Military alliance between Russia and China: foundations, prospects and consequences
On February 4th, 2021, a telephone conversation took place between the Foreign Ministers of Russia and China, Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi, the importance of which is difficult to overstate.
As part of the re-signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighbourliness, which will soon expire, Beijing proposed to fill the new treaty with landmark content that reflects not only the desire of both countries to protect their own security, the security of each other, but also the security of neighbouring states. In fact, we can say that Beijing has proposed to Moscow to make an official military alliance.
It is important to note that what happened is not a sudden initiative of Beijing. Judging by numerous reservations and statements, including those made by top officials, this issue has been discussed in private almost since 2016, and by 2020 there was a serious convergence of mutual views.
In particular, the Russian president on October 22nd, 2020 in Novo-Ogaryovo said that he fully allows the conclusion of a military alliance between the two countries, although "in general" they do not need it. The Chinese side immediately responded "very warmly” to this.
So the global geopolitical rapprochement between Russia and China is a natural and inevitable process. Especially given the fact that both countries have very similar goals and long-term strategies, which, moreover, do not overlap even in the very foreseeable future. This means that for at least half a century, if not more, there should not be any serious conflicts between our countries that can result in an armed confrontation.
And throughout this period, we have a common rather serious opponent and the same geopolitical goal.
China's interest in this alliance lies in three points.
Firstly, it is the Russian strategic nuclear umbrella. Against China alone, the United States can opt for a nuclear war (let's say, limited by the tactical level of warheads), albeit very theoretically, but they can opt for one. But taking into account its alliance with the Russian Federation – definitely not.
Secondly, having received a guarantee of its back being covered, Beijing can concentrate its army on a fairly narrow "eastern" section of the potential front, thereby ensuring that it receives a decisive superiority in forces and means.
Thirdly, the existence of such a treaty will not only untie China's hands in the "Taiwan issue", but will also mean an unofficial recognition by Russia of its right to resolve this "issue" at its own discretion.
What could be the Russian interest in such an alliance?
First of all, the signing of such a treaty will automatically force China to take a more active and clearly pro-Russian position on a variety of important international issues for us. From “whose is Crimea" and sanctions against Nord Stream 2, to supporting the Russian economy with finance and industry with technology.
Further, it latently forms an excellent foundation for a clear division of the interests of the two countries in Central Asia and the rest of the post-Soviet space, in which there is still too high a level of uncertainty. And if in Central Asia and Turkestan very broad combinations of building up joint interests are possible, then on the western borders of Russia, Beijing can only support the formulation that these lands are included in the zone of Russian strategic interests, just as Taiwan is in the zone of Beijing's strategic interests.
The most important thing is that as a result, there is an opportunity to synchronise a mutual position concerning the question of the expediency of preserving the European integration project. We will still need to “make a choice regarding our position” with it anyway. But with the support of the economic colossus of China, it will be much easier for Russia to solve this problem than doing it alone.
It is clear that, in addition to the advantages, a possible military alliance between the Russian Federation and China also has its own controversial points. Some of them are quite significant. We can say that, given the difference in the economic weight and size of the circles of foreign policy problems, as well as some ideological differences, if such a treaty is signed, Moscow finds itself in a certain dependence on Beijing's foreign and domestic policies. And this really is the case.
However, the opposite is also true. China is in exactly the same dependence. And if it expresses its consent to the treaty, it means that the ruling elite of the country agrees with this mutual dependence.
So, we can not exclude that this year, at most, in 2022, an official military alliance between Russia and China may well be concluded.