China-Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics 9789048552733

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China–Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics

China–Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics Alexander Korolev

Amsterdam University Press

Cover photo: Shutterstock Cover design: Coördesign, Leiden Typesetting: Crius Group, Hulshout isbn 978 94 6372 524 8 e-isbn 978 90 4855 273 3 (pdf) doi 10.5117/9789463725248 nur 754 © Alexander Korolev / Amsterdam University Press B.V., Amsterdam 2022 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the written permission of both the copyright owner and the author of the book. Every effort has been made to obtain permission to use all copyrighted illustrations reproduced in this book. Nonetheless, whosoever believes to have rights to this material is advised to contact the publisher.

For my mother, Galina N. Koroleva, for all her sacrifices and unconditional support throughout my life



Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 11 1 Introduction

The Elusive Nature of China–Russia Relations and the Need for Theory

Studies of China–Russia relations: in search of the “right” label Existing definitions of alignments: conceptual ambiguity China–Russia relations and alignments studies – towards analytical synergy The book: structure and the logic of analysis 2 The Ordinal Model of Strategic Alignment Treaty alliances and informal alignments: the analytical implications The ordinal index of strategic alignment Explaining the trend: the three balances as incentives for alignment formation Robustness check: economic and diplomatic cooperation 3 Military Cooperation: Approaching Alliance China–Russia cooperation treaty The early stage: conf idence building measures and regular consultations 1 Confidence building measures 2 Regular consultations Moderate cooperation: military-technical cooperation and regular military exercises 3 Military-technical cooperation 4 Regular military exercises Advanced cooperation: the growing interoperability of military forces Conclusion 4 Alignment Incentives: The Three Balances Balance of power: the shift in the distribution of capabilities and its implications

13 16 19 22 25 35 37 41 48 56 65 66 67 68 69 73 73 83 86 89 99 100

Balance of threat: convergence of China and Russia’s perception of external threats Convergence of interests and implications for China–Russia alignment Conclusion 5 Robustness Check: Economy and Diplomacy Economic cooperation: trade, unequal interdependence, and new initiatives The formation of “unfavorable complementarity” in China–Russia economic relations Attempts to reverse the trend Diplomatic cooperation: a reflection of geopolitical interests Conclusion

108 115 120 129 130 130 142 147 151

6 Comparative Mapping: US–India and China–Russia Alignments 157 US–India cooperation from the strategic alignment perspective 158 Confidence building measures and US–India alignment 160 Mechanisms for regular consultations in US–India strategic cooperation162 Military-Technical Cooperation (MTC) 164 Regular joint military exercises in US–India relations 167 Advanced cooperation and interoperability of US and Indian military forces 171 Explaining US–India strategic cooperation: power, threats, and interest 172 Robustness check 180 Conclusion 181 7 Conclusion

Empirical Findings and Theoretical Implications

China–Russia relations: an ever-consolidating strategic alignment? The alignment framework and the study of interstate strategic cooperation

189 190 194

Index 199

List of Figures and Tables Figure 2.1 The stages, criteria, and causes of alignment formation Figure 3.1 Development of China–Russia military cooperation since 1991 Figure 4.1 Commonality of China’s interests with Russia and the US (1991-2020) Table 5.1 China–Russia trade (1992-2019) Table 5.2 Non-energy share of China–Russia trade in 2001-2019 (%) Table 5.3 Veto records in UN Security Council (1991-2020) Table 5.4 China–Russia joint vetoes in the UNSC since 1991 Table 6.1 India’s major regular military exercises with the United States and Russia Table 6.2 Comparison of China–Russia and US–India alignments

42 90 119 132 137 148 149 170 182

Acknowledgments This book draws together the strands of my research on China–Russia strategic cooperation and international relations (IR) more broadly. As such, it has been long in the making. I always wanted to write a book that would bridge area studies and IR literature and thus bring the important case of China–Russia relations back to IR-informed research. In hindsight, the starting point of this book can be traced back to December 2015, when I was invited to deliver a public lecture on China–Russia strategic cooperation at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore. When preparing for the lecture, I discovered two things about China–Russia relations as an object of scholarly inquiry: the overall tendency to underestimate the breadth, depth, and consequentiality of China–Russia strategic cooperation and the simultaneous detachment of China–Russia studies from the mainstream IR theorizing. In my subsequent works, I tried to address these issues. This book draws upon those works but pushes the theoretical and empirical analysis further in an attempt to not only present a theory-grounded analysis of contemporary China–Russia relations but also generate frameworks and theoretical approaches that can be applied to other cases of interstate strategic cooperation to facilitate comparative analyses of different strategic alignments. Throughout the process of the book gradually taking shape, I benefited from multiple colleagues who commented on earlier drafts and parts of the chapters. I am also grateful to those colleagues who invited me to present my research on China–Russia relations, thus inadvertently pushing the project forward. An inevitably incomplete list must include: Michael Raska, Konstantin Topilskiy, Richard Bitzinger, Oriana Mastro, Brandon Yoder, Ted Hopf, Gaye Christoffersen, Vladimir Portyakov, Liu Feng, Jeffrey Taliaferro, Camilla Sørensen, Pu Xiaoyu, Zhang Ruizhuang, Feng Shaolei, Vasily Kashin, Thomas Wilkins, Dorothy Horsfield, Richard Sakwa, Victor Larin, Deborah Larsen, Margaret Pearson, Nicholas Ross Smith, and Rajesh Basrur. I am also grateful to Amsterdam University Press editors Saskia Gieling and Maryse Elliott, whose patience and professionalism are gratefully acknowledged. My apologies and appreciation to anyone not listed above but who has also contributed by a valuable comment or feedback on the earlier drafts of different segments of the book. The beginning of the intensive writing stage coincided with the outbreak of the first wave of the COVID-19 global pandemic soon after which Sydney was sent into the first lockdown. During those taxing times, the work on this

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book would not be possible without support, encouragement, and advice coming from my wife, Fengshi Wu. Thank you as well to my little daughter, Helena, for her patience (and sometimes impatience!) as I wrote this book. Sydney, November 2021 Alexander Korolev

1 Introduction The Elusive Nature of China–Russia Relations and the Need for Theory Abstract This chapter explores how the International Relations (IR) literature on alignments can help understand the case of China–Russia relations and how, in turn, the study of China–Russia relations can enrich the theoretical knowledge about alignments. The existing studies of China–Russia relations have failed to develop a theory-grounded system of indicators to measure China–Russia alignment. In turn, the IR literature does not have a ready-made, indicators-based taxonomy of alignments that could be applied to the China–Russia case. In this context, this chapter places a particular emphasis on the importance of theory for the comprehensive and systematic understanding of China–Russia alignment. It also presents the book structure, methodology, and research design that redef ine China–Russia relations in theory-informed terms of strategic alignment and reconnect it with theoretical IR. Keywords: China–Russia relations, international relations theory, alliance, alignment

The rationale behind this book is two-fold. On the one hand, China–Russia strategic cooperation has displayed significant development and become an increasingly important factor in contemporary international politics, with considerable implications for both US–China and US–Russia relations. On the other hand, attempts to develop a theory-grounded framework and corresponding measurements that would allow an accurate and systematic assessment of the level of China–Russia strategic cooperation as well as its progress over time have been extremely scarce in the existing literature. China–Russia strategic cooperation has progressed considerably and consistently since the end of the Cold War. According to official documents and

Korolev, Alexander, China–Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2022 doi: 10.5117/9789463725248_ch01

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statements, the relationship has progressed from “good neighborliness” in the early 1990s to “constructive cooperation” in the late 1990s to “comprehensive strategic partnership” in 2001, then further on to “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination” in 2012 and to “comprehensive strategic partnership of equality, mutual trust, mutual support, common prosperity and long-lasting friendship” in 2016 (Korolev & Portyakov, 2019). A new upgrade took place on June 5, 2019, when Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin declared China–Russia relations to be “a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era,” which highlights consistent consolidation of China–Russia alignment, its immunity to exogenous shocks, and willingness on both sides to deal with the challenges of the future (Xinhua, 2019). The relationship soared in the context of Russia’s high-profile “turn to the East,” the deterioration of Russia–US relations after the Ukraine Crisis, China’s “new assertiveness” in the South and East China Seas, and the recent worsening of China–US rivalry, especially in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic when the deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing became increasingly reminiscent of Cold War-style geopolitics. In this context, calls have risen in both China and Russia to form a strategic “alliance” to protect the interests and enhance the international geopolitical standing of the two countries. Some of Russia’s foreign policy experts have called for upgrading China–Russia collaboration to the level of a full-fledged political-military alliance (Tavrovsky, 2014). In China, despite the official “non-alignment” doctrine, some experts have also called to upgrade the partnership with Russia to a full-scale alliance (Yan, 2012; Dai, 2012).1 Some prominent Chinese IR experts have argued that China will be unable to shift the US-dominated unipolar world order “unless it forms a formal alliance with Russia” (Yan, 2012). Most remarkably, China’s first National Security Blue Book, commissioned by the government and written by experts from the Institute of Contemporary International Relations, recommends that China should consider forming an “alliance with Russia” (Global Times, 2014). In 2019, during the Valdai discussion club conference in Sochi, Russia, President Putin was unambiguous by announcing that China and Russia have developed a truly strategic “alliance relationship” (Akopov, 2019). In 2020, Putin mentioned that “our [China and Russia] relationship has reached such a level of coordination and trust that we don’t need it [the alliance], but, theoretically speaking, it is not unimaginable…. It is not our task at the moment, but, in principle, we 1 For a concise summary of Chinese experts’ arguments in favor of alliance with Russia, see Lee and Lukin (2016), pp. 117-120.

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don’t plan to exclude such a scenario [forming an alliance with China] either” (President of Russia, 2020). Given China and Russia’s geopolitical parameters and military capabilities, a tighter alliance between them could significantly change the entire power structure of the contemporary international system. It could also have tremendous ramifications in terms of challenging the existing liberal order in the most fundamental ways. Russia could gain more opportunities to balance the United States and promote its vision of multipolarity in Europe. China could receive more political backing from Russia and greater access to Russia’s energy resources and military technologies, perhaps with the integration of strategies for defense innovation and transition toward joint development of arms, which would be an indispensable asset for China in its growing tensions with the United States. Closer China–Russia cooperation could also strategically reshape Eurasia by making it more interlinked in both economic and strategic terms. Closer China–Russia alignment could also further limit Russia–US and China–US cooperation on issues of crucial strategic importance for the United States. More fundamentally, a more closely aligned China and Russia would have a stronger license to reject Western democracy and the Western model more broadly because both view it as a threat to their geopolitical interests and their regimes’ survival. Many Western analysts increasingly recognize the serious geopolitical challenge to the United States and its strategic allies that China–Russia consolidating alignment can pose. Thus, some leading US experts on the issue worry that China, if supported by Russia’s military-technical prowess and enormous resources, could challenge US national security interests as never before (Ellings & Sutter, 2018). Other leading American strategists have been blunt in a recent special report to Congress by stating that US’s military superiority has “eroded to a dangerous degree,” to the extent that the US “might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia,” especially “if it is forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously” (National Defense Strategy Commission, 2018, pp. v-vi). Despite its significance for international politics, strategic cooperation between China and Russia in the post-Cold War era turns out to be difficult to define and explain. The extant studies display disturbing ambiguity regarding where China and Russia stand in terms of alliance formation, with assessments ranging from the two being called “allies” to “rivals.” The reason for such an extensive range of conflicting depictions and the resultant inconclusiveness has to do with both the methodology of the existing analyses and the detachment of China–Russia studies from IR theory. The existing studies of China–Russia relations have mostly been unable to bear

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significant theoretical fruit and contribute to conceptual generalization in IR. Even applications of IR theories to explore and explain the case of China–Russia strategic cooperation or attempts at theory building within the case itself have also been scarce.2 The existing theories of alignment, in turn, have been unable to measure the strength of alignment in a systematic and rigorous way. For the IR field more broadly, China–Russia relations have predominantly, but unjustifiably, remained a peripheral case, often altogether absent from the mainstream IR theorizing. The lack of a theory-grounded approach and the ambiguity that surrounds the analyses of China–Russia relations are counterproductive. Without methodical assessments of China–Russia alignment, international relations experts might be miscalculating the overall tendency of power relations within the international structure as well as the dynamics of China–US and Russia–US relations. What is at stake is not just theoretical. Knowing how closely aligned China and Russia are has significant policy implications, particularly for the United States and its allies. While China and Russia individually may still have some distance to travel before mounting a consequential challenge to American global influence, the aggregation of their capabilities in a functioning alliance or even alignment, and the ensuing geopolitical leverage, poses a serious challenge for Washington. For example, should the US and its strategic allies focus on tackling China’s growing capabilities or, instead, driving a wedge between Moscow and Beijing, whose cooperation increasingly displays the features of an anti-US strategic alliance? The two options entail differently tailored foreign policies. Telling which one should be feasibly pursued, and thus potential costs of miscalculation minimized, is difficult without a methodical assessment of the alignment between China and Russia.

