Russia schedules military exercises around the Olympics
China's perspective on the crisis
Russia and Belarus announced combined military exercises called Allied Resolve in February. In the first phase of the exercises, Russian military forces will deploy in Belarus through February 9. The two sides stated that the second phase will take place from February 10 to 20, and will include “tasks of suppressing and repelling external aggression during a defensive operation.” Finally, the Russian navy also announced it will hold exercises in “all zones of responsibility” in January and February. The scale, location, and timing of these exercises are ominous and suggest that Putin will very likely pursue military escalation within the next several weeks.
The timing of Allied Resolve’s second stage appears highly significant. The Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony will take place on February 4th, while the games will finish on the 20th. That date – February 20th – is also, perhaps not coincidentally, the date when Allied Resolve exercises will conclude. Moscow may be signaling to Beijing that any substantial escalation in Ukraine will not take place until (at least) the second phase of the exercises, but probably not until after the 20th.
As the Report noted in December, the People’s Daily stopped updating its Russia foreign affairs section in early November, while the Japanese, American, British, Korean, and Australia/New Zealand sites continue to be updated. The People’s Daily continues its practice of avoiding Russia-related topics. The Chinese and Russian foreign ministers talked on Monday, January 10th, but the authoritative People’s Daily reported the call only on Wednesday, January 12th. The Russian MFA and other Chinese sources, including China’s embassies in Moscow and Washington, however, published readouts on Monday or Tuesday.
As I wrote for SupChina in their January 13th daily newsletter, The People’s Daily’s publication delay is odd and could signal some unease within the Party over Russia/Ukraine policy. More likely, however, is that the Party wants to indicate that the People’s Daily is not its crisis mouthpiece. Importantly, the Communist Party’s official newspaper ranks below the foreign ministry in the CCP’s authoritative hierarchy.
In his call with Lavrov, Wang Yi noted that Putin’s visit to China and attendance at the Olympics with Xi will be the first in-person meeting between the heads of state since 2019. Wang also said it will be a “major event in international relations,” and that China is willing to jointly ensure a “Winter Olympics Pact” (冬奥之约) —although some Chinese embassies have softened the translation to “get-together.” Beijing may be signaling that it strongly desires a bilateral in-person meeting with Putin – but no problems, complications, or escalations before the Olympics. Assuming that Putin and Xi meet in Beijing in about two weeks, they will likely use the summit to announce an agreement over the Power of Siberia 2 natural gas pipeline, expand political and military ties, or both.
As Fravel notes in the thread above, China’s military, diplomatic, and state media structures have been conspicuously silent and un-opinionated on the crisis. Most discussions have largely stuck to matter-of-fact reporting. Chinese state media has largely refrained from commenting on the crisis for two reasons.
First, Beijing is uneasily balancing its security and economic interests. The CCP is not only invested in Putin’s personal success but also seeks to expand the “China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era” to include “all-weather” strategic coordination. In other words, the CCP hopes to depersonalize and institutionalize Sino-Russian relations, enabling an enduring foreign policy force multiplier for Beijing. This objective constrains its ability to directly criticize or warn Putin. At the same time, however, Beijing cannot ignore its economic, financial, and energy ties with the West. The CCP has little incentive to weigh in on the crisis, especially before key details and features emerge.
Second, and as Putin himself understands very well, ambiguity can be a useful tool. Vague, unspoken rules are a defining characteristic of the CCP (and, to lesser degree, Putin’s Russia). As Perry Link wrote in 2002, “vagueness is purposeful and has been a fundamental tool in Chinese Communist censorship for decades…. In sum, the Chinese government’s censorial authority in recent times has resembled not so much a man-eating tiger or fire-snorting dragon as a giant anaconda coiled in an overhead chandelier. Normally the great snake doesn’t move. It doesn’t have to. It feels no need to be clear about its prohibitions. Its constant silent message is “You yourself decide,” after which, more often than not, everyone in its shadow makes his or her large and small adjustments—all quite “naturally.””
While Link wrote about vagueness in a domestic censorship context, the same concept may apply to CCP’s foreign policy in these circumstances. Since Beijing’s open advocacy of its preferences would anger the West or Putin (or, more likely, both), the CCP prefers to remain silent, with only occasional exceptions and hints. By maintaining strategic silence and ambiguity, with rare exceptions, Beijing encourages Putin to consider its own interests before acting and avoids some specification costs.
