Russia’s failure to defeat Ukraine generates setbacks and opportunities for China’s global ambitions. Moscow and Beijing have moved closer together in recent years to challenge American interests and subvert Western societies. However, Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine has unsettled relations between Moscow and Beijing. It will enable Washington to undermine both protagonists.
The anti-Western partnership between Russia and China allowed both states to expand their global reach. As an essentially junior partner, Russia has been useful to Beijing in providing diplomatic support, energy supplies, and raw materials for Chinese business. But the relationship was predicated on a measure of predictability and stability that Moscow has eroded through its military ineptitude in Ukraine.
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Beijing has not given Moscow full-throated support in its attack on Ukraine. Although critical of NATO, its statements have been restrained by primarily calling for a “peaceful resolution” while withholding any military supplies to Russia. Tellingly, Moscow can only turn to a handful of reliable allies, such as Iran, Belarus, and North Korea, to obtain military assistance. In the midst of Western sanctions, Russia has tried to reorient its energy supplies from Europe to China, but Beijing makes sure it purchases Russian oil at reduced rates. Moscow also lacks the eastward pipeline capacity to sell all the natural gas that Europe no longer wants. China understands an increasingly sanctioned Russia will lose access to technology and its production potential will decline as Soviet-era oil and gas fields become obsolete.
Unlike Russia, China meticulously plans for the long term and possesses much more accurate assessments of U.S. and NATO capabilities. Beijing can no longer count on Russia as a reliable strategic partner that can penetrate and weaken Western countries and provide inroads for Chinese state business and intelligence networks. Instead, it will calculate how to exploit new opportunities as the Russian state declines.
Beijing closely monitors how Moscow exhausts its military potential in Ukraine, its growing isolation from the West, falling energy revenues, deepening economic distress, and any signs of social and ethnic unrest. As the Russian state weakens, power will devolve to federal regions, including the extensive Far Eastern territories bordering China, such as Khabarovsk, Amur, and Primorsky. This will enable Beijing to expand its influence among emerging state entities, allow for the direct exploitation of local resources without Moscow’s interference, and afford easier access to the Arctic and northern trade routes. Russia’s regime will no longer possess the military potential to counter Chinese pressure as it depletes its resources on preventing a catastrophic defeat in Ukraine.
Chinese ambitions toward Russia will have a direct impact on U.S. security interests. With Russia significantly weakened, Washington can focus greater attention on countering China’s pressure on America’s allies. Above all, it must make clear to Beijing not to overreach militarily like Russia has in Ukraine because Taiwan will be fully defended in case of an attack. America’s Pacific allies will also become more united, including Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Canada. Beijing would then face a similar humiliation as Moscow is experiencing in Ukraine.
The United States must extend its own influence in Russia’s Pacific and Siberian territories and work in tandem with Japan and South Korea to open up avenues for diplomatic contacts and economic cooperation with embryonic states. Regions and republics in Russia’s Far East will seek recognition and investment from abroad and, similarly to Central Asian states, they will resist incorporation into an expanding Chinese economic empire. Russia’s rupture will provide America with possible new allies in the Pacific region, but it will also create new points of conflict with China. Contingency planning is essential in confronting Beijing’s territorial claims and pursuit of political dominance and economic entrapment in post-Russia regions./Washington Examiner/