Whether Russia and China have a formal defense alliance or something short of that became largely moot today when Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that "this relationship even exceeds an alliance in its closeness and effectiveness."
The New York Times is insisting (and is technically correct as far as we know) that "the two countries do not have a formal alliance." But as tension grows along Russia’s western border and along China’s Pacific frontier, prudent statesmen would conclude that the exact nature of the China-Russia strategic partnership has become a distinction without much difference.
Moreover, this was not just President Xi blowing smoke after his virtual one-on-one with Putin Wednesday. According to the Times, the news of Xi’s startling assertion regarding a China-Russia relationship ("exceeding an alliance") came from a briefing by Yuri Ushakov, a top national security aide to President Putin.
What is crystal clear is that Xi gave full support to Putin’s high-priority initiative to stop NATO expansion and deployment of offensive missiles near Russia’s border. According to Ushakov, Putin underscored the need to hold talks with NATO and the U.S. on legally binding security guarantees. Xi responded by saying he “understands Russia’s concerns and fully supports our initiative to work out these security guarantees for Russia,” Ushakov said.
Putin’s Main Squeeze
The question is has President Joe Biden learned anything about the 2-against-one correlation of forces since embarrassing himself after the June summit with Putin in Geneva. Embarking on the plane, Biden let it be known that the "Russians are in a difficult spot being squeezed by China.”
And here is the bizarre way Biden described, at his post-summit presser, his decades-behind-the-times approach to Putin on China:
“Without quoting him [Putin] – which I don’t think is appropriate – let me ask a rhetorical question: You got a multi-thousand-mile border with China. China is seeking to be the most powerful economy in the world and the largest and the most powerful military in the world.”
Different Kind of Squeeze Today
"Squeeze" or strategic embrace? Reading this correctly could not be more important, as hotheads in Washington goad hotheads in Kiev to tweak the nose of the Russian bear. But who among Biden’s advisers is knowledgeable and courageous enough to tell him about today’s correlation of forces? They better; and the sooner the better.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).