However, Russia is no stranger to her own propaganda, or people projecting fantasies onto her who do not like something the US is doing. This was seen a lot in the past years under Obama, where people in the US were veritably lauding Putin as a kind of a savior only to completely forget and revers positions once Trump was elected to power. The people never actually cared about Putin or Russia, but simply were using Putin as a way to express their displeasure with the previous administration.
The same can be said about Sino-Russian relations. Throughout history, Russia and China have loudly proclaimed that they will cooperate together against “western imperialism”. This sentiment was echoed in a recent article:
A new eye-opening op-ed in Politico brings fresh realism to the fact that “Europe’s obsession with Russia is unrequited” as “Moscow just isn’t interested in the Continent anymore.” Because instead it’s now “all about China” from Moscow’s vantage point, now all-in on its long stated intent to convince Beijing it’s time to form an alliance capable of breaking US global hegemony.
Bruno Maçães, a former Europe minister for Portugal and Eurasian affairs analyst finds based on the real discussions taking place in diplomatic corridors (as opposed to the abstract talking points of mainstream western pundits — predicated on the assumption that Russia perpetually seeks to pull Europe in its direction), that Moscow is no longer pursuing European integration following sanctions and the unraveling of the INF, but senses a new opportunity given Washington’s tariffs on Chinese exports. No longer, the ex-European diplomat concludes, does Russia hope to emulate or compete with the Chinese economy, which it realizes it can’t do, but instead has a bigger geopolitical alliance in mind.
Nowhere has this been on display more that during the annual Valdai Discussion Club (hosted by Russia’s top foreign policy experts and officials), where Maçães charts that the idea has been met with less and less resistance over the years, to the point that now the following is clearly on display:
In the past, the possibility of an alliance between the two countries had been hampered by China’s reluctance to jeopardize its relations with the U.S. But now that it has already become a target, perhaps it will grow bolder. Every speaker at Valdai tried to push China in that direction.
Accordingly, relations in Europe is now a distant afterthought for Russian policymakers; instead the question is how to get Beijing to finally understand that Washington is the real enemy, making an alliance against the US necessary.
Maçães says that while the idea was mostly speculation only a couple years ago, Russia wants to bring it to realization, “and soon”. Thus a new realism and pivot to southeast Asia has now come to define Moscow’s vision for the future:
There was no doubt at Valdai that China knows how to do economic growth, and that Russia does not. Russia’s elite — always so ready to resist any sign of Western hegemony — have no problem admitting China’s economic superiority. Their acceptance reminded me of the way Britain gave way to the United States as the world’s dominant economic power.
Seen from Moscow, there is no resistance left to a new alliance led by China. And now that Washington has imposed tariffs on Chinese exports, Russia hopes China will finally understand that its problem is Washington, not Moscow.
However, the question remains, according to the former Portuguese diplomat: “Can Russia and China really be friends, and for how long?”
Taking the long view, the 20th century-rooted geopolitical rivalry will be overcome by the joint realization that they’ll need each other for any chance of altering the American-led global landscape. Says Maçães:
The thing to remember is that both countries are obsessed with overturning the American-led global order. They may have a long history of geopolitical rivalry — one that is sure to return once their goal is achieved and new poles emerge, pitting them against each other.
But they’ll cross that bridge when they get there, maybe in another 20 years or so. For now, Russia and China are essentially on the same side.
The dramatic implications for global order? “It would be an entirely new world, and it’s one that is coming closer to becoming reality,” he concludes. Such an alliance “would overturn how we do global politics.”
“Imagine an international crisis in which Russia and China suddenly emerge as a single bloc. The impact would be considerable, and to some extent unpredictable: Psychologically, in the mind of the West, it would combine the fear associated with Russia with the apparent invulnerability of China,” forecasts Maçães.
Ultimately, this would be enough to curtail Washington-NATO hegemony, as the US “would feel under attack; Europe, intimidated and unsettled.” This “entirely new world” would also introduce fractures among European allies, as “The old Continent would also face the threat of a split between Western Europe and the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, which could turn their focus east under the influence of a cash-happy China ready to invest in the region.”
Yet China appears nowhere close to Moscow’s level of enthusiasm for so drastically altering the landscape: “For the moment, Chinese prudence remains the great obstacle to the new alliance. And Russians know this,” Maçães concludes.
Recalling meetings with Sergey Karaganov, a former adviser to Putin, Maçães relates:
I met Karaganov again at a meeting with Chinese officials and think tankers in Beijing a few weeks ago. There, a number of Chinese participants said they doubted Russia’s assertions that the world is in the midst of a new Cold War.
Karaganov dedicated himself to convincing them otherwise, arguing with increasing passion that China is deluding itself if it thinks issues between Beijing and Washington can be conveniently resolved to the benefit of both sides.
Maçães continues, summarizing Karaganov’s message: “If Beijing places its bets on peace and cooperation, the great Chinese adventure will come to an end, and China will have to live in the shadow of the U.S. for another generation — perhaps forever, Karaganov said.”
The message is further that the clock is ticking on Beijing’s waking up to what Russia sees as permanent US global dominance: “Chinese authorities, he argued, have no more than five years to make a decision.”
However, China could soon be at breaking point with Washington but would unlikely want to sever itself from European markets and technology. A proposed new “Eastern bloc” would be a powerful geopolitical weapon, no doubt, but the unpredictable high cost will likely prevent Beijing from the taking the leap in Moscow’s direction. (source, source)
This has been expressed many times in old Soviet and Chinese posters:
But are these posters reality? Do they accurately depict the true state of relations between these two powers?