Studies of China–Russia relations: in search of the “right” label There has been a striking lack of progress in understanding China–Russia relations and the degree to which they have developed over time. This 2 This does not mean that there are no works that have employed IR theories to the case of China–Russia relations. Some rare exceptions include Korloev (2016), who uses a two-level approach (global and regional) to develop a structure of Sino–Russian relations where the two align together globally but compete and hedge regionally, and Krickovic (2017), who employs structural realism and the logic of power shifts to explain the genesis and robustness of the relationship and its symbiotic nature. Both works, however, bypass the takes of def ining China–Russia relationship before trying to explain it.

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is manifested in the titles of some books on the relationship. In the year 2000, the pervasive question was “Rapprochement or Rivalry?” (Garnett, 2000), twelve years later, the question had barely changed to “Rivalry or Partnership?” (Bedeski & Swanström, 2012). Numerous underspecified and contrasting terms have been used to describe this bilateral relationship. Since the mid-1990s, and following the official language of Beijing and Moscow, China–Russia relations have been referred to as various “partnerships” – simply “partnership” (Kerr, 2005), “limited partnership” (Garnett, 1998), “strategic partnership” (Wilson, 2004) or “limited defensive strategic partnership” (Li, 2007). Other popular names have to do with a variety of “axes” – “axis of convenience” (Lo, 2009), “axis of necessity” (Kuchins, 2014), “axis of insecurity” (Brenton, 2013), or “axis of authoritarians” (Ellings & Sutter, 2018). China–Russia relations have also been called “entente” (Trenin, 2015), a relationship of “parallel identities” (Rozman, 2014) and other terms. The relationship has also been reported to be undergoing a “long sunset” (Lo, 2004) or carrying the features of “strategic parallelism without partnership or passion” (Weitz, 2008). Other allegorical descriptions include “comrades in arms” (Muraviev, 2014) a “romance” (Roh, 2019) or “ambivalent embrace” (Kuchins, 2007), along with Russia being presented as a “loud dissenter” and China its “cautious partner” (Snetkov & Lanteigne, 2015). To add to the lexical confusion, the term “alliance” has also often been a reference point in scholarly discussions of China–Russia relations. According to Voskressenski (2003, p. 208), China and Russia “have always been exploring some form of alliance with each other.” Cohen (2001) characterizes China–Russia collaboration as an “emerging alliance” requiring careful monitoring. Nemets (2006) calls it an “ominous anti-American alliance” with the potential to considerably reconfigure the international balance of power and severely harm American interests. Wishnick (2001, p. 798) argues that China–Russia relations had the strategic and political foundations for an “incipient alliance” that, however, were countervailed by a range of divergent interests limiting how close the two countries can be. Trenin (2015) argues that China and Russia are entering into relations of a new kind that “will fall short of a formal alliance but will be closer than the strategic partnership the two countries have had since the 1990s.” What has been glaringly missing in the “alliance” discussions, however, is the alliance framework itself, which makes it impossible to determine in which aspects, if at all, China–Russia relations are an alliance and whether the two countries are capable of joint action in the case of a hypothetical conflict with other major powers. Against the backdrop of intensifying Russia–US rivalry after the Ukraine Crisis and China–US competition in East and Southeast Asia, more attention

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started to be paid to military cooperation between the two countries (Meick, 2017; Watts et al., 2016; Korolev, 2019; Muraviev, 2014; Blank, 2020). In this context, some observers have raised straightforward questions, such as “Is there a China–Russia alliance?” (Goldstein, 2017) and “Are China–Russia relations an alliance or not?” (Zheng, 2016). However, as in the case of the broader literature mentioned above, there has been no comprehensive framework for assessing military cooperation that would demonstrate the level of China–Russia military cooperation and its progress over time. With such a range of assessments from highly optimistic (or alarmist) to highly skeptical, it remains unclear how closely China and Russia are aligned because none of the applied terms have been defined in a manner that is sufficient for making them subject to systematic empirical examination. For example, Lo (2009) lists factors that can undermine the depth of China–Russia cooperation without defining and operationalizing his very dependent variable – the “axis of convenience” itself – thus creating an observationally equivalent argument so that any interstate relationship can be an axis of convenience. Rozman (2014) argues that China and Russia’s national identities are much closer to each other than usually thought, and, hence, China–Russia cooperation is based on a deeper shared vision and shared values, but without defining this cooperation itself. There have been multiple descriptions and examinations of various empirical aspects of recent China–Russia strategic cooperation (Wilson, 2016; Cox, 2016; Ambrosio, 2017; Kaczmarski, 2017; Kaczmarski, 2019; Odgaard, 2017; Wishnick, 2017; Bolt & Cross, 2018). However, attempts to develop an analytical framework grounded in IR theories to assess and explain the degree of alignment between the two countries have been scarce and have lacked objective measurements.3 Reliance on ad hoc measures and explanations that are neither systematic nor theory-grounded results in a disconnected patchwork that has retarded the cumulative development of knowledge in the field. This problem equally characterizes broader studies of China–Russia relations. Thus, the explanations of the upward trend in the bilateral relationship, suggested in the existing literature, include causal factors as different as the behavior of the United States (Kerr, 2005; Lo, 2009; Menon, 2009; Lukin 2015; Charap et al., 2017), the nature of China’s and Russia’s political regimes (Menon, 2009; Rozman, 2014; Lukin, 2015; Charap et al., 2017), national identities (Kerr, 2005; Kuchins, 2007; Rozman, 2014; Trenin, 2015; Wishnick, 2017), concerns about separatism (Kerr, 2005; Lo, 2008; Odgaard, 2017), benefits of economic cooperation (Kerr, 2005; 3

A rare example of an attempt to conceptualize without objective measures is Wilkins (2008).

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Wilson, 2004; Swanström, 2014; Lukin, 2015; Trenin, 2015; Gabuev, 2016; Charap et al., 2017), friendship among national leaders (Ferdinand, 2007; Lo, 2008; Gabuev, 2016) and other factors. The problem with these studies is that with some exceptions (Kerr, 2005; Ferdinand, 2007; Li, 2007; Odgaard, 2017; Wishnick, 2017) their explanations rely on an arbitrary selection of causal factors that are not grounded in explicit theories. An otherwise useful and comprehensive recent work (Bolt & Cross, 2018) has brought in-depth regional expertise and actively engaged with Chinese and Russian sources, which is valuable in its own right, but still failed to present a theory-grounded analytical framework and corresponding measurements that would allow for a systematic assessment of the level and progress of China–Russia strategic cooperation. As demonstrated by Yoder (2020, p. 2), the lack of careful attention to theory in studies of contemporary China–Russia relations results in myriad ad hoc explanations and diverse predictions – a situation where scholars talk past each other, basing their arguments on unstated assumptions and unspecified causal mechanisms that inform which evidence is considered and how it is interpreted. In sum, our knowledge of the strength of contemporary China–Russia strategic cooperation has been limited and unsystematic. Rozman’s (1998, p. 396) assessment from more than 20 years ago remains accurate today: analysts “have reached little consensus on what the [China–Russia] partnership is, why it has developed, what it signifies, and how firm it is likely to be.” It is even more so in the context of the Russian and Chinese leaders’ desire to bill the China–Russia partnership as a new phenomenon in international politics (Wilkins, 2008, p. 367).

Existing definitions of alignments: conceptual ambiguity Referring to the IR literature does not help to resolve the confusion that surrounds China–Russia relations and reveals even more problems for defining and measuring interstate strategic cooperation. Alignment is an inchoate term that has not been systematically defined in the IR literature. The literature on “alliances,” in turn, contains more than 30 different definitions of the term (China–Russia relations meet some, but not others) and only two attempts to develop an objective indicators-based taxonomy (Fedder, 1968; Russett, 1971), both of which are now quite dated. 4 Tertrais (2004) mentions 4 To appreciate the variability of alliances from some form of loose cooperation over general goals to strict commitments solidified by a formal alliance treaty, see: Weitsman (2003), Walt

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the “laxity” with which experts and officials use the term. Walt (1987, p. 1) uses “alliance” interchangeably with informal “alignment” and does not provide indicators for either. Ward (1982, p. 14) documents that “much written work uses the three different orientations – alliance, alignment, and coalition – as though they were identical.” According to Wilkins (2012, p. 54), despite multiple publications, there is little understanding of “alliances” and other “alignments” between states, and there is no credible taxonomy. Conceptual problems surrounding alliances and alignments in the study of international politics are perennial ones. In his seminal work in 1960s, Liska (1962, p. 3) wrote about the impossibility of separating alliances from international politics in general and, hence, the difficulties of studying them as a phenomenon. Three decades later, Snyder (1991, p. 121) echoed Liska’s concerns arguing that while alliances and alignments are the most central phenomena in international politics, isolating them as objects of analysis is difficult due to their ubiquity and variety of formal and informal manifestations. This problem has retarded the generation of theories about alliances, which contrasts with the theoretical richness of IR studies of various forms of conflicts, such as war, crisis, or deterrence (Snyder 1991, p. 121). The conceptual confusion regarding both the forms and the causes of alliances remains unresolved. Salmon (2006, p. 839) demonstrates that in the absence of a single definition of alliance, the meaning of the concept has varied “from agreements on values, goals, ideology, mutual benefits to agreements for fighting and, indeed, attacking third parties.” At the same time, some argued that a broader definition of a military alliance would include alliances that do not even imply a security guarantee (Tertrais, 2004, p. 136). Such variety has led Wilkins (2012, p. 56) to conclude that despite the wealth of scholarship, there has been no general theory of alliances, and that is why it is imperative to re-examine and revise the existing frameworks and definitions of alliances and alignments. In sum, there is no ready-made framework in this subfield of IR that could be applied to assess and explain the case of post-Cold War China–Russia relations, as well as other interstate alignments. At the same time, the term “strategic partnership” – the official name for China–Russia relations – has been surrounded by even greater confusion. The problem with the term is that there are so many interstate relations that are called “partnerships” and so little conceptual work identifying the meaning and implications of “partnerships” that the term loses any analytical (1987), Snyder (1997), Singer and Small (1966), Ashley Leeds and Anac (2005), Morrow (2000), Reiter (1994), Sorokin (1994), Holsti, Hopmann, and Sullivan (1973).

