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China and Russia’s military cooperation is worrying; Turkey is also in military cooperation with Russia despite their differences in Syria.

Image Credit: Vadim Savitsky / Defense Ministry Press Service / TASS

US sanctions on both Russia and China helped the two countries to come closer together militarily. While this may have not raised alarms in the short term, it might be a problem in the future. Recently, Russia and China conducted their second Joint Strategic Patrol in the Asia Pacific Region. Russia deployed two Tu-95s while China deployed four H-6K strategic bombers. The patrol was conducted over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry,

The measure was conducted as part of implementing the provisions of the 2020 military cooperation plan and is not aimed against third countries.

Russian Defense Ministry

It is believed that the joint patrol between two countries was meant to show solidarity to each other as they have faced sanctions by the United States. China was sanctioned by the US for ‘engaging in human rights violations and abuses.’ Around seven companies were sanctioned for surveillance in Xinjiang and new sanctions are being prepared to target at least a dozen Chinese officials over their alleged role in the Hong Kong crackdown. Russia is being sanctioned for its role in seizing Crimea. Turkey is being sanctioned for buying S-400 anti-air units from Russia.

Recently, Turkey, a NATO ally, has been punished by the US for purchasing the S-400 missile system from Russia. Turkey and Russia are getting closer militarily despite their differences in Syria and Libya. Currently, they are jointly monitoring a Russian-mediated truce in the Nagorno-Karabkh region after the weeks-long war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but there are occasional tensions between the two in the region. Recently, Russia accused Turkey of deploying Syrian fighters in Nagorno-Karabhkh region to fight the Armenian forces. Russian-Turkish alliance is most likely driven by their challenging relations with the United States.

Going back to the Russia-China’s alliance, Trump’s administration attempted to avoid a form of military alliance, but the recent sanctions on both countries only helped China and Russia to come closer. Under President Obama, the US believed that the Russian-Chinese alliance was improbable due to the lack of trust between them. The President-elect Joe Biden’s foreign policy team sees Russia as an ‘opponent’ and the most hostile country among the major powers, a stance taken by most US Presidents before Trump, while China is seen as a ‘serious competitor’ in global leadership.

On December 15, Russia’s coal company Elgaugol and China’s Fujian Guohang Ocean Shipping (Group) company agreed to launch a joint venture that will see the export of coal to China. By 2023, it is expected that Elgaugol will deliver around 30 million tonnes of coal to China. This is intended to deliver a huge blow to Australia’s coal exports to China, which is currently banned from entering Chinese ports. The banning of Australia’s coal stemmed from Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrisson’s willingness to open an investigation into the spread of the coronavirus from Wuhan.

Recently, Russia launched new pipelines that will deliver coal, natural gas and petrochemicals to China, the largest energy consumer. On December 28, President Vladimir Putin and President Xi Jinping agreed on greater cooperation across a range of fields, which includes energy and industrial projects. Chinese President later told to Xinhua News Agency,

By strengthening strategic cooperation, China and Russia can effectively resist any attempt to suppress and divide the two countries, and meanwhile forge a solid shield to safeguard international fairness and justice.

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Also on December 28, Russian petrochemical company, Sibur Holding and a Chinese company, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp or Sinopec, agreed on a joint venture at the Amur Gas Chemical Complex. The construction of the new plant is expected to begin soon and is expected to finish by 2024. The Chinese company will own 40% of the facility. Russia and China also agreed on the delivery of natural gas. In 2019, Russia completed an 800-kilometre gas pipeline, referred to as the ‘Power of Siberia’ pipeline. The project was conducted by Russia’s state-owned company Gazprom. The pipeline started the delivery of natural gas to China in December 2019. This pipeline will also be connected to the Kovykta gas field in 2022, located in Eastern Siberia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is rushing in diversifying his country’s energy supply. Russia is a big part of the energy plan.

Russia will play an even bigger role in China’s energy security, given that tensions with the US are expected to persist over the long term.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Recently, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that for 2021 China aims that apart from the current strengthening of its strategic relations with Russia, it is putting the focus on resetting its relations with the United States. President Xi Jinping is waiting on President- elect Joe Biden stance on China.

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