Russia Has Reacted to Economic Siege with Creative, Far-Reaching Moves

Shunned by the West it has moved to establish trade routes with everyone else

Tue, Dec 16, 2014
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Judo moves

This is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared at Salon


What I find remarkable now is that Moscow does not seem to be taking Ukraine’s misfortune and the West’s aggressions against Russia itself passively — or even negatively, for that matter. So we pass from the destructive file to the constructive.

Neil MacFarquhar, a standout in the New York Times’ Moscow bureau for his full-frontal prejudices, gave as negative an account as he could when he covered Putin’s year-end address. I had another read. This guy is bloodied, O.K., but he is not bowed, and I would advise against waiting for it.

I did like the Times’ head, parenthetically: “Putin, Amid Stark Challenges, Says Russia’s Destiny Is at Hand.” Without going histrionic, that is likely to prove precisely what is at hand. My favorite MacFarquhar sentence:

“Mr. Putin enjoyed ever-greater support from March to August, but in the months since, as sanctions began to bite with inflation, support began to erode — though his approval ratings remain in the 80s.”

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You have to love a paper that will publish this. Somehow.

Look at Putin’s foreign agenda this past year: Latin America just as the sanctions came in — an intentional finger in Washington’s eye, as I read it — then China, China again recently, Turkey more recently, India just now. He has not been to Iran, but there, as in all these other places, he has forged or reiterated promising relations. The deals cut are too numerous to list.

A couple are worth mentioning. The twin gas deals with China, worth nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars, are historic all by themselves. In six years’ time China will be buying more gas from Russia than the latter now sells to Europe.

And do not miss this: My sources tell me that this gas can be priced such as to crowd the U.S. at least partially out of the Asian market.

Other side of the world: Putin has just canceled a planned pipeline to southeastern Europe, the South Stream. This is the defeat Western media put it over as, surely: Russia loses some customers.

But two points:

  • One, it was soon enough clear that the Europeans, having used South Stream as leverage in the sanctions game, probably overplayed their hand. The day following the announcement they were struggling for composure so far as I can make out.
     
  • Two, Putin stunned everyone with his decision from Ankara, where he stood with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to announce that South Stream would be rerouted to serve the Turkish market. Think about this: It is more than a new deal; there are significant political and diplomatic implications in this, given Turkey’s traditional alliances, its EU aspirations and so on.

This is the way the world changes shape, the way new worlds get built. Think of these new ties in terms of the old trade routes. Many things other than goods traveled along them. As then, the traffic will run in both directions, making our latest globalization the two-way street it should have been from the first.

One could say it is not the West’s world any longer, and I called it “post-Western” in a book several years ago. This is not quite so. It is ours, but only to the extent that it is destined to be everybody’s, if I read history rightly.

As an American, my biggest regret on this score — apart from all the suffering caused in our names — is  that my country seems bent on doing almost everything it can to lose out on a great deal of what would be its share in the arriving era; this in the name of prolonging a time that is no longer.


Patrick Smith is the author of “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” was the International Herald Tribune’s bureau chief in Hong Kong and then Tokyo from 1985 to 1992.

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