Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Russia and China are Frenemies at Best

This author believes that the talk of a growing Russian-Chinese alliance is over-stated:

[Many] foreign-policy experts are convinced that an anti-U.S. alliance between the two countries is emerging. Yet even half a century on, such an assessment stretches the evidence beyond what it can bear. On closer inspection, Chinese-Russian economic, foreign policy, and military cooperation is less than impressive. The history of relations between the two countries is fraught, and they play vastly different roles in the world economy, making a divergence in their objectives all but unavoidable. In short, reports of a Russian-Chinese alliance have been greatly exaggerated.

I tend to agree with that observation.

Even if the two are aligned a bit, it is more because China is focused on America and because Russia fears the power imbalance between Russia and China over control of Russia's Far East, which Russia took from China in the 19th century.

Which leads to Russia trying to point China out to sea in hopes that China will fight America instead of Russia.

And which leads Russia to hype a threat from NATO which serves to disguise Russian appeasement of the far more powerful China.

In the long run, China is far more dangerous to Russia if Russia wants to remain a Pacific power.

NATO is no military threat to Russian territorial integrity; and if Russians believe the example of free NATO states might "infect" Russian people, that problem is on Russia's treatment of their own people. If the Russians think NATO's "threat" to Russia can only be prevented by pushing Russia's boundaries west or by European states ceasing to be democratic beacons (hello proto-imperial and anti-democratic European Union), conflict between Russia and NATO is all on Russia's shoulders.

Indeed, China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, aka the New Silk Road, or One Belt One Road--OBOR) is a massive Chinese effort to move away from the sea and develop economic links to the west, including overland through Russia. If the flag follows trade, Russia will have problems in Central Asia where the USSR once ruled and in retaining their Far East.

But Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia caused a lot of damage to the world with a short-term Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact despite their mutual hatred and fear. So even a short-term convergence of parallel interests could be a world-shattering problem.

It truly would be better if the Russians came to their senses and made peace with NATO (and their western neighbors, in general) and Japan to turn European Russia into a safe rear area while gaining the cooperation of America, Japan, and potentially South Korea to deter a Chinese attempt to recover their territories taken by Russia should that lost territory be raised to the level of a core Chinese interest.

We should definitely work to strengthen NATO while the Russians are fully in the grip of their delusions. But it would be nice if Democrats got over their sudden Russia obsession to allow America to have a little maneuvering room to pry at those natural Russian-Chinese divisions to help Russia come to its senses.