IN a world of changing alliance patterns, it is obvious that China and Russia must come closer, the signing of Monday’s gas deal between the two giants being just a small indication of the shape of things to come. While President Vladimir Putin called the 3,000-kilometre-long gas pipeline project “historic”, President Xi Jinping said that Sino-Russian relations were entering “a new era”. The gas deal is an indication of the booming trade — which is estimated to reach $200bn by 2024 — between the two countries, and is in sharp contrast to China’s declining economic ties with the US, the two having slapped tariffs worth billions of dollars on imports on each other. This is in addition to apprehensions on the larger geopolitical canvas. Washington is hostile to China’s One Belt One Road project, and Beijing feels concerned over Washington’s moves to create an anti-China alliance in the Pacific. More important, America seems determined to slow down if not block China’s emergence as a world power. As for Russia, the end of the Cold War has not led to an idyllic peace with the West.
The 70th anniversary of Nato’s founding finds the US-led alliance in a mess, with President Donald Trump calling France’s Nato strategy “brain dead”. French President Emmanuel Macron has his own grievances against Nato member Turkey and accuses Ankara of working with extremists in Syria by waging war on the Kurds, who he says are the West’s allies against the militant Islamic State group. Turkey, which has purchased missiles from Russia, also opposes Nato moves to strengthen the Baltic states’ security. The fissures within Nato are no solace for Russia, which is aware of Western anger over its Crimean misadventure. On Tuesday, Gen Mark Milley, American military chief, said China and Russia, and not Muslim militants, posed a threat to America. With Cold War loyalties cracking, and the focus of the world’s economic and geopolitical power shifting towards the East, both Moscow and Beijing feel it is in their interest to come closer.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2019