Chinese Ambassador Argues Former Soviet States Not Sovereign Countries

An uproar ensued after China’s ambassador to France suggested in a recent television interview that ex-Soviet Baltic states are not independent nations.

Lu Shaye’s remarks drew strong and separate rebukes from the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and Beijing is going out of its way to distance itself from his statements.

The three republics summoned China’s representatives for clarification of Lu’s commentary.

In an interview with French news channel LCI, Lu was asked if he believed the disputed Crimean Peninsula is part of Ukraine. Russia annexed the area in 2014 in a move that a majority of nations condemned as unlawful.

The ambassador noticeably hedged with his answer. “There’s the history. Crimea was at the beginning Russian, no? It was (Nikita) Khrushchev who gave Crimea to Ukraine in the era of the Soviet Union.”

Is it any wonder that Ukraine and its neighbors do not trust China to arbitrate a peace settlement?

Lu went even further in suggesting that the former Soviet bloc states cannot rely on international law to protect their independent status.

He asserted that “even these former Soviet countries don’t have an effective status under international law because there is no international agreement under international law to concretize their status as sovereign countries.”

Beijing has embarked recently on projecting itself as an international peacekeeper, which is the height of irony. Its success in brokering diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran drew commentary from many quarters that it has supplanted the U.S. in this role.

So it is hardly surprising that the Chinese Communist Party-backed away from Lu’s comments. On Monday the foreign ministry declared that it respected the sovereignty of all ex-Soviet republics.

Spokeswoman Mao Ning said that the Soviet Union’s status as a federal state “does not deny the fact that each member republic of the Soviet Union has the status of a sovereign state” following the breakup of the communist empire.

The Chinese embassy in Paris added later that Lu’s comments were his own personal opinion and do not reflect Beijing’s official position. Clearly, Beijing does not want to lose even more respect from Baltic nations despite its close ties with Moscow.