Russia Looks East – 14 July 2022


There’s been less on our TV screens about the Ukraine war. That not just due to the Westminster mayhem but because it’s not going as well as hoped. The Ukrainians are getting ground down and news coverage is about heroic defence by Ukrainian troops and Russian atrocities on Ukrainian civilians. No doubt both are true, but it doesn’t solve the problem of Russia simply grinding them down. Luhansk, now Donetsk and then the rest of the Donbass. Ukrainian soldiers’ courage alone won’t stop that, and sophisticated NATO weaponry can bleed the Russians but not stop them.

What then of sanctions? Well, they’ve impacted on some Russian oligarchs and undoubtedly had some affect on Russia itself. But they’re no more going to work than the military strategy. As TV coverage has lessened, it’s also the case that reporting on it varies depending on whose lens you watch it. Whilst there’s rightly little sympathy for Russia anywhere, the outrage felt by the west isn’t shared in much of the rest of the world. Some of that’s doubtless Iraq and the history of empires but also no doubt just little interest. No wonder that despite supposedly global sanctions China’s happily buying Russian gas and Indian refineries are going into overdrive with Russian fuel.

All that’s happened’ s that Russia has been both driven and now chosen to look east. A replication perhaps of the Old Silk Roads or the new Chinese Belt and Road. But there’s plenty economies along there and elsewhere in the world willing to trade with them. Indeed, Dmitry Trenin, a key Russian foreign policy advisor and viewed until recently as one more liberal of that elite made that clear in recent statements.

It’s not just China and India, that they’re now looking to but Turkey, Iran and other lands both to the east and the south. The view there on the Ukraine war’s vastly different than from Europe. There’s a likelihood that as with the war, sanctions becomes a slugfest. But Russia will transition its trade and where does that leave Ukraine.

Will the Donbass just lie devastated behind a new Iron Curtain? It’s certainly beginning to look that way and that’s before a cold winter sees EU countries come under pressure to ease sanctions. The economic strategy seems as bereft as the military one. Poor Ukraine, deluded by false and self-serving elites. We need peace now.