(GIVING OUT RUSSIAN TERRITORIES TO CHINA)
“35 years ago border guards have defended the islands on the
Far East in bloody battles. Judging by your saying, you intend to do the same with the Kurils – give them to Japan. And Kaliningrad to comrade Gerhard?” – This is what my comrades Decembrists said, accusing president Putin of squandering Russian territories.
“When the black-haired Chinese will come, the red-haired Russian will seem to be a brother”, goes a Kazakh proverb. Many people have experienced the heavy yoke of Chinese occupation: the Tibetans, the Mongols, the Uygurs and other Turk peoples of Xingjian. Totally submitted to the army-like discipline of military capitalism and the dictate of the Chinese Communist Party, 14 000 000 heads threaten their neighbors only by their multitude. Invite one – everybody will come. China lives slowly; it is not hurrying anywhere. And it builds up its might. Like a boa gradually swallows a rabbit, so Chine swallows its territories.
It is for the reason of a possible Chinese danger that Kazakhstan’s president Nazarbaev moved the capital city from the hot Alma-Ata to the frozen Astana. Since Chinese tanks will take six hours to reach Alma-Ata through the border. The leaders of Kazakhstan’s eastern regions complain that they will soon be left without water: the Chinese are blocking the Irtish River, which takes its source in the mountains of Xingjian. There are only 15 million people in Kazakhstan; it contains extremely rich deposits of oil, uranium and rare metals. Sooner or later most of that territory, voluntarily, masochistically abandoned by Russia will become Chinese. Only recently thanks to the generosity of the Russian president China received its “Khabarovsk’s Kuril Islands” on the Amur River as a gift. The Russian president signed the order for this on October 14th 2004 in Beijing. “During his visit to China in October Vladimir Putin has signed a document about giving the island of Tabarov and a part of the Big Ussuriisky Island to the CPR. From now on the border question is definitely solved and the four-thousand-long border will become calm. /…/ As for Russia, this deal opened up the possibility to conclude billions-worth deals with China,” writes the pro-president newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda with servility. Actually, no deals have ever followed.
“Before the president has made his generous gesture, the islands belonged to the Khabarovsk region. Its residents are cautious about the prospect that their islands will now be populated by the Chinese,” points out the site News.ru.com. And it continues: “The Islands of Tabarov and the Big Ussuriisky were considered a disputed territory since a long time. In 1991 the USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev has signed a border agreement with China and the border was drawn on Amur’s channel. /…/
The only demarcated zone on the Amur River was situated before Khabarovsk on Kazakevich Channel. There was only 25 kilometers from Khabarovsk to that old border before Putin signed the order to transfer the islands. Now, after the islands were transferred, the border will pass through the city, along its riverside and in the most developed and populated part of Khabarovsk – the Industrial District. As for the disputed islands, they were not disputed originally; they were made such thanks to the long efforts of the Chinese to change the course of the Amur River (and thus its channel), which defines the line of the State border. A long time ago the Chinese have sunk a barge here. ‘In recent years, tells Viktor Ishaev, governor of Khabarovsk’s region, the Chinese have built about three hundred kilometers of dikes on their side in order to artificially turn Amur in the direction they need and empty Kazakevich Channel, whose riverbed defines the border in this zone.” That is what I am telling you, the Chinese work slowly, they are not in a hurry. Their history numbers millenniums; they have learned to trick and to cheat long ago. They are always smiling, anticipating the famous American smile by thousands of years. Without problem they have cheated the son of a metalworker and a housekeeper. He gave them the islands himself. Can you imagine that? The servile State Duma has adopted the law on May 20th 2005 and the Federation Council has reported its approval on May 25th.
Meanwhile, the head of the Main Operation Department of the RF Armed Forces Alexandr Rukshin noted, “the second fortified zone of the Far East Military district is situated on two islands on the eastern side of the Russian Chinese border”, Interfax says. The same Rukshin, as a true Russian general afraid that he might lose his general’s post, has instantly justified the transfer of the islands: “However today this zone does not represent any military significance”, he noted, reminding that this fortified zone was created in 1974 in completely different conditions and a different situation. “It is more advantageous and efficient for us to disband this zone, he added. - Today there are almost no troops from China in a zone of three hundred kilometers from Khabarovsk and there is also none in the five hundred kilometers zone on Bolshoy Island on Argun River”. (The thing is that by the same order Putin has given China also half of Bolshoy Island on Argun River in Chitinskaya region.) I am writing these lines, trying to be objective and impartial, but the slackness of the Russian general is outraging. What is three hundred kilometers with the modern means of transportation? In a few hours it is possible to transfer Chinese troops to Khabarovsk by car or truck and in one hour by helicopter. These are not the 60s; the Chinese military technology is not worse than ours now. And for saying that there are no troops in a five hundred kilometers zone on Bolshoy Island, the head of the General Staff’s Operation Department should be… Degraded? His ears tweaked? Given the title of the best groveler of the Russian Army? Decide for yourselves.
