Security Implications for NATO of Sino-Russian Economic Cooperation

Security Implications for NATO of Sino-Russian Economic Cooperation

Dr. David Landry

Great power politics is back with a vengeance. In the past decade, China has taken an increasingly aggressive stance in the East and South China Seas has become increasingly willing to coerce smaller nations to advance its own interests. In 2017, it opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti, a small East African state located at the confluence of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Meanwhile, Russia saved Bashar al-Assad’s bloody regime from the fate faced by other despots in the wake of the Arab Spring, annexed Crimea, and invaded eastern Ukraine.

Internally, the two countries differ fundamentally. Russia is a revisionist power governed by a despot struggling to maintain the support of the people while lording over a crumbling economy like his personal fiefdom. China’s economy has grown more than 40-fold in the past three decades and President Xi’s grip on power in the world’s second largest economy appears tighter than any leader’s since Mao.

Both countries pose a potent challenge to NATO. Russia regularly threatens NATO members, interferes in their elections, conducts cyber-attacks against their governments, and intrudes their airspace. The Kremlin continues to assassinate people on NATO soil and still occupies parts of Ukraine and Georgia. With the rising military might that accompanied its breakneck economic growth, China has become increasingly aggressive. While it is not the primary focus of NATO, its meteoric rise cannot be ignored. This is particularly true because the competition between China and the most powerful NATO member state, the United States, is set to dominate international relations in the 21st Century.

In the context of great power competition, any formal military alliance between Russia and China is widely viewed as the ultimate nightmare scenario for NATO. While this remains unlikely, the political and economic rapprochement witnessed in the past decade will likely continue. This paper focuses on the latter. It assesses the security implications for NATO of growing Sino-Russian economic ties. It is organized as follows: First, it provides an overview of Sino-Russian relations with an added focus on their economic ties; second, it discusses the security implications of Sino-Russian economic ties; finally, it provides recommendations for NATO.

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Security Implications for NATO of Sino-R
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