By Mike Eckel
Thousands of miles away from the Ukrainian battlefields of Donetsk and Novoazovsk sits the country that may end up being the largest beneficiary of the turmoil along Russia’s southwest border: China.
With Russian President Vladimir Putin rewriting the playbook on security in post-Cold War Europe, Beijing has watched warily 3,700 miles to the east, though without protest or interference.
Its abstention from a U.N. Security Council resolution vote in March that condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea was unusual, given Beijing’s traditional stance on such votes, but it comes as bilateral ties have been on the upswing for years now.
Two generations ago, ties between Leonid Brezhnev’s Russia and Mao Zedong’s China were fraught. The two fought small-scale skirmishes in 1969 along the Ussuri River border (the Wusuli in Chinese) that almost resulted in war.
That’s a distant memory now.
“China may win out” from the Ukraine crisis? asked Martha Brill Olcott, a longtime scholar of Russia and Central Asian politics. “I think the word is ‘will.’ China ‘will’ absolutely benefit.”