China and India have declared their readiness to help Russia to stabilize its economy while closer to home Belarus and Kazakhstan are hedging their bets on their future relations with its large neighbor. Earlier this year, both China and India, along with Brazil and South Africa, abstained in a UN vote – in a display of solidarity with Moscow and defiance to the EU and U.S. – on the non-recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi asserted in the government-controlled media on Monday (22 December) that “Russia has the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation. If the Russian side needs, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity”. This comes after India announced earlier this month that it had bought 12 nuclear reactors from Russian company Rosatom and launched joint production of military helicopters.
These actions of the non-aligned powers are widely seen as a partial diplomatic defeat for the Brussels and Washington, which imposed economic sanctions on Russia over its war on Ukraine. While the main cause of Russia’s deteriorating financial problems are plummeting oil prices, EU sanctions on banks and energy firms are making matters worse by denying blacklisted companies access to capital in international markets. Therefore, it did not come as a surprise that former Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin noted on Monday that his country’s economy “[has] entered or are entering a real, full-fledged economic crisis”. But the latest development also poses questions on the viability of the Moscow-designed Eurasian Union that is due to be launched in just a few days – on 1 January 2015.
In particular, the EU-type bloc with future joint institutions, which is to include Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, has already showed first signs of cracking and revolt. Belarus and Kazakhstan, unnerved by the prospects of the Ukraine-style scenario being ‘re-acted’ in their own territories, have shown disloyalty when, first, Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko recently ordered Belarus-Russia trade to be denominated in dollars instead of rubles and with Kazakhstan’s strongman Nursultan Nazarabyev went to Kiev on Monday and signed there an agreement on military-industrial co-operation. Kazakhstan’s leader also spoke of an “organized civil war” in east Ukraine, in tacit reference to continuing Russian interference, and of “violations of international law”.