Strong Horse/Weak Horse
There’s an interesting quote and observation in the New York Times article about the failure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional organization consisting of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, to support Russia’s action in the Caucasus:
Although the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan fall within what Moscow considers its sphere of influence, and all seem to accept Russian hegemony to a certain degree, they nevertheless strive to limit Moscow’s reach and preserve their own independence of action.
“It would have been very important to have gotten direct support from these states, which very closely work and depend on Russia, but Moscow didn’t get any support aside from general statements,” said Nikolay Petrov, an expert in Russian politics with the Carnegie Moscow Center. He added that the Central Asian states’ refusal to overtly back Moscow was an indication of the “limits of Russia’s influence.”
In the tug of war between Russia’s desire to secure international backing and China’s fear of encouraging any separatist movements, the Chinese position apparently won out. Beijing is concerned not only about Xinjiang but also about an independence movement in Taiwan, which it claims as a renegade province, and the claims for greater autonomy in Tibet.
Russia’s influence in the region had been thought to be increasing but the cost of its invasion of the Caucasus may not only have been to reveal that its influence is limited but actually to curtail it. The message here would seem to be that Russia’s influence there is based mostly on the force of its arms. When comparing Russia’s economic might to China’s, China is clearly the strong horse.