of Crimea through economic sanctions, the freezing of assets, the exclusion of Russia from the G8 or other reasonable steps now on the table. In the long term, the United States has to make sure that the response to Russia doesn’t stop there. The United States and EU states should continue political, economic, and military cooperation with Ukraine, helping ensure that, even with Russia occupying Crimea, a new and representative government is elected, takes power, and moves forward with reforms, while respecting the rights of all ethnic groups and minorities,” writes Oliver, who is an associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

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