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What in the World?

The Russia-China strategic partnership is a sham

Mar 29


Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Moscow was viewed as a message to the rest of the world that the alliance between Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin is stronger than ever. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated. China has used the Ukraine War to force Putin into trade concessions that favor the People’s Republic.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan says the Chinese are making a push to take control of Russia’s backyard in a clear sign that the Russia-China strategic partnership is a sham.

Excerpted from Peter’s March 28 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Russia has long operated under the guise of “strategic partnerships” to keep its enemies within striking distance. Putin and Xi’s partnership is no different. However, only time will tell who will end up with the knife in their back.

For both sides, this is an alliance of convenience enabling them to get around some sanctions brought on by the war in Ukraine. But the Chinese might be looking to gain a little more from this relationship. Xi’s recent meeting with the leaders from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan is indicative that a move on the Russian space could be in the cards.

One of Putin’s motivations for the war in Ukraine is to take control of the geographic access points used to launch assaults against the Russians. Can you guess where one of those access points just so happens to be? The Altai Gap…which connects Russia, Kazakhstan, and you guessed it, China.

Hey everybody, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Lake Te Anau in southern New Zealand. The news that happened over the last few days is pretty straightforward. Vladimir Putin of Russia entertained President, or Chairman, Xi Jinping of China and they had one of their big hoity-toity summits where they pledged their unending support for each other. The reality, of course, is nothing of the sort. Putin used the magic phrase “Strategic Partnership,” which for the uninitiated sounds really important and like an alliance, but … this is the phraseology that the Russians have been using for centuries, when they want to say that they want a partnership with a country that they don’t trust, and they expect the other country to pay for everything. And they expect to stab that other country in the back at the earliest opportunity. 

So Putin has had multiple strategic partnerships with the United States, with France, with Germany … the Soviets did one with the United States back in the day, and it even dates back to the Czars’ time. So that’s the magic phrase that you know that they really, really, really truly despise each other, and that this is only an alliance of convenience. It has to do with getting out from under some of the sanctions that have to do with Ukraine War. So let’s put that in the box. 

The more important thing is, within hours of leaving Russia, Jinping of China invited the leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to a summit with just him — not the Russians. Now the Russians and the Chinese have this security organization called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It’s kind of build as a central Asian NATO. It’s really more of a talk shop. But that is a place where Russian and Chinese interests are kind of counterbalanced. But this is something completely different. 

This is the Chinese making a naked power play for control of Russia’s backyard. Now, for those of you who have been following me for a bit, you know that my rationale for why the Russians are doing this has always been that they’re trying to plug certain geographic access points to their lands, places like Poland and Romania, where other greater powers on the other side of those gaps have historically invaded Russia through. And their position is, if they can forward position military forces in those access points, then they’ll be able to preemptively prevent invasions. This sort of thinking has driven Russian security decisionmaking for centuries. It’s not limited to that Western periphery. There are other access points that the Russians are really paranoid about. 

Two of them are in the caucusus that go down to Turkish … and Persian territory. And one of them is the Altai Gap that leads straight to China. So when the Russians see the Chinese making this sort of naked power play to get on the other side of that gap and position themselves politically, economically, maybe militarily, with countries that are on the wrong side of that line while the Russians are occupied in Ukraine, the Russian mind immediately falls into kind of this revanchist position, where they realize that they are now under assault from all possible angles. 

And this is like the worst case scenario for the Russians. and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it, because they have completely committed their entire conventional forces to the western periphery in the war with Ukraine. The gaps that Ukraine encroaches — Poland and Romania — those are by far the two most important. Those are the ones where the most of the invasions have come from. But now that the Chinese are actually nibbling on the eastern periphery, we know that this relationship is now in its dying years because the Russians know the Chinese absolutely cannot be trusted. And I can’t say for the rest of it, that’s really a realization. Anyway, I’ll be keeping an eye on this from the other side of the planet. I’ll let you know more when I know more.

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