Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles on Sino-Russian defense cooperation organized by the New American Security Center.
In recent weeks, US-China relations have deteriorated to their lowest point in nearly four decades. The Trump administration outlined its tough stance against China as the country’s authoritarian leaders have adopted increasingly aggressive and repressive policies at home and abroad. Although the growing confrontation between the world’s two largest economies has made recent headlines, Washington is also concerned about the prospect of Russia’s further intervention in the upcoming U.S. election, and there are reports that Russia provided money for the killing of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. remuneration. 19659003] No matter who wins the election in November, the United States seems likely to be caught in long-term competition with Russia and China. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the visibility of this game, especially in Beijing. Numerous studies have conducted research on this great power competition, and have determined the principles and methods that the United States should pursue in order to maintain its competitive advantage. At the core of almost all strategies is the recognition that the United States will need to work with allies and partners to bring together like-minded countries to stop authoritarian regimes and prevent them from domination of major parts of the world.
Although it is generally believed that the alliance will play a key role in any strategy for the United States to compete with China and Russia, few people think of how these countries can use their partnerships to expand their power and influence. This is largely because neither Moscow nor Beijing have many friends. Russia and China have long avoided alliances, treating them as entangled, restricting their maneuverability. Instead, they chose transactional relationships that enabled them to exert influence through economic coercion, leverage, and (especially in the case of Russia) military power.
However, in recent years, the cooperation between China and Russia has continued to develop. The unification of their interests and the concentration of their efforts have exacerbated the challenges they pose to the United States. This is especially true for China, which has been able to use its relationship with Moscow to fill the gap in its capabilities and complement its efforts to undermine US global leadership.
This article describes a series of activities organized by the New American Security Center. (CNAS) is reviewing Sino-Russian defense cooperation. This series of articles explores many aspects of the defense relationship, including the relationship between China and Russia in technology, cyberspace, and space. Successful long-term competition requires understanding of competitors, their strengths and reasons. This series of articles addresses the challenges posed by continued Sino-Russian cooperation and proposes recommendations for managing and preparing for the growing synergy between the two countries.
The driving force of cooperation
The relationship between Russia and China is developing since the cold war gradually weakened. In 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and subsequently occupied Ukraine, the opportunity for Russia to cooperate with the West greatly reduced their cooperation. These events drove Russia toward China and showed greater confidence in foreign policy under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. This was because people were worried about the West’s Arab Spring, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, and Washington’s “focus shift
Since then , Russia and China have merged their views on the world order. The two countries are united in mutual dissatisfaction with the United States and the US-led international order, and they feel that they are at a disadvantage. Just as Adam Segal is about to As the published article shows, this unity of interest drives Russia and China to cooperate more in the cyber field. However, although Russia and China may initially unite in dissatisfaction, they increasingly share a common vision. , The global order of neutral values, is conducive to dictators. In addition, their repeated interactions are building deeper and lasting partnerships. In October 2019, the Russian President even described Sino-Russian relations as “a multi-faceted strategic partner. From the perspective of relations, it is fully understood as the relations of allies.
The increasingly close integration between Russia and China is reflected in the deepening of national defense cooperation between the two countries. For example, as Mike Kofman discussed in his article, joint military exercises in recent years Both frequency and scale have increased significantly. Joint naval exercises in the Baltic and South China Seas focused on air defense and anti-submarine warfare. The two countries shared command and control information during the 2017 aerospace safety exercise. Between 2014 and 2018, About 70% of China’s weapons imports come from Russia, including advanced air defense systems and fighter jets. Just as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in 2019 that Russia will assist China in developing ballistic missile early warning systems, strategic defense cooperation It is also obvious.
Looking ahead, the two groups of drivers may promote or even not deepen their defense capabilities. Cooperation. First of all, the U.S.'s continued tough attitude towards Russia and China has created common causes between the two countries. U.S. sanctions Make the two countries work together, especially to make Russia more dependent on China. The US military presence in the surrounding areas of the two states also promotes a common threat perception. Neither country believes that the US military superiority in their respective regions is acceptable. , They also oppose the deployment of weapons systems by the United States in their regions, and are developing deterrence.
Second, from increasing the United States and its allies’ joint air patrols to Russia’s sale of the S-400 air defense system to China to counter the United States’ defense in the Pacific. Air power, the common intention to counter US capabilities and influence is everywhere.
