US sanctions and other actions against Russia and China have naturally drawn Beijing and Moscow closer together. Despite the obvious result of Washington’s policies over the past few years, US officials are acting surprised and concerned about the growing Russia-China relationship.
A Biden administration official told Politico that the issue was of so much concern to the US that President Biden had recently been briefed on Chinese-Russian relations, a briefing that was requested by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“What we’ve seen over the course of the last decade is something much deeper and, frankly, more concerning,” the unnamed official said. “I think you’d have to say that on some level that this operates as almost a quasi-alliance.”
The fact that the Biden administration is surprised by China and Russia’s reaction to the Western pressure against them shows either short-sightedness or feigned ignorance. The concerns the US says it has over this “quasi-alliance” will be used to justify more military spending and expansion.
The Politico report said the most “striking and of greatest concern” of the US is China and Russia’s increased military and technological cooperation. The US “concern” over advancements in technology is reflected in the Pentagon’s $715 billion budget request for the 2022 fiscal year. The budget asks for over $112 billion for the research of advanced weapons technology, which US military officials see as vital to compete with Beijing and Moscow.
Politico also cited increased joint military exercises between China and Russia as an example of their closer ties. This activity is almost guaranteed to step up in response to the fact that NATO now has its eyes on China. Although the military alliance has waged war across the Middle East, North Africa, and the Balkans, NATO is primarily an anti-Russian alliance. NATO adding China to its list of “threats” gives Moscow and Beijing even more reason to cooperate.
Rallying allies is a crucial part of the Biden administration’s strategy against China. In his first address to Congress, Biden said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the US would militarize the Indo-Pacific region “just as we do with NATO in Europe.” To do this, the Biden administration is looking to increase military cooperation between the four Quad nations; the US, Japan, India, and Australia. At this point, the Quad is an informal grouping, but US officials view it as a possible foundation for a NATO-style alliance in Asia.
Biden is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. In an interview with NBC that aired Monday, Putin said the Russia-China relationship was at an “unprecedentedly high level” despite attempts at “destroying” it.
“We are pleased with the … unprecedentedly high level of our relationship as it has evolved over the last few decades, and we cherish it, just like our Chinese friends cherish it,” Putin said.
China is expected to be discussed during the Biden-Putin summit, but the two leaders have plenty of other topics to go over. Thanks to hostile US policies, tensions are high between Washington and Moscow over a range of issues. The Biden administration official who spoke with Politico said that while Russian issues are more imminent, the “challenges” from China are the most concerning for the US in the long run.
“We also face the situation that in the short term, the things that are really concerning at an immediate level often emanate from Russia,” the official said. “But it’s the long-term challenges of China that are most concerning.”
The 2018 National Defense Strategy outlined the US military’s shift away from “counterterrorism” in the Middle East towards so-called “great power competition” between Russia and China. More recently, it’s become apparent that Beijing is the priority of the two. In its 2022 budget request, the Pentagon identified China as the top “pacing challenge” facing the military. Washington views Beijing as a threat to US global hegemony, and US officials are not shy to admit that’s why countering China is the priority.
Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com. Follow him on Twitter @decampdave.