Tensions in Ukraine threaten to alter the security environment in the Arctic. Russia must, therefore, proceed with caution if it wants to maintain previous levels of cooperation. Only time will tell if the hawks in the Kremlin will be willing to engage in cooperation rather than see the region as a zero-sum game.
The fundamental dilemma of Moscow’s policy lies in whether it is worth cooperating to achieve a comprehensive agreement with Iran, which would primarily be a success for the United States, under conditions of confrontation with the West over Ukraine.
Russia could use the U.S.-led sanctions to begin its long-delayed re-industrialization and to start building a modern economy.
Russia must know that an exclusive alliance with China will incur its own cost.
A number of complex questions remain unresolved as negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program enter their final stage. The main question is whether the cooperation between Russia and the West would continue at the previous levels in the midst of the crisis in Ukraine.
The Sino-Russian gas deal emphasizes and accelerates the fading of Russia’s until-now special relationship with the EU. The partnership between Russia and China is acquiring truly strategic depth.
The secretive nature of the gas agreement between Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp may show that the contract contains something the Russian negotiators could not be proud of in the limelight of Russian public opinion.
Putin’s travel to China should demonstrate that Russia is not alone, and, no doubt, this visit will be a success. However, China can call the shots in the upcoming gas deal. If a deal is concluded on favorable terms, this will signal a big step toward securing the strategic partnership between the two countries.
If the Kremlin allies with China too closely, it will not only estrange Russia from most of Asian countries, but also may provoke China’s appetite to gobble the newly-born child of Russia, the Eurasian Union.
Sanctioning Russia’s oil remains on the table, but playing this card comes with serious economic risk for all.