The China-Russia entente could be the next big alliance - analysis

An agreement for closer military ties between China and Russia could have major ramifications for the rest of this century.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin prepares to speak at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on Wednesday. (photo credit: SERGEY ILYIN/SPUTNIK/VIA REUTERS)
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin prepares to speak at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on Wednesday.
(photo credit: SERGEY ILYIN/SPUTNIK/VIA REUTERS)

China and Russia signed a “roadmap” for closer military ties on Tuesday, reports indicated. The Associated Press reported that “Russia's defense chief on Tuesday signed a roadmap for closer military ties with China, pointing to increasingly frequent US strategic bomber flights near both countries' borders.” 

This is an important new development and could have major ramifications for the rest of this century. The report says that during a video call, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe “expressed a shared interest in stepping up strategic military exercises and joint patrols by Russia and China. 

“China and Russia have been strategic partners for many years,” Shoigu said. “Today, in conditions of increasing geopolitical turbulence and growing conflict potential in various parts of the world, the development of our interaction is especially relevant.”

Russia has been expressing more concern over US military flights near Russian airspace. Russia says there have been “30 such missions over the past month alone,” the report says.  “This month, during the US Global Thunder strategic force exercise, 10 strategic bombers practiced the scenario of using nuclear weapons against Russia practically simultaneously from the western and eastern directions,” Shoigu said. 

Why does this matter? Russia suffered greatly after the Cold War, with a decline in both population and influence. However its military has been rebuilt under President Vladimir Putin and it has extended influence to Syria, Libya and other places. It is selling its S-400s to Turkey, India and other countries. The message is that Russia is back. Its new Checkmate warplane was on display in Dubai recently.  

The Putin concept can be summed up in a joke he once told to reporters at an annual meeting. Asked about why the defense budget is important he told a story about an aging man and his son. The son tells his father that he has traded a knife for a new watch. The man looks at the watch and says it’s a nice watch, but cautions his son. “What if tomorrow bandits will come and rape your sister and kill me, and you’ll look down and be able to respond only with what time it is in Moscow.” Indeed, in place of the knife, the son will have only a watch to defend his family.  

US NAVY guided-missile destroyer patrols in the Philippine Sea. The destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of an island claimed by China and two other states in the South China Sea in 2016 to counter efforts to limit freedom of navigation, the Pentagon said.  (credit: REUTERS)US NAVY guided-missile destroyer patrols in the Philippine Sea. The destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of an island claimed by China and two other states in the South China Sea in 2016 to counter efforts to limit freedom of navigation, the Pentagon said. (credit: REUTERS)

WHILE RUSSIA is seeking greater influence, hosting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas this week, China is flexing its muscles as well. CNN reported that the US was non-plussed to see Beijing trying to move into the Middle East with strategic projects at the ports of US partners.

“Construction has been halted on a secret development inside of a Chinese shipping port near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates after intense US pressure, at least for now, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN,” the network wrote last week, "but multiple officials cautioned that the security concerns over the Chinese presence in the country are far from resolved." 

The Russia-China relationship has been growing for years. Both work with Iran’s regime and at various forums, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) to build a multi-polar world balancing US hegemony.

This authoritarian alliance is also aimed at working with other authoritarians. Recent articles warning about the decline of democracy in the world point to how authoritarians work together. This is aimed at ending the New World Order that George H.W Bush promised. No more rules-based liberal international order. While US President Joe Biden wanted to host the remaining democracies of Middle Earth in some kind of summit, it is China and Russia that are officially forming closer ties. 

COULD THIS alliance look like the Entente Cordiale of France and the UK signed in 1904? Although that alliance brought together two democracies and laid the groundwork for opposition to the Germans in the Great War and further ties in WWII, the alliance of Russia and China may be something else entirely.  

The US is trying to work with Ukraine and with partners in Asia at the same time to counter Russia and China. But it’s not clear if Washington can still do both without powerful commitments from other countries that are still trying to rebuild their forces. CNN reported this week that “ships in Chinese waters are disappearing from global trackers, creating yet another headache for the global supply chain. China's growing isolation from the rest of the world –along with a deepening mistrust of foreign influence – may be to blame.”

But the story here may not be isolation, but rather that China could be creating a parallel global system. This includes its own social media and other ways it has created a parallel internet powerhouse. One day perhaps, the world will be caught off guard, as it was during the pandemic in early 2020, and find that its shipping norms or Internet have been challenged.  

The Philippines recently completed the re-supply of a vessel grounded on an outpost in the South China Sea, complaining about China trying to interdict its supplies. A US warship transited the Taiwan Strait; Beijing has been warning Washington. Russia is annoyed about US actions near Crimea.

Reading this map of the world, one might conclude that the story of the China-Russia roadmap is a clear warning to America. And this could set the stage for the next several years as the world shifts towards Beijing and Moscow in their reparations to confront Washington. For US allies and partners, this sets the stage as well for complexity in international affairs in the coming years.