Joe Biden made a semi-coherent speech in Kiev and may do an encore on Tuesday in Poland. I am confident he will display the same muddled thoughts and tangled syntax if he gets to a podium. Winston Churchill can rest in peace. Compared to Churchill, Biden’s oratory skills remind one of a chattering, grinning baboon. I wonder if the bookies in Vegas or London are offering odds on how many times he shouts and how many times he whispers in one speech? Got to admit it. The following furry fellow displays more charm and warmth than sleepy Joe.
Which brings me to Putin. He ain’t monkeying around. His much anticipated speech to both houses of the Russian parliament and to the military leadership will stand in stark contrast to the mumblings of Joe Biden. One subject where Biden is likely to break new ground is Russia’s future military alliance with China. Up to now Russia and China have participated in joint-exercises but, like a couple in the early stages of dating, they have not decided to tie the knot and get hitched. Not until now. The courting period may be ending and the dawn of a Russian/Chinese military alliance may be at hand.
Why do I say this? I am reading the tea leaves of leaks from the Biden team. This CNN piece is a prime example:
The US has recently begun seeing “disturbing” trendlines in China’s support for Russia’s military and there are signs that Beijing wants to “creep up to the line” of providing lethal military aid to Russia without getting caught, US officials familiar with the intelligence told CNN.
The officials would not describe in detail what intelligence the US has seen suggesting a recent shift in China’s posture, but said US officials have been concerned enough that they have shared the intelligence with allies and partners at the Munich Security Conference over the last several days.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the issue when he met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Saturday on the sidelines of the conference, officials said.
“The Secretary was quite blunt in warning about the implications and consequences of China providing material support to Russia or assisting Russia with systematic sanctions evasion,” a senior State Department official told reporters.
Vice President Kamala Harris also alluded to China’s support for Russia during her speech in Munich.
Would China entertain entering such an alliance? I think it is a distinct possibility. I want to direct you to a piece in The Diplomat from March of 2022, 3 Possible Futures for China-Russia Military Cooperation, After the Ukraine war, will China maintain, expand, or scale back its military cooperation with Russia? by Brian Waidelich. Mr. Waidlich presents three scenarios. Two of those scenarios conclude that China will stick with the status quo or that Russian and Chinese ties could weaken. It is his third scenario that caught my eye:
Future 3: Cooperation Is Markedly Strengthened
Unlike the two scenarios above, a future of strengthened China-Russia military cooperation may have less to do with the way the Ukraine conflict plays out and more to do with China’s perception of threats in the Indo-Pacific. Such a future would see the United States and its allies increasingly united in their rhetoric and actions aimed at pressuring China over its declared interests in areas such as Taiwan, the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and disputed islands in the South China Sea. China may find it beneficial to visibly strengthen its military ties with Russia if it believes the chances of an Indo-Pacific conflict are growing and that military cooperation with Russia could enhance its deterrence messaging against the U.S. and its allies.
Kudos to Mr. Waidlich. China clearly faces increased threats from the U.S. and its European allies. Waidlich goes on to sketch out what he believes a more cooperative relationship would look like:
- Enhanced technical cooperation, to potentially include ongoing Chinese purchases of Russian arms and an expansion of joint development projects on platforms that incorporate key Russian technologies (e.g., submarines). Amid expanded cooperation in this area, China may seek to pressure Russia to reduce its arms sales to countries with which China has territorial disputes, such as India and Vietnam.
- Expanded combined exercises that exhibit greater frequency, scale, and complexity. Combined exercises could continue to feature high-end warfighting topics like anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare and potentially expand to joint exercises with multiple military services.
- More targeted combined patrols, to include air and maritime patrols around Japan and possibly other U.S. allies — or the United States itself. Chinese military ships and aircraft have in recent years demonstrated capabilities to operate at increasingly distant ranges in the Pacific.
- More frequent key leader exchanges, during which leaders articulate shared assessments of the security environment and determination to support each other’s interests. Related readouts would continue to affix blame on the U.S. and its allies for geostrategic instability from Eastern Europe through Asia.
I would add one more possibility — a mutual defense pact. No more making out in the back seat of the car at the drive in (I know, I date myself with that one). Russia and China could decide to get married and climb into bed. The bellicose language that the U.S. routinely hurls at China is taken seriously in Beijing. The American belligerence directed at the Chinese cannot be excused as unintended speech caused by slamming too many whiskeys at the corner bar. It is not just Biden. American politicians, journalists and average citizens speak openly of China as “our enemy.” Two years ago a poll revealed that:
Since rift between China and America has widened into a yawning chasm. Have we reached the point where the Chinese leadership are going to acknowledge this fact and take steps to defend themselves? The war in Ukraine and the West’s extravagant support to keep the war going, by supplying both funds and weapons, has not gone unnoticed in Beijing. The verbal attacks on China in the wake of the weather/”spy” balloon have added to the already tense relations between Washington and Beijing.
What do you think? Will Putin comment on Russia’s relations with China?