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Sino-Russian 'Friendship' and the New World Order

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On Feb. 4, the world witnessed a geopolitical earthquake. Economic-driven tectonic plates realigned themselves with a Sino-Russian reality that is poised to supplant the “rules-based international order” that has served as the foundation of US foreign and national security policy for decades. While the US plays at word games, Russia and China are busy redrawing the global geopolitical map, creating a realignment that can not only withstand the historical sanctions-based bullying by the US and Europe, but that will so dominate the global economy and related power structures that neither the threat of sanctions nor military force could alter the outcome.

Two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a 5,000-plus-word joint statement which served as a de facto manifesto about the creation of a new world order centered not on the trans-Atlantic, but rather a new Eurasian polarity, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan appeared on Fox News Sunday to discuss the statement with host Martha MacCallum. It was a testy exchange that spoke volumes.

“Well, first, Martha, they didn't use the word ‘alliance,’” Sullivan said, when asked for an official While House comment. “They used some other phrases but did not actually go so far as to call themselves allies.”

MacCallum responded by quoting directly from the joint statement: “Friendship between the two states has no limits. There are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”

“They also suggested China would have Russia’s back on their decisions with regard to Ukraine, and the same would be true for Russia of China's decisions with regard to Taiwan,” she added. “That sounds like an alliance.”

“Well ... in 5,000 words that the two leaders put down on that paper, the word ‘Ukraine’ does not appear — which suggests that China is not so excited about cheerleading Russia on Ukraine,” Sullivan replied.

Sullivan’s responses to MacCallum’s questions highlight the growing disconnect between reality and perception in the Biden White House when it comes to Russian-Chinese relations. An early indicator of this emerged on Jun. 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden spoke to the press following his summit with Putin in Geneva.

“I think that the last thing he [Putin] wants now is a Cold War,” Biden said, when asked about the Russian leader’s alleged role as a disrupter of the US-Nato alliance. “Without quoting him — which I don’t think is appropriate — let me ask a rhetorical question: You got a multi-thousand-mile border with China. China is moving ahead, hellbent on election, as they say, seeking to be the most powerful economy in the world and the largest and the most powerful military in the world. You’re in a situation where your economy is struggling, you need to move it in a more aggressive way, in terms of growing it.”

That a US president, in 2021, still harbored visions that a wedge could be driven between Russia and China a la President Richard Nixon in 1972 highlights just how far removed from reality the Biden White House is regarding the present state of play when it comes to modern-day geopolitics. The emptiness of Biden’s words was exposed when, during a video summit held on Jun. 28, Putin and Xi announced that the 2001 China-Russia Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation would be extended for another five years.

Harboring Illusions

Neither Sullivan nor US Secretary of State Antony Blinken should harbor any illusions about the state of US-Sino relations, something that was made quite clear when these two met with their Chinese counterparts, Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi and Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in Anchorage, Alaska, on Mar. 18, 2021. There, Yang broke with protocol to deliver a strong statement laying out China’s position regarding the US role in international affairs.

China, Yang said, sought to uphold what it termed “the United Nations-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law,” and rejected what it termed “the so-called 'rules-based’ international order” promulgated by the US and its allies. Moreover, China took umbrage at the notion of the US being the arbiter of what constituted democracy in global affairs, stating that China and other nations had their own approach that competed well against what Yang noted was a fundamentally flawed US model.

Yang called upon the US “to abandon the Cold War mentality and the zero-sum game approach,” rejecting the US strategy of exercising what China termed “long-arm jurisdiction and suppression and overstretched the national security through the use of force or financial hegemony.”

What China got in response was a US-hosted “Summit for Democracy,” held in early December. There, the Biden administration pitted the US and its democratic allies against autocracies such as Russia and China, and the US and EU challenged the “one-China” policy by promoting the concept of independence for Taiwan, the creation of a new anti-Chinese alliance, AUKUS (for Australia, the UK and US), and the furtherance of the anti-Chinese focus of the existing “Quad,” composed of the US, Australia, India and Japan.

Just in case Biden, Blinken, and Sullivan failed to grasp what Yang had said in Anchorage, Wang reiterated the same points during a testy video conference with Blinken on Jan. 27. Wang apparently did not get the response he desired from Blinken, so the next day the Chinese Ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, issued an ominous prediction about the future of US-China relations. “The Taiwan issue is the biggest tinderbox between China and the US,” the Ambassador told NPR. “If the Taiwanese authorities, emboldened by the US, keep going down the road for independence, it most likely will involve China and the US, the two big countries, in the military conflict.”

Let There Be No Doubt

This is the context that the Feb. 4 Russian-Chinese joint statement should be viewed in, where the real potential of military conflict supersedes any fantasy of a US-directed wedge being driven between two nations united in their opposition to US-led global hegemony. Let there be no doubt about the extent to which Russia and China are united in their joint claims of sovereignty and spheres of influence in Taiwan and Ukraine.

Let there be no doubt either that if Russia were to enter an armed conflict with Ukraine, China would be firmly on its side. The reality is, however, that unless there is a serious provocation by either Ukraine or Nato, Russia will not be invading Ukraine anytime soon. Neither Russia nor China are looking for a shooting war with the US and its allies, whether in Europe or the Pacific. They have larger fish to fry.

The joint statement also outlines the foundation for an ideological and economic competition, where Russia and China seek to supplant what they term “certain nations or blocs of nations,” such as Nato and the G7, with a multipolar structure built around the G20, Brics, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

It is the elevation of the SCO that should give the US and its allies pause. In their joint statement, Russia and China declared their intent to “comprehensively strengthen the SCO and further enhance its role in shaping a polycentric world order based on the universally recognized principles of international law, multilateralism, equal, joint, indivisible, comprehensive and sustainable security.”

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter that the word “Ukraine” was not present in the Feb. 4 joint Russian-Chinese statement. China and Russia have injected a basis of reality into the biblical proverb “when one sows the wind, one reaps the whirlwind.”

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer whose service over a 20-plus-year career included tours of duty in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control agreements, serving on the staff of US Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War and later as a chief weapons inspector with the UN in Iraq from 1991-98.

Topics:
Security Risk , Trade, Military Conflict, Sanctions, Alternative View
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