Trump may have lost the US Presidential polls, but his policies continue to hurt Beijing on a global scale. China is feeling the heat of Trumpism in Eastern Europe- a region that used to be the venue for extreme competition between the US and Russia. However, today both Moscow and Washington apprehend a threat of growing Chinese influence in the region. Therefore, both Putin and Trump tried to contain the growing Chinese influence in the region.
But while Russian President Vladimir Putin is still in power, Trump has been replaced by Joe Biden. Yet, what Trump and Putin were doing is still hurting China. On Tuesday, China’s “17+1” platform for increasing influence in the Eastern Europe region faced a major setback, as many countries seemed to snub Beijing. This in a way shows how Trump and Putin have kept China sidelined in Eastern Europe.
The “17+1” platform, established in 2012, is practically an extension of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Tall Chinese promises have been made to East European nations with the help of the “17+1” concept. Yet, the virtual meeting of the platform on Tuesday seemed rather unusual.
The “17+1” summit actually ended up becoming an “11+1” summit as six member countries- Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovenia, sent Ministers for the meeting as against their heads of State or government. The major snub is nothing less than a shocker for Chinese President Xi, who would have suddenly realised how Beijing has lost goodwill in the region.
The split in Eastern Europe regarding China’s presence is nothing less than a decisive victory for former US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. When Trump was in power, Washington made all possible efforts to drive Eastern Europe away from Beijing.
It was only because of Trump’s efforts that Romania decided to said no to Chinese 5G telecom giant Huawei. Trump’s diplomacy also led to Romania kicking China out of plans to finance a Nuclear Plant extension in the European country.
The Trump administration also backed the Three Seas Initiative to enhance cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. The Trump administration made Eastern Europe realise that the US is there to take care of its infrastructure and development needs.
On the other hand, Russia continues to look at Eastern Europe as its sphere of influence. Russian President Vladimir Putin remains popular in many East European nations like Belarus and Serbia. Baltic nations like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania might remain critical of Moscow, but they are dependent on Russia for fulfilling their energy consumption needs. And then, Russia enjoys considerable cultural influence in Baltic nations which is essentially a legacy of the Soviet era.
Russia remains relevant in the Eastern Europe region. And the issue is that it doesn’t want to lose any of this influence to its neighboring giant- China.
Putin remains a fierce competitor for the US too, but before anything else, he would want Beijing out of the equation and only then he would start competing with Washington. This is exactly what happened during the Trump era, and it seems that the effect of Trump’s policies has continued even after the end of his Presidency.