عنوان مقاله [English]
In 2013, China launched the New Silk Road plan as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. In this plan, “the near abroad” states, especially Central Asians, will have an important contribution. Russia was initially reluctant and pessimistic regarding China’s move, taking it as another step by China to expand its economic and political influence in Russia’s sphere of influence and its backyard, but then joined the plan and was turned into one of its backers. In recent years, China has gained widespread influence and presence in countries that have been separated from the Soviet Union, especially in Central Asia. China’s current total exports to five Central Asian countries are higher than Russia’s level of exchange. China’s entry into the post-Soviet region as a powerful player adds a new layer of complexity to Moscow’s efforts to manage interactions with members of the Eurasian Economic Union, particularly Belarus and Kazakhstan. But Russia’s main concern seems to be the interference of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative with the Eurasian Economic Union.
Another reason why Russia is skeptical about China’s plan is that Russia has extensive plans in the field of regionalism with the seceded countries from the Soviet Union in the political, economic, and security realms. This makes Russia look at the zero-sum game approach with any similar plan put forward by the great powers in the realm of co-independent states.
Another Russian concern is the geopolitical implications of China’s plan. In connection with the Belt and Road Initiative, China, as a general practice in foreign policy, has sought to avoid the geopolitical literature and present its plan in the context of soft policy and economic and cultural cooperation. The plan of one-belt one-road is a Chinese-oriented plan. This plan is comparable to the US Marshall Plan after World War II. Although China insists on calling this a win-win plan, other analyses could turn it into a win-lose for Russia in the long run. The issue that worries Russia is that China’s plan is not as normal as its bilateral relations vis –a–vis Russia. When China gain access and dominates the infrastructure and financial sectors of the post-Soviet sphere of influence, including energy links, banking, insurance, mining, etc., it will have practically dominated all these countries, leaving no room for Russian activism. As such, the Silk Road Economic Belt is more than a crossroad and will provide a platform for China to increase its political influence in the heart of Eurasia. The main point that considers the plan of Chinese one-belt one-road a long-term threat to Russia is that China is investing billions of dollars in neighboring countries within the framework of detailed and multi-dimensional contracts. Regardless of the economic and commercial dimensions of these contracts, which could leave less room for Russia, the issue is the security of large infrastructure investments. In other words, the region in which Russia has been trying for decades to prevent Western and NATO’s influence, and virtually any non-Russian power is witnessing China is expanding its all-out influence.
According to this, the question of this research is that despite Russia’s initial pessimism, what is the reason for Russia’s entry into China’s new Silk and Road initiative? In response, the hypothesis is that following Western pressure and sanctions against Russia after the Ukrainian crisis and the emergence of economic problems and political isolation, Russia decided to reduce its economic and political vulnerabilities by participating in China’s new plan. Russia also defines the Eurasian Economic Union project in line with China’s plan and seeks to reap its benefits by cooperating with the project. The research method is quantitative and the method of data collection is based on library and reliable internet sources. The main variable is Russia’s soft power balance and the dependent variable is Russia’s cooperation with China in the one-belt one-road initiative.
Finally, given the increasing pressure from Western countries on Russia in recent years, especially after the Crimean crisis and EU economic sanctions and increasing pressure from NATO, Russia has responded positively to China’s Silk and Road plan despite its initial reluctance. Of course, part of the reason for Russia’s acceptance of this plan was the inevitable economic expansion of China in Russia’s adjacent regions. However, Russia still has various and powerful instruments to counter and sabotage the Chinese plan, especially in Central Asian countries. In particular, Russia itself is the creator of plans and institutions for regional convergence such as the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, which in some cases contradict China’s plan. However, Russia did not oppose the Chinese project by redefining these institutions and taking a new approach to the possibility of “linking” the Eurasian Economic Union with the Chinese one-belt one-road initiative. For more than two decades, Russia has sought to prevent foreign and Western powers from entering the post-Soviet space by signing treaties, making agreements, establishing organizations, and even making political and economic pressures, especially in the field of energy. However, it has not been able to meet the different needs of the developing countries in its vicinity so the cooperation of these countries, especially the Central Asian countries with powers that were outside of the Commonwealth of Independent States was inevitable. Therefore, Russia seeks to reduce the possibility of western countries’ presence by accepting the presence of China, which is a potential long-term threat to Russia. Something that can be called elimination of evil by a worse evil. Russia’s neighboring regions are immediate and vital danger, but this country alone is not able to make a balance toward the West. Therefore, by aligning with China, it seeks to increase its balance of power with Western countries especially the United States. Hence, the key to understanding such Russian cooperation with China is the concept of balance, when issues exceed the balance, Russia also has considerations against expanding Chinese influence.