Several days ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced successful ongoing preparations for a Russia-China summit between respective leaders Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
Scheduled to take place in Beijing on Feb. 4, the meeting will occur on the opening day of the Winter Olympic Games. It is meant to further cement the rapidly expanding bilateral relationship between the two countries.
According to Lavrov, the meeting is representative of the “intensive bilateral agenda and unique architecture of bilateral relations that Russia practically doesn’t have with anyone else [besides China].”
Relations between the two have been strengthening in the realm of security policy and economic interactions, especially as their respective relations with Western countries continue to deteriorate.
“Last year a record growth of the trade turnover was achieved, a very substantial one at that,” stated the Russia foreign minister. Recent events further illustrate this rapidly burgeoning Beijing-Moscow axis, especially in the critically shared region of Central Asia connecting the two countries.
Russia engaged in high-level security meetings at the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels, while also deploying peacekeeping troops to its southern neighbor Kazakhstan in order to help quell violent protests.
The former situation saw little movement in abating transatlantic fears over amassing Russian troops on its border with Ukraine. Moscow reaffirmed its right to station troops on its own sovereign territory, demanded that no new members be added to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and additionally stated its requirement that all of the latter’s forces be withdrawn from its eastern member states.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responded by upholding the organization’s “open door” policy as well as commitment to troop deployments on the territory of its eastern allies.
Stoltenberg additionally noted that there had been no movement in discussing missile treaties. The secretary general cited Russia’s noncompliance of existing frameworks as responsible for the collapse in negotiations, particularly its purported violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
U.S. President Joe Biden recently threatened to impose crippling sanctions on Russia, should Moscow attempt aggressive action against Ukraine. Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov responded by labeling U.S. accusations as “empty and unfounded,” and retorted that Russia “will not be intimidated” by such language.
This type of rhetoric and the total lack of positive developments from the Brussels summit point to transatlantic relations with the Russian Federation being at a post-Crimea annexation nadir.
Meanwhile, Russian troop deployments in Kazakhstan earlier this month came as a response to ongoing protests against the latter country’s government. Initially precipitated by a rise in fuel prices, demonstrations quickly deteriorated into violent clashes between angry Kazakh citizens and police forces. Under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Moscow sent military forces into its southern neighbor’s major cities ostensibly in order to help restore order. Over 160 individuals were reported to have been killed, and Western politicians and pundits were quick to denounce what they interpreted as a violent crackdown on dissenting voices.
Putin has responded by attributing the unrest to another Western scheme aimed at inciting a color revolution and installing a puppet regime on Russia’s border. Xi wasted no time in affirming his support for the crackdown of violent protestors and reiterated Putin’s condemnations of foreign forces undermining stability. The Chinese leader is more than happy to support Russian-led CSTO security operations in Central Asian countries, so long as they protect critical Chinese economic interests.
This expanding nexus between Russian national security interests and Chinese economic considerations was further bolstered this month. On Jan. 12, Syria joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as “One Belt, One Road”), the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) massive international investment project. Syria’s ascension to the ranks of BRI countries ensures that Damascus will be flush with Chinese capital in the foreseeable future. Beijing utilizes BRI to economically bind developing nations to CCP funds, precipitating massive financial deficits and subsequent debt traps that bring foreign governments under Chinese financial control.
Russia has had a key role in stabilizing the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Wracked by multiple years of civil war, often against rebel forces armed and equipped by the United States, Putin capitalized on Western errors to defend and cement the position of his besieged ally in Damascus. Rather than prioritizing its focus on any ideological struggle or abstract moral perspective—as the United States did—Beijing cast in its lot with Moscow under the auspices of ensuring stability and prioritizing economic considerations.
While the West is prioritizing abstract notions of liberal democracy and values-based foreign policy, Russian “peacekeeping” operations aim to ensure stability and regime survival. China benefits from these scenarios as established—and therefore predictable—administrations along its economic corridor are consolidated and expanded. This is advantageous to Beijing’s bottom line, and the CCP is more than happy to let Putin militarily posture in an attempt to garner Western respect and demonstrate resolve, especially as Moscow works to counterbalance NATO advances in Eastern Europe.
As the Olympic Games approach, the CCP has continuously battled Western calls for boycotts and labeling campaigns over its harsh treatment of ethnic Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China. Russia, undeterred by any potential human rights issues or repressive measures being enforced by the regime in Beijing, is undoubtedly grateful for Xi’s verbal support of “peacekeeping” actions in Kazakhstan; this is especially true as Moscow deals with escalatory rhetoric and record-levels of post-Cold War tension with NATO in its own backyard.
Both countries, China and Russia, are too vitally connected with the world’s energy security and economic functioning to realistically become international pariahs. However, international developments are slowly ensuring a convergence of interests that will only further push the two authoritarian regimes closer. The United States and its allies would do well to be prescient of this reality.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.