For China and Russia, Common Interests Make for Closer Security Ties

Sep 11, 2019 | 09:00 GMT

Military officials salute each other in a ceremony before Russia and China warships set out for a naval cooperation exercise.

Military officials salute each other in a send-off for a joint Russian-Chinese naval exercise in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk.

(YURI SMITYUK\TASS via Getty Images)


  • To counter the United States in key Asian and European theaters, Russia and China will increase the size and scope of their joint military exercises in the coming months.
  • Russia and China will also increase consultations with each other on internal security issues, including their shared desires to create a sovereign internet and manage unrest in Moscow and Hong Kong, respectively.
  • But such cooperation will be limited by Russia and China's own strategic competition with one another, particularly in areas of overlapping influence such as Central Asia and the Russian Far East.
  • In the longer term, Russia-China security ties will last only until the three great powers' triangular relationship inevitably shifts again, and prompts Moscow and Beijing to recalibrate their positions.

As the saying goes, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." And indeed, that dynamic seems to be the rationale that has brought Russia and China closer together amid their respective standoffs with the United States in recent years. The U.S. trade war with China and Washington's prolonged sanctions campaign against Moscow, for one, have driven greater economic and energy ties between the two countries. Russia and China have also coordinated their diplomatic positions to counterbalance U.S. interests and influence in areas such as Venezuela, Iran and North Korea. As a result, Beijing and Moscow have increasingly found themselves aligned with each other in the growing number of areas where they both stand at odds with Washington -- and increasingly, that includes security issues. But in the long term, Russian-Chinese security ties will ultimately depend on the evolution of each country's relationship with the United States and, thereby, with each other....

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