Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is a realist in his special sense. He wants to re-establish Russia as a powerhouse. While many may scoff at this thought but Putin’s actions are even making them take his proposition seriously. Putin’s ability to revive Russian dominance in Central Asia, an area within Moscow’s favoured zone of influence, has been one of his greatest achievements. While China was trying to chip away the Central Asian countries, Russia has managed to secure the region. Now it has made another bold statement, that too vis a vis South China Sea.
Putin told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Russian Energy Week conference in Moscow on Wednesday that Xi’s words implying the prospect of peaceful unification, as well as China’s “concept of statehood,” show there is no threat of armed conflict. Putin addressed difficult relations in the South China Sea, where Russia has attempted to maintain a neutral stance in the face of China’s long-standing and globally contested claim to broad swaths of neighbouring waterways. This statement is the first direct address that Putin has made on South China Sea, by doing this he has addressed the elephant in the room.
If one tries to look at all the geopolitical actions that Moscow has taken, the latest comments become all the more prudent. Putin has had enough of Xi Jinping’s double games, and while he maintains the vile of friendship, he has been on a counteroffensive. The comments which mentioned negotiations based on the UNCLOS give a clear statement that Russia does not align with China on the issue of the South China Sea.
Russia’s entry into the Indo-Pacific
A detachment of Pacific fleet ships and submarines has arrived in the Indian Ocean, according to a source close to Crimea’s security forces, as part of a transfer from the Baltic to permanent deployment areas.
“A Pacific Fleet detachment led by the corvette Gremyashchiy is now sailing in the Indian Ocean after crossing the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and going through the Gulf of Aden,” the source said. The Black Sea Fleet’s Captain Guryev rescue tugboat is escorting the Pacific Fleet’s corvettes and submarines. All the while, China has been trying to chip away Russian influence in Russia’s neighbourhood and zone of interest, but now Russia has brought the challenge right into the Chinese arena.
Russia cancels China’s efforts in the Arctic
The Russian Federation, led by Vladimir Putin, has been seeking ways to take advantage of melting ice in the Arctic to establish a trading route that is dominated by Russia. Russia’s senior admirals are reportedly considering developing a new Navy branch to focus on the struggle in the freezing Arctic, where falling sea ice has presented commerce ships with unprecedented opportunities. “The idea of forming a new Russian Arctic Fleet is being considered,” a source told Moscow’s TASS news agency on Thursday.
Putin’s latest comments on the South China Sea
“There are some conflicting and contradictory interests in the South China Sea”, Vladimir Putin said. However, Russia’s position is based on the fact that all countries in the region should be provided with an opportunity to have a proper conversation based on the fundamental norms of international law, without interference from non-regional powers.
He said that it should be a negotiation process; that’s how we should resolve any disagreements. He said that he believes there is potential for negotiations, but it hasn’t been fully utilised thus far.
These statements make sure that Putin is subtly reigniting the South China Sea issue in the absence of a consistent US voice on the same. The statement is a signal for a more overt engagement of Russia on the Indo-Pacific and the South China Sea.