Putin In China

Why Russia’s Alliance With China is Improbable, But Not Impossible

September 21, 2020
Simon Saradzhyan
This is a summary of an article originally published by the Fondation pour la recherche stratégique.

On the possibility of a China- Russia alliance, the author writes that "nations can be in an alliance with each other even if that commitment is informal," but that this relationship must be credible" as is the case with the U.S. and Israel. "While one might say with some degree of confidence that Russia and China are in a de facto non-aggression pact" the critical second condition to any alliances is that each country is willing to offer "military and security assistance to each other in case of an aggression." It is unclear if Russia or China is willing to go that far.

The author argues that for Russia and China to align in order to "balance a U.S. threat," two conditions must be met:

  • "First, Russia’s ability to single-handedly deter the U.S./NATO would have to come into doubt, while its relations with the West would have to remain as bad as today or become even more adversarial."
  • "Second, China’s ability to single-handedly deter the U.S./NATO would have to come into doubt, while its relations with the West would have to become adversarial."

For Russia to bandwagon with China in the future, two conditions would need to be present:

  • "First, Russia would need to feel threatened both by the U.S. and China (but less by China than by the U.S) so much that it would abandon its position that it will not be a junior partner in any alliance."
  • "Second, China would have to abandon its opposition to forming alliances and accept the costs which it will incur as a result of allowing Russia to bandwagon with it."

The author concludes that the "[e]mergence of either of these two sets of conditions is unlikely, but not impossible in the near future … the formation of an alliance between Russia and China in the future is also improbable, at least in the short-to-medium term, but not impossible."

Read the full article at Fondation pour la recherche stratégique.

Author

Simon Saradzhyan

Simon Saradzhyan is the founding director of the Russia Matters.

Photo by Kremlin.ru.