The United States failed to create a united anti-Russian “front”
One of the most important goals of Joe Biden's European tour was to demonstrate the “united front” of the collective West (NATO, the EU and the G7) against Russia. Even at this level, there is no monolithic unity, and outside of Europe, North America, and a number of countries of Asia and Oceania (including Micronesia) that have joined them, many states – including even traditional American allies and partners – have chosen to take a neutral position in the Ukrainian crisis.
A meme is circulating on the Internet – an image of those countries that have taken a sharply anti-Russian position, while other countries (and most of them) are simply not visible on this map. The meaning is clear – not the whole world joined the all-out sanctions war led by the United States.
It does not follow from this, of course, that dozens of countries express open support for Russia – this is not so. And the absence of condemnation or equivocal expression of sympathy is not yet help. But even one way or another, the neutrality shown in the current conditions is worth a lot. Especially if this neutrality can be called friendly.
At the emergency NATO summit held on March 24 in Brussels, Russia and Ukraine were mainly discussed, but in the final statement of the leaders of the alliance there was a place for exhortations and threats against China, which formally maintains a neutral position, calling for a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the conflict.
Regarding the NATO summit, China's Global Times writes: “Just a day before, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Western leaders would “spend a significant amount of time talking about China.” He accused China of providing political support to Russia by “spreading blatant lies and disinformation,” and “the allies are concerned that China may provide material support” to Russian actions … With the spread of lies that mixed black and white, the skin of the face Stoltenberg may be thicker than the Berlin Wall. Does NATO, the biggest proponent of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, have the right to point the finger at China, which has promoted peace dialogue from the very beginning?”
“In the face of the Ukrainian crisis, most major countries, including India, Brazil, as well as most countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and other regions, have taken an objective and fair position,” continues the Chinese edition. Almost two-thirds of the world's population lives in these countries. Their position is the main position of the international community. But why did Stoltenberg only mention China? It's simple: NATO, long considered “brain dead”, needs a life-saving ventilator as reliance on oxygen, fueled by the creation of “Russophobia”, becomes increasingly inadequate. He fears that it will expire at any moment without “intubation”.
Indeed, one of those countries that did not criticize Russia for its military operation against Ukraine was China. Xi Jinping hosted the Russian president at the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics just three weeks before the conflict began. During Putin's visit, the two leaders issued a 5,000-word statement declaring boundless “friendship.” It should not be forgotten that in contrast to these declarations was the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympics announced by the West.
The Chinese abstained from a UN vote condemning Russia and criticized “indiscriminate” economic sanctions against Moscow. Beijing expressed its support for the peace talks and offered its services as a mediator in international conflicts.
Beijing's defiant refusal to succumb to pressure from Washington, demanding if not to join the anti-Russian sanctions, then not to help Moscow bypass these sanctions, this one of the main headaches of the US and its allies. Behind the declared neutrality, the irritation of the Chinese leaders with the assertiveness of the Americans is clearly visible.
Following President Biden in openly threatening China with “consequences” for any support for Russia, British Commerce Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan made similar threats, warning that Britain would impose sanctions on China if Beijing supported Russia's actions in Ukraine with arms supplies or financial assistance.
Minister Trevelyan shared her perspective: “China is clearly sitting and thinking and watching… I think the economy will always be critical to him (President Xi) and his trade balance with the US and Europe is critical to him.”
But, as the British press admits, relations between China and the UK are getting more strained as they clash over coronavirus, Hong Kong, human rights, etc.
However, Minister Trevelyan says he remains hopeful that there is still a chance to increase trade with the Chinese. “There are those who say we shouldn't trade with China at all. I think it's wrong. I think they are an important trading partner and we want to be able to trade more with China in non-strategic business areas that we can continue to develop.”
After doing the carrot, Anne-Marie Trevelyan hinted transparently to Beijing and the “whip”, “So I hope Xi is listening and that he appreciates the economic relationship he has with the world's largest economies, of which we are one.”