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value. As documented by Kay (2000), partnerships appear with various adjectives, and there are numerous other terms with parallel meanings, adopted by various states. These include the most popular “strategic partnership,” but also “strategic dialogue,” “special relationship,” “enhanced relationship,” “constructive strategic partnership,” “comprehensive partnership,” “long-term comprehensive partnership,” “long-term stable constructive partnership,” and “good-neighborly mutual-trust partnership” (Kay, 2000, p. 15). These terms may signal certain diplomatic posturings of some countries in different real-world strategic contexts, but they remain imprecise and open to interpretation and speculation. Often, “partnerships” play the role of not more than “simply a rhetorical device used by diplomats to help them around the rough edges of shifting global politics” (Kay, 2000, p. 17). There have been very scarce scholarly treatments of the term in connection to alliances and alignments and, hence, limited understanding of the nature and functions of partnerships (Wilkins, 2015, p. 81). On top of it all, some scholars have also talked about alignments under the partnership framework and, simultaneously, located partnerships under the broader concept of alignment (Strüver, 2016). To add to the conceptual complexity and overlaps, strategic partnerships have also been viewed as falling under the alignment concept and, simultaneously, representing a form of “soft balancing” (Ferguson, 2012, p. 205). In summary, the theory-grounded conceptual apparatus available to scholars working on China–Russia relations or other interstate alignments is ambiguous and lacks agreed-upon, objective measurements. Discussion of alliances, alignments, partnerships, and other forms of strategic cooperation is characterized by theoretical and empirical overlaps when both the different names and tools of analysis are used interchangeably. Since “alignment,” military or not, is a core dependent variable that pervades the IR field, the scarcity of attempts to measure it has serious implications for IR research. For example, it is possible that some of the “puzzles” of increasing or decreasing cooperation that scholars have sought to explain do not actually exist by objective measures, while others might have gone unrecognized.5 This poses an analytical challenge for assessing China–Russia 5 Consider, for example, the cacophony of assessments surrounding China’s reaction to the Russia–Georgia war of 2008 and the Ukraine Crisis of 2014. Regarding the former, some argued that China “sides with the West, not Russia” (The Associated Press, 2008), while others argued that China was on Russia’s side (Yu, 2008). The same occurred with the Ukraine Crisis: some argued that China “sided with Russia” (Durden, 2015) while others observed that “China splits with Russia over Ukraine” (Stearns, 2014). Academic studies on the issue are similarly divided (see: Korolev & Portyakov, 2018). These conflicting depictions vividly reveal the problem with answering a

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relations. At the same time, it provides an opportunity for innovation both theoretically and empirically.

China–Russia relations and alignments studies – towards analytical synergy This book bridges area studies and IR literature by linking China–Russia relations to the study of alignments. It maps out the evolving China–Russia strategic cooperation in terms amenable to international relations theorizing and endeavors to go beyond the China–Russia case per se to start qualifying and quantifying strategic alignment in international relations. It develops a set of objective and deductively justifiable criteria to measure and explain the development of “alignment” in post-Cold War China–Russia relations.6 As such, and given the limitations of both fields (the study of China–Russia relations and the study of alignments) mentioned above, the approach adopted in this study involves “zigzagging” between theory and empirical analysis in that it draws on the existing theoretical knowledge, however limited, about interstate strategic alignments to understand the case of China–Russia alignment but also uses the empirical data from this case to inform generalizations regarding interstate alignment formation and thus enrich existing theoretical knowledge. This approach requires cross-fertilization of empirical and theoretical analyses to develop a framework that can both comprehend the empirical realities of contemporary China–Russia alignment and, at the same time, help grasp the generalizable dynamics of alignments that could facilitate the formulation of hypotheses and expectations concerning alignment formation and development. The analytical intention is that the elements of alignment that are informed by the existing theoretical knowledge and refined based on the analysis of China–Russia relations can also apply to other interstate relations. The primary theoretical inquiries this study sets out to explore are: How to define and measure strategic alignments between states? What stages does seemingly simple question of whether China cooperated with Russia or not. In this situation, viable explanations are impossible because the very dependent variable cannot be defined. 6 When it comes to “objectivity,” there are limitations faced by any social scientists. In this sense, the suggested framework represents an interpretation, a needed one, as the author believes, but still an interpretation. It is objective in that it is based on the topical literature and operationalizable and verifiable indicators. However, the selection of those criteria as well as their measurement may be open to interpretation.

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an alignment go through before becoming a full-fledged alliance? Because there are no current frameworks for assessing alignment, the empirical goal of accurately assessing the degree and trajectory of strategic cooperation in post-Cold War China–Russia relations (the main empirical goal) entails first answering these questions and thus fulfilling a broader theoretical goal of constructing a framework to assess interstate alignments. The framework offered in this book synthesizes the theoretical literature on alliances, alignments, strategic partnerships, and other forms of interstate cooperation to develop an empirically operationalizable set of criteria for what in this book is called “strategic alignment.”7 The framework moves beyond simply extracting and listing different indicators from the literature and adds an ordinal dimension to the indicators by introducing definitions of “early,” “moderate,” and “advanced” stages of alignment development. To more effectively trace the trend in China–Russia relations over time, this framework qualitatively measures the degree of indicators within each stage, rather than dichotomously coding the presence or absence of these indicators. At the same time, while the particular emphasis is placed on military cooperation as the backbone of strategic alignment in general, and between China and Russia in particular, the book explores the economic and diplomatic dimensions of the bilateral relations as a “robustness check” – to assess the overall progress over time and to identify whether the increased cooperation is limited to the military realm.8 Applying this framework to the case of post-Cold War China–Russia relations allows making further conceptual refinements. The China–Russia case can help understand how a great power relationship can start from a very low level and progress to a closer alignment, what stages it goes through and how. At the same time, the framework allows gauging the 7 Admittedly, there are no perfect terms in the study of international relations. Like many others, “strategic alignment” is not a perfect concept. However, unlike “alliance,” it possesses the needed breadth that can facilitate conceptual development. At the same time, it reflects the nature of interstate relations that are not ad hoc, which is why it is “strategic,” and are driven by military cooperation (the cornerstone of China–Russia relations), which is why it is “alignment,” and not just “cooperation.” 8 I thank Brandon Yoder for the suggestion to look at economic and diplomatic cooperation as a “robustness check” on China–Russia strategic cooperation. The robustness check approach with regards to the economic and diplomatic dimensions of cooperation is dictated by the diff iculty of assigning relative weights to these dimensions that are incommensurate with the military dimension within an alignment. However, the primary focus on the military dimension is warranted, insofar as it has the highest bar for cooperation and is very likely to be accompanied by enhanced economic and diplomatic cooperation. See futher discussion of this issue in Chapter 2.

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relative significance and scale of the contemporary China–Russia strategic alignment by placing it in a comparative context. Doing so also tests and generalizes the suggested framework using other cases. To achieve this goal, the same framework is applied to assess the case of US–India alignment as also a case of a growing strategic alignment which, according to some observers, shares similarities with China–Russia alignment. While the suggested framework will likely (and hopefully) invite additional refinements and revisions, including tests with larger samples, it represents a necessary step to fill a crucial gap in the IR literature. Empirically, the book assesses and explains the degree and trajectory of alignment in post-Cold War China–Russia relations. The main empirical questions include: How closely aligned are China and Russia? How technically prepared are they for united military action and a full-fledged military alliance? How does China–Russia alignment fare, based on the objective measurements, with other representative alignments? Is alignment between China and Russia an ad hoc reaction to the recent deterioration of their relations with the United States, or does it have deeper causes that are rooted in long-term international-systemic trends? What explains the growing closeness between the two countries and how might this trend be modified or reversed? The empirical goal is not to rename the relationship and add a new catchword to the already long list of labels. Doing so does not seem to be a very meaningful analytical endeavor. Nor is the goal to pick a fight with either “optimists” (or “alarmists”), who believe that China–Russia alignment is solid, reliable, and has potential to grow, or at least that the existing problems in the relationship are not insurmountable (Nguyen, 1993; Nemets, 2006; Kaczmarski, 2015; Cox, 2016; Ambrosio, 2017; Wishnick, 2017), or “skeptics,” who try to pile up evidence to prove the opposite (Lo, 2009; Menon, 2009; Brenton, 2013; Wilson, 2016). This strategy, without due attention to theory, would simply continue the infinite regress that besets the discussion of China–Russia relations. In fact, this study has issues with both camps but more from a methodological point of view because the works on both sides of the argument do not sufficiently utilize IR theoretical knowledge or apply rigorous measurements. This study does not attempt to prove that China and Russia are going to inevitably fight together against another country soon, or, in contrast, that the alignment is going to fall apart. It is not a policy interpretation, and the analytical style and emphasis in this book are different from those of area specialists. Instead, the goal is to measure and explain the change in the China–Russia alignment relationship over time while also providing a rough point estimate

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of the absolute degree of cooperation. From an empirical standpoint, this study should be viewed as a long-needed reality check of the elements of “alliance” in China–Russia relations that are becoming increasingly prominent in both the literature and the policy discourse. In other words, it provides a theory-grounded demonstration that is as accurate as possible of where China–Russia military cooperation stands in terms of alliance formation. By explicitly applying an alignment framework, it enhances the clarity of the existing discussion of the “allianceness” of China–Russia relations. It helps to understand how ready the two countries are for a formal military alliance should such a decision be made. The application of the alignment framework developed in this book establishes that on a range of criteria China–Russia military alignment is moving closer to a full-fledged alliance. It is solid and comprehensive and, having passed what is defined in the framework as the “moderate” stage of alignment, continues to show a consistent incremental upward trend. It is also highly institutionalized, with growing elements of inter-military compatibility and interoperability. China–Russia alignment also appears responsive to external circumstances and based on a shared perception of the geopolitical security environment. At the same time, there are strong structural incentives for furthering the alignment that have been consolidating since the end of the Cold War and are unlikely to disappear soon. In other words, China–Russia relations appear ready for a tighter defense pact should the two countries decide to commit to it. Not announcing a formal “alliance” does not mean that such an alliance is not possible or not ready. The authorization of a China–Russia alliance is a matter of political will, not technical readiness, and the political will may not yet exist.9 Nevertheless, once and if such decisions are made, there is little that might hinder the effective functioning of a China–Russia alliance.

The book: structure and the logic of analysis The rest of the book is organized into six chapters. Chapter 2 presents the theoretical framework of the analysis which is called an “ordinal model of 9 See a very balanced article by Fu Ying, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China. Fu (2016) sends a clear message to the American readership that by no means is the China–Russia relationship simply a “marriage of convenience” because it is complex, sturdy, and deeply rooted. Simultaneously, however, it is not an “alliance.”