Second, Russia and China have complementary needs and capabilities that can be used to promote the pursuit of major powers. China relies on imports from Russia to enhance its air combat. Air defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine capabilities. Russia also has a wealth of experience in military operations. The most recent time was in Ukraine and Syria, while China’s military power has not been tested. China has sent thousands of soldiers to the Russian National Defense University for training, and both countries have Expanded the scope and frequency of joint exercises beneficial to the Chinese military. On the contrary, China provided funds needed to fund major Russian projects, purchase energy products and purchase military equipment, while US sanctions prevented Russia from selling products elsewhere. Ai Elsa Kania (Elsa Kania) and Sam Bendett (Sam Bendett) pointed out in their article that this complementarity is particularly evident in the field of technology, because China provides markets and resources, and provides human capital. Especially in the field of mathematics. After Western sanctions, Russia has also turned to China to acquire technologies previously obtained from the West, such as electronic components. Moreover, the two countries may cooperate in many aspects (such as guided missile technology, unmanned systems and Artificial intelligence training data) is seen as an opportunity to fill in the gaps and accelerate progress.
Although these driving factors limit their development, national defense cooperation still exists. Historical distrust, lack of cultural resonance, And the growing asymmetry in the relationship (for example, Putin’s reluctance to be a subordinate partner) is an obstacle to deepening the relationship. In addition, the rise of China may harm Russia's interests in key regions such as Central Asia and the Arctic. Beijing may eventually infringe on Russia’s arms sales, and Russian officials often oppose China’s theft of intellectual property rights. This is an issue mentioned in several memos in this series. However, Russia and China continue to conflict of interest in key areas, and the Kremlin continues to sell increasingly complex weapons systems to Beijing, which shows that Russia can eliminate concerns about intellectual property theft and mistrust. In other words, so far, obstacles to Russia-China defense cooperation have not prevented the deepening of their relations.
Skeptics continue to argue that Russia and China are unlikely to reach an agreement. Formal alliance. But this sets the wrong standard. Russia-China cooperation, especially in the field of defense, is likely to bring major challenges to the United States in the next five to ten years, even if their relationship has not yet established a formal alliance. Greater reunification of Russia and China will bring about wide-ranging consequences, but the most important thing is that their cooperation will intensify the challenges China poses to the United States.
First of all, deepening Sino-Russian defense relations will expand the defense capabilities of each country. The strength of the project is more obvious and more credible to send a signal to the observer states that they are willing to challenge the dominance of the United States in key areas. In August 2019, Russia and China conducted a joint strategic bombing patrol in the Indo-Pacific, demonstrating their political integration and willingness to counter the US influence in the region. In 2019, Russia and China conducted naval exercises with Iran in the Indian Ocean.
Second, their continued coordination will accelerate efforts to weaken American dominance or prevent future US intervention, but in essence, they can enable competitors to improve their power forecasts and force American strategists to consider new situations . The weakening of the US military advantage is particularly problematic for the strategic competition between the US and India in the Pacific region with China. Russia has provided China with advanced weapons systems that can enhance China’s ability to keep the United States out, including China’s ability to resist air power in and around Taiwan. Russia has also played an indispensable role in modernizing China's surface warfare capabilities by providing Sovremenny-class destroyers, advanced anti-ship cruise missiles and naval air defense systems, and sharing the design expertise of Chinese indigenous ship production. In addition, through military exercises and training, Russia is providing China with valuable combat experience, which may offset one of the most important disadvantages of the PLA relative to the United States. In this way, continued Sino-Russian defense cooperation will put the United States at risk to prevent Chinese aggression in the region and to maintain its commitment to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.
In addition to the Indo-Pacific, greater coordination between Moscow and Beijing can speed up the R&D efforts of the two countries, enabling them to innovate faster than the United States. Kania and Bendett assessed that China-Russia technological cooperation is likely to deepen and progress, which provides an important foundation for establishing closer strategic ties and advancing China's challenge to the supremacy of American technology. Similarly, Jeffrey Edmonds believes that Russia and China share concerns that the U.S. dominance in space may lead to increased cooperation in anti-space capabilities. If these types of initiatives mature, it may be difficult for the United States to maintain its technological advantage in certain areas of China. For example, strengthening Russia-China defense industry cooperation on sensitive technologies such as hypersonic weapons or submarine technology in theaters will pose a major challenge to the United States and its allies. In addition, the ability to keep pace with Russia-China joint innovation will put tremendous pressure on the already tight US defense budget.
