China, Russia Sign Border Agreement - July, 2008

Two significant developments coming out from Russia today. The geopolitical implications of Moscow reestablishing strategic bases in Cuba and settling some of its land disputes with China cannot be overstated.



China, Russia Sign Border Agreement

Russia, China settle long-running territorial dispute:

July, 2008

China and Russia Monday signed an agreement to delineate their border around two islands, paving the way for the return of 174 sq km of territory to China. The move also marked "the end of demarcation work of the 4,300-km Sino-Russian boundary", Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said during a joint press conference after signing the document with his visiting Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. The boundary between the two is the longest in the world. "Sino-Russian border negotiations have gone through more than 40 years It (the end) is a hard-won result," Yang said. The areas to be returned - the Yinlong Island (Tarabarov Island) and half of the Heixiazi Island (Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island) - are territories the former Soviet Union occupied during a 1929 border skirmish. They are located at the confluence of the Heilongjiang and Wusulijiang rivers that serve as a natural border between the two countries. Following years of negotiations, the two sides signed an agreement for the return of the areas in October 2004 when Vladimir Putin, then Russian President visited Beijing. After that, the two neighbors spent three years of negotiations on delineation. "Both sides have compromised in consideration of long-term interests," Lavrov said. The demarcation has been strictly conducted according to international law, he said. The two nations will complete their own procedures for approval of the agreement as soon as possible, the Foreign Ministry said. Earlier this month, a senior Russian security official said Russia would in August relinquish control of the islands. Some media, however, predicted that this would happen later as the Olympics would draw much attention of the Chinese government. Now the two sides have created "all the legal conditions needed" to make the Sino-Russian border a link of stability and cooperation, Lavrov said. People from all circles will soon feel the benefits brought by the agreement, he said. The cooperative attitude reflected by both sides in the demarcation work proves that "any bilateral problem between the two, even extremely complex ones, can be settled based on equality, mutual respect and interests", Lavrov said. The two ministers also discussed details of "meetings of top leaders of the two countries" in the remaining part of this year, Lavrov said. He said the next one will be Russian Premier Putin's visit to Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics next month. Lavrov also held talks with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao Monday and will leave Beijing this afternoon.


Russia To Station Bombers In Cuba

In response to the U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe, it was reported that Russia has ideas of either permanently basing bombers in Cuba, or use the island as a refueling stop. The start of bomber flights would once again reawaken military cooperation by the former Cold War allies Moscow and Havana. According to media reports, Russia's aviation command is also reported to have said that discussions along this line are taking place. Currently Russian military transport aircraft fly regularly to Cuba carrying out orders for private companies. Russian bombers, the supersonic Tu-160 and the older Tu-95 would manage to fly to Cuba, but a political decision would be needed to approve these flights. Russia views the deployment of the U.S. missiles in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic as a threat. The presence of Russian bombers in Cuba could also spark off an international conflict.


In related news:

U.S. general warns against Russian bombers in Cuba

A top U.S. Air Force officer warned on Tuesday that Russia would be crossing "a red line" if it were to use Cuba as a refueling base for nuclear-capable bombers. Gen. Norton Schwartz, whose nomination to become the Air Force's top military officer is being considered by the Senate, was asked at his confirmation hearing how he would advise U.S. policymakers if Russia were to proceed with such a plan. Russia's Izvestia newspaper this week quoted a "highly placed source" as saying Russia could land Tu-160 supersonic bombers nicknamed "White Swans" in Cuba as a response to a planned U.S. missile defense shield in Europe, which Moscow opposes. "I certainly would offer best military advice that we should engage the Russians not to pursue that approach," Schwartz told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "And if they did, I think we should stand strong and indicate that that is something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States of America." Russian Defense Ministry officials have tried to pour cold water on the report, saying the newspaper story was written under a false name and quoted a source at an organization that did not exist. The suggestion of Russian nuclear weapons in Cuba is reminiscent of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that followed the discovery of Soviet missile bases on the Caribbean island. The two-week crisis appeared to draw the Cold War to the verge of World War III, as President John F. Kennedy responded to the threat by authorizing a naval blockade of Cuba. In the end, the Soviets agreed to dismantle the missile sites in exchange for a U.S. non-invasion pledge and a secret deal to remove American missiles from Turkey.


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