What has just taken place in Moscow is nothing less than a new Yalta, which, incidentally, is in Crimea. But unlike the momentous meeting of US President Franklin Roosevelt, Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in USSR-run Crimea in 1945, this is the first time in arguably five centuries that no political leader from the west is setting the global agenda.
It’s Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin that are now running the multilateral, multipolar show. Western exceptionalists may deploy their crybaby routines as much as they want: nothing will change the spectacular optics, and the underlying substance of this developing world order, especially for the Global South.
What Xi and Putin are setting out to do was explained in detail before their summit, in two Op-Eds penned by the presidents themselves. Like a highly-synchronized Russian ballet, Putin’s vision was laid out in the People’s Daily in China, focusing on a “future-bound partnership,” while Xi’s was published in the Russian Gazette and the RIA Novosti website, focusing on a new chapter in cooperation and common development.
Right from the start of the summit, the speeches by both Xi and Putin drove the NATO crowd into a hysterical frenzy of anger and envy: Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova perfectly captured the mood when she remarked that the west was “foaming at the mouth.”
The front page of the Russian Gazette on Monday was iconic: Putin touring Nazi-free Mariupol, chatting with residents, side by side with Xi’s Op-Ed. That was, in a nutshell, Moscow’s terse response to Washington’s MQ-9 Reaper stunt and the International Criminal Court (ICC) kangaroo court shenanigans. “Foam at the mouth” as much as you like; NATO is in the process of being thoroughly humiliated in Ukraine.
During their first “informal” meeting, Xi and Putin talked for no less than four and a half hours. At the end, Putin personally escorted Xi to his limo. This conversation was the real deal: mapping out the lineaments of multipolarity – which starts with a solution for Ukraine.
Predictably, there were very few leaks from the sherpas, but there was quite a significant one on their “in-depth exchange” on Ukraine. Putin politely stressed he respects China’s position – expressed in Beijing’s 12-point conflict resolution plan, which has been completely rejected by Washington. But the Russian position remains ironclad: demilitarization, Ukrainian neutrality, and enshrining the new facts on the ground.
In parallel, the Russian Foreign Ministry completely ruled out a role for the US, UK, France, and Germany in future Ukraine negotiations: they are not considered neutral mediators.
A multipolar patchwork quilt
The next day was all about business: everything from energy and “military-technical” cooperation to improving the efficacy of trade and economic corridors running through Eurasia.
Russia already ranks first as a natural gas supplier to China – surpassing Turkmenistan and Qatar – most of it via the 3,000 km Power of Siberia pipeline that runs from Siberia to China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province, launched in December 2019. Negotiations on the Power of Siberia II pipeline via Mongolia are advancing fast.
Sino-Russian cooperation in high-tech will go through the roof: 79 projects at over $165 billion. Everything from liquified natural gas (LNG) to aircraft construction, machine tool construction, space research, agro-industry, and upgraded economic corridors.
The Chinese president explicitly said he wants to link the New Silk Road projects to the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). This BRI-EAEU interpolation is a natural evolution. China has already signed an economic cooperation deal with the EAEU. Russian macroeconomic uber-strategist Sergey Glazyev’s ideas are finally bearing fruit.
And last but not least, there will be a new drive towards mutual settlements in national currencies – and between Asia and Africa, and Latin America. For all practical purposes, Putin endorsed the role of the Chinese yuan as the new trade currency of choice while the complex discussions on a new reserve currency backed by gold and/or commodities proceed.
This joint economic/business offensive ties in with the concerted Russia-China diplomatic offensive to remake vast swathes of West Asia and Africa.
Chinese diplomacy works like the matryoshka (Russian stacking dolls) in terms of delivering subtle messages. It’s far from coincidental that Xi’s trip to Moscow exactly coincides with the 20th anniversary of American ‘Shock and Awe’ and the illegal invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq.
In parallel, over 40 delegations from Africa arrived in Moscow a day before Xi to take part in a “Russia-Africa in the Multipolar World” parliamentary conference – a run-up to the second Russia-Africa summit next July.
The area surrounding the Duma looked just like the old Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) days when most of Africa kept very close anti-imperialist relations with the USSR.
Putin chose this exact moment to write off more than $20 billion in African debt.
In West Asia, Russia-China are acting totally in synch. West Asia. The Saudi-Iran rapprochement was actually jump-started by Russia in Baghdad and Oman: it was these negotiations that led to the signing of the deal in Beijing. Moscow is also coordinating the Syria-Turkiye rapprochement discussions. Russian diplomacy with Iran – now under strategic partnership status – is kept on a separate track.
Diplomatic sources confirm that Chinese intelligence, via its own investigations, is now fully assured of Putin’s vast popularity across Russia, and even within the country’s political elites. That means conspiracies of the regime-change variety are out of the question. This was fundamental for Xi and the Zhongnanhai’s (China’s central HQ for party and state officials) decision to “bet” on Putin as a trusted partner in the coming years, considering he may run and win the next presidential elections. China is always about continuity.
So the Xi-Putin summit definitively sealed China-Russia as comprehensive strategic partners for the long haul, committed to developing serious geopolitical and geoeconomic competition with declining western hegemons.
This is the new world born in Moscow this week. Putin previously defined it as a new anti-colonial policy. It’s now laid out as a multipolar patchwork quilt. There’s no turning back on the demolition of the remnants of Pax Americana.
‘Changes that haven’t happened in 100 years’
In Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350, Janet Abu-Lughod built a carefully constructed narrative showing the prevailing multipolar order when the West “lagged behind the ‘Orient.’” Later, the West only “pulled ahead because the ‘Orient’ was temporarily in disarray.”
We may be witnessing a similarly historic shift in the making, trespassed by a revival of Confucianism (respect for authority, emphasis on social harmony), the equilibrium inherent to the Tao, and the spiritual power of Eastern Orthodoxy. This is, indeed, a civilizational fight.
Moscow, finally welcoming the first sunny days of Spring, provided this week a larger-than-life illustration of “weeks where decades happen” compared to “decades where nothing happens.”
The two presidents bid farewell in a poignant manner.
Xi: “Now, there are changes that haven’t happened in 100 years. When we are together, we drive these changes.”
Putin: “I agree.”
Xi: “Take care, dear friend.”
Putin: “Have a safe trip.”
Here’s to a new day dawning, from the lands of the Rising Sun to the Eurasian steppes.