Experts said on Sunday that Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rebellion against Moscow has raised alarm in China and could throw sand into the wheels of the “borderless” strategic partnership between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
After a 24-hour armed rebellion in which Wagner’s mercenaries led by Prigozhin seized parts of the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and sent a convoy of troops hundreds of kilometers north toward Moscow, analysts said Beijing would see Putin fail to keep the mercenaries in check. The president of the selection as slapped with “incompetence.”
“China will view the latest events in Russia with great alarm,” said Rana Maiter, professor of modern Chinese history and politics at the University of Oxford. “In particular, they are likely to have new doubts about how Russian forces will unite, as well as the overall ability Putin has to control his regime.”
Sari Arho Havrin, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) who specializes in Chinese foreign affairs, said: “Xi is likely to see the background of the Wagner insurrection as a serious incompetence. The insurrection clearly has weakened Putin’s standing – the main consequence being how weak the Wagner structure is.” The power in Russia is now in the eyes of others. The Chinese Communist Party has a fear of chaos and instability in its DNA.”
To appear weak and wounded before Beijing would be a serious blow to Moscow — and to Putin personally, who has spent years building Russia’s relations with China and increasingly relies on its growing political support and trade ties.
China has become Russia’s most important international partner since its invasion of Ukraine last February. Putin and Xi call each other “friends” and have portrayed themselves as a powerful tandem in the face of US dominance on the world stage. On the eve of the invasion, the two countries established a “borderless” strategic partnership.
In practice, however, China has been wary of providing support that could lead to Western sanctions, and Putin has publicly acknowledged that Xi has “concerns” about Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Beijing has also sought to portray itself as a peace broker between Moscow and Kiev, an initiative that has drawn criticism from Ukraine and its allies given China’s close ties to Russia.
While the Kremlin has publicly rejected the notion that it is a follower in the relationship, the notion that Moscow needs Beijing more than the other way around has stuck.
Analysts said that the ability of a private militia commander to control one of the most important Russian command centers of the war and to advance close to Moscow is likely to increase the power tilt in the relationship towards Beijing.
“This strengthens Russia’s position as a junior partner,” said Livia Bagi, managing director and head of political risk at JS Held. Russia has already become completely dependent on China, for example in oil and gas sales. It will be more so now – there is no doubt about that.
Russian energy supplies to China have reached record levels over the past year, as Moscow has replaced Saudi Arabia as the largest exporter of crude oil to China, and gas flows through the Power of Siberia pipeline are increasing.
But the volumes were not enough to replace Russia’s lost gas and oil revenues from previously lucrative European markets, with countries like China and India getting Russian crude at more than 30% discounts compared to the global Brent benchmark.
Moreover, Beijing’s energy policy is to favor diversified sources, and despite repeated high-profile overtures regarding the new multi-billion dollar Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline – a line that would take gas from Russian fields that previously supplied Europe – Beijing is Not yet committed to the project.
On the political front, John K. Global China Hub and former CIA officer.
In this context, China will support Putin if he remains in office in Moscow. If Putin falls, Beijing will wait for the dust to settle and grow a new power structure, perhaps with a new opportunity to advise that Russia extricates itself from Ukraine and refocuses on its longstanding competition with the US/Western alliance.” books Saturday after crushing the rebellion.
While the Chinese president did not make any high-level comments on the situation in Russia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko was in Beijing on Sunday for a meeting with Chinese officials.
in Read The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said about the meeting: “The Chinese side expressed support for the efforts of the leadership of the Russian Federation to stabilize the situation in the country in connection with the events of June 24, and renewed its interest in promoting unity and more prosperity for Russia.”
While China may not have made a public offer of support during the crisis, analysts said there was no question on which side Beijing was backing.
Bagge of JS Held said there would be a “great relief” in China after the armed uprising had been crushed.
China needs a Russia with which it can be a suitable partner. And for China to have a partner, they must be strong. Russia cannot be in tatters – it does not work.
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