That being said, Beijing did stake out some more of its position in a People’s Daily article titled “Same table, different frequency” “同桌不同频”. In the article, the PD painted the US as the aggressor, sought to drive a wedge within NATO, and criticized claims of the “so-called "Russian invasion of Ukraine"”.
Apologies for the very long post today, but there’s a lot going on. I’m planning two additional pieces this week, plus the SupChina weekly update. Thank you for reading, and please consider sharing and subscribing.
Table of Contents:
1) The Crisis
2) Russian perspectives on the crisis
3) Chinese perspectives on the crisis and interactions with Central/Eastern Europe
4) China-Russia Political Interactions
5) Omicron in Russia
6) Sanctions and Indo-Pacific Economies
7) Russian and Chinese Navies
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1) The Crisis
First units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, involved in the check of the response forces of the Union State, arrive in the Republic of Belarus – Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation
The units of the Eastern Military District involved in the check of the reaction forces of the Union State, with standard equipment and weapons, marched in a combined way (on their own and by rail) to unfamiliar training grounds to places of training tasks on the territory of the Republic of Belarus. The check will take place in two stages.
At the first stage (until February 9), there will be the transfer and creation of groupings of troops (forces) on the territory of the Republic of Belarus as soon as possible, the organization of protection and defence of important state and military facilities, the protection of the State Border in the airspace, the check of the readiness and ability of the air defence forces on duty and means to fulfill the tasks of covering important objects on the territory of the Republic of Belarus.
At the second stage of the check, from February 10 to February 20, Union Courage 2022 joint exercise will be held, the purpose of which will be to practice tasks of suppressing and repelling external aggression during a defensive operation, as well as countering terrorism and protecting the interests of the Union State.
Comment: Reminder that the Beijing Olympics end on February 20th, the purported final date of the exercises.
Russian Navy to hold exercises in all zones of responsibility Jan-Feb – TASS
Russia’s Navy in January-February will hold a series of exercises in all zones of responsibility, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday. "In accordance with a plan for training the Russian armed forces in 2022 a series of naval exercises will be held in January-February in all zones of the fleets’ responsibility under the general guidance of the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov," the news release reads.
Russian delegation declares start of ‘countdown’ in wait for adoption of Russian proposals – TASS
The West faces the moment of truth, which has started the countdown in wait for the adoption of Russian proposals on security guarantees addressed to the United States and NATO, Konstantin Gavrilov, the head of the Russian delegation at the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control, said on Wednesday.
About 3,000 troops kick off large-scale drills in central Russia – TASS Jan 11th
About 3,000 personnel of the Western Military District’s Guards Red Banner Combined Arms Army kicked off drills at proving grounds in the Voronezh, Belgorod, Bryansk, and Smolensk Regions, the District’s press office reported on Tuesday.…
The tactical drills will focus on qualification firing from small arms and armored vehicles’ guns, marches amid active operations by enemy subversive and reconnaissance groups, and measures to equip strongholds, the statement says.
Treasury Sanctions Russian-Backed Actors Responsible for Destabilization Activities in Ukraine – US Treasury Department
In 2020, Kremlin officials launched a comprehensive information operation plan designed in part to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian state to function independently and without Russian interference. This included identifying and co-opting pro-Russian individuals in Ukraine and undermining prominent Ukrainians viewed as pro-Western, who would stand in the way of Russian efforts to bring Ukraine within its control. Goals of the plan included destabilizing the political situation in Ukraine and laying the groundwork for creating a new, Russian-controlled government in Ukraine.
Kremlin plan to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine exposed – UK Government
We have information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine. The former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate.
We have information that the Russian intelligence services maintain links with numerous former Ukrainian politicians… Some of these have contact with Russian intelligence officers currently involved in the planning for an attack on Ukraine.
The Gathering Storm – Brian Whitmore and Michael Kofman on The Power Vertical Podcast
US preparing to approve evacuation from embassy in Ukraine: Sources – ABC News
The Department of State is preparing to approve the evacuation of some U.S. diplomats and diplomats' families from the embassy in Ukraine, sources confirmed to ABC News. The final authorization has not been approved, the sources said, so the scope of the evacuation is not yet clear.
