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The Second Cold War has started

Xi Jin Ping has become the first head of state to visit Russia after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin. Putin does not have many options to turn to outside of Russia. More than 120 signatories to the Rome Statute are now obliged to arrest him immediately if he sets foot on their land. The only option Mr Putin has is to invite foreign leaders to visit the terrorist state themselves. However, this is just additional proof of how Russia, by stealing a part of their neighbour’s territory, has failed the whole system.

The Russian-Chinese state dinner took place in the Palace of Facets in Kremlin. Whether it was on purpose or not, the symbolism is hard to overestimate. As the Russian media have said, being invited to the Palace of Facets is the highest possible level of respect that can be paid to a foreign guest. It’s hard to disagree, the Kremlin has not hosted a lot of heads of state since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. It is also Xi’s first foreign visit after his election for his third term as the leader of China.

The Palace of Facets is also known to be the place where the destiny of the Ukrainian state was discussed in 1654. The Treaty of Pereyaslav, which was signed between the Tsardom of Russia and the Cossack Hetmanate, eventually led to Russia taking full control of the Hetmanate. This looks intentional, rather than a mere coincidence, because the main topic on the agenda for Putin and Xi was Ukraine.

What’s curious is that the Palace of Facets was built by Ivan the Third almost immediately after Grand Duchy of Moscow stopped being vassal state of the Golden Horde at 1480. After more than a half-millennium though, it is clear that Russia is again becoming the vassal state of another Asian superpower. This time - of China. The Great Stand has been replaced with the Great Welcome.

At the March 20 press conference, Chairman Xi said that Russians would definitely support Putin at the presidential elections in 2024 and that China has their back. There could not be a more obvious way for a Chinese leader to point out the dependence of Russia on their counterpart. Such rhetoric reminds us of suzerainty when the vassal is ready to do whatever it takes to not to lose their liege’s support and the suzerain is free to use them in any way they want. Vladimir Putin seems to have received a ‘jarliq’ from Xi Jin Ping, as the Moscow dukes received from the Golden Horde in the XIV-XVth centuries.

China is the biggest beneficiary of Putin’s failed attempt to conquer Ukraine. Isolated from the free world Russia is becoming a raw material appendage of China. Chairman Xi needs to control and solidify this relationship. He started this diplomatic manoeuvre to save Russia from military defeat and to save Putin’s regime, which is the essence of China’s “peace plan”.

A more pro-European president, such as Yeltsin was, or any democratisation of the nation would lead to Russia trying to become closer to the West. Geopolitically, Russia is China’s key to challenge US hegemony.

At the same time, the Prime Minister of Japan travelled to Kyiv. He is the seventh leader of the G7 to visit Ukraine since the beginning of the war. What is even more interesting is that Fumio Kishida is the only Prime Minister of Japan who has visited a country at war. This is a clear symbol of how the world again is being divided.

In Moscow in 1990 the First Cold War ended with victory for the Free world. In Moscow in 2023 Chairman Xi and President Putin have raised the flag of a new competition against the Free World. The Second Cold War has started in earnest.

To celebrate leaving their vassal status and commemorate Moscow’s newly gained sovereignty Ivan the Third invited the Italian architects Pietro Antonio Solari and Marco Ruffo to build the Palace of Facets. After centuries of being a vassal of an Asian superpower there were no local architects to do it. Modernisation in Russia has always meant Westernisation. Putin’s unjustified attack against Ukraine and turn away from the West is a catastrophe for Russia’s long-term prospects and independence. It is a grim end for a grim Empire.

Oleksiy Goncharenko

Oleksiy Goncharenko is the MP for Odesa, Ukraine and the founder of the Ukrainian network of educational and cultural centres — the Goncharenko Centre.

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