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strategic alignment.” Chapter 2 is a theoretical chapter that guides the discussion in all the remaining chapters. The development of the framework and the organization of the subsequent chapters are driven by the methodological consideration that one must first define the variable of interest before one can effectively embark on explaining it; especially given the ambivalence that dominates the field of China–Russia studies as mentioned above. The issue of definitions preceding explanations has been highlighted in the social science methodology literature. It has been suggested that “sometimes the state of knowledge in a field is such that much … description is needed before we can take on the challenge of explanation” (King et al., 1994, p. 15). In other words, systematic description and definition are prerequisites to explanations, because “it is hard to develop explanations before we know something about the world and what needs to be explained on the basis of what characteristics” (King et al., 1994, p. 34). The suggested framework consists of two clusters. The first cluster deals with the institutionalization of inter-military relations. It identifies seven indicators of military cooperation and groups them into the three stages of early, moderate, and advanced cooperation. Each indicator is ordinal; that is, the early-stage indicators precede the moderate and advanced indicators. While the primary emphasis is on military cooperation as the backbone of strategic alignment in general, and between China and Russia in particular, the framework also measures cooperation on economic and diplomatic dimensions as a “robustness check” to explore whether the increasing closeness in the relationship goes beyond the military realm. The second cluster deals with explanation and delves into the incentives for alignment formation, which are gauged by the connected conditions related to the three balances – “balance of power” (Waltz, 1979), “balance of threat” (Walt, 1987), and “balance of interests” (Schweller, 1998). All three drive the alliance formation process and appear in alignment discussions in one form or another. In the actual application of this causal cluster (Chapter 5), these three factors are located along the stages outlined in the first cluster to link the process of alignment development with the evolution of the key causal forces. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 are the empirical examination of China–Russia relations based on the framework presented in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 “Military Cooperation: Approaching Alliance” is the empirical examination of the first cluster of the framework – the stadial routinization and institutionalization of China–Russia alignment. The framework is applied to demonstrate the developmental trajectory since the end of the Cold War and the current state of China–Russia military alignment. The chapter delves into the

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underreported routinized inner workings of China–Russia alignment, going beyond the prevalent focus on relatively easy-to-trace China–Russia arms deals or military modernization programs in the two countries. The “early” indicators include confidence building measures and mechanisms of regular consultations. The “moderate” indicators comprise military-technical cooperation and personnel exchange and regular joint military exercises. The “advanced” indicators cover different levels of integrated military command, joint troop placement, exchanges of military bases, and common defense policy. The chapter demonstrates that post-Cold War China–Russia relations have, from a low starting point, grown steadily more robust, and are close to surpassing the moderate stage of alignment. Currently, China–Russia alignment sits at the borderline between moderate and advanced alignment, as defined in this analysis, and there exists a strong basis for more advanced forms of bilateral strategic cooperation. Chapter 4 “Alignment Incentives: The Three Balances” explains the dynamics described in the previous chapters and is the empirical examination of the second cluster of the alignment framework – the incentives for alignment formation. Both China and Russia have structural positions within the international system that make them subject to systemic pressures. This chapter demonstrates that the causes of the consolidation of China–Russia alignment are to be found at both the international-systemic and domestic-politics levels. More specifically, these causes are the changes that are happening in the three balances – the balance of power, the balance of threat, and the balance of interests. All three are the major causes of alliance formation. At the same time, a lot has been assumed with regards to how these three balances operate in the context of China–Russia relations, which make empirical checks necessary. The chapter explores the relative power dynamics within the contemporary international system and drawing on first-hand data uncovers the perceptions of external threats and interests in China and Russia to show both convergences and divergences. It is demonstrated that since the end of the Cold War the three balances have evolved in a way that incentivized a closer strategic alignment between China and Russia and that there are reasons to expect a further deepening of the bilateral alignment. Chapter 5 “Robustness Check: Economy and Diplomacy” assesses indicators of economic and diplomatic cooperation as a robustness check on the comprehensiveness of the upward trend in China–Russia alignment. The military dimension has the highest bar for cooperation. However, alignment does not focus solely on the military dimension of international politics but spreads across security, diplomatic, and economic spheres.

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Increases in military cooperation are very likely to be accompanied by enhanced economic and diplomatic cooperation. This happens both because incentives for military cooperation are also likely to apply to the economic and diplomatic realms, and because economic and diplomatic cooperation complement and augment joint military capabilities. Theoretical and empirical assessments of alignments often move beyond narrowly defined security guarantees. In the assessment of the military component of China–Russia cooperation, it is particularly important to consider the economic and diplomatic aspects of cooperation because China–Russia relations are often perceived as being military-dominated and lacking other foundations. The analysis in this chapter uses quantitative indicators, such as the volume and pattern of bilateral trade and its share in each country’s total external trade, the volume and nature of direct investments between the two countries, the patterns of China–Russia voting behavior in the UN Security Council and other international institutions, with special emphasis on the extent of convergence and divergence between China and Russia, as well as the agendas of regional blocs in which China and Russia are core players. The chapter shows that bilateral cooperation in each of the non-military dimensions, while not yet as strong, has steadily increased. Chapter 6 “Comparative Mapping: US–India and China–Russia Alignments” provides a comparative perspective on China–Russia alignment using the framework developed in Chapter 2. If the evidence of growing strategic cooperation is presented in a vacuum (i.e., without offering a point of comparison), the depth of this cooperation risks appearing greater than it is. While trends might appear apparent, the relevance of those trends is debatable without comparisons. To understand the extent to which China– Russia cooperation matters at all, it is necessary to assess this cooperation in both absolute and relative terms. This requires applying similar criteria to other existing alignments. Simply put, what level are China and Russia really at in their relationship? Moreover, if China–Russia strategic cooperation has progressed, the question is – relative to what? Chapter 6 compares the alignment between China and Russia with the US–India alignment. The US–India evolving alignment is a new development in post-Cold War international politics that is also often being viewed as an ad hoc reaction to the rise of China in the Asia-Pacific region and, hence, is a useful reference point for assessing the relative depth of China–Russia alignment. Admittedly, from a theoretical standpoint, systematically comparing China–Russia alignment with only one other alignment may not be sufficient for the robust generalization of the framework. However, it is enough to execute a plausibility probe (George & Bennett, 2005; Levy, 2008; Eckstein,

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1991) for the framework and to see whether, where, and on which parameters China–Russia alignment is ahead or behind this point of comparison. As Eckstein defines it, plausibility probes are useful at the preliminary stages of theory construction and “involve attempts to determine whether potential validity may reasonably be considered great enough to warrant the pains and costs of testing” (Eckstein, 1991, p. 147). This book offers such a plausibility probe into the alignment framework it develops: it first conceptualizes the framework of alignment, and, secondly, conducts an empirical inquiry into it. Further testing the framework with dozens of other examples, perhaps also from other historical periods, is the next analytical step that goes beyond the scope of this book. Chapter 7 “Conclusion: Empirical Findings and Theoretical Implications” puts the strands of the analysis together and discusses the implications of the main f indings for our understanding of China–Russia relations and the overall evolution of the post-Cold War international structure. It discusses the significance of the phenomenon of China–Russia relations for understanding the formation and development of alliances and the importance of theory-grounded analysis for understanding the patterns of interstate relations.

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2

The Ordinal Model of Strategic Alignment Abstract This chapter synthesizes the literature on alliances, alignments, and strategic partnerships to develop an ordinal framework that offers a way to systematically assess the degree and the causes of strategic alignment. The framework’s first cluster covers the degree of institutionalization of intermilitary relations by identifying seven indicators of military cooperation grouped into three stages of early, moderate, and advanced cooperation. The second cluster covers alignment incentives that are gauged by the three balances and the related theories of alignment formation – the balance of power, the balance of threat, and the balance of interests. While the primary emphasis is on military cooperation as the backbone of alignment, the chapter also suggests assessments of economic and diplomatic cooperation as a “robustness check” to explore whether the relationship goes beyond military realm. Keywords: alignments, military cooperation, economic cooperation, balance of power

As mentioned in Chapter 1, the lack of a universal alignment framework seriously complicates the empirical assessment of interstate strategic cooperation. Even the definitions of a more conventional term – “alliance” – vary in terms of comprehensiveness and precision. According to Walt (1987, p. 1), both “formal” and “informal” relationships of security cooperation between sovereign states qualify as an alliance. Weitsman (2003, p. 7) provides an even broader definition according to which alliances are agreements that simply provide “some element of security” to the participants. Snyder (1997, p. 4) defines alliances as “formal associations of states for the use (or non-use) of military force, in specified circumstances, against states outside their own membership.” The emphasis on formality (formal treaties) as an attribute of

Korolev, Alexander, China–Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2022 doi: 10.5117/9789463725248_ch02

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alliances helps to narrow down the definition significantly, but it excludes a range of important and strategically consequential informal alignments. The alignment framework offered in this book begins with the assumption that alignment formation is a stadial process in the sense that the development of a functioning alignment takes time, and interstate strategic cooperation must pass an early and a moderate stage before it moves into an advanced stage and, hence, a tighter alignment. States are not likely to become closely aligned overnight. While they may rush into a bonding alliance treaty in response to an external threat or shock, the actual functionality of such an alliance, as well as the compatibility and interoperability of the allies’ military forces, is likely to be questionable, unless the actors involved have already had a history of comprehensive strategic cooperation. The idea that every strategic alignment has, in a sense, a “life cycle” and progresses through stages is implicitly present in the relevant alignment literature. Wilkins (2012, p. 69) posits that interstate security cooperation evolves along a “collaboration continuum” passing through the stages of formation, implementation, and evaluation. The idea that gradual alliance institutionalization, routinization, and formalization improve intra-alliance policy coordination and, hence, alliance performance and reliability (Morrow, 1994; Smith, 1995; Fearon, 1997) also implies a stadial process in alignment formation and consolidation. Gradual institutionalization over time can lead the alliance to become an established cybernetic organization (Bennet, 1997, p. 855). Institutional structures of alignments can tighten and deepen, evolving towards closer cooperation or perhaps even a fullfledged alliance (Wilkins, 2008, p. 367). At the same time, such structures can move in the opposite direction towards less cooperation. From this perspective, the formalization of an alliance is simply a more advanced stage of alignment formation, which serves to strengthen pre-existing conditions by adding greater precision, legal obligations, and reciprocity (Snyder, 1991, p. 124). This stadial view of alignment formation conforms to the reality of the case at hand. As noted by Strüver (2016, p. 13), China’s partnership relations usually require time to develop and pass different stages. Thus, a large number of China’s strategic alignments started as “friendly cooperative partnerships” or “cooperative partnerships” and later evolved into “strategic partnerships” or “comprehensive strategic partnerships” – a process accompanied by increasing degrees of formalization and specification. As mentioned in Chapter 1, the case of China–Russia strategic cooperation has over the past 30 years progressed through the different stages from

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initial “good neighborliness” to more advanced “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.” Driven by these considerations, the first cluster of the analytical framework offered below (the institutionalization of inter-military relations) deals with the stages of alignment formation and consolidation. It is ordinal in that some indicators precede the others, and it consists of three sub-clusters of indicators of early, moderate, and advanced stages of alignment. According to this approach, some indicators that imply an improvement in relations from low initial levels of cooperation may indicate increasing tensions if they emerge when cooperation is already relatively high. Following the analytical approach of “zigzagging” between theory and empirical observations outlined in Chapter 1, the case of post-Cold War China–Russia relations assists in defining and conceptualizing the stages of alignment formation. While general assumptions are inspired by the literature on alignments, the case of the China–Russia relationship since the end of the Cold War is used as a source of abundant empirical evidence to fertilize and specify the theory and further unpack the stages of alignment formation. This means that some indicators or their order in the framework are China–Russia-specific and less generalizable, which is why the framework is further tested using other archetypal alignments in Chapter 6. After introducing the first and the second clusters of the framework, this chapter discusses the role of economic and diplomatic cooperation in assessing the overall comprehensiveness of alignment. Before addressing these tasks, however, a few words must be said about the role of formal alliance treaties in the context of this study and specifically the stadial perspective on alignments mentioned above.