2) Russian perspectives on the crisis
No grounds to take Russia’s actions as forming ‘exclusive sphere of influence’ — MFA – TASS
"Russia, like the United States and other countries, has legitimate interests, in particular in the field of security," the ministry noted. "Like any state, we cannot fail to react to the emergence of external challenges and threats, especially military and military-technical ones. We are doing this strictly within the framework of international law. There are really no grounds to interpret our actions as the formation of some kind of exclusive sphere of influence for Russia," the ministry stressed.
"Several years ago, then head of the EU diplomacy Federica Mogherini said that Western Balkans is a region where the EU would deal with all the problems and it would be better for others not to participate in it. Of course, she primarily meant Russia and China. What was that, if not an attempt to arbitrary establish a sphere of influence?" the document says…
"One can also recall how the French at all levels, like a mantra, raise the issue of the Russian presence in Mali, stating in a neo-colonial manner that this is a "red line" for France," the Russian Foreign Ministry says…
Moreover, the Western expert-political environment got into a tantrum after the simple refusal of Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov to give an unambiguous answer to the question about Russia's possible "military-political plans" in relation to Cuba and Venezuela.
Comment: Lavrov appears to be hinting that Russia could expand confrontation horizontally
Gas reserves in European UGS record low, Gazprom says – TASS
Natural gas reserves in Europe’s underground gas storages (UGS) are at their lowest level during the long-term monitoring period and withdrawals are already above a half of the volume injected last year, Gazprom said on Wednesday. "Gas reserves in European UGS are at their lowest levels for this season throughout the long-term monitoring history," the company said.
Gas filling of European storages drops below 50% - TASS
Natural gas filling in European underground gas storages (UGS) dropped below 50%, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE) data. This occurred so early from the year start [sic] for the first time during the monitoring period since 2011.
Russia may attack Ukraine from Belarus, US Department of State says – TASS
The upcoming joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises may allow Russia to attack Ukraine from the north, a senior US State Department official said at a briefing.
"The reports of Russian troop movements towards Belarus, which <...> are supposedly under the auspices of regularly scheduled joint military exercises, are concerning," she pointed out. "The timing is notable and of course raises concerns that Russia could intend to station troops in Belarus under the guise of joint military exercises in order potentially to attack Ukraine from the north. I believe Belarus’ complicity in such an attack would be completely unacceptable to Belarusians, and to many inside the regime, as well as to us and our allies and partners. And we've made our concerns known to the Belarusian authorities privately," the diplomat added.
Comment: This TASS article bizarrely doesn’t list the senior State Department official’s name
Ex-Ukrainian president Poroshenko urges Zelensky’s opponents to unite – TASS
Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has called on all the opponents of incumbent head of state Vladimir Zelensky to unite in an address to his supporters on Monday as he returned to Kiev from overseas.
"We are not here to protect Poroshenko. We are here to unite and protect Ukraine," said the former president, who is currently facing high treason charges. He pointed out that apart from his European Solidarity party, he also had the support of other political parties that are opposed the current Ukrainian government. "It’s crucial that other democratic political forces are standing by our side, which symbolizes our unity because we need to unite now and prove that a united Ukraine is strong," Poroshenko argued, asserting that "a strong Ukraine" is capable of "confronting" Russia.
Comment: Ukrainian politicians finding the absolute worst time for pettifogging disputes.
Founder of The Infraud Organization hacking group arrested in Moscow – source – TASS
Russia’s FSB and law enforcement have detained four members of the Infraud Organization hacking group. Its purported founder Andrey Novak is wanted in the US on the accusations of cybercrime. As a source in law enforcement told TASS, Novak was arrested while three other purported hackers are under a house arrest.
"During intelligence-gathering activities, Russian special services with the operational support of the law enforcement and cooperation of the US law enforcement, managed to establish and detain four members of the Infraud Organization hacking group whose main income was the use of stolen credit card data. The purported founder of the criminal group, Andrey Sergeevich Novak, wanted in the US on the accusations of cybercrime, has been arrested for two months, another three members of the group - Kirill Samokutyaev, Konstantin Vladimirovich Bergman and Mark Avramovich Bergman have been detained under a house arrest," the source said.
Comment: These “arrests” are likely meant to be interpreted as sticks, not carrots: Moscow may be threatening to unleash even greater cyber disruptions on the West in upcoming months.
What a Week of Talks Between Russia and the West Revealed – Dmitri Trenin
Strictly speaking, there can only be one guarantee of security in the nuclear age, and that’s the threat of mutually assured destruction. That has its drawbacks, however: in the event of an armed conflict between nuclear powers, the losing side may resort to using nuclear weapons to avoid being defeated, paving the way for an escalation that could lead to an exchange of massive nuclear strikes and the death of civilization.
