Russia-China Military Alliance Expands in 2023: Key Aspects and Implications

New York – For decades, the United States has stood unchallenged as the world’s foremost military superpower. But in recent years, the emergence of a growing partnership between Russia and China poses a formidable new threat to American dominance.

Under the authoritarian leadership of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, Moscow and Beijing have drawn increasingly close, coordinating their foreign policies and military resources in a bid to undermine US power and influence. While not yet a formal alliance, the two nations have already begun joint military exercises, shared defense technology, and aligned themselves geopolitically against the West.

This deepening relationship between the former Cold War rivals is shifting the global balance of power and creating new risks for the United States and its allies. As conflicts flare across the world, from Ukraine to the Middle East, the rival Russia-China bloc is working to exploit instability, promote authoritarianism, and expand its own sphere of control.

“It is clear that the two states see themselves as military partners, and that this partnership is growing deeper and more experienced, even if it is not a formal alliance in the Western sense,” said Jonathan Ward, CEO of the Atlas Group, in an interview. “The Russia-China ‘comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era’ has always been about military power.”

A Formidable New Alliance

Over the past decade, cooperation between Moscow and Beijing has steadily ramped up, raising alarms among Western analysts. Some of the most concerning joint military initiatives include:

  • Naval exercises in the Sea of Japan in 2019 and 2021, showcasing the two nations’ ability to coordinate maritime forces.
  • Russia providing China with advanced submarine, jet, and air defense technology, boosting the capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army.
  • Pledges by Xi and Putin to increase collaboration on emerging technologies and new weapons systems like hypersonic missiles.
  • Billions of dollars in Chinese investment in the Russian energy sector and purchases of Russian arms, helping Moscow evade Western sanctions.

While not outright allies, their “no limits” partnership, declared in February 2022 weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, enables them to challenge US power in ways neither could alone. Beijing has already provided diplomatic cover for Moscow at the United Nations, helping blunt the West’s efforts to isolate Russia.

Many analysts believe China is closely watching the Ukraine war for clues on how the world would react to any potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. As Chels Michta writes, “A full-scale China-Russia alliance would present the United States with a threat unlike any it has confronted since the end of the Cold War.”

Rising Tensions Across Regions

From Eastern Europe to the Middle East and the Western Pacific, the geopolitical competition between the US-led bloc and the Russia-China partnership is intensifying flashpoints and fueling instability.

In Ukraine, Russia’s brutal assault has continued for nearly a year, thanks in part to Chinese economic and diplomatic support that has helped Russia blunt Western sanctions. The United States has provided over $24 billion in military assistance to Kyiv, determined to deal Moscow a costly defeat.

In the Middle East, Russia and China have staunchly backed Iran, including Tehran’s provision of weapons to militant groups like Hamas. At the same time, the US continues arming Israel and supporting its right to self-defense.

And in the Western Pacific, Beijing’s increasing assertiveness towards Taiwan raises the risk of a potentially catastrophic war between China and the US. Russia’s support for China’s claims on Taiwan only compounds the threat.

“The Russia-China axis poses an enormous threat to the United States given that we will have to handle security in both Europe and Asia, as well as in the Middle East, with the risk of being stretched thin while Beijing and Moscow coordinate to pursue their respective regional ambitions,” said Ward.

Preparing for Worst-Case Scenarios

To counter this mounting danger, American military leaders have warned that the armed forces must prepare for the possibility of simultaneous wars against both China and Russia.

The Pentagon’s strategic guidance has shifted away from being able to win one major conflict while deterring others. Instead, more creative solutions are needed.

In October 2022, the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States argued: “The United States now faces threats fundamentally different [to] anything experienced in the past, even in the darkest days of the Cold War” due to the Moscow-Beijing tandem.

The Commission recommended that the military update its contingency planning to account for the daunting scenario of war with both Russia and China at the same time.

Bolstering alliances will also be crucial. Ward argues that “substantial increases in burden sharing, especially among European allies” are essential to offset the Russia-China threat. Asian allies like Japan must likewise boost defense spending and security cooperation with the US.

While some downplay the odds of a formal China-Russia military pact, the trajectory is clear. Their deepening ties constitute the most significant challenge to American power since the Cold War – one that US leaders dismiss at their peril. With wisdom, foresight and allied solidarity, this existential threat can be overcome. But there is no time to lose. The future of American leadership depends on it.

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