Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Can Moscow Avoid ‘Losing’ Siberia to China as Ukraine is Losing Its East to Russia? Military Writer Asks

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 23 – Sometimes the fact that someone is asking a question at all is more important than the answer he or she offers. That is almost certainly the case with a new article by an anonymous Russian military commentator concerning whether or not Russia can avoid “losing Siberia and the Far East” to China.


            In the influential Moscow portal “Voyennoye obozreniye,” a writer who identifies himself only as a “couch general” says that despite cooperation between Moscow and Beijing, it is critical for Russians to ask how they can avoid “losing” the eastern portions of their country to China as Ukraine is losing its east (topwar.ru/58525-kak-ne-poteryat-sibir-i-dalniy-vostok.html).


            The author says that he is not talking about “the military annexation of the Far East and Siberia by China.” Russia is a nuclear power and the Chinese are “too intelligent” to engage in open aggression against it. But what is happens, he argues, is the gradual and quiet “colonization” of parts of Russia by the Chinese.


            “The Chinese are coming to Russia and remaining here, they receive Russian passports, and they bring their relatives. Many Chinese marry Russians. And this is a fact,” he says. Russian women do so because “Chinese men do not drink, they work hard, and they bring their money home.”


            Given the declining number of ethnic Russians east of the Urals and the increasing population of China, “in the not distant future, Chinese will become the ethnic majority in these territories,” he writes. And while they will have “Russian passports and their children will speak Russian perfectly … they will be Chinese.”


            “Ethnic Chinese will be elected to local parliaments and as mayors. They will open Chinese schools in parallel with Russian ones. And after a certain time, it is likely that they will raise the issue of the recognition of Chinese as a second state or at least a regional language” in Siberia and the Far East.


            “What does this remind you of?” the military writer asks his readers. “If they are refused and local activists conduct a referendum about the state independence of the Siberian and Far Eastern Republics. How do you think the ethnic Chinese will vote in that referendum?”


And if some “crazy people” in Moscow then try to crush them by sending an army there “or certain volunteer detachments from Russian nationalists, we could get in the eastern part of our country exactly what is happening in the Ukrainian east.” And in response some ethnic Chinese would organize units to resist them …


We have taught them how to behave by our actions in Ukraine, the military commentator continues. And if these events were to occur in Siberia and the Far East, it is entirely possible that the Chinese and China would win and that these areas would be irretrievably lost to Russia “forever.”


Some in Moscow think that Russia can deal with China by concessions and that Beijing will never move in this direction, but those who make that argument, the military commentator says, forget that China is a rising power and that Russia has neglected a large part of its own country – and that as a result, China may see only opportunities that Moscow has created.


If one takes this longer and larger view, he continues, there is a Chinese threat, but it is one that Moscow can and must respond to by changing its demographic, economic and military policies, reconstituting the Russian population in that region and ensuring that it has enough military power there to prevent anyone from thinking about moving against Russia.


In dealing with China, he says, there must be “balance” with “a system of checks and counterweights” lest what starts as an alliance ends as something else.  China must not be allowed to have more than 40 percent of foreign investment east of the Urals. The remainder must come from other Asian countries and Europeans.


            “It is very important,” he concludes, “not to depend on ‘partners’ in the way we still are on Ukraine as far as military-technical cooperation is concerned.”

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