Finally, open defense cooperation between Russia and China may complicate US defense plans and capabilities. For example, it is conceivable that in the future Gulf crisis, both Russia and China will send fleet squadrons to "observe" the situation, which will seriously complicate US response measures. In an unlikely but more dangerous situation, Russia and China can coordinate their aggressive actions in their surrounding areas, posing a challenge to the current US force planning structure. For example, if Russia and China simultaneously act to further enter Ukraine or the South China Sea, it will be difficult for the US military to respond to these two threats. The resources required to fight in these two theaters are expensive, and may require major upgrades to US combat readiness to ensure success on these two fronts today.
What should I do?
Given the potentially serious impact on Russian-Chinese defense cooperation may be closer for the United States, what measures can be taken to slow and/or limit the extent of such cooperation? In the long run, the United States should adopt a method designed to show Russia that its continued alienation from the West increases the vulnerability of the Kremlin to Chinese rule. US policy should be aimed at shaping Russia’s calculus so that the Kremlin believes at least some cooperation with the US and its partners, rather than relying too much on China.
The current reality of US-Russian relations means moving towards Russia. This direction will take time. In addition, there is no guarantee that efforts to lead Russia to China will succeed. This is because Putin views the United States, not Beijing, as a threat to his governance. Xi Jinping believes that Russia can help distract Washington from taking a tougher stance on China’s domestic and foreign policies, undermining US global dominance, and countering US efforts to limit China’s leverage in multilateral institutions. In other words, the drastic measures aimed at promoting Russia and China are unlikely to work.
On the contrary, the United States should monitor and plan, limit, and where possible break through the gap between Russia and China. relationship. The most straightforward is that policymakers and strategic documents should be more clearly differentiated between Russia and China. The two countries pose a clear threat to the United States, and there are important rifts between Russia and China. Therefore, policymakers should recognize and respond to the unique challenges that each country poses to the interests of the United States, while also working to limit what Russia and China are willing to do together. This series of articles will provide decision makers with insights and opportunities to enable them to meet this challenge.
First, Koffman established the outline of the Russian-Chinese defense relationship, including the driving factors and constraints of the partnership. He emphatically pointed out that more information about Russia-China exchanges is needed, and planners must prioritize where the United States should compete, and the importance of allowing allies to increase resistance between Russia and China. Kania and Bendett focus on technical cooperation. While warning of the risks of the continuous development of China-Russia technical cooperation, they pointed out the constraints and potential cracks in the technical field. Among other opportunities, they highlighted the importance of attracting Russian and Chinese expertise to the United States to maintain American competitiveness and slow down Sino-Russian cooperation.
In the field of networking, Adam Segal showed how China-Russia cooperation develops and how the two learn from each other. He emphasized the importance of the U.S. regaining leadership positions in international organizations to prevent Russia and China from working together to rewrite global norms and standards that may be detrimental to U.S. interests and influence. Finally, Edmonds conducted Russia-China space cooperation. He believes that Russia and China cooperate in space to obtain material benefits, broader strategic foreign policy goals, and potential military benefits. He warned that defense planners need to look for signs that Russia and China are moving towards anti-space cooperation due to growing concerns about the U.S. dominance in space, and consider how this will affect the two countries’ nuclear deterrence. power.
The strengthening of China-Russia cooperation will become a key determinant of the strategic pattern of the United States in the foreseeable future. Denial of this reality or hope, the difference in their goals will eventually split them, ignoring the more direct damage they may cause to US interests.
In addition to responding to the major challenges that the two countries pose to the United States, it is now time to face the growing synergy between the two countries.
Andrea Kendall-Taylor is a senior researcher and director of the Transatlantic Security Program of the New American Security Center.
David Shullman is a senior consultant at the International Republican Institute and a part-time senior researcher at the New American Security Center.
Dan McCormick is a graduate student in the Georgetown University Security Research Program. He had an internship at the New American Security Center.
Picture: Chinese Military (Photo by Li Sanhong)