Treaty alliances and informal alignments: the analytical implications Formal alliance treaties are a cornerstone issue for understanding interstate alignments and usually the first criterion to look at when assessing strategic cooperation. Walt (1993, p. 20) emphasizes that alliance, as a cooperative security relationship between states, usually takes “the form of a written military commitment.” Treaties are indeed a mark of international cooperation, which is otherwise difficult to measure (Owen, 2020, p. 810). Alliances involve some form of written commitment that is supposed to be known publicly (Bennet, 1997, p. 847). Some view the signing of an alliance treaty as nothing less than a “unique dividing place” along the spectrum of

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cooperation because relations between states with formal alliance treaties are qualitatively different from those with no such treaties (Reiter, 1994, p. 495). Formal treaties add precision and credibility to the relationship, and they signal the involved parties’ intentions to others (Salmon, 2006, p. 819). Considering alliances as “formal contracts” between states is an opinion shared by many, if not the majority, in the field.10 Formal treaties have also been considered as an alliance vs. no alliance demarcation point in official documents. For example, the US Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines an alliance as “a relationship that results from a formal agreement between two or more nations for broad, long-term objectives that further the common interests of the members” (Gortney, 2010, p. 13, as cited in Cook, 2013, p. 559). Notably, the existing quantitative datasets, used in multiple studies of alliances, are compiled based on formal alliance treaties. For example, the Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions (ATOP) dataset categorizes the content of existing military alliance agreements (Leeds, 2018). The Correlates of War (COW) dataset is also based on formal alliance treaties, including defense pacts, non-aggression treaties, and ententes (Gibler, 2009). Despite formal alliance treaties being an important indicator of alignment, and strategic cooperation more broadly, relying on them can be misleading. States can act as allies without binding treaties, and treaties may show nothing more than a paper alliance. Morgenthau (1976, p. 193) registered situations when state interests “so obviously call for concerted policies and actions that an explicit formulation of these interests, policies and actions in the form of treaty of alliance appears to be redundant.” The Anglo–French entente before World War I, for example, was a non-alliance relationship which generated alignment expectations greater than those in many formal alliances (Snyder, 1991, p. 125). Moreover, states can wage wars as alliance members without binding alliance treaties, as happened in the case of the “Grand Alliance” of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, formed during World War II to defeat Nazi Germany. Despite lacking many of the de jure attributes of an alliance, this alignment shifted the international power balance significantly (Wilkins, 2012, p. 60-61). High levels of formalization can even mean that the alignment commitment is in question and cannot be relied upon (Leeds & Anac, 2005, p. 197). Less explicit or even vague alignment agreements, in turn, can mean more 10 For relevant works defining alliance as a form of a written agreement, see Snyder (1990), Reiter (1993), Leeds (2003), Lai and Reiter (2000), Smith (1995), Bennett (1997), Gärtner (2001), (Liska, 1962), Holsti, Hopmann, and Sullivan (1973), Singer and Small (1966), Russett (1979).

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confidence of allies in each other’s loyalty in the long run and make states feel it necessary to stand by the ally in critical situations (Snyder 1984, p. 73). In summary, as Ward (1982, p. 7) rightly put it, alignments are “not signified by formal treaties but are delineated by a variety of behavioral actions.” Interdependence and the commonality of strategic interests can make states act as allies without requiring formal commitments. Some “tacit alliances” place actual military support without expressed commitments at the core of the relationship (Booth, 1975), and in “de facto alliances” the absence of a formal agreement does not prevent states from acting as if such an agreement existed (Kinter & Pfaltzgraff, 1973). Informal alignments, such as the US–UK, US–Israel, or US–Taiwan alignments, far surpass some formal alliances, such as the China–DPRK or US–Thailand alliances, in terms of de facto levels of security cooperation. In light of this, this study does not consider an alliance treaty as a useful cut-off point when assessing alignments. In essence, it agrees with the view that alliance is merely a sub-category, even though an important one, within a broader concept of alignment (Chidley, 2014, p. 114). Formal alliances are behavioral means to strengthen or add formality to alignments (Wilkins, 2012, p. 76). Snyder’s (1997, p. 123) recommendation that discussions on the subject must not be limited to formal alliances because “what we really want to understand is the broader phenomenon of ‘alignment,’ of which explicit alliance is merely a subset” is particularly pertinent in this context. Thus, while this study does assess the nature and content of the existing written agreements between the countries of interest, the primary concern here is the actual working of military cooperation that has come to fruition, not the promises of formal treaties. This approach fits well with the empirical reality of China–Russia alignment, in which the lack of a formal alliance treaty does not necessarily indicate weak strategic cooperation and, conversely, the presence of a treaty does not mean deep cooperation. At the same time, given the authoritarian nature of the two political regimes, any alliance arrangements between Moscow and Beijing may remain secret and, therefore, unknown to the public and external observers.11 Some experts have registered an element of “deliberate ambiguity” in China–Russia relations that can mask the actual degree of cooperation to external observers (Wilkins, 2008, p. 371). At the same time, announcing an alliance treaty is a public declaration that not only sends strong signals but also entails reputational costs if alliance obligations 11 This analysis excludes characteristics that cannot be observed or indicators requiring classified information.

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are not kept.12 The governments in Moscow and Beijing not being willing to announce an alliance does not mean that one does not exist. Rejection of the alliance treaty as a sufficient indicator of alignment raises another analytical issue – that of the scope of alignment and what dimensions the alignment framework should include. Even formal alliances are believed to represent a “heterogeneous category of cooperative security agreements” (Leeds, 2003, p. 427). At the same time, the theoretical and empirical assessment of alliances has moved beyond the narrowly defined security guarantee to include multiple non-security variables (Bennett, 1997; Lai & Reiter, 2000; Simon & Gartzke, 1996). Alignments are viewed as “far less formal, less military oriented, and less determinative in their mutual defense commitments” (Tow, 2007, as cited in Wilkins, 2015, p. 85). According to Ward (1982, p. 7), “alignment is a more extensive concept than alliance since it does not focus solely upon the military dimension of international politics.” Alignments are presented as novel and versatile mechanisms of strategic cooperation that spread across security, diplomatic, and economic spheres (Wilkins, 2015). In turn, other forms of cooperation, such as strategic partnerships, explicitly place a greater emphasis on economic cooperation, which has become particularly important in the post-Cold War globalized world (Chidley, 2014). At the same time, while the rationale to unlock a more multidimensional approach that moves beyond military-to-military contacts is well justified, it is difficult to assign relative weights to other dimensions (either economic or diplomatic) of cooperation, even though those dimensions might complement and augment military cooperation. A case can be made that the military dimension has the highest bar for cooperation: states that cooperate diplomatically and economically do not necessarily cooperate militarily, but increases in military cooperation are more likely to be accompanied by enhanced economic and diplomatic cooperation. However, the existing literature supports this hypothesis only partially. Mansfield and Bronson (1997) found that trade did not necessarily make alliances more likely, and the evidence on whether alliances enhance trade levels is somewhat mixed (Mansfield & Bronson, 1997; Bliss & Russett, 1998; Morrow et al., 1998). As argued by Benson and Clinton (2016, p. 11), the idea of 12 An interesting case in this regard is the China–North Korea alliance. Beijing’s reluctance (or inability) to offer sufficient security commitment to its treaty ally, especially when pressure from the United States on North Korea peaked, caused concern regarding China’s overall deficiency as an ally and the low reliability of Beijing’s security guarantees in general. For more on China’s alliance relations with North Korea, see Lee, Alexandrova, Zhao (2020), Li and Kim (2020).

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creating an additive index of alignment based on multiple characteristics is problematic because there is no theoretical guidance for combining different dimensions or interpreting the resulting scale. Specifically, it is difficult to evaluate the relative magnitude of the differences between dimensions of cooperation. Is an alignment which fares strongly on both military and economic cooperation scales twice as strong as an alignment with military cooperation only? Questions like these and the assumed equivalences between different dimensions make a hypothetical additive index difficult to rationalize (Benson & Clinton, 2016). Therefore, the approach taken in this study prioritizes military cooperation as a basis of strategic alignment, which is the dominant view in the literature (Fedder, 1968; Holsti et al., 1973; Walt, 1987; Levy & Barnett, 1991; Walt, 1993; Wilkins, 2012; Wilkins 2015), and develops a framework that is best suited for assessing military cooperation. At the same time, and based on the literature mentioned above, it does not ignore cooperation in the economic and diplomatic dimensions. However, it explores it as a “robustness check” – not a part of the ordinal scale but as important information to assess whether the closeness in bilateral relations is limited to the military realm only.

The ordinal index of strategic alignment Indicators of military cooperation constitute the bulk of our framework. Most forms of alignment have security-related properties and are based on recognizing common security concerns or providing for military cooperation to various degrees. The existing literature on alignments has established that greater institutionalization, understood as increased policy coordination, routinization, and formalization during peacetime, affects alignments’ reliability, performance in potential military conflicts, and credibility to deter challenges (Morrow, 1994; Smith, 1995; Fearon, 1997; Leeds & Anac, 2005). Intra-alliance contacts and integration, along with the background of alliance formation, is a crucial criterion of alignment (Russett, 1971). Synthesizing the literature and analyzing the post-Cold War China–Russia strategic cooperation identifies seven indicators (stages) of military cooperation, grouped in three sub-clusters of early, moderate, and advanced cooperation (see the left half of Figure 2.1). The early-stage indicators precede the moderate and advanced indicators. In turn, the presence of an advanced indicator itself, even at lower levels, indicates a higher overall degree of military cooperation. In other words, the

Regular joint military exercises

Military-technical cooperaon/ personnel exchange

Mechanism of regular consultaons

4

3

2

Source: Created by the author

Confidence building measures

Integrated military command

5

1

Joint troop placement/military bases

Common defence policy

6

7

Figure 2.1 The stages, criteria, and causes of alignment formation

Stages of alignment formaon

advanced

moderate

early

low

high

low

high

low

high

low

high

low

high

low

high

low

high

Causal factors condions at each stage:

42  China–Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics

Evoluon and consolidaon within causal cluster

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degree of cooperation is determined by the highest stage that is manifested, and higher stages subsume lower stages. For example, stages 3 and 4 on Figure 2.1 require stage 2, and stages 5, 6 and 7 necessitate stages 2, 3, and 4. However, some early-stage indicators can be expected to fall off when they are no longer necessary, and their continuous presence might indicate backsliding rather than development. It is the expansion of higher-level indicators that reflects increasing alignment. It is hypothetically possible to see moderate, or even advanced, indicators without early ones depending on peculiarities of a particular case. However, as argued below, there is a sound rationale behind these indicators and their ordering, such that in most cases we should expect to see lower stages of cooperation exhibited at high levels before alignment enters the moderate and advanced stages. CBMs (confidence building measures) are the first early indicator of a cooperative trend. It is an indicator of weak alignment because by implementing CBMs, the parties are attempting to overcome initially high degrees of mistrust or resolve highly contentious issues, e.g., border disputes, and thus remove them from bilateral agendas.13 Trusting states such as, for example, Canada and the United States do not actively patrol their shared borders. They do not worry about the ensuing vulnerability, because even though it would be easy for either country to initiate encroachment against the other and only citizens would sound the alarm, mutual hostilities are highly unlikely. Similarly, trusting in one another’s ongoing friendly intentions, Denmark and Sweden make no effort to defend their common borders. Active surveillance of the type employed by the United States and the Soviet Union, in contrast, suggests that the two superpowers were concerned that cheating would occur absent this oversight (Hoffman, 2002). The importance of confidence building activities for incipient alignments was highlighted by Deutsch (1957), who argued that gradual confidence building could help states create a sense of a peaceful community and lay the foundation for deeper strategic cooperation. CBMs contribute to the reduction of uncertainty in a relationship by creating iterative episodes of reciprocal behavior. The overall sense of reciprocity between allies, in turn, enhances mutual trust and fosters foundations for more advanced forms of cooperation (Snyder, 1997, p. 359). CBMs, as an early indicator of alignment, is of direct relevance to the case of China–Russia relations. Given the complex history of the China–Russia 13 It is believed that removing highly contentious issues of territory from the agenda of alignment members creates and facilitates a sustained peace between even the most belligerent states. See: Gibler (1996), p. 89.