The areas of Russia and China constitute over 10 millon square miles combined, or almost 7% of the world’s entire land mass. When one includes Mongolia and the five nations of Central Asia, it becomes 12.4575 million miles, or 8.3%. The land is filled with vast mountain ranges as well as broad, open plains where tribesmen on horseback viciously fought each other for thousands of years and out of which most world empires were formed, as Halford Mackinder noted in his study on geopolitics and empires.
But in spite of the large land mass, there are essentially three groups who occupy and/or control it in a serious way. These are the Slavic Russians, the Han Chinese, and then the vast numbers of Turkic tribes that while separate peoples all share a common historical root in terms of language, culture, and worldview. Thus while the Turkmens are not the Uyghurs are not the Yakuts are not the Kazakhs, they all have a common origin and see each other as “cousins” of sorts.
The reason why Russia is emphasizing peace in Syria is because generally speaking, peace works to her geopolitical interests as she is always going to have multiple conflicts on or within her borders. The question for Russia is no how to eliminate conflicts, but how to manage them and keep them from getting out of control. Although she wants peace generally speaking, she will not be averse to even starting conflict in an area if it means the possible preservation of peace or order in another region or at a future time.
The Turkic peoples have posed a threat to both Russia and China throughout all their histories and have ruled both nations. The infamous “Golden Horde” of Genghis Khan once ruled essentially all of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and even encroached on Poland for centuries.
Russia survived the Mongols in part because she was able to make political deals and consolidate herself even when surrounded by her enemies. While under their domination and greatly unsure about her future, the Russians survived and eventually defeated the Mongols, and beginning during the 16th century started a great eastward expansion into the territory of Siberia that was dominated by the Turkic peoples in order to subdue them, a quest which eventually brought them to the Pacific Ocean as well as to all of Central Asia.
For centuries, while Russia has struggled with the Turkic peoples, she ultimately has maintained decent relationships with them. This is part of her strategy for survival, and while in spite of the intensely nationalistic talk that will come out of Russia to the world, she is highly liberal on her treatment of Islam and Muslims as well as immigration from the Central Asian Republics. This is another reason why as I have noted, the US is attempting to incite nationalist sentiments among the Turkic peoples, to divide Russia within to carve her up, and why also Russia has responded with an increasing press for “eurasianism”, to integrate Russian and Turk, and why she appointed Sergei Shoigu as the head of the Russian military, as due to the fact that he has a Russian mother and a Turkic (Tuvan) father, he physically represents the “union” that Russia want to demonstrate, in addition to him being a skillful military officer.
The Turkic peoples have been the bane of not just the Russians, but the Chinese as well. At least three major Chinese dynasties- Qin, Yuan, and Qing -were of Turkic extraction, and all had major roles in Chinese history. China has repeatedly been invaded and destroyed by the Turkic peoples. It is why she is so hard on the Uighurs of Xijiang (literally “Western Wall”) Province, and why she has been torturing people in those regions in detention centers where she is also attempting to force people to abandon Islam for atheism.
This is a curious situation, because the influence of the Turkic peoples cannot be understated. While there are struggles and conflicts, Russia generally has positive relations with them while China generally as negative relations with them.
According to a recent article published on Pravda, a Russian newspaper, it declared in Russian that Russia is concerned about the growing Chinese influence near and within Kyrgyzstan, which is the poorest of the Central Asian nations, is a major source of migration to Russia, and is also in a critical position on the border of China. Russia has said that she may forcefully send troops into Kyrgyzstan to secure her border with China, and in so doing to effectively re-assert herself as she once did during Soviet times:
Vladimir Putin may put Bishkek in front of a choice : restore order at the border – or we will install our border guards there, the independent Kyrgyz political scientist Mars Sariev said in the program “Point of View” video studio Pravda.Ru
President Sooronbay Jeenbekov will not allow Russian border guards to the Sino-Kyrgyz border, the Pravda.Ru expert is sure, because then Kyrgyzstan in the eyes of its neighbors in the region and in the West will look like an uncountable state.
The problem of smuggling goods and drugs across the border with China and Tajikistan in any case must be solved, although it is not yet clear how best to do this. The proposal to organize a second Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan, in the opinion of the political scientist, is a “curtsy towards Russia.” Moscow earlier wanted to have such a base for pressure on Uzbekistan. But after the change of leadership in Tashkent, Russian-Uzbek relations improved. And Russia threatens the threat of an Islamist breakthrough from Afghanistan with its military base in Tajikistan.
Kyrgyzstan gained a number of advantages from joining the EEU, in particular, cheap energy. Russia, however, has become stronger in the republic as an owner in the energy sector and intends to participate in the privatization of railways, which makes China compete in its One Belt and One Road project.
Anti-Chinese sentiment in Kyrgyzstan, Mars Sariev told Pravda.Ru, is linked to corruption in terms of giving Chinese business property and citizenship. Anti-Russian sentiments are also present, but have no support among the people. This is a project of a part of a liberal society living on grants from abroad. Kyrgyzstan with any government will not become an anti-Russian country. (source, source)
China’s historical influence has extended at her height into parts of Central Asia as well as Russia, including the areas around the critical junction regions of Altai Krai and Khakassia and even near to the cities of Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. Given China’s open desires to assert herself on a world stage and her large population, Russia is certainly concerned about China attempting to forcefully move herself into Russian territory.
Likewise, make no mistake, that Russia is not taking her own counter moves, the biggest one being her alliance with the Turkic peoples. To that extent, one should not be surprised to see in the future if Russia promotes Turkic nationalism and even covert terrorism in China, for to do so would be to not only agitate the Chinese, but to further incite hatred of China among the Turkic peoples, one of which is Japan. It would be a highly convenient way of taking any internal stresses in Russia off of her and re-directing them to the Chinese, who given their often times ham-handed and disordered approach to problems, would enter into a self-reinforcing cycle that, as China’s history shows, always leads to her internal enervation and eventual downfall.