Since many years Russian border patrols and 16 thousand (!) country cottages of Khabarovsk’s residents are located on Bolshoy Ussuriisky Island. The new border will pass near the chapel of the martyr-warrior Viktor and will divide the island in half. Supposedly the cottages of Khabarovsk’s residents will stay on Russian territory, while the Chinese will get the rest. Tarabarov Island, where buildings of private companies are located will be given to China in totality. In whole the Chinese will get 337 square kilometers of Russian territory.
“The islands given by Putin abound with natural resources, writes Nezavisimaya Gazeta. – Up to 70% of the area could be used as arable land, hayfields or pasture. /…/ A polder was built on an area of 61 sq. km, protected from flood by a high dike. Over four thousand tons of potato are grown here per year; in the summer up to 1500 heads of cattle are kept and up to 1700 tons of milk is produced per year. There are, rather there were projects for the enlargement of the polders. The island is inhabited by valuable species of fur animals and waterfowl. The Far eastern and black storks, the black and Japanese cranes, the mandarin duck, the dry-beak goose, the Far eastern leather turtle and others were included in the Red Book of the World Wildlife Fund. Just as the protected fish on the islands: the black Amur and the Chinese perch. The autumn migration of the keta salmon and the lamprey passes near the islands. More fish species than in the entire Volga inhabit the waters near the islands.” In other words, it is a corner of paradise twenty-five kilometers away from a big city. There are two towns with permanent residents on the island.
The news about the transfer of the islands came as a surprise to Khabarovsk’s authorities. According to a high functionary of the region’s administration nobody has consulted the governor of Khabarovsk’s region before signing the documents. The governor had his own plans for Bolshoy Ussuriisky Island. He intended to build a bridge. According to Far-eastern economists, giving the islands to China brought a 3-4 billion dollars damage counting the loss of the already invested capital, the transfer of Khabarovsk’s airport and the adjustment of the border on new grounds.
If we turn to the history of the Russian borders on the Far East, then both the historical Russia and we are right. Both banks of Amur were not populated by the Chinese in the XVII century. These were wild lands, populated by rare forest tribes. The Russians assimilated Amur’s banks already in the XVII century. The first Russian-Chinese border agreement can be considered to be the 1689 Nerchinsky treaty, when under the pressure of the Chinese troops, the Russians were forced to acknowledge the sovereignty of China over Amur’s left bank and the Primorye. But around the middle of the XIX century the strengthened Russia bloodlessly annexed 165.9 thousand sq. km of Primorye, which until then it ruled together with China. In result China lost access to the Japanese sea. This acquisition was sealed by the Tientsin treaty on June 1st 1858 and confirmed on November 2nd 1860 by the Beijing treaty. “After the border signs are put, it said, the border line should not be modified”.
When China was occupied by Japan the Soviet Union has put some islands on the Chinese side of Amur and Ussuri under its control for defense reasons. In 1964 both sides developed an agreement project. This is when a “window” has appeared in the form of Tarabarov and Bolshoy Ussuriisky Islands. However the document was not signed (Khrushev was removed), which was the reason why the Chinese have attacked Damansky Island, which they considered theirs, in 1968. After Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991 has signed the agreement that the border with China should pass through Amur’s channel, the Chinese obtained the possibility to dispute Russia’s rights over Bolshoy Ussuriisky and Tarabarov Islands right next to Khabarovsk’s walls. However, as I explain, the problem consists of which of the branches should be considered the principal course of Amur. Before Putin decided to transfer the islands to China, the border passed in the middle of the Kazakevich Channel and China forced Putin to acknowledge that it must pass right through Khabarovsk’s city beach. Putin’s decision minimally proves his incompetence and indifference to the fate of the largest Russian city in this region. And also that he knows nothing about strategy.
And this is not all concerning the border near Khabarovsk. With the help of the Chinese’s efforts Kazakevich Channel is rapidly washing off with sand, I remind the barge sunk on purpose and the dikes, and very fast the disputed Bolshoy Ussuriisky Island will be replaced by a far less disputed peninsula tied to Chinese territory.
Beside this, there is also a problem near Vladivostok. Here the Chinese should get the territory along the left bank of Tumannaya River and the local authorities, the population and rational experts and analysts are starting to protest in mass. The opponents of the bank’s transfer say that nothing would prevent the Chinese from building here a port and make it compete with the Russian Far-eastern harbors.
