This is an interesting assessment from The National Interest that satisfies a couple of our Priority Intelligence Requirements. Here are some excerpts; click on the link at the end to read the rest of the story.
While the nation has been laser focused on the president’s tweets and the first lady’s footwear, a geopolitical shift has been taking place in Europe that ought to scare us to our marrow. Without anybody paying much attention, China has vastly expanded its military and economic power in Eastern Europe. At stake is a critical region that the United States depends upon for trade and geopolitical support and as a buffer from both Russia and China.
The Chinese, on top of doing little to stop North Korea’s march toward a nuclear-armed missile, have already acquired a significant equity stake in the Greek Port of Piraeus. As you read this, they are also working diligently to obtain assets in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, including contracts for construction of nuclear power stations.
In Bulgaria, meanwhile, the erstwhile efforts of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to force the Bulgarians to breach their contract with the Russian state-owned uranium enrichment company Rosatom have backfired, giving China a toe-hold to replace the Russians in constructing the new Belene nuclear project.
Russian-owned Rosatom successfully sued Bulgaria over the breach—and won. Bulgaria was ordered to pay $660 million, a big bounty for a small country. To recoup losses, the Bulgarians opted to privatize the project. According to media reports, China is aggressively bidding and is among the frontrunners. If China’s bid succeeds, its state-owned nuclear companies would use Russian-made equipment, but would otherwise have full control over the new nuclear facility.
Unlike the Russians, whose nuclear development programs usually rely on a relatively benign scheme of intergovernmental loans to finance construction but leave management to the local governments, China insists on both equity and operational control. As a result, China is left with full control of critical infrastructure—in this case, a major nuclear facility in a key former Soviet state. This gives China leverage in the region that is comparable only to that which Moscow enjoyed during the Cold War…
What’s happening here is that China is exploiting the geopolitical standoff between Russia and the United States to obtain ownership and management of critical parts of energy infrastructure. The tactic has already given China an “energy belt” that extends from the Baltic to the Black Sea: China has effectively taken management of critical parts of infrastructure in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 1 and 2: What are the latest indicators of a NATO-Russia conflict, and what are the latest indicators of a U.S.-China conflict? Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region. Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.