‘NATO should be dissolved in the 21st century’

‘NATO should be dissolved in the 21st century’

The US’ pressure on the Asian countries to impose sanctions against Russia did not yield any results. Important Asian economies such as China, India, Pakistan and Turkey opposed the US’ pressure by not participating in sanctions against Russia. On the contrary, Pakistan and India decided to increase their trade with Russia.

One of the most discussed issues in the Ukraine crisis is China’s attitude. Beijing insists on diplomatic talks between Russia and Ukraine. In spite of this position of Beijing, the Western press presents China as siding with Ukraine and opposing Russia. Still, in contradiction to the press’ reporting, Washington articulates threats against China should the country continue its trade relations with Russia. “Should deterrence fail, my second mission is to be prepared to fight and win,” said Admiral John C. Aquilino, the U.S. Indo-Pacific commander in a recent interview.

We talked about China’s stance on the Ukraine crisis with Cui Heng, Researcher at the Center for Russian Studies, East-China Normal University, Shanghai.

‘The vast majority of Chinese hate NATO’

How does China evaluate NATO’s eastward expansion?

China’s attitude towards NATO depends on the nature of NATO. As we all know, NATO was born during the cold war. It was a security tool for the United States and Europe of defense and confrontation with the Soviet Union, with obvious military security characteristics. Although the cold war has ended more than 30 years ago, NATO, which should have been dissolved, still exists and continues to expand eastward. Therefore, the Chinese generally believe that NATO is a historical relic of the cold war and should be dissolved in the 21st century. On the other hand, in the collective memory of the Chinese people, the NATO attack on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1998 represents the humiliation brought to China by NATO. Therefore, maybe the number is less than in Russia, but the vast majority of Chinese hates NATO.

US biolabs in Ukraine

Washington has denied claims that there are more than 20 US bio-laboratories in Ukraine, arguing that US-funded biological laboratories are only used to deal with biological weapons left over from the Soviet Union. How do you evaluate these claims? Why does the US allow these biolabs to exist and continue to do research?

Facts are facts and cannot be denied. The United States has many laboratories in post-Soviet territories, and Ukraine is no exception. A few years ago, a scandal broke out in the Lugar Laboratory of the United States in Georgia. If the United States denies conducting biological weapons experiments in these laboratories, it should disclose all information and accept multinational verification, rather than trying to deny and destroy evidence. The reason why the United States set up biological laboratories overseas is to bypass the very rigorous academic review and ethical review system of its own. After all, there is no moral and public opinion pressure for the United States to do biological experiments in other countries.

The US Indo-Pacific commander Admiral John C Aquilino said China has armed at least three islands it has built in the South China Sea and that the US was ready to “fight and defeat China” if deterrence efforts failed. Can we say that Washington is trying to put pressure on China because of not participating in the sanctions against Russia?

Yes, China is under pressure from the United States because Beijing has not participated in sanctions against Russia. In 2014, when Russia was subjected to Western collective sanctions, energy orders from China and Russia alleviated Russia’s plight. The United States is worried that history will repeat and the cooperation between China and Russia will hedge the effect of Western sanctions.

‘Europe is the biggest loser of the Ukrainian crisis’

How does China evaluate the European Union’s stance on the Ukraine crisis?

Compared with 2014, Germany and France are very weak in the Ukrainian crisis. They not only lacked an independent position, but also Russia and Ukraine did not have the patience to listen to the persuasion of old Europe. Objectively speaking, Europe is the biggest loser of the Ukrainian crisis. It has to bear the losses caused by high energy and food prices. At the same time, the security situation in Eastern Europe has completely deteriorated. During Biden’s period, the influence of the United States on Europe increased significantly, which is a long-term trend. It is hard for us to expect that Europe will continue to be a side of global multipolarization in the future.

‘For the West, racism has always existed and never disappeared’

Do you see any similarities between the racist attacks against the Chinese in the West, which politicized the virus during the pandemic period, and the racist practices against the Russians in the West today? Is the ‘racism’ disease of the West recurring?

It can be said that this is a new way for the West to attack non-Western countries. It is politically correct to take opposition to China or Russia as ideology and oppose China and Russia, forcing countries, enterprises and media all over the world to choose sides. As for the truth, the West doesn’t care. The West’s use of viruses and ethnic issues to criticize China is consistent with the logic of attacking Russia, which is a cognitive war.

For the west, racism has always existed and never disappeared. What we observe is that the tendency to regard diplomacy as ideology has returned. During the cold war, Western countries dealt with the Soviet Union in this way. More than 30 years later, the West took up the same means.

Does the Beijing declaration of China and Russia impose certain responsibilities on China in the Ukraine crisis against its strategic partner Russia?

The contents of the cooperation agreement between China and Russia are open and can be seen by anyone. We live in an era of transparency, where secret treaties cannot exist. Of course, the secret treaty is very consistent with the thinking of conspiracy theory. The cooperation between China and Russia over the past two decades has a premise: it is not targeting third countries. I don’t think China bears some responsibility to Russia. Until today, the position of Chinese leaders and government is neutral, not on either side, but only promoting peace.

Alternative to SWIFT

Is it possible to find an alternative reserve currency to the dollar and an alternative banking system to SWIFT? How is the research on that matter?

Both Russia and China have established their own banking systems. However, this is a long process. The banking system is based on huge settlement and payment flows, which China and Russia can’t do at present. The world economic cycle is still centered on the United States and Europe and based on the US dollar. Leaving the financial system of the international economic cycle has little significance. In a short time, it is difficult for China and Russia to leave SWIFT.

Similarly, excluding China and Russia from SWIFT has a great impact on the United States and Western countries. As a consequence, the United States and Europe did not exclude all Russian banks from the system. Otherwise, Europe would not be able to buy Russian energy and Russia would not be able to repay its foreign debt.

It was stated that Saudi Arabia has stepped up active talks with Beijing to sell oil in Yuan instead of dollars. Is the news true? Are there negotiations with other countries for trade in local currencies?

In the global pattern, the oil trade between China and Saudi Arabia accounts for 3.3% of global oil exports and 2% of global oil production. Even if the Chinese Arab oil trade adopts RMB, it is basically difficult to impact the petrodollar system. However, this is the beginning of RMB internationalization, and more international trade will use RMB in the future. Some trade between China and Russia has already been settled in RMB.

Elif İlhamoğlu

Elif İlhamoğlu is political scientist and  journalist (Turkey). She is studying for PHD on the political science and international relations department at Istanbul University. She visited Middle East countries, Syria, Lebanon, Iran several times and did interviews with the leaders as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hilal al-Hilal Secretary General of the Syrian Ba'ath Party.

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February 2023