Since the United States is not prepared to go to war with Russia for Ukraine, neither Ukraine nor Georgia will be accepted into NATO as long as Russia is able to prevent it. The threat of Ukraine being in NATO is, therefore, in fact a phantom one for the foreseeable future. The question of whether we might see NATO in Ukraine—in the form of offensive weapons, military bases, military advisers, arms supplies, and so on—is trickier. Having what would amount to an unsinkable aircraft carrier controlled by the United States on Moscow’s doorstep, on hostile territory, even if Ukraine is not officially part of NATO, would be far more serious than the Baltic countries’ NATO membership. This isn’t a full-fledged threat just yet, but it certainly could become one, and what happens then?
Russian officials have said that if the talks fail, Moscow will take military-technical and even military measures. Those measures have not been specified in advance—unlike the Western sanctions that have been threatened in the event that Russia invades Ukrainian territory—but they are being widely discussed. A range of measures is likely to be proposed to Putin by his advisers, from keeping up the pressure with the threat of force and deploying new weapons systems to sensitive regions, to much closer cooperation with Russia’s ally Belarus and Chinese partners.
Comment: It’s difficult to know how seriously to take Putin/Trenin when they claim that Ukraine could ultimately serve as “an unsinkable aircraft carrier” for NATO or enhance the alliance’s military potential. Ukraine is highly unlikely to enter into NATO, while Ukraine’s entry into the alliance is of dubious military – let alone political – value for Washington and Brussels in an age of mutually assured destruction. As I’ll argue in a subsequent newsletter (probably tomorrow), Russia’s concerns seem to center around Ukraine’s increasing military capability and ability to “siege” Crimea – not NATO.
3) Chinese perspectives on the crisis and interactions with Central/Eastern Europe
Dialogue between Russia and the West "same table and different frequency" – People’s Daily, by way of中国国防报 [Chinese-language]
The United States has a tough stance. U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers are stationed at an airfield in Slovakia on the border with Ukraine as Russia negotiates with the West…. U.S. Democratic senators recently submitted a bill to sanction Russia. [Comment: Noteworthy that the PD’s specified party labels, as Republican senators have also submitted sanctions bills.]
Europe is cautious. France, Germany, Italy and other countries hope that the United States will avoid completely denying Russia's demands and give priority to easing the situation in Ukraine.
There are voices in Germany that Russia's proposal to ban Ukraine from joining NATO is justified. [Comment: Voices which the People’s Daily is happy to elevate. Curious why they didn’t find someone in Germany’s ultra-left Die Linke party] Steffen Kotter, a member of the German right-wing party AfD, said that after the end of the Cold War, NATO expanded eastward regardless of the agreement, getting closer and closer to the Russian border. The United States built several military bases around Russia, and Russia was in trouble. It is natural for Russia to resist this behavior, and it is legitimate to insist that NATO not absorb Ukraine.
On the whole, the Russia-West Security Dialogue was fruitless, which is not only a manifestation of the confrontation between the two sides in the situation in eastern Ukraine, the deployment of medium-range missiles, and the eastward expansion of NATO, but also a concentrated manifestation of the structural contradictions between the two sides since the end of the Cold War. In the future, the strategic game between the two sides may continue to intensify.
Previously, although the US-led Western countries have repeatedly claimed to respond to the so-called "Russian invasion of Ukraine" with "unprecedented and decisive measures", these measures only stayed at the level of energy and financial sanctions and chip embargoes. After this round of talks, the U.S. side said that the U.S. intelligence community has not yet made an assessment of Russia’s decision to take military action against Ukraine, but the U.S. is “prepared with both hands.” In the next step, the U.S.-Russian strategic game pattern may gradually change from economic-based, military-assisted, to a combination of military, political, economic, and diplomatic, all-time and all-regional confrontation.
U.S.-Russia security talks end without diplomatic breakthrough – People’s Daily
A new round of security talks between the United States and Russia concluded Monday evening in Geneva without yielding any diplomatic breakthrough. While the U.S. side called the latest talks between the two major global powers "our diplomacy in pursuit of a de-escalation with Russia," the Russian side called the talks U.S.-Russia "security guarantees negotiations."