Why did this happen? Well, first, the cheating of the Chinese allowed them to get Heixiazi Dao Islands (Tarabarov and Bolshoy Ussuriisky) on Amur and Abaigaitui Island (Bolshoy) on Argun River from the stupid tsar Putin. The Chinese have well read the agreement between the RF and the PRC about the Russian Chinese border and in particular its third article. It says: “The line of the Russian-Chinese border, described in article 1 of the present agreement passes through the middle of the channels of navigable rivers and through the middle of non navigable rivers. The exact situations of the channel and its middle are defined during the demarcation of the Russian Chinese border.
The main criterion for defining the main channel is its depth and width. The middle of the channel is a line that defines the middle of a stream on the channel. The main criterion to define the main branch of a river is the water outlay at middle level.”
This is why the Chinese needed the barge and the dikes. They are ready to throw baskets of sand into the Amur River; they are ancient and wise. They do not intend just to snatch and run.
The CPRF member Anatoly Lokot spoke against the transfer of the islands in the State Duma. He said that it should be verified, “What is the price of these agreements”. Besides, Rodina’s coordinator Sergey Glotov said that by ratifying this agreement Russia is making concessions to the PRC and asked the minister of foreign affairs Lavrov “to whom else are we going to make such concessions”.
However, as usual it was the National-Bolsheviks who reacted first. In Khabarovsk the regional department headed by Rem Latipov held a protest action against the Chinese embassy: the guys threw bottles with paint at the embassy building. They paid dearly for this: several criminal cases were opened. Latipov spent several months in an isolation ward; he was sentenced to prison conditionally and up to now cannot extricate himself fully from the hands of the Russian justice.
What concerns the sessions of the State Duma on May 20th 2005, the minister Sergey Lavrov absurdly declared: “In the legal plan there is no place to concessions or us transferring our territory to China”. (So what does take place, Mr. Lavrov, you, diplomat?) Lavrov added that the president is certain “that this will strengthen security in the RF”. And the head of the border service, first deputy of the FSB director Vladimir Pronichev said, “the agreement on the Russian Chinese border will contribute to the reinforcement of Russia’s border security”. The deputies quietly believed Lavrov and voted on the same day. 301 deputies voted for the ratification, 80 against and two abstained, as informed the ITAR-TASS agency.
It is curious that Lavrov did not deny that Russia has unregulated territorial issues with several States. He named the USA (in the Bering Strait), Norway (in the Barents Sea) and “besides, Russia still hasn’t signed the border agreement with Latvia. Although this agreement is ready we are naturally against any attempts of a unilateral interpretation of this agreement”, Lavrov said. He reminded about other territorial conflicts on the border with Georgia and other “small issues of demarcation that need to be clarified”.
So the National-Bolsheviks, the 39 of them who are detained in Moscow prisons since December 14th 2004 are completely right in their denouncing of the transfer of territories right next to Khabarovsk’s walls to China and in their fearing that other territories might be transferred as well. What does that agreement with Latvia mentioned by Lavrov say? Isn’t it a part of the Pskov region, the Pitalovski area that Latvia has been claiming for itself since a long time? I am extremely worried that Lavrov is already against a unilateral interpretation of the agreement. So there is something that might be interpreted unilaterally?
I will mention here the declaration of Khabarovsk’s NBP on November 5th 2004. This is the most decent document on the subject of the islands. The more so that it is reinforced by the prison detention of its authors, beating and repressions that have not ceased to this day. I have only shortened it in the beginning. The title is “Island Betrayal”. The text: “On October 14th president Putin has committed an act of political betrayal towards Khabarovsk’s residents as well as our entire people. During a visit to Beijing Putin got generous and during the conclusion of the agreement about the Russian-Chinese border with a stroke of the pen gave Bolshoy Island on Argun River, Tarabarov and half of Bolshoy Ussuriisky with Kazakevich Channel to the Chinese. These islands are situated near Khabarovsk and their transfer to China automatically turns our city into a border city. /…/ The Chinese tried to annex the disputed islands by treachery: they were sinking boats and barges with sand near the islands from their side – in order to dry out the channel and get the islands to be on their territory. In return the Russian Kazaks built the chapel of the martyr-warrior Viktor on Bolshoy Ussuriisky with the inscription “Even one in the field is a warrior”. The 30-meters-high chapel stands on the highest point of the island and is perfectly seen from the Chinese side. Now after the signed agreement the chapel will stand right on the border.
