The dirty secret US foreign policy wonks don’t want to admit is that their boneheaded policies have created the conditions for a strategic partnership between Russia and China.
And it may turn into an alliance if DC continues overplaying its hand in foreign affairs. Andrea Kendall-Taylor and David Shullman of the Center for New American Security broke down the growing cooperation between the two countries.
They observed that “In virtually every dimension of their relationship—from the diplomatic to defense and economic to informational realms—cooperation between Beijing and Moscow has increased.” Policymakers are rightfully worried about this growing partnership. Both countries have large military manpower, with China counting on 2 million activity duty troops, while Russia has north of 1 million troops. In addition, the two rising powers have large nuclear arsenals. Russia has over 6,000 nuclear weapons, while China has slightly over 300 nukes. In certain regards, China operates under Russia’s nuclear umbrella due to the latter’s outsized nuclear arsenal.
Kendall-Taylor and Shullman recognize the threat that “the synergy their [Russia and China} actions will generate.” Russia has traditionally been the dominant military power of the two, which has prompted China to work with Russia to shore up its military capacity and also improve in other areas like technological innovation. This partnership has the aim of checking American hegemony.
One way this new Russia-China partnership can check US influence is on defense matters, which the authors highlighted:
Looking across all dimensions of their relationship, Russia-China cooperation is likely to create the most significant challenges for the United States in the defense domain. China is leveraging its relationship with Moscow to fill gaps in its capabilities. Deepening Sino-Russian defense relations amplify Russia and China’s ability to project power and more visibly and credibly signal to onlooking countries their willingness to challenge U.S. dominance in key regions. Their joint naval maneuvers with countries like Iran allow competitors to increase their power projection and force U.S. strategists to account for new scenarios.
Indeed, Iran is a natural partner for Russia and China in the 21st century, given the foreign policy blob’s overall antagonism towards it, something that Russia and China also share.
Furthermore, the authors illustrated how defense cooperation between Russia and China can help China secure control of its own sphere of influence in East Asia:
Their cooperation accelerates their efforts to erode U.S. military advantages—a dynamic that is especially problematic for U.S. strategic competition with China in the Indo-Pacific. Russia already provides China advanced weapons systems that enhance China’s air defense, anti-ship, and submarine capabilities and better equip the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to keep the United States out of its backyard. The two countries are also increasing their technology cooperation, which could eventually allow them to innovate collectively faster than the United States can on its own, straining an already-stressed U.S. defense budget. Ultimately, sustained—and more problematically, deepening—Sino-Russian cooperation would put at risk America’s ability to deter Chinese aggression in the region and uphold its commitment to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.
One of the main value propositions of the Russia-China strategic partnership is to build a parallel financial infrastructure that can help both countries skirt the US’s oppressive sanctions. The US’s sanction overuse is effectively giving both countries increased motivation to form a parallel financial infrastructure to reduce their dependence on the dollar.
American policymakers would be wise to reconsider the current sanction policies and overall hostility with both countries. Indeed, boundaries should be established. In other words, the US should not get involved in their backyards, while Russia and China should not try to project power in the Western Hemisphere.
In the case of China, the US should reconsider trade policy with the East Asian country. Similarly, policymakers should entertain clamping down on migration from China, which the Chinese Communist Party likely exploits to embed spies and subversive agents in business and academic institutions in the US as a way to steal trade secrets and gather intelligence that could potentially close the power gap between the two countries.
That said, the US should avoid getting into the democratic crusading mindset with regards to China as some interventionists in DC would like it to pursue. Tough diplomacy and a nationalist focus on economic decoupling and immigration restriction should be the ideal course of action taken against China.
As for Russia, the US should withdraw from NATO and let Europe fully assume its defense functions. The Cold War is over and Europe must remove its defense training wheels. From there, Europe can potentially reach a peaceful modus vivendi with Russia and cooperate on matters of national security, especially terrorism, which Russia is very acquainted with through its dealing with Chechen insurgents.
America would ultimately be best served by clever diplomacy rather than saber-rattling and interventionism when dealing with the rising Eurasian bloc. The neoconservative/neoliberal methods of yore are recipes for imperial overstretch and potentially dangerous kinetic conflicts.