Like the two previous bilateral U.S.-Russia Strategic Stability Dialogues in Geneva last year, the U.S. delegation is headed by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, while the Russian side is headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
"The talks were difficult, long, very professional, deep, concrete, without attempts to gloss over some sharp edges," Ryabkov told a press briefing after the talks. "We had the feeling that the American side took the Russian proposals very seriously and studied them deeply." Sherman told a separate press briefing after the talks that "We had a frank and forthright discussion over the course of nearly eight hours at the U.S. Mission in Geneva. This is the third time the U.S.-Russia Strategic Stability Dialogue has convened since President Biden and President Putin met in Geneva last June."
Putin Would Burst Xi’s Olympic Dream With a War in Ukraine – Bloomberg
It’s possible Xi asked Putin in their recent call not to invade Ukraine during the Games, according to one diplomat in Beijing who asked not to be identified talking about such scenarios.
The Russian army sounds the alarm about strictly maintaining official secrets俄军为严守公务秘密敲警钟 – People’s Daily [Chinese-language]
Although official secrets are not state secrets, not everyone has the right to access and obtain them. Once leaked, it may cause harm to national defense and national security. To this end, in recent years, the Russian Ministry of Defense has taken several measures to strengthen the secrecy of the military's official secrets…
Russian experts pointed out that under the circumstance that Western countries, led by the United States, are besieging and blocking Russia everywhere and exerting strong pressure, in the context of information chaos and unimpeded dissemination of information, the Russian Ministry of Defense's move is one of security and confidentiality “reinsurance." After all, it is very stupid to advertise which regiment or division you are a soldier in, and which excellent tanks, missiles or air defense systems are equipped here. What's more, in the Internet age, information related to the defense field can be spread all over the world within a few hours or even minutes. Considering that multinational intelligence agencies have organizations dedicated to collecting and analyzing such information, reports based on the above information will soon be available for decision-making.
Comment: Chinese security officials must be stunned by the volume of Russian social media posts on the military mobilization. It’s not clear to me, however, if the Russian security structures lack the capacity to suppress the posts – or if they are intentionally using the posts to psychologically prepare the population for war.
A Vibrant Path of Opportunity – People’s Daily [Chinese-language]
The silk road is long and the wheels are sonorous. The first 10 years of the China-Europe freight train has played an important role in promoting smooth trade between China and Europe and deepening cooperation among countries along the route. Entering the new 10 years, China, which is constantly expanding its opening-up, is willing to work with more partners to take advantage of the east wind of the China-Europe freight train, and join hands to build the "Belt and Road" with high quality, so as to contribute more to the sustainable recovery of the world economy.
Comment: Unclear if this is a subtle warning to Moscow about economic disruptions.
Quanzhou-Moscow China-Europe train starts for the first time – People’s Daily [Chinese-language]
At 10:30 on January 18, with the train whistle, the 75010/09 China-Europe freight train carrying 50 40-foot containers slowly departed from Quanzhou East Station. All the way to the north, it will exit through the Manzhouli port to Moscow, Russia, marking the successful start of the China-Europe train (Quanzhou-Moscow).
New railway route connecting Moscow, Quanzhou — Xinhua (published by TASS)
The first freight train departed from the port city of Quanzhou in Eastern China to Moscow, Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday. This is the first freight train traveling from China to Europe from the city of Quanzhou in the Fujian Province. The train laden with 445 tonnes of goods is expected to arrive at the Russian capital in about 20 days. The distance for freight delivery by rail will take 25 days smaller than using the route with seaborne transportation. The distance between Quanzhou and Moscow stands at 10,900 km.
China urges U.S. to stop playing "Taiwan card" – Xinhua
China has urged Lithuania not to act as a pawn for anti-China forces and urged the United States to stop playing the "Taiwan card", Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said here Monday. Wang made the remarks at a daily press briefing when asked to comment U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai's remarks concerning China.
Xi sends message of sympathy to Polish president – Xinhua
Chinese President Xi Jinping has sent a message of sympathy to Polish President Andrzej Duda over the latter's infection with COVID-19. In the message sent on Monday, Xi said that upon learning of Duda's infection with the coronavirus, he would like to extend his sympathy to the Polish president, and wish him a speedy recovery and the Polish people an early victory over the disease.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Xi said, China and Poland have supported each other and joined hands to fight the pandemic, during which their traditional friendship has been deepened. Xi said he attaches great importance to the development of bilateral relations, and is willing to work with Duda to lift the China-Poland comprehensive strategic partnership to new levels.
