Saturday May 24, 2014
Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin usually wears a perfect poker face. But last week in Shangahi, the icy-cold Russian president came awfully close to bursting into a big grin.
And why not? Putin had just stolen a march on his western rivals. The US-British attempt to wound Russia’s economy and punish Putin for disobedience had just blown up in their red faces.
After 20 years of difficult talks, Russia and China had just signed a huge deal that called for Russia to export 38 billion cubic meters of gas worth some $400 billion to China. The agreement begins in 2018 and will involve one of the globe’s largest engineering projects that links Russia’s remote gas fields to China’s pipeline system.
In addition, China will invest at least $20 billion in Russian industry and boost imports of Russian products, notably military systems. China will become Russia’s largest trade partner.
This was not the much ballyhooed “pivot to Asia” that President Barack Obama expected. It is, however, the long-dreaded embrace between the Chinese dragon and Russian bear that has given western strategists the willies.