USA, China and Russia

USA, China and Russia

By Dmitry Trenin

January visit of the People’s Republic of China Chairman Hu Jintao to the USA is compared by serious analysts with the historic trip of Deng Xiaoping, who “opened” China for America and foreign world in 1979. Then in 1970-s much was said about geopolitical triangle – an intricate complex of relations between Washington, Moscow and Beijing. Three decades after the issue of Russia is almost not mentioned within the discussion of the US-Chinese relations. Nevertheless further development of relations between China and the USA is significant for Russia.

January visit of the People’s Republic of China Chairman Hu Jintao to the USA is compared by serious analysts with the historic trip of Deng Xiaoping, who “opened” China for America and foreign world in 1979. Then in 1970-s much was said about geopolitical triangle – an intricate complex of relations between Washington, Moscow and Beijing. Three decades after the issue of Russia is almost not mentioned within the discussion of the US-Chinese relations. Nevertheless further development of relations between China and the USA is significant for Russia.

Starting from mid 90-s Moscow has defended the concept of multi-polar world publically and soundly. It was considered that the world order with several great powers, including, of course Russia, meets the interests of Russia much more, than the “unipolar world” headed by the USA. A similar concept was promoted by Beijing. However, meanwhile Moscow’s“multi-polarity” was the attempt to restore the damaged balance by “undercutting” the rival ahead, Beijing’s “multi-polarity” was a part of a long-term strategy of the growing power center.

Fifteen years later only memories left from “unipolar” world, and current world order is called “multi-polar, or “pollarless” at all. The USA is still a leading and the most powerful state of the world, but the main international geopolitical “news” is the introduction of China and India into the top league of global policy.
A number of states – Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia, South Korea have also promoted their status. From the other hand, evidently reduced the international weight of Japan, and also the European Union, which, despite the extension, hasn’t managed to become self-sufficient strategic player.

Russia managed to preserve strategic independence – which first of all is defined by the notion “great power” – and to promote its international “profile” a bit. However, considering non-diversified economy, dysfunctional state, complicated demographic situation, etc. in fact today it is a great state of the second level. Successful modernization can enhance the status, significance and the role of the country, but this will demand will, pains and time.

Yet, in comparison with the USA and China, Russia is evidently weaker player. Too close American-Chinese approach incites among some Russians the feeling of anxiety and even fear. Economic interlace of interests – “Chimerica”, political tandem, the “Great Two” call worries that Washington and Beijing are able to agree on the division of influence spheres, also at the cost of the Russian Federation. Moscow still knows and remembers the way the previous model of bipolar world looked like, and doesn’t want its rehabilitation in US-China variant. The same is with the opposite trend. The ghost of China-US collision fears Russia to become unwillingly involved into the “battle of titans”.

These fears demonstrate the lack of not only strategy in Russia, but also a serious discussion of one of the most significant problems of a multi-polar world.

Essentially, Moscow has several options of strategic lines. One is to establish a block with China. It’s mainly supported by those, who observe the USA as the main threat for Russia. This variant considering the reality, but not wishes – means the return of the Russian Federation not only into the raw material basis and strategic support area of the People’s Republic of China – this has already happened to a great extent, but also into younger military-political ally, i.e. Beijing’s vassal. And for many people it’s absolutely unacceptable.

Others - those who observe East as the main threat for Russia – suggest to join NATO. The logic is pretty the same that of those states of Central and Eastern Europe within the period of the alliance extension to east, if China is a really peaceful country, it can’t understand, that the entry of the Russian Federation into NATO is not a threat at all. And if Beijing has secret aggressive plans, then Russia’s joining NATO will become a reliable barrier for their accomplishment. This variant is full of innocence: no one in the world, except for Russians, will not defend the borders along Amur and Ussuri.

Such a serious choice, however, is not guided by the circumstances. Most likely that in the near prospect the US-China relations will simultaneously include the elements of cooperation and competition. Sometimes, just as last year, tension will increase; from time to time – for example, during the top visits they will correct relations and achieve stabilization. Yet we observe a kind of “fitting”: China demands from the USA the status equality, Americans from the People’s Republic of China – responsible line. Americans do not plan to refuse of their leadership, China – from claims on it. “Final match” of international geopolitical “championship” promises to be long and fascinating one.

“Fan clubs” are being formed. Neighbors of China – from Japan and South Korea to Vietnam and the Philippines have already leaned under the wing of the USA. India concluded a union with the USA. From its side China uses its huge financial resources to gain friends – from Africa to Central Asia and from South America to South Europe.

For Russia stable and friendly relations with China is one of the most precious achievements for last 20 years. And it’s adventurism to challenge these relations. At the same time Moscow has to transform strategic relations with Washington, getting rid of the status of remaining, but not beneficial and disorienting military-political competitions with the USA. As a Euro-Pacific state the Russian Federation within its modernization intention should mainly focus on the development of integration relations with the European Union in West, partner relations with Japan and South Korea in East and ally relations with India in south. The multi-polar world has established, now we should adapt in it.
 
 
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from
InoSMI
 
 
07.02.2011
 
 
 

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