In all the Chinese will get about 370 sq. km of Russian land and all of this without a single shot. I do not think that the transfer of the islands is the result of the Chinese diplomats’ excellent work. Simply Putin is our ‘kind’ sovereign: ‘You want islands? Take’em!’ The Chinese just slyly smiled and thanked VVP for his ‘generosity’. It is always easy to give what does not belong to you. And Vova did not feel uneasy.
There is a special fortified zone located on Bolshoy Ussuriisky. According to plans, in case of a Chinese invasion it should retain the enemies during 45 minutes at the gates of the city. Now there won’t be any need in that – in case of an attack it will take the Chinese half an hour to seize the entire city. Moreover, the take-out trajectory of the 11th army’s military planes was passing above Tarabarov Island. Now the planes will not fly… So the military consequences of the islands’ transfer appear quiet clearly – Khabarovsk has turned into a vulnerable target for its southern neighbor. Even the fat asses from the district’s General Staff and the region’s administration understand that: in case of an invasion they will not be able to get the hell out and they will have to support the occupation with the rest of the residents. /…/
As for the political aspect of Putin’s transfer of the islands, it will certainly cause territorial pretensions from our other ‘good’ neighbors. The Japanese will politely ask for Kunashir, the Germans will demand Kaliningrad with the whole region. How could our Vova refuse it to them? It would be double standards politics: why China can and not the others? What a generous soul you have, Vova! /…/
What concerns the attitude of the population, then the news about the upcoming transfer of the islands came as a surprise to many Khabarovsk residents and caused a negative reaction. Criticism was heard in the local media as well as in the region’s administration. The region’s Legislative Duma adopted an address to the State Duma and the Federation Council, in which it expressed its concern about any demarcation changes. Still, in whole all this functionary protest attitude recalled a lackey’s resentment of his master’s foolishness. Khabarovsk residents limit themselves to ‘kitchen protest’; it is easy to illustrate the dominating attitude with the opinion of a private soldier of the railway forces (this unit is located on Bolshoy Ussuriisky) from the article of a local newspaper: ‘Our fathers and grandfathers fought for these lands; they shed their blood and the president has given everything away with a stroke of the pen. He feels good; he lives in Moscow, but we are here near a billion of Chinese people. You can’t just give away your lands like that. Although this is probably done with a defined State goal. Only what will we have from this? Again, like in the song ‘The Russian and the Chinese are brothers forever’?’ In private conversations with ordinary people I hear swearing after the words ‘president’ and ‘Putin’. I doubt that they will forgive Vova for this political betrayal. The attitude is even more radical on Bolshoy Ussuriisky itself. The residents reacted very negatively to the territorial modification. Some intend to start a guerrilla war: ‘We will not let these Chinese people to our islands so easily. We will arm ourselves and beat them.’ Well, it’s only words.
Nothing much can be said about the reaction of the political forces from the fact that there was almost none. The first to react was a couple of young nationalists, history students who by night were spreading leaflets in the city decorated with two ‘sieg’ runes and headed with the words ‘We were abandoned’. The inexperienced fighters for the nation were arrested during this activity. The media were about to attribute this action to the nazbols. But we joined the political fight for the islands together with the CPRF. A picket near the embassy, a collect of signatures against the transfer of the islands, ‘Putin is a traitor’ graffiti on the fences. Tikhonov’s party and the agrarians have also spoken out. The first with a bleak picket, the second with an even more bleak declaration. Zhirinovsky’s people kept silent: their ‘fuehrer’ was in Ukraine; the party doesn’t have an official position. Well, sure, Zhirinovsky doesn’t want to mess up with Putin. And in the whole, there was a silence.
It is obvious that all the fuss with the transfer of islands is just a way to observe the reaction of the population and of the political organizations. In case of a large-scale protest campaign (throughout the entire Russia and not just in Khabarovsk, whose residents are all convinced that nothing depends on them) the power would maybe have to go back on its word and cancel the signed agreements. In case of a deathly silence broken only by sporadic protest actions we should expect further territorial losses. Vova is preparing to visit Japan and that means that the Kuril Islands could repeat the fate of Amur’s. Then we could even expect to lose Kaliningrad.
Putin doesn’t behave like society’s servant but like a bad tsar (actually, even tsars didn’t give up land; they conquered it), thinking that Russia is his feudal estate that he can use as he pleases. Even the dumbest people must realize that he’s a danger to Russia and our people. The slogan ‘Our fatherland is in danger! Everybody against Putin!’ becomes more and more urgent. /…/
Rem Latipov. Khabarovsk”
The fifth NBP congress on November 30th 2004 adopted a resolution that categorically condemns the transfer of the islands.