Will the Authoritarians of the World Unite?

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Op-Ed Moscow Times
The nascent Chinese-Russian entente is not news since the relationship has been steadily broadening and deepening for more than a decade. But there is increasing evidence suggesting this relationship is part of a growing global ideological conflict between consolidating democracies and dictatorships.
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The chumminess of Russian and Chinese authoritarian leaders was on display again last week with Vladimir Putin's state visit to Beijing. The nascent Chinese-Russian entente is not news since the relationship has been steadily broadening and deepening for more than a decade. But there is increasing evidence suggesting this relationship is part of a growing global ideological conflict between consolidating democracies and dictatorships.

Also in the news last week was the landslide re-election of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, who last year was designated "Europe's last dictator" by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In what has now become a familiar pattern, Western election monitors, including the OSCE, and the U.S. government strongly condemned electoral violations while the Russian government praised the quality of the elections. Authoritarian solidarity received a big shot in the arm last summer when Uzbekistan evicted U.S. military forces and signed a security alliance with Russia. This was followed in August by the fanfare surrounding the first Chinese-Russian joint military exercises.

On the democracy front, U.S. President George W. Bush traveled this month to India and signed a path-breaking civilian nuclear agreement that marked a significant, if controversial, step forward in relations between the world's two largest democracies. Obviously there is a geopolitical subtext as the Bush administration sees a strong and democratic India as part of a China containment strategy. Rice also recently traveled to democratic allies Japan and Australia, even making a stop in democratic hopeful Indonesia.

This month, the United States published a new and ideologically highly charged National Security Strategy document that placed democracy promotion at the forefront of U.S. security interests. The document, which included specific criticism of Russian backsliding on democracy, predictably elicited a blistering retort from the Foreign Ministry. This repeated a pattern seen earlier in the month with the publication of a report on Russia by a Council on Foreign Relations task force and the State Department's annual report on human rights.

On his first trip to Washington as foreign minister as these reports were being released, Sergei Lavrov philosophically ascribed the Russia bashing in the United States to those uncomfortable with a "strong Russia" and lamented that "Russia does not want to be provoked into an ideological conflict with the U.S. like the Cold War."

But we are slipping into the Cold War tone and rhetoric. The new energy behind U.S. democracy promotion efforts and rhetoric combined with the series of "color revolutions" in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan are generating an authoritarian backlash championed by Beijing and Moscow. From the Chinese and Russian perspectives, U.S. support for democratic institutions, free elections and civil society has more to do with expansion of Washington's geopolitical interests than expanding liberty.

It is, however, far too premature to conclude that the barricades are drawn between the "authoritarian internationale" and any global democratic alliance. Moscow and Beijing have far too many strong interests with developed market democracies to make a 21st-century Sino-Russian alliance an attractive option. Chinese-Russian trade may well double or more to as much as $80 billion by 2010 as Chinese President Hu Jintao and Putin announced last week. But even with this impressive growth, China's trade with the United States would be at least four times greater. China will probably become Russia's largest trade partner, but Russia's economic and strategic interests will remain diversified east, west and south to avoid over-dependence on the burgeoning Chinese market.

In addition to Russian arms sales, the Chines-Russian economic relationship will be based on Russian export of raw materials, mostly energy, and import of Chinese manufactured goods. Fears about Russia becoming a "natural resource appendage" to China are overblown. Chinese-Russian energy ties vividly display both the potential and limitations of the relationship as well as Russia's development strategy as an "energy superpower."

The potential is suggested by Russia's status as the world's largest supplier of hydrocarbons and China's as the fastest growing consumer. The problem is how much oil and gas Russia can supply to China when and at what cost. Production levels of Russian gas have already stagnated and will likely fall somewhat beginning in 2008. Where will the promised new 80 billion cubic meters per year of gas come from for China that Hu and Putin agreed to last week? How will this be balanced with growth in European demand, new exports of LNG to the United States and Russian domestic demand? Russian oil production faces a similar predicament, although production may continue to grow slowly for a few more years. And while Chinese companies are chomping at the bit to buy Russian energy assets, they do not have the technology and project experience needed for greenfield development that Western energy majors can bring to the table.

That is why the imminent decision about the partnership arrangements for development of the mammoth Shtokman gas field in the Barents Sea is of great substantive and symbolic value. This is technically the most demanding and expensive gas field project in history, and there is no question that Gazprom cannot do it alone. Expect that an announcement about partners and equity arrangements will be made this spring before the Group of Eight meeting in St. Petersburg in July. Don't expect that the involvement of Western energy and financial institutions will make Russia a democracy, although we should expect modest improvements in corporate governance and efficiency. The exigencies of developing Russia's energy resources, so key to its economic and international clout, will also mitigate against the Chinese and the Russians colluding too closely beyond Moscow's pragmatic commercial interests.

End of document

About the Russia and Eurasia Program

The Carnegie Russia and Eurasia Program has, since the end of the Cold War, led the field of Eurasian security, including strategic nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, development, economic and social issues, governance, and the rule of law.

Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2006/03/28/will-authoritarians-of-world-unite/31dw

Eurasia Outlook

In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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