Opinion| Beijing and Moscow unite to confront Washington

Marwa El- Shinawy
5 Min Read
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping look on during a signing ceremony in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

Only a few days after the Biden-Putin summit, which was dominated by an atmosphere of tension and the threat of imposing sanctions by the US side, the Russian and Chinese presidents held a very cordial video meeting, which heralded the outbreak of a new cold war, especially in light of the formation of the Beijing-Moscow alliance to confront the West.  

   It is clear that the Russian-Chinese relations, under the influence of Western pressure on the two countries, are turning from a very non-binding “strategic partnership” to a new state of cooperation, which predicts the formation of an actual military alliance, although it has not yet obtained a legal formula.

Marwa El-Shinawy
Dr Marwa El-Shinawy

    Speaking at the expanded meeting of the Russian Foreign Ministry on November 18, Vladimir Putin described Russian-Chinese cooperation as follows: “Now, bilateral relations have reached the highest level in history, and are of the nature of a comprehensive strategic partnership. It can be said that they are considered as a model of effective cooperation in the 21st century. Of course, not everyone likes that, and some Western partners are openly trying to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing.”

  On the other hand, the Chinese side made many positive comments about relations with Russia over this year, which confirms its unique nature. In January, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “There is no endpoint in Sino-Russian strategic cooperation, there are no prohibited areas for this cooperation, and there is no ceiling for it.”

   More importantly, on the eve of the current summit between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: “We hope that the upcoming summit will further enhance trust between the two countries, raise relations to a new level, and strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries, to stand back to back.”

   This certainly comes in light of the denunciation of both Beijing and Moscow for not inviting them to the virtual summit on democracy organized by Biden, considering their exclusion as a hostile process against them.

   In fact, the Russian rapprochement with China began to take a serious turn in relations after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Russia at that time felt strategic isolation as a result of the great Western pressure represented by the successive economic sanctions during the war in eastern Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea. Moreover, the Russian-Chinese alliance has been repeated more than once in recent years in the UN Security Council, constituting an unprecedented phenomenon in diplomatic relations.

     In this context, Sino-Russian defense cooperation has increased remarkably. This was demonstrated by the boom in arms sales between both countries, as Russia relied on China to obtain electronic and naval components to overcome Western sanctions imposed as a result of its annexation of Crimea, by preventing it from accessing Western technology.

    In return, Russia provided Beijing with air defense systems (S-300 and S-400), anti-ship missiles, and a group of the latest Russian fighters, which contributed to strengthening the defense capabilities of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, which will inevitably affect the change in the balance of power in favor of China, whether in Taiwan or the South China Sea, improving its ability to oppose American supremacy there.

   Also, recently, joint Russian and Chinese military exercises and exercises, such as the joint naval and air exercises between the two countries during 2018-2019, posed a major threat to the defense capabilities of the United States.

   Obviously, Beijing has taken unprecedented strides in its military cooperation with Moscow over the past few years. The two countries realize that their alliance together will create a “military deterrent” to Washington’s inclination towards any military action against either country. But the fundamental question now is, will the common hostility to Washington result in a military alliance similar to the NATO alliance between the Chinese dragon and the Russian bear?  

Marwa El-Shinawy: Assistant Professor at International American University for Specialized Studies (IAUS)

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