As Russia tries to juggle Ukraine on one side, the competitive West on the other, and nurture its future expansion plans on another front, one wonders if the Kremlin is now feeling the pressure to have China’s unfettered support, writes Di Valerio Fabbri at Geopolitica.info.
Valerio Fabbri writes that China appears to have caught Russia in a friendly web of its own, in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict now approaching six months.
But on the one hand, it gives Russia the impression that the latter can continue to undercut its imperial ambitions, while on the other, China is getting more than its pound of flesh in terms of huge concessions.
Russia is just now beginning to realize that while its stance against the United States and the West may have brought it strategically closer to China, the real strategic outcome for Russia is growing dependence on China itself, Fabbri noted.
When President Vladimir Putin was preparing to attack Ukraine, China was the only country that supported him. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the time that “Sino-Russian strategic cooperation has no boundaries, no-go areas and no upper limits.”
Putin is bolstered by China’s open support as he continues to attack Ukraine, play ball with Europe over gas and oil supplies, and sell oil at discounted prices to various countries, negating the impact of US sanctions.
There are many Western military strategists who suspect that Putin may already have found a second target in Kazakhstan after Ukraine. Friction between them has been rising since the beginning of the year, when the Central Asian country witnessed the most violent riots since independence in 1991.
Russia is unhappy that the Kazakhs do not express enough gratitude to Moscow for suppressing the January uprising. Rising nationalism in Kazakhstan is forcing Russians to flee the country.
Kazakhstan is trying to attract foreign companies that are leaving Russia over Ukraine. Finally, Kazakhstan has yet to publicly support the Russian invasion.
Fabri wrote, citing Defense One, a US military and defense news agency, which recently noted that “China’s CCP leaders have shown no qualms about using this growing dependence to their advantage.
China increasingly dictates the direction of the partnership and has pressed for more concessions from the Russians, raising prices and walking a diplomatic tightrope with Western nations from which it cannot afford to disengage commercially.
Military cooperation between China and Russia has not increased since the conflict in Ukraine began. It’s still in the early stages. “China and Russia held the first joint military drills since Moscow invaded Ukraine on May 24, with both countries sending nuclear-capable bombers as President Joe Biden visited the region.
In July, troops, tanks and vehicles of the People’s Liberation Army set off for Russia to participate in the so-called “War Olympics”. China has also indirectly supported the Russian war machine by exporting off-road vehicles for transporting command personnel, as well as drone components and naval engines.”
Apart from a certain degree of dependence on Russia for Chinese military vehicles, the relationship has benefited China in the defense market. “In 2014, Western sanctions gave new impetus to Russia’s military-industrial complex to sell technology to the Chinese PLA.
Today, the Kremlin has even fewer customers or partners, and its reliance on China’s technology after the invasion of Ukraine could accelerate the burgeoning joint deployment and operation, if only for a while. In the long run, Russia’s embattled arms manufacturers cannot bet on China to maintain or develop them.”
As Russia’s defense market dries up, China’s defense companies are aggressively pursuing new markets around the world. In recent years, especially this year, Beijing has increased its share of the global arms trade to 4.6%, making it fourth behind the United States, Russia and France.
But what may give China an edge over Russia is the former’s drone technology, a market that is currently booming. It also creates domestic production of defense aircraft that will ultimately yield more exports, with Russia once again the victim. The results are already being seen, Geopolitica.info reported.
Russia’s arms sales to Southeast Asia had already fallen sharply over the past seven years, from $1.2 billion in 2014 to just $89 million in 2021. Chinese companies are well-placed to plug the holes that Russian companies cannot now to cover.
Russia may not be able to catch up with China in the future, as Western sanctions increase its production costs and, at the same time, it can no longer sell weapons at discounted prices.