The International Herald Tribune reports on Vladmir Putin’s cosmically stupid China blunder:
Russia’s military success against Georgia is having repercussions that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his stand-in president, Dmitri Medvedev, surely do not welcome. Simply put, Putin has alienated China and other countries that share his interest in countering U.S. power.
The Asian Development Bank, in which China plays a leading role, has extended a $40 million loan at the lowest possible rate to Georgia. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization – which includes China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan as well as Russia – refused to countenance Russia’s recognition of two breakaway regions of Georgia. The rebuff of Putin is all the more striking because – at least from Putin’s perspective – the central purpose of this group was to form an eastern counterweight to NATO.
China and the Central Asian states may share the Kremlin’s resentment of American dominance in the world, but they are not so eager to construct a multipolar world that they will act against their national interests.
Beijing has marshaled enormous resources to keep other countries from recognizing Taiwan as an independent country. China’s entire propaganda campaign against the Dalai Lama is based on the false claim that he wants to split Tibet off from China. The Chinese leadership has also fiercely repressed any sign of separatism among the Muslim population in the north-western region of Xinjiang. China, in short, opposes all outside interference within its borders and extends the same privilege to other governments, however odious.
Putin upheld the same principle when he objected to President Bush’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. But in declaring that South Ossetia and Abkhazia were no longer under the sovereignty of Georgia, Putin forced China to choose between its alliance with Russia and the principle of noninterference and fixed borders. China chose the principle.
The other Shanghai group members have their own reasons for refusing to support Russia’s redrawing of the map. As former republics of the vanished Soviet Union, they all have ethnic Russians living within their borders. The last thing they want is to encourage the Kremlin to go about “liberating” these communities.
Putin may want to avoid a unipolar world order centered in Washington. But like Bush, Putin is discovering there is a price for resorting to unilateral force to remake a region of the world