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border since the 17th century, many assessments have highlighted the lack of trust as a significant weakness of China–Russia strategic cooperation. Some emphasize that China–Russia relations lack trust and are characterized by competition, especially in the regions shared by both countries (Mankoff, 2014). Others argue that despite common interests on the global scene, there is a fundamental lack of strategic trust between Beijing and Moscow (Niquet, 2014). Still, others suggest that Russia neither trusts anyone, nor is it trusted by anyone, particularly in Asia (Radchenko, 2014). The assessment of alignment in China–Russia relations invites a check of whether China and Russia invest efforts into undertaking specific measures aimed at enhancing mutual confidence. Early, low-level CBMs can be “emergency contacts” that are aimed at, for example, preventing dangerous military activities or resolving border disputes. When these problems become resolved, and the cooperation moves forward, higher-level CBMs can include measures of demilitarization and de-securitization of the common border, the routinization of mechanisms for resolving disputes or regularly sharing defense-related information, which enhances predictability between the two states and indicates higher levels of trust. Mechanisms of inter-military consultations follow CBMs as an indicator of early alignment. Consultations and regular talks among allies are an essential aspect of an alliance (Snyder, 1997, pp. 350-362). In the lead up to WWI, Russia felt emboldened to stand up to Austria and Germany thanks to its confidence in French support, which derived, to a significant extent, from the experience of the military staff talks (Snyder, 1997, p. 353). The formation of consultation mechanisms is crucial for alignment institutionalization and performance (Leeds & Anac, 2005). The evidence of regular official contacts between the military or civilians in the defense or other relevant ministries of the alignment members indicates the degree of strategic cooperation and integration (Russett, 1971, p. 267) because the formal mechanism of interaction facilitates intra-alliance cooperation (Bennett 1997, p. 855). Such a mechanism enhances mutual understanding and increases the predictability of intra-alignment dynamics, which can be vital assets when joint action is required. The transition from CBMs to regular consultations is marked by a shift in the agenda from the existing problems between the consulting parties to broader issues of regional and global politics. A shift from low to high levels of cooperation occurs when the consultation mechanisms start to display the following features. First, the parties begin to create unique platforms – that they do not have with other foreign states outside of the alignment membership – which provide for regular meetings

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and more in-depth cooperation. The second feature has to do with the comprehensiveness of the institutionalized infrastructure of security consultations. To be ranked “high” in our framework, consultations infrastructure must be multi-level and happen among multiple government agencies and organizations – from top decision makers to defense ministries or their equivalents to regional formats at the level of provinces and cities and further down to regular contacts between border garrisons and different types of troops and army units. Such mechanisms ensure effective exchange of information across the whole spectrum of defense and security-related institutions and facilitate the smooth functioning of the alignment. Finally, the content of communication matters. High level of cooperation requires that consultations have an element of “thinking together” about external challenges. Such discussions contain holistic strategic assessments of external threats and regional security challenges and are not confined only to technical issues related to procurements of arms or joint military exercises. Substantive discussions of the strategic environment contribute to the formation of a joint understanding of external threats and challenges. The third indicator – military-technical cooperation (MTC), accompanied by regular exchanges of military personnel – further unfolds the institutionalization of alignment and reflects the beginning of the moderate stage of strategic cooperation. As defined by Meick (2017, p. 3), military-technical cooperation may consist of a range of defense industry engagements, such as sales of arms, joint research and development of new weapons, technology transfer, maintenance of weapons systems with sharing of technical knowledge as well as various weapons licensing agreements. MTC, in the form of military training or technology transfer, is a measure of the depth of an alignment (Benson & Clinton, 2016, p. 8). Access to each other’s technology is one of the reasons why alliances remain useful for their participants in the 21st century (Tertrais, 2004, p. 141). MTC increases interdependence and the compatibility of military hardware, which may be crucial for allies in times of war when shared supplies of equipment and logistical and technological support may determine the alliance’s performance (Korolev, 2019a, p. 236). Simultaneously, sharing of technological expertise requires a considerable amount of trust. Moreover, the proper organization of MTC requires a high level of coordination across multiple institutions (research centers, manufacturers, and various government agencies), shared procedures and standardized training. These are essential parameters of MTC that take time to develop. In turn, the active exchange of military personnel and opening military educational institutions and curricula to a foreign state that accompanies MTC also requires

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significant trust in the partner. MTC is a critical component of China–Russia alignment (Blank, 2020) as well as alignments between other states that are transitioning from a strategic partnership to a deeper strategic alliance (Wilkins, 2015). The progress from low to high levels of cooperation within MTC is indicated by the transition from only providing technical training and assistance related to purchasing arms to actual military technology transfers and long-term projects for joint design and the production of arms and their components. Growing interdependence is an important aspect of this development. For personnel exchanges, advancing to higher levels is manifested in progress from short-term visits for technical training to joint military education programs. At the same time, from the standpoint of alignment theory, high-level cooperation in terms of MTC requires that an ally does not engage in MTC of the same or higher level and quality with a third party that is a strategic rival or in direct confrontation with the other ally. Forging defense cooperation with competing powers can be an effective way to offset risks and uncertainties if the relationship with either one power deteriorates. However, such behavior has to do more with hedging than alignment.14 The fourth indicator, which closes the moderate cooperation stage, is regular joint military exercises. Such exercises take place during peacetime and can happen regularly throughout the whole of an alignment’s existence (Bergsman, 2001, p. 28). Regularized military exercises are essential for an alignment’s functioning because they contribute to a greater degree of military compatibility and interoperability, increase coordination, and practice joint techniques (Korolev, 2019a, p. 236). If conducted effectively and regularly, they create credible commitments, improve the ability of the allies to fight together, or even forge the allies into a unified fighting force, which not only raises the chance that the alignment will win a war but also makes allies more likely to come to one another’s aid in time of need (Morrow, 2000, p. 71). Such exercises also open the door to a stage of more advanced forms of military cooperation and often send important signals, admonitions, or assurances to specific external actors. The progress from low to high levels within this indicator occurs with changes in the geographic range and the content of military exercises. For example, expanding the geography of exercises from the parties’ immediate geopolitical environments to distant seas, especially in response to new developments in international politics, would indicate a significant 14 For explication of the concept of “hedging,” see Korolev (2019b), Lai & Kuik (2020)

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advancement. Similarly, changes from simple joint maneuvers to the actual establishment of joint military command centers and the introduction of command code sharing systems, as well as other forms of interoperability, would reflect a high level of cooperation. As with the previous indicator (MTC), scoring “high” on regular joint military exercises implies that an ally does not engage at a comparable level with the other ally’s strategic rivals, which, as mentioned above, would turn alignment behavior into hedging behavior. For example, a hypothetical scenario of Russia having advanced regular military exercises with both China and the United States would not indicate a close alignment with either great power. At the same time, Russia’s simultaneous engagement with China and, for instance, other members of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that are not China’s strategic rivals does not detract from China–Russia alignment. The advanced stage of military cooperation is assessed using three criteria – an integrated military command, joint troop placements or military base exchanges, and common defense policy.15 An integrated military command provides the organizational framework for fulfilling joint military tasks by the aligned parties. In these circumstances, each country’s military forces, which normally remain under respective national control, become available for joint operations and are placed under the responsibility of either one side’s commanders or a joint command structure on an agreed basis. Examples of integrated military command could include the introduction of a shared system of command codes or adopting an operating language allowing the transmission of orders and communications between the involved militaries; episodes of merging the allies’ army units into a single operational grouping with the purpose of practicing joint interoperability; establishing joint command centers staffed with officers from both sides working together. There is also variation in the degree to which military commands can be integrated. A relatively low degree of integration would occur episodically and without long-term commitments, as characterizes joint military exercises. A higher level, in turn, would be characterized by permanently operating command structures that are consistently deployed, and thus would entail long-term commitments. Joint deployments and base sharing are a step forward because these measures include sensitive issues of territorial sovereignty. The establishment of military bases abroad enables a country to project power in the 15 These criteria are mentioned in various forms, but without sequence, as indicators of advanced military cooperation. See, for example: Fedder (1968), Leeds and Anac (2005), and Benson and Clinton (2016).

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recipient country and influence political events there. Also, the existence of bases abroad implies rights to military facilities in foreign territory. These are highly sensitive issues, in general, and in the context of China–Russia relations, in particular. A low degree of base sharing occurs when mutual deployments are small and do not include air force or other sophisticated weapons. High-level base sharing occurs when the size of the deployed contingent is large and accompanied by the significant allocation of advanced military hardware. Finally, the highest form of military cooperation is a common defense policy at the executive and strategic levels. It requires the most binding commitments between allies with the purpose of joint fulfillment of the most demanding military missions. This also involves pooling resources for defense equipment acquisition as well as obligations to supply combat units for jointly planned missions within a designated period. Most importantly, this level of cooperation requires synchronized and harmonized actions with regards to the allied parties’ national security. This indicator may also be manifested at higher and lower degrees, depending on the scale and content of cooperation, but it always requires extensive investment in joint action and indicates in-depth military cooperation. The decision to enter this stage requires strong incentives and resolve from policymakers and cannot occur without first achieving a high degree of cooperation on the more moderate indicators described above.

