Sir: This is with reference to Rizwan Asghar’s column, ‘The future of nuclear Russia’ (Daily Times, June 10, 2014).
Rizwan Asghar has touched the heart of Russia’s nuclear dilemma when he says: “The widespread opinion in Russian policymaking circles is that they will not be able to combat the US and its allies or even China in conventional warfare, and may eventually be unable to follow an independent policy if left without nuclear weapons.” But he did not elaborate it.
Russia is composed of the world’s biggest landmass with an area of eight million square miles (larger than the combined landmass of China and India) and yet it has a population of only 140 million. Vast areas of Siberia and the Far East Russian states are thinly populated. But these areas have vast oil and gas reserves. This empty landmass sits next to China — the world’s most populous country of 1.3 billion people. Siberia and the far eastern regions possess the resources that China’s growing economy needs badly. Also, with 10 million men in uniform, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the largest in the world.
The current effort by Russia to court China should not hide the fact that in the 19th century, a weak and powerless China was forced by a stronger Russia to cede a vast area in the Far East. China has not forgotten this historical humiliation by Russia. Now Russia faces a powerful China which is the world’s second largest economy with an unparalleled conventional military force.