Wild card scenarios -What could distract PUTIN from Ukraine? Threat at the periphery: China Land Grab Scenario?..or time to think like Zbigniew Brzezinski would
China senses a weakness, and decides to annex Russian towns along the Sino- Russian border, where many mayors are already Chinese and the majority of the inhabitants, business owners and factories are Chinese. The Russian population in Siberia is a state of decline. In 2000, 28 million Russians lived in Siberia and the Far East. In 2010, only 25.4 million live there.
“The earth along the Amur was, is and always will be Russian.” But Russia’s title to all of the land is only about 150 years old. And the sprawl of highrises in Heihe, the Chinese boomtown on the south bank of the Amur, right across from Blagoveshchensk, casts doubt on the “always will be” part of the old czarist slogan.
As of Aug 2015, 23 million Russians live below the poverty level and another 14 million that live in 319 single industry cities and towns –mostly in periphery oblasts can be soon be added to the poverty rolls since the Russian government can’t afford to pay subsidies.
China comes to rescue it’s Chinese compatriots (N.B. They already said they would in 2014 https://chinadailymail.com/2014/07/05/why-china-will-reclaim-siberia/ ) who are being neglected by the Russian government and are facing food shortages in the periphery oblasts. The 1.35 billion Chinese people south of the border outnumber Russia’s 144 million almost 10 to 1. The discrepancy is even starker for Siberia on its own, home to barely 38 million people, and especially the border area, where only 6 million Russians face over 90 million Chinese. With intermarriage, trade and investment across that border, Siberians have realized that, for better or for worse, Beijing is a lot closer than Moscow.
With the continuing drought in China –the worst in 50 years , the need for water, food security, and a potential famine and (rich natural resources as a bonus) Siberia could be the next conflict hotspot and a solution to China's famine problem. “It would not be the slightest overstatement to say that China's water situation is rapidly approaching crisis levels. Even China's Agriculture Ministry is sounding the alarm bells The numbers they're reporting show that China already has to import more water than the United States imports oil. And this is creating major problems for their food security– for without staggering food imports, China cannot feed itself. Source: https://www.valuewalk.com/2015/07/china-disaster-drought/
To protect its sovereignty Russia would need to move a third of its army (80,000 out of a total of 230,000 in the army out of 770,00 in the armed forces**) along the Chinese border, all 2,738 miles of it, since China’s battle -ready army likely outnumbers Russia two to one, if not three to one. (or in reality, 29 Russian soldiers protecting each mile of border) Since only 30 percent of boys between the ages of 15 and 17 were considered healthy, then only 1/3 to ½ of Russian soldier can be considered combat-ready and not disabled, due to sickness, alcohol or drugs. (**see Fig 2 on page 12 https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/IDAN/2015/554213/EPRS_IDA(2015)554213_EN.pdf)
“In fact, Beijing could use Russia’s own strategy: hand out passports to sympathizers in contested areas, then move in militarily to “protect its citizens.” The Kremlin has tried that in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and most recently the Crimea, all formally part of other post-Soviet states, but controlled by Moscow. And if Beijing chose to take Siberia by force, the only way Moscow could stop would be using nuclear weapons.” https://www.dod.gov/pubs/foi/International_security_affairs/china/09-F-0759theGreatSiberianWarOf2030.pdf
In a worst case scenario for Russia , one or two other hotspots (beyond Donbass) could simultaneously erupt to split Putin's army into 3 or 4 fragments. All other hotspots that Putin must face? 1) Crimean Tartars and all Crimeans in general, 2) Eastern Ukraine, 3) Chechnya, 4) Chinese in Siberia, 5) Japanese territorial island disputes 6) Canada & US & Russia assert control in the Arctic 7) Cossacks Seek Greater Role in Southern Russia’s Economic and Political Life 8) Georgia 9) European front-The Dutch and MH17, Baltics and Poland 10) Karelia will seek to rejoin Finland 11) Moldova/Transdneistria 12) Ethnic tensions brewing with Circassian activists in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, North Caucasus 13) Russians in poverty --revolt/protest in Moscow 14) Russians in poverty-- revolt/protest in St Petersburg 15) Russians in poverty-- revolt/protest in the rural oblasts of the Russian Federation and 16) NATO and the US fleet re-enter the Black Sea
Signals pointing to this scenario?
-Chinese Land and Resource Grab: “Land is yet another demonstrative issue in Russian-Chinese relations. More precisely, it is about Bejing’s rapidly growing appetite for the development of Russian territories. For example, a huge stir in Russia was caused by the plans of Trans-Baikal regional authorities to lease nearly 300,000 hectares of land to the Chinese company Huae Xinban for a 49-year term for less than $5 per hectare. Although this issue has not yet been fully resolved, the locals have already organized a protest movement. Most probably, the opinion of local activists will not be taken into account, and China will get the desired land by either paying more for the rent, or simply by financially stimulating Russian officials. No wonder the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev offers Russian youth to study Chinese, not just English.”
-Chinese Land and Resource Grab: “Another fact confirming the intention of China to get hold of as much Russian resources and territories as it possibly can until the final collapse of the present Russian Federation is the country’s broad interests in Russia’s Magadan region, the top region in silver mining and the fourth in gold extraction. Chinese Southwest mining company has decided to invest RUR 400 million this year in the development of deposits of antimony and silver. The company's plans cover the construction of roads in the region, mineral exploration, and mining of silver and other precious metals in the already known deposits. Earlier, the Kremlin did not allow China getting close to Russia’s main fields of natural resources across Siberia and the Far East.” https://www.unian.info/politics/1111271-china-finishes-putin.html
Severity for Russia: HIGH; A Siberian split could instigate other regions to seek independence and autonomy
Likelihood: Low now, a Wild Card but circumstances could quickly change if China spots an opportunity window or an economic distraction in Russia
What else could distract Putin from Ukraine? Let's hear your scenarios.