Explaining the trend: the three balances as incentives for alignment formation Once the strategic alignment (the dependent variable) is defined, one can start explaining the alignment dynamics. As mentioned above, alignments involve costs and require a strong rationale to materialize, especially if an alignment is to move through the stages outlined above. To explain the alignment progress across a period of time, it is important is to understand the evolution of the causal factors and interrelationship between them against each stage of alignment formation (see the right half of Figure 2.1). According to the “capability aggregation model,” dominant in alignment studies, (Barnett & Levy, 1991, p. 371), alignments are formed by states to aggregate their capabilities into a greater joint capability to improve their international security positions. This perspective, together with the prevailing view that alignments are formed by security-seeking states against more powerful other states (Liska, 1962; Walt, 1987; Snyder, 1991;

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Bennett, 1997) and to deal with immediate or potential threats (Salmon, 2006, p. 819), explicitly suggests two specific theories that explain alignment formation. One is the balance of power theory (Waltz, 1979), according to which states form alliances to balance against the most powerful states in the system, and the other is the balance of threat theory (Walt, 1987), which argues that states balance against the most threatening states rather than simply the most powerful ones. At the same time, alignments include not only “alignments against” but also “alignments with,” which, as some argue, may better reflect the realities of the modern world (Chidley, 2014, p. 142). According to Snyder (1991, pp. 123-125), the existence of common interests among states is an important factor that undergirds the idea of “alignments with” and forms the expectation of support on which alignments are based. Specifically, a state will expect support from states with which it shares interests and will expect a lack of support, or even opposition, from states with which its interests conflict (Snyder, 1991, p. 124). This discussion leads to the third theory, and the related causal factor, that can explain alignment formation – the balance of interests (Schweller, 1998). Thus, the incentives for alignment formation used in our framework originate from considerations of the balance of power but represent both the systemic and domestic factors that drive alignment. As great powers, both China and Russia occupy structural positions within the international system that make them subject to systemic pressures. At the same time, they have complex domestic political environments that cannot be ignored. The first causal factor – the balance of power – is the system-level condition determined by the power structure configuration within the international system (Waltz, 1979). The second cause – the balance of threat – is a later development of the balance of power theory which looks at the unit-level perceptions of threat (Walt, 1987). The third cause – the balance of interests – is still another advancement that highlights complex unit-structure interactions (Schweller, 1998). At the same time, for this causal cluster to yield more explanatory power, it is essential to consider changes not only in each of the three balances but also in the pattern of interaction between them – changes both within and between the circles on the right side of Figure 2.1. The first cause – material power balance – is where the analysis begins. Polarity provides dispositional pressures that structure the horizons of states’ probable actions. One of the most salient features of the post-Cold War international system has been the ultimate primacy of the United States in the global distribution of capabilities. Waltz (2000) believed that post-Cold

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War unipolarity, like any other unipolarity, was self-destructive because under anarchy, which defines the international environment, secondary states would inevitably start to try to undermine the hegemon’s (the US’s) pre-eminence. Even if the hegemon manages to restrain itself, other states are still inclined to worry about their safety in the unbalanced international system, and, hence, will attempt to realign with other secondary states (external balancing) as one of the possible ways to enhance their security. States balance against hegemons, even those that seek to maintain their pre-eminence by employing strategies based more on benevolence than coercion, because unipolar systems inevitably lead to geopolitical backlashes. Consequently, the post-Cold War “unipolar moment” is just a geopolitical interlude that will give way to multipolarity. Therefore, the systemic push to form an alliance originates from a lack of balance of power, and alignment formation is a way to restore the balance of power condition. However, the balance of power logic of alignment formation is less linear than the balance of power assumption might suggest. According to the “theories of non-balancing” (Korolev, 2018) that became popular after the end of the Cold War, balancing behavior by secondary states is highly unlikely because the United States is too powerful – to the extent that any alignments between potential challengers (including China and Russia) will fail to make any difference.16 The alleged power gap between the United States and the rest was such that the United States represented a separate class by large margins. No other state or group of states had enough material capabilities to challenge its absolute dominance significantly. In the post-Cold War literature, this power gap was presented as unprecedented and self-reinforcing, and it generated the unsurpassable power threshold that became one of the main explanations of why other secondary states do not form alliances to balance against the United States. According to this assessment, even if non-liberal states, such as Russia and China, are not satisfied with the current unipolar order, they do not have sufficient capabilities to undertake effective balancing. From this standpoint, any anti-US alignment is viewed as futile. This discussion about the impact of US-led unipolarity on the behavior of states (regardless of whether it still conforms to reality or not) highlights a more general issue that the impact of polarity on alliance formation is complex. In a sense, there is a Goldilocks logic underlying the balance of power assumption: while the lack of power balance is conducive to alignment 16 For a collection of relevant essays on why balancing, including alignments, is unlikely in the post-Cold War unipolar international environment, see: Ikenberry (2002).

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formation, the concentration of too much power in one pole can also avert alignment formation. In other words, the degree of systemic imbalance must be “just right” to effectively trigger the formation and consolidation of alignment. The military capacity of potential alignment must be able to generate at least some degree of what is called a “deterrent effect” (Benson & Clinton, 2016, p. 5), when the summative capacity of alignment can tangibly affect an adversary’s foreign policy calculus (Morrow, 1994; Smith, 1995; Leeds, 2003; Zagare & Kilgour, 2003; Yuen, 2009; Johnson & Leeds, 2011; Benson, 2012; Benson et al., 2014). Thus, the empirical assessments of the balance of power as a factor of alignment formation require not only exploring the power distribution within the international system and seeing whether there is a hegemon but also answering the question of whether the potential military capacity of a hypothetical alignment (China–Russia alignment in our case), understood as the combined military strength of the allies, can restore a relative balance of power, and become an effective way of balancing. A later development of the balance of power theory – the “balance of threat theory” – provides the conception of the second cause of alignment formation in our framework, which relates to common threats faced by the potential allies. According to Walt (1985), external “threats” are the main drivers of alliance behavior. It is specifically common threats that play a particularly important role in motivating states to enter the same alliance. The presence of a common threat or enemy distinguishes alignments from other forms of interstate cooperation (Salmon, 2006, p. 817). States’ shared perception of a common threat creates a “clear agreed-upon target,” which facilitates alliance coherence (Bennett, 1997, p. 852). Lai and Reiter also argued that states that face a common threat are especially prone to alignment: “Not only does each wish to minimize the possibility that it will be attacked, but each state is more likely to be willing to fight if the other is attacked because the enemy is common.” Consequently, “fears of entanglement in an unwanted war and of the defection of alliance partners from the alliance agreement are reduced” (Lai & Reiter, 2000, p. 211). American power has often been presented as “off-shore” – separated from others by the oceans – and therefore, not posing a direct threat to other states’ survival (Walt, 2002). Some scholars have also emphasized the “post-modern” nature of American power: even though hard power is still the ultimate factor, in everyday politics the primary emphasis is on soft power, which is much harder to contain. Joffe (2002, p. 170) asks, “How does one contain power that flows not from coercion but seduction?” American benevolence, helpfulness, and reliability lead other liberal states to choose

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not to balance (Owen, 2002, p. 257). Thus, according to this logic, even if the United State is the most powerful state in the contemporary international system, if it does not threaten the major challengers (China and Russia or others) or is not viewed as a threat by them, there are no strong reasons to expect the emergence of an anti-hegemonic alignment. It must be mentioned that this study does not apply Walt’s balance of threat theory in a strict sense but, instead, places emphasis on the general statement by Walt and other alliance scholars about the importance of “common external threats” as a driving force of alignments (Walt, 1987; Bennet, 1997; Lai & Reiter, 2000).17 Such an approach seems justifiable in the context of this study. As demonstrated elsewhere, such factors as offensive capability and offensive intensions, identified by Walt as threat-forming factors, are not based on objective criteria and remain speculative, as do the chances of assessing them accurately (Rosato, 2015; Van Evera, 1998). As to geographic proximity, in Walt’s theory it should work against alignment. However, it may work in reverse: bordering great powers well recognize the potentially devastating costs of the use of or threats to use force against each other. Because border conflicts between adjacent great powers are extremely costly, these powers may choose to invest significant efforts to keep the border peaceful and eventually improve the relationship. It appears that it is this dynamic that is at play between China and Russia. A certain geopolitical sense of a big neighbor makes both sides understand that conflicts are extremely costly for both and, therefore, it is better to coexist peacefully.18 Some assumptions of Walt’s theory might work in some cases but not in others and hence require further testing and verification using larger samples of cases. This, however, does not undermine the importance of external threats perception as a factor of alignment formation. Empirically, therefore, one must check whether potential allies have a shared view of major external threats or consider the same state as the most threatening adversary and how these perceptions evolved. Also, 17 Walt’s original balance of threat theory discerns four factors that contribute to the formation of threat: aggregate power, proximity, offensive capability, and offensive intentions (Walt, 1987, p. 23). At the same time, he highlights that “one cannot say a priori which sources of threat will be most important in any given case, only that all of them are likely to play a role” (Walt, 1985, p. 3). In other words, threats cannot be simply assumed based on these four conditions but need to be established empirically. 18 As demonstrated in Chapter 6, a similar dynamic applies to China–India relations, when India is reluctant to explicitly support the US’s hard balancing against China because New Delhi, being China’s geographic neighbor, is concerned about irreversibly antagonising China or being viewed by Beijing as a part of the anti-China camp.

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potential allies must define an external threat in similar terms or, in other words, locate it within the same category of threats. For example, if one ally perceives an external threat (the third state) as a threat to global order, whereas the other ally views it as a threat to its border security, there will be a categorical mismatch of threats, even though both types of threat are associated with the same state. Thus, the convergence of external threat perceptions implies that the threat must be associated with the same state but also be in the same category of threats. An indication of a perceived precipitating threat would be a change in the language of joint statements or interactions more broadly from expressing a shared understanding on broad issues of international politics to the consolidation of that language around the issue of explicit common external threats associated with a specific geopolitical rival. A further revision of the balance of power and balance of threat theories is Randall Schweller’s “balance of interests” theory (1998), which explains the third cause of alignment formation – common interests. Schweller (1994, p. 88) argues that whether (and with whom) states establish alliances depends on states’ understanding of their mutual interests, rather than on perceptions of threats or power asymmetries, specifically that “the most important determinant of alignment is the compatibility of political goals.” “Status quo states” align with each other because they share the interests of maintaining the existing world order and containing revisionist states. “Revisionist states,” in turn, align with each other because they see more benefits in changing the system (Schweller, 1993). The rise of a revisionist great power may also trigger bandwagoning on the part of smaller revisionist states. Echoing Schweller’s emphasis on the compatibility of political goals, other scholars specializing in alignment studies also mention “normative partnerships,” based on a common set of behavioral norms, values, and standards (Smith, 2006, p. 112); credible commitments and similarity of interests, when states’ interests are not required to be identical but must be complementary or at least parallel (Morrow, 1991, p. 931); or an “underlying community of interests” (Salmon, 2006, p. 820) – all as essential characteristics of strategic alignment. Sustainable alignments are based on shared values or ideology and are organized around a general purpose, known as a system principle, such as, for example, the championship of a multi-polar world (Wilkins, 2008). Liska (1962, p. 12) argues that while alliances must be subject to a shared external threat, they are also predicated on a sense of community. Alignments have also been seen as a manifestation of the involved actors’ willingness to pursue joint interests and mutual goals in common and, in the

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case of China, have been shown to be more likely to occur “when countries have comparable positions on the liberal world order” (Strüver, 2016, pp. 6-8). An empirical assessment of this condition would require demonstrating how hypothetical allies (China and Russia in our case) see the international status quo and whether they want to revise it; in which ways, if at all, their interests are complementary or parallel; and how deeply they share commitments to challenging or maintaining the contemporary world order. This requires not only looking into bilateral documents and speeches of the top policymakers but also reality-checking established assumptions that China benefits from the international status quo, whereas Russia does not. As in the case with threats, interests, in the form revisionism and status quo orientation, can have different permutations in different contexts and, therefore, cannot be assumed and need to be established empirically. For instance, one would assume since both China and Russia increased their power after the end of the Cold War – after the existing US-led order was fully established and its benefits allocated – they should display revisionist inclinations. But do they? Even if they do, does the revisionism supported by Beijing have much in common with that propagated by Moscow? How have the two revisionisms changed since the end of the Cold War? Do they show convergence in terms of increasing rejection of the international status quo? These are empirical questions that need to be answered before the impact of the balance of interest on alignment behavior can be established. Besides the language of joint statements and interactions, the actual participation in international institutions that represent an alternative order is a useful indicator. Besides exploring the changes within each of the three causal factors mentioned above, it is essential to consider the interaction between them in generating an interstate alignment. Balance of threat (Walt) and balance of interests (Schweller) are not unrelated to the balance of power (Waltz). In other words, the balance of power is an essential component of both the balance of threat and the balance of interest theory. As acknowledged by Walt (1985, pp. 9-10), “the greater a state’s total resources … the greater a potential threat it can pose to others…. The overall power that states can wield is thus an important component of the threat they can pose to others.” It is more accurate, therefore, to talk about the most “threatening power” rather than merely “threat” or “power” (Walt, 1985, pp. 8-9). A strong state can either be threatening or not, but it is difficult for a weak state to pose an existential threat to greater powers. There is an apparent synergy between the balance of threat and the balance of power arguments.