4) China-Russia Political Interactions
‘Outdated and arrogant’: Russian Foreign Ministry blasts US dual containment policy – TASS
Washington needs to understand that its dual containment policy towards Moscow and Beijing is completely outdated and has nothing good to offer the United States, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in response to media questions collected for top diplomat Sergey Lavrov’s press conference. The ministry’s responses were published on its website on Friday.
"It’s high time that our American colleagues understand that Washington’s dual containment policy towards Moscow and Beijing is completely outdated and offers no good prospects for the US. The Americans would do more good for themselves and the entire world if they abandoned their arrogant claim for global dominance and engaged in an equal and honest dialogue with Russia, China and other major players in order to search for balanced solutions to pressing global security and development issues. We are ready for such work," the ministry pointed out.
Talks between Russian, Chinese leaders to be held on February 4 in Beijing, Lavrov says – TASS
Preparations for the Russia-China summit which will take place in Beijing on February 4, on the opening day of the Winter Olympics, are at full speed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference on the results of Russia’s diplomatic activities in 2021 on Friday. "We are preparing an official Russian-Chinese summit. Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the invitation of China’s President Xi Jinping, will visit Beijing on February 4, on the opening day of the Olympic Games, and full-scale talks at the highest level will be held on the same day," he confirmed.
Russia-China friendship is not aimed against anyone — Lavrov – TASS
The friendship of Russia and China is not aimed against anyone, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference after talks with Croatian counterpart Gordan Radman on Monday. "As for our relations with the People’s Republic of China, they are not subject to the situation and are developing regardless of what our Western colleagues think about this. Our friendship with China is not aimed against anyone," Lavrov stressed.
5) Omicron in Russia
Orthodox Christians observe Christmas amid virus concerns – ABC News
The Russian Orthodox Church, the largest Orthodox congregation, said celebrants needed to wear masks and observe social distancing at Christmas services. At Moscow's huge Christ The Savior Cathedral, church leader Patriarch Kirill and other gold-robed priests chanted prayers and waved smoking containers of incense during a midnight service. A live broadcast of the service indicated about half of the worshippers in attendance were without masks or had them pulled down to their chins as they watched the pageantry. Russian President Vladimir Putin, also without a mask, attended a service at the Church of the Image of the Saviour Made Without Hands in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow.
Russia reports 49,513 daily COVID-19 cases, a new high since start of pandemic – TASS
Some 15,987 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Moscow, 5,922 in St. Petersburg, 4,424 in the Moscow Region and 1,116 in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. These regions saw the biggest number of daily cases since the start of pandemic.
6) Sanctions and Indo-Pacific Economies
How will China Respond to the Russia-Ukraine Crisis? Chris Miller for FPRI
If Russia again escalates militarily against Ukraine, it is not yet clear what sanctions the US and EU would mobilize in response, but many of the options being discussed would implicate China directly. Moreover, because the Russia-China economic relationship is larger and deeper than in 2014, it would be more difficult and costly for China to follow Western sanctions. As a result, China is far more likely to play an important role in crisis escalation pathways, because unlike in 2014, it won’t be possible to “abstain” from making a choice about sanctions… The decisions Beijing makes will either undermine sanctions or intensify their impact, in turn shaping the Kremlin’s perceptions of whether Russia can weather the economic cost….
China could help Russia by swiftly transitioning bilateral trade to other payments systems, moving trade currently denominated in dollars or euros to rubles or renminbi, and by providing generous loans in renminbi to the Russian government, central bank, and major Russian financial institutions, which could then be used to buy goods from China. Such a move would be costly for China, as some of these loans might not get repaid. These efforts would also substantially increase US-China tension. However, if such a move worked at stabilizing Russia-China trade, these financial mechanisms could also be used by third countries to transact with Russia while avoiding US financial sanctions. If so, this would demonstrate China’s financial power and the declining efficacy of US sanctions. The alternative would be to tolerate major disruptions to China-Russia trade while watching the US demonstrate sanctions efficacy, neither of which would be palatable to Beijing.
Comment: Very useful article for understanding sanctions dynamics
Japan’s threats to Russia in Ukrainian context unacceptable, counterproductive – Embassy – TASS
Japan’s attempts to threaten Russia in the context of the situation around Ukraine with some "decisive actions in close coordination with the US and other allies" are unacceptable, senseless and counterproductive for the atmosphere of Russian-Japanese relations, a statement by the Russian Embassy in Japan made public on Saturday said.
