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Jorge Silva

Tensions in Eurasia A new politics of carrot and stick?

- Tensions with China and Russia are rising dramatically in the Eurasian region. Are these recent mobilizations a threat or just part of a carrot-and-stick policy?

Tensions in Eurasia A new politics of carrot and stick?

The recent tensions in Eurasia not only place the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China as protagonists, but also demonstrate the increase in their ability to press for the reincorporation of territories. While Moscow focuses its resources on territorial claims in Western Europe, Beijing is strengthening internal security instruments to do the same in the South China Sea.

Old ghosts, new challenges

The dynamic of territorial reappropriation, seen as something outdated from the 20th century, is re-emerging on highly nationalist, authoritarian and centralist political projects. The continuous border dispute has taken arguments around the questioning of old agreements, the link with certain ethnic groups or the historical rights over geographical regions; however, in most cases, they involve geopolitical interests such as the exit or control of seas and access to raw materials.

The political chaos that was generated in the European Union by the mobilization of 150,000 Russian troops to its border with Ukraine, was marked by uncertainty around the measures discussed, such as: the establishment of the troop withdrawal ultimatum, diplomatic expulsions and the possibility of economic sanctions. The "political ice" that was formed by waiting for the Russian response and the lack of clarity of a solution from both the EU foreign ministers and the Security Council are evidence that global and regional governance continues to be lacking. prepared for this type of crisis.

Source: Global Trade Review.

The potential for military escalation, not seen since the Cold War, should lead the European Union and the United Nations to question their real capacity to confront these unilateral acts of territorial claim. Remembering that the lack of prevention and effective deterrence, in the face of these acts, is what ended the League of Nations or regional mechanisms such as the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance and allowed the achievement of armed conflicts.

Cudgel and Carrot?

Traditionally, the carrot and stick policy has been attributed as a strategy stemming from US foreign policy in regions such as Central Asia or Latin America. This strategy consists of granting benefits or punishments, in such a way that the ideal conditions for the interests of a certain State can be obtained and maintained.

On the one hand, we can observe the generation of “carrots” through the development incentives and sociopolitical alternatives that they build through macro-projects such as One Belt One Road or the Eurasian Union. The discourse of prosperity and mutual benefits promote their own financial and cooperation institutions to generate commitments that later involve more critical security issues.

Despite the fact that these projects have not shown any apparent integration, they function in parallel to attract and deepen the interdependence of the economies of the States of the Eurasian region. In addition, they are the instruments with which these two countries can legitimize themselves, define themselves as a viable alternative to the West and project themselves on the peripheral areas of other regions.

For their part, the “sticks” consist of increased investment and demonstrations of state force such as those that China is carrying out on the southwest coast of Taiwan, the South China Sea and throughout the Himalayan region. While, in the Russian case, it would consist of the constant harassment involved in the mobilizations and military exercises on its borders with Eastern Europe and the North Sea.

Source: Reuters / Charles Platiau.

The fact that each one of them does not result in an armed conflict has to do with four fundamental circumstances: the increase in global economic interdependence, which makes the costs exceed the benefits of an armed conflict; the functionality of maintaining tensions to sustain their nationalist projects; that their "clubs" are not sufficiently developed to deal with a Western coalition; and the inherent point of reaching the principle of mutual assured destruction with the other nuclear powers.

For the above reasons, each of these tensions in Eurasia has few possibilities of escalating and unleashing an armed conflict and therefore must be seen as an international political strategy that responds to the interest of projection and reconfiguration of the poles of power by these two nations. We are witnessing an old principle that is now being articulated and materialized, from the agendas of China and Russia, to confront the Western status quo and in general the capacity of global governance.



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Silva, Jorge. “Tensiones en Eurasia ¿Una nueva política de la zanahoria y el garrote?.” CEMERI, 19 sept. 2022,