The Ever-Shifting 'Strategic Triangle' Between Russia, China and the U.S.

Jun 7, 2019 | 05:30 GMT

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in the Kremlin in Moscow on June 5, 2019.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in the Kremlin in Moscow on June 5. Russia and China are strengthening their bilateral ties, but their cooperation will prove to have significant limits.



  • Russia and China are on a trajectory to increase ties across the economic, energy and security realms, but this path is by no means set.
  • The evolving relationship between Russia and China will inherently be shaped by each country's links to — and contention with — the United States as part of a "strategic triangle" of relations.
  • As China rises in terms of its relative economic and military power, Russia and the United States could eventually seek a strategic rapprochement to constrain Beijing's ascension.
  • However, any alignment between the United States and Russia would be limited to specific shared interests and could ultimately shift again with prevailing geopolitical conditions.

The U.S. trade war with China and Washington's prolonged standoff with Russia over matters from Iran to Venezuela to arms control are increasingly driving Moscow and Beijing toward each other. Moscow has recently indicated a desire to collaborate with China in the Arctic's Northern Sea Route as part of Beijing's Maritime Silk Road initiative, for example, while the massive Power of Siberia pipeline is completing the final phase of construction and is set to begin pumping ever-larger volumes of Russian natural gas to China by the end of this year. These developments are part of a broader trend of Russia and China strengthening political, economic and security ties. Such developments raise the question of how deep an alignment between Russia and China can go, and to what extent their relationship is forming in direct opposition to and competition with the United States. To begin to answer this question, it is...

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