Taiwan announces further $1 billion investment for Lithuania amid Beijing pressure – Euractiv
Taiwan announced the launch of a $1 billion credit programme to fund joint projects between Lithuanian and Taiwanese companies in six business categories, a Taiwan government minister said on Tuesday (11 January). Lithuania is currently amid a dispute with China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, to reverse a decision last year to allow the island to open a de-facto embassy in Vilnius under its own name.
ScoMo responds as tensions between Russia and Ukraine rise – News AU
Australia will work with America and the United Kingdom in attempting to deter Russia from “whatever action” they are considering taking against Ukraine, but no requests are “anticipated” to be made. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia was closely following the escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine closely, and consular assistance was being provided to the 1400 Australians who live in Ukraine.
In Delhi, German Navy chief bats for good ties with Russia to rein in China, says Ukraine can't be NATO member – WION
The German Navy chief VAdm Kay-Achim Schönbach in Delhi has batted for good ties with Russia to rein in China in a remark that goes against the present narrative coming from Europe amid the deteriorating situation in eastern Europe. Speaking at think-tank IDSA, he said, "Does Russia really want a small and tiny strip of Ukraine soil to integrate into the country? No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably putting pressure because he knows he can do it and he splits EU opinion. What he really wants is respect."
Comment: Kay-Achim Schönbach stepped down under pressure following these rather bizarre comments.
7) Russian and Chinese Navies
Russian Navy task force enters Indian Ocean in long-distance deployment – TASS
A task force of the Russian Pacific Fleet has passed through the Strait of Malacca and entered the Indian Ocean in its deployment in distant waters, the Fleet’s press office reported on Tuesday. "The Pacific Fleet’s task force comprising the Guards Order of Nakhimov missile cruiser Varyag, the large anti-submarine warfare ship Admiral Tributs and the large sea tanker Boris Butoma has transited the Strait of Malacca and entered the Indian Ocean. The Pacific Fleet’s ships embarked on their long-distance deployment several days before the new year 2022," the press office said in a statement.
Cutting-edge anti-submarine missile system accepted for service in Russian Navy – TASS
The latest Otvet (Response) anti-submarine missile system has been accepted for service in the Russian Navy, a source in the domestic defense industry told TASS on Tuesday. "The Otvet anti-submarine warfare system has been accepted for service with the Russian Navy. It has been serial-supplied to the Navy’s ships for a year already," the source specified.
Iran, Russia and China hold joint navy drill in Indian Ocean - AP
Iran, Russia and China on Friday began a joint naval drill in the Indian Ocean aimed at boosting security at sea, Iranian state media reported. State TV said 11 of the country’s vessels were joined by three Russian ships, including a destroyer, and two Chinese vessels. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was also participating with smaller ships and helicopters. The report said the maneuvers would cover some 17,000 square kilometers, or about 6,500 square miles, in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, and include night fighting, rescue operations and firefighting drills.
China, Iran and Russia hold second maritime joint military exercise – People’s Daily [Chinese-language]
According to the consensus of the militaries of China, Iran and Russia, the navies of China, Iran and Russia will hold the second joint maritime military exercise in the waters of the Gulf of Oman from January 18 to 20. The Chinese side sent the guided-missile destroyer Urumqi, the comprehensive supply ship Taihu, ship-based helicopters and 40 marines to participate in the exercise. The exercise aims to deepen the practical cooperation between the navies of the three countries, demonstrate the good will and ability of the three sides to jointly safeguard maritime security and actively build a "community of shared destiny at sea", and inject positive energy into regional peace and stability.
Comment: The announcement of naval exercises is in cycle. Russia, China, and Iran held an exercise in December 2019; Russia and Iran held a bilateral exercise in February 2021. Notably, China did not attend the 2021 exercises despite the Russian ambassador to Iran’s insistence that the P.R.C. would attend. Wonder if the “according to… consensus/common understanding” (根据…共识) formulation by the People’s Daily was pointed or not.
The China-Russia Report is an independent, nonpartisan newsletter covering political, economic, and security affairs within and between China and Russia. All articles, comments, op-eds, etc represent only the personal opinion of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the position(s) of The China-Russia Report.