By Glenn Diesen, Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway, and an editor at the Russia in Global Affairs journal. Follow him on Twitter @glenndiesen.
It’s common for Western observers to dismiss the emerging strategic partnership between Russia and China as merely a “marriage of convenience” and a union excessively reliant on shared opposition to US foreign policy ambitions.
Russia and China: Strategic partnership or a marriage of convenience?
Thus, it’s expected that under the surface, centuries of distrust linger, and as China continues to grow, eventually, power rivalry and a “divorce” would follow.
Their common opposition to the US has indeed intensified the partnership, and historical distrust and power asymmetries between Russia and China must be managed. However, Beijing will not replace Washington as the nemesis of Moscow – instead Greater Eurasia is being organised as a multipolar region capable of accommodating Russia.
Russia’s vision of a multipolar order is not possible without a strong China. After the Western support for the 2014 Maidan coup in Ukraine, Russia ended its three-centuries-long Western-centric foreign policy and the post-Cold War ambition to integrate with the West. Russia replaced its ambition for Greater Europe with the Greater Eurasia Initiative that advanced economic integration on the supercontinent. At the centre of the Greater Eurasia Initiative is a strategic partnership with China.
The unipolar moment and continued containment of Russia
After the Cold War, the US embraced a security strategy based on world domination. This has been conceptualised benignly as a “liberal order” or “rules-based order” and common good for the world as stipulated by hegemonic stability theory. Yet, these terms and intentions neglect the underlying power considerations that perpetuate the containment of Russia.
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Less than two months after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the strategic Pentagon paper, the Defence Planning Guidance (DPG), was leaked, which outlined a security strategy based on global dominance. Security and stability relied on preventing the emergence of any possible future rivals. The DPG advocated for missile defence to undercut Russia’s nuclear second-strike capabilities,