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Despite Washington's ongoing attempts to “spud” India, this country of 1.5 billion people prefers to refrain from condemning Russia's actions in the Ukrainian conflict.
Western observers note that India's balancing act between Moscow and the West in the current conditions looks more precarious, than ever.
India abstained from voting on a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia's military operation against Ukraine. But even such a formally neutral position was condemned in the West as de facto support for Moscow.
The Ukrainian crisis, according to Agence France Press, put the Indian leadership in a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, there is (since Soviet times) close cooperation between New Delhi and Moscow. The 1.4 billion Asian giant is also a major consumer of Russian oil. The total annual volume of bilateral trade is about $9 billion. Let's not forget the diplomatic support Moscow has provided in the past by vetoing UN resolutions condemning Delhi for its actions in Kashmir.
On the other hand, India needs the support of the West to resist China. Recall that India, along with the United States, Japan and Australia, is a member of the Quadruple Alliance (Quad), which is seen as a bulwark against China's growing ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.
Recently, a visit to Delhi by a senior cross-party delegation from the UK, led by Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsey Hoyle and his deputy, was canceled at the last minute, in a sign of a growing rift over India's refusal to join anti-Russian sanctions.
Before that, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, trying to use his influence to convince New Delhi to take a tougher stance on the Russian operation. India, according to The Guardian, not only did not impose sanctions against Moscow, but did not even condemn Russia, its largest supplier of military equipment.
The British speaker's visit to India was to take place during the Easter parliamentary recess. The delegation was originally supposed to push for progress on a UK-India free trade agreement, but the context of the visit changed following the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine in February and the UK's leading role in supporting Kyiv.
As The Guardian notes in connection with the cancellation of the visit, it is not clear whether it was related to individual members of the British delegation or to wider concerns that British MPs were being given a platform in India to urge Modi to take a tougher stance.
Meanwhile, the UK is concerned about reports that India's central bank has started initial consultations with Moscow on a trade deal to use rupees and rubles that would allow exports to Russia to continue after Western sanctions curtailed international payment mechanisms. These negotiations will allow India to continue to buy Russian energy and other goods.
In addition, the British publication notes, India, which is engaged in territorial disputes with China, may decide that it cannot afford to alienate its main arms supplier. New Delhi is the world's second largest arms importer after Saudi Arabia, and according to Business Standard, 49.4% of Indian purchases came from Russia between 2016 and 2020.
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South Africa also abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly on a resolution condemning the Russian operation in Ukraine.
The South African government explained that it has good relations with both Russia and and with Ukraine; therefore Pretoria abstained in the vote in the UN General Assembly.
President Cyril Ramaphosa subsequently stated that South Africa abstained because the resolution did not highlight the call for constructive engagement. Moreover, speaking to members of the South African Parliament, the head of state blamed the Ukrainian crisis on NATO's eastward expansion. According to Ramaphosa, in his opinion, Russia feels a “national existential threat” from the North Atlantic Alliance.
“There are those who insist that we take a very hostile position towards Russia,” says Cyril Ramaphosa. “Instead, we use an approach that insists on the need for dialogue.”
Western media, in an attempt to explain the position of South Africa, remind that the current ruling African National Congress party in the country remembers that the Soviet Union was her ally in the fight against apartheid. By the way, other countries in southern Africa, which at the time of the struggle for independence were helped by the USSR (Namibia, Angola and Mozambique), also did not support the anti-Russian resolution in the UN. Zimbabwe, located in the same region, also abstained, which at one time had a lot of help from Russia and China in countering Western sanctions.
In total, almost half – twenty-five of – African countries abstained or did not participate in the vote according to the resolution of the UN General Assembly condemning Russia.
And the matter is not only in the historical heritage, but also in the present. In recent years, Russia's (not to mention China's) interest in the Black Continent has noticeably increased, and this applies to a fairly wide range of economic – and not only – cooperation.