BALANCING THE RUSSIA-CHINA-U.S. TRIANGLE
Relations in the Russia-China-U.S. triangle promise to have a significant impact on world politics.
What role can Russia play in this?
In my view, this implies a few important moments.
1. Russia should seek to ensure that this geopolitical triangle is as equilateral as possible.
To paraphrase Dr. Henry Kissinger, it is necessary that Russia’s relationship with each of every pair of countries is not worse than their relationship with each other.
At this time, this rule is not being observed: the relationship between Russia and the United States is worse than the U.S-China relationship. An obvious imbalance is occurring in favor of China and in detriment to the United States. This imbalance must be eliminated.
I see no reason why our relationship with the United States could not reach the level of U.S-China relations. Except, perhaps, for a few not very compelling domestic political considerations.
2. Similarly, constructive U.S.-China relations are in Russian interests. All analysts agree that these relations represent a combination of cooperation and competition, which will continue into the future. Russia should be encouraged by the former and not incite the latter, and it should not be taking advantage of potential U.S-China conflicts.
3. Russia should do all that it can to avoid confrontation between the United States and China. In what way? By making it clear that it is not going to join one side or the other. Otherwise, that side, which Russia would support, will experience a greater temptation to resort to force.
Frankly, judging by current Russian politics, the possibility of Russia joining with the United States against China is practically impossible. There is discussion of Russia siding with China against the United States. This must not be done in any case, including for the benefit of China itself. The neutrality of Russia will work against extremist tendencies within Chinese policy.
This, of course, does not exclude that, with regard to specific international problems, agreement between Russia and China against the United States, and vice versa, may be possible.
4. Russia is currently enjoying a very favorable international environment, because it has no such enemies as a single powerful country or a group of countries. However, the Russian mentality, which is actively manipulated by authorities, broadly interprets the notion of an enemy by including those who simply do not agree with Russian politics in that notion. In any case, the United States and China are preoccupied with each other and are too busy to be masterminding harming Russia. Such circumstances should be used for solving the problems of domestic development, as they are quite serious in Russia.
Siding with China in any pointed confrontation would mean acquiring an enemy in the United States. This would be theoretically true in any other combination as well.
If China and the United States act in accordance with the rules outlined above, the triangle may play a stabilizing role in world politics.
Ambassador Anatoly Adamishin, president of the Association of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, was ambassador in Italy and in Britain, first deputy foreign minister, and State Duma deputy. He is the author of several books, including “The Decline and Revival of a Great Power” and “The White Sun of Angola.”
This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York in partnership with the Carnegie Moscow Center.