Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country will focus on strengthening ties with China, saying the two neighboring countries have common interests and can make technological advances together.
“Now that the West has taken the position of a ‘dictator,’ our economic ties with China will grow even faster,” Lavrov said, according to a transcript published by Russia’s Foreign Ministry on May 23.
According to Russia’s state-run media RT, Lavrov made the remarks while speaking to students at a high school in Moscow.
Lavrov said Russia and China have “common interests” in international affairs and the two sides can reap the benefits of working closely on technology.
“This is an opportunity for us to realize our potential in the field of high technology, including nuclear energy, but also in a number of other areas,” Lavrov added.
Three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow updated their bilateral relationship to a “no limits” partnership, following a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The two leaders also declared that there would be “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation” between the two neighbors.
China has not condemned Russia over its invasion but has been critical of Western sanctions against Moscow. On May 4, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who co-chairs the Senate Ukraine Caucus, informed Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to the United States, that he was “extremely concerned” about China’s refusal to “clearly condemn Putin’s unjustified and unprovoked war.”
Meanwhile, China’s energy imports from Russia have increased in recent months. The communist regime’s purchase of Russian oil, gas, and coal jumped 75 percent in April to over $6 billion, according to Bloomberg, citing Chinese customs data. Imports of Russia’s liquefied natural gas topped 463,000 tons in April, a surge of 80 percent from a year earlier.
Lavrov dismissed the possibility that Russia would be willing to improve ties with Western countries soon.
“If they [the West] want to offer something in terms of resuming relations, then we will seriously consider whether we will need it or not,” he said. “We must stop being dependent in any way on the supply of anything from the West.”
One particular field of Sino–Russian cooperation that has great implications for U.S. national security is outer space. The two sides are currently in the final year of a five-year space cooperation program that started in 2018. In December last year, China’s state-run media Global Times reported that the program was expected to extend for another five years ending in 2027.
The Russian space agency Roscosmos signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s National Space Administration in March 2021, agreeing to work together on an international lunar research station. Roscosmos’s chief, Dmitry Rogozin, told Russian state-run media Tass in April that he planned to talk to Chinese partners about cooperation on the moon before the end of May.
China’s and Russia’s interests in the moon were highlighted in a report titled “Challenges to Security in Space 2022” published by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in April.
“Both nations seek to broaden their space exploration initiatives, together and individually, with plans to explore the moon and Mars during the next 30 years,” John F. Huth, the DIA’s defense intelligence officer, said at a briefing announcing the report.
Huth added, “If successful, these efforts will likely lead to attempts by Beijing and Moscow to exploit the moon’s natural resources.”
The moon could potentially turn out to be an important source of rare-earth metals, which are scarce on Earth but are needed to manufacture everyday electronics such as computers and lithium batteries, in addition to defense products used by the U.S. military, such as night-vision goggles and armored vehicles.
John F. Plumb, assistant secretary of defense for space policy, warned about Russian and Chinese space capabilities during a congressional hearing on May 11.
“Russia and China have developed directed energy weapons to blind intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) satellites, and they continue the development, testing, and proliferation of direct-ascent and on-orbit antisatellite weapons to hold at risk U.S. and allied space assets,” Plumb said, according to a prepared statement (pdf).
He added, “They continue to develop the means to deny others the use of space through employment of malicious cyberspace activities, including cyber attacks, against ground sites supporting space operations.”