A new Axis? What Russia stands to gain from closer ties with China
- The Russian economy has been derailed by sanctions
- Moscow is, now, looking to its strongest ally: China
- China maintains it is not a party to the Ukraine crisis
Vladimir Putin’s Russia, sanction-worn, and its economy derailed, is no longer looking to the West to resolve troubles and improve ties, but to Beijing. These Cold War enemies-turned-friends have become cosier over the years. Now, with the West completely snubbing Russia over Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has only one strong potential ally: Xi Jinping.
Proximity with China has also allowed Russia to imagine a time when it will not need more friends in the world. On Monday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was working on not being beholden to the West and rely only on “reliable” countries.
This has been Russia’s approach since Vladimir Putin launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24.
In March, Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov said, “I think our partnership with China will still allow us to maintain the cooperation that we have achieved, and not only maintain, but also increase it in an environment where Western markets are closing.”
Russia is already heavily dependent on China. The Western sanctions on Moscow in the aftermath of the 2014 Crimean war, made it financially reliant on Beijing. Moscow, however, does not want to preclude discussions with the West.
The Russian foreign minister said, “If they (the West) want to offer something in terms of resuming relations, then we will seriously consider whether we will need it or not.”
China, meanwhile, has not been as forthcoming in its friendship. While it has not condemned the Russian onslaught in Ukraine, it has expressed concern and called upon the West to look at Beijing independently. “China is not a party to the crisis, nor does it want the sanctions to affect China,” said Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.
China and Russia signed a “no limits partnership” on the side-lines of the Beijing Olympics. When Russia moved on Ukraine, Taiwan grew jittery imagining Beijing would take similar action. However, while Russia has grown to depend more and more on China in course of the Ukraine war, Beijing has sought to distance itself from the politics of it while supporting Russia financially.