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In a similar vein, Schweller (1993) highlights that his concept of state interest (whether status quo or revisionism-oriented interests) occupies a position equally prominent to that of the distribution of capabilities. The balance of interest theory implies “equal focus on both the power and interests of states … and contains complex unit-structure interactions,” according to which “predictions are co-determined by the power and interests of the units and the structures within which they are embedded” (Schweller, 1993, pp. 76-77). The need to consider the interconnectedness between power, threats, and interests is also hinted at by Snyder (1991, p. 124) who talks about the dispositional pressures of polarity and strength inequality between states either reinforcing or undermining the expectations of support coming from commonality or conflict of interests. It is the combination of the “conflict and commonality factor” (i.e., whether the interests are common or conflicting) and the “strength inequality factor” (i.e., the polarity of the international system and power gaps between major states involved in the alignment dynamics) that produces a pattern of interstate alignment (Snyder, 1991, p. 124). Threats, in turn, can motivate states to increase their military capabilities (internal balancing) or realign with others (external balancing). Either action impacts the balance of power itself. At the same time, the synergy between the three factors of alignment formation does not a priori suggest that they always coincide and that for great powers there is no difference between them (e.g., the most powerful is the most threatening and that interests fully depend on threats). This scenario is possible, but not guaranteed a priori. It is possible that only one or two factors incentivize alignment, while other(s) pull in a different direction. In this case, alignment incentives may weaken or disappear. A case in point is the post-Cold War US–India relationship, explored in Chapter 6, in which misalignment between the incentives emanating from the considerations of power, threats, and interests weakens the causal push for closer defense cooperation. This link between “power,” on the one hand, and “threat” and “interest,” on the other makes for a framework in which balance of power configurations can be viewed as a necessary condition for China–Russia alignment, whereas balance of threat and balance of interests have to do with sufficient conditions. The analysis, therefore, begins with the assessment of the evolution of the material capabilities distribution (the balance of power) since the end of the Cold War as the very first step in assessing the structural conditions within which China–Russia alignment evolves. Then, it moves

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to the assessment of mutual threats – as the more immediate incentive for alignment. Finally, it proceeds to the exploration of mutual interests. An important question is whether there is a convergence or divergence between the three balances in terms of pushing China and Russia together or pulling them apart. As shown in Figure 2.1, the three balances, while each undergoing change, gradually become interconnected and converge into a single causal bundle, in which the three balances reinforce each other, thus reinforcing incentives for alignment formation and consolidation.19

Robustness check: economic and diplomatic cooperation As a robustness check on the comprehensiveness of the upward trend in China–Russia strategic alignment, this study considers non-military aspects of bilateral cooperation, in particular the economic and diplomatic dimensions that factor in the alignment’s functioning. It has been argued that alignment does not necessarily focus solely upon the military aspect of international politics but spreads across the security, diplomatic, and economic spheres (Ward, 1982, p. 7; Wilkins, 2015, p. 81). It has also been contended that many existing alliances do not fall neatly into the category of dealing with life or death (Salmon, 2006, p. 821) and that the actual motives for alliance formation are subject to the impact of various non-security variables (Simon & Gartzke, 1996, p. 618). Some also justify consideration of the non-security aspects of alignments on the basis of the alleged transition of 21st-century international politics from narrowly defined security concerns to maximizing economic advantages for domestic interests (Qobo, 2010, p. 17). In the assessment of the military component of China–Russia alignment, it is particularly important to consider the economic and diplomatic aspects of cooperation because China–Russia relations are often presented as military-dominated and lacking other foundations (Shtraks, 2015). The role of economic cooperation, particularly trade, in alignment development has received a fair amount of attention in the literature (Bliss & Russett, 1998; Morrow, 1991; Morrow et. al., 1998; Gowa, 1994; Mansfield & Bronson, 1997). Echoing Montesquieu’s famous dictum that “the spirit of commerce unites nations,” some scholars have used economic logic to explain states’ security concerns and alignment patterns (Lai & Reiter, 2000, p. 209-210). Thus, the gains from trade are likely to bolster the aggregate 19 For a more explicit elaboration of ways and conditions in which those three mechanisms interact with each other and become interconnected, see Chapter 4.

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political-military power of the alliance and enhance the allies’ security (Mansfield & Bronson, 1997, p. 94). Conversely, the lack of trade can undermine the foundations of an alliance. Economic interdependence, in turn, can make alliances more likely, because economically interdependent states may view threats to their economic partners as threats to their own interests. Hence, governments become more willing to accept the costs of alliance with valuable economic partners, to deter attacks on them, and defend them in case of war (Lai & Reiter, 2000, p. 209). For example, the solidity of the European Union (EU) as a security alliance has been explained by the EU’s strong economic integration, among other factors (Tertrais, 2004, p. 147). The first thing to look at when examining the economic dimension of alignment is trade dynamics. However, there are other indicators of deeper economic cooperation and interdependence. Røseth (2017) differentiates between “pragmatic” and “strategic” cooperation by the degree of mutual vulnerability that the parties are willing to accept. Thus, the transition from pragmatic to strategic cooperation occurs when the emphasis of cooperation shifts from ad hoc, episodic geopolitical cooperation to large-scale economic motives, long-term energy commitments, and, most importantly, acceptance of vulnerability vis-à-vis the other (Røseth, 2017, pp. 23-25). Adopting a strategic approach indicates a state’s substantive geopolitical and economic reorientation toward its alignment partners which are now allowed to have a significant role in its economic wellbeing. The critical principle of strategic cooperation is a “willingness to trust another party and thereby accept vulnerability to obtain a common goal” (Røseth, 2017, p. 29). When assessing the degree of China–Russia economic cooperation as a component of alignment, the present study examines bilateral trade dynamics. Trade, however, may not be an indicator of robust cooperation in this case because China is the largest single trade partner for more than one hundred countries. By examining absolute trade volume alone, therefore, it is difficult to determine the countries for which China is a strategic partner or only a trade partner. An indication of stronger cooperation would be an increasing number and share of energy projects and related investments that commit both sides to creating and using immovable elements of costly infrastructure, which requires fulfilling a range of mutual obligations. These long-term commitments create vulnerabilities and shared risks between the parties and are not taken lightly by the governments. Also, energy is considered a strategic industrial sector by the Chinese and Russian governments. At the same time, it is essential to explore the actual model of economic cooperation between China and Russia and the geopolitical implications that it generates. Beneath the façade of growing trade volume and energy

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projects, there might be a relationship complicated by the existing pattern of division of labor that exists between the two countries. For example, if Russia is increasingly unhappy about its economic role in its interactions with China, this might have significant long-term implications for China–Russia alignment. In a similar vein, if China is less interested in building a mutually beneficial economic cooperation with Russia, it will have implications for the bilateral strategic alignment. In other words, it is essential to look beyond trade statistics and explore the existing economic models of China and Russia and their roles in determining their fundamental developmental interests. Such interests can have either positive or negative spillover effects on the relationship in other spheres. Strategic alignment also entails diplomatic cooperation that displays a degree of mutual support and coordination in international institutions. Alignments should provide members with “mutual expectations of support” that can contain elements of both “hard” and “soft” balancing (Wilkins, 2012, p. 65, 73). Based on shared interests, alignments include the “expectations of states about whether they will be supported or opposed by other states in future interactions” (Snyder, 1997, p. 6). Aligned parties also display some degree of policy coordination and a “willingness to commonly pursue joint interests and mutual goals” (Strüver, 2016, p. 8). To assess the degree of diplomatic cooperation, this study explores the pattern of China–Russia joint voting behavior in the UN Security Council (UNSC), the UN General Assembly (UNGA), IMF, G20, WTO, and other regional organizations. It also explores China–Russia joint membership in institutions and the agendas of regional blocs in which China and Russia are core players. Diplomatic cooperation can also be reflected in official statements and declarations, as well as state leaders’ public speeches about the strategic concerns of the other party. In summary, the suggested framework, while developed to assess alignment in China–Russia relations, is general enough to travel across other cases of interstate cooperation to facilitate comparisons between different strategic alignments – the task undertaken in Chapter 6.

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3

Military Cooperation: Approaching Alliance Abstract This chapter is the empirical examination of the first cluster of the alignment framework developed in Chapter 2 – the stadial institutionalization of China–Russia alignment. It demonstrates the development trajectory since the end of the Cold War and delves into the underreported routinized inner workings of China–Russia alignment, going beyond the prevalent focus in the related studies on China–Russia arms deals. By tracing the evolution of China–Russia alignment from the “early,” through the “moderate,” and to the “advanced” indicators of alignment, it demonstrates that post-Cold War China–Russia relations have, from a low starting point, grown steadily stronger. Currently, China–Russia alignment sits at the borderline between moderate and advanced alignment, while moving gradually into the advanced category. The upward trend is consistent, and there exists a basis for more advanced forms of bilateral strategic cooperation. Keywords: China–Russia military cooperation, strategic alignment, military alliance

As mentioned in the previous chapters, there has been a good deal of ambiguity in the assessments of post-Cold-War China–Russia cooperation. While most of the official “names” of the relationship indicate an upward trend, how close are the two countries based on the ordinal framework and indicators of alignment developed in Chapter 2? Figure 3.1 displays the trajectory of post-Cold War China–Russia military cooperation. While there are chronological overlaps between the indicators, the transition into higher-level cooperation at each stage happens after the previous stage of cooperation has become high.

Korolev, Alexander, China–Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2022 doi: 10.5117/9789463725248_ch03

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China–Russia cooperation treaty As elaborated in Chapter 2, a formal treaty cannot be an exhaustive indicator of interstate alignment. It is even more so in the case of China–Russia relations. For example, Fomin et al. (2019) has systematically studied the correlation between Russia’s formal alliance obligations and the patterns of its actual military and political cooperation and discovered no significant association between the level of formal alliance commitments and the actual military cooperation. Instead, the formal obligations that Russia enters into with other countries have been shown to do more with diplomatic gesturing and support within international institutions (Fomin et al., 2019). At the same time, the formal treaties cannot be dismissed altogether as they do carry some information and can be a first step in understanding strategic cooperation.20 Since the end of the Cold War, China and Russia have generated more than 200 bilateral treaties. The most foundational one is the bilateral “Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation” (the so-called “Big Treaty”), signed by Jiang Zemin and Vladimir Putin on July 16, 2001, in Moscow.21 In contrast to the “Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance,” signed in 1950, the 2001 Big Treaty avoids defining external threats explicitly. It does not include the casus foederis clause (i.e., mutual defense in the event of military aggression against an alliance member nation). Therefore, it falls short of a defense pact and should on no account be mistaken for an alliance treaty (Wilkins, 2008, p. 369). However, Articles 2, 7, 8, 9, and 16 of the Big Treaty turn it into a clear consultation and non-aggression pact that contains provisions that can be interpreted as elements of an implicit defense pact. According to Article 2, for example, China and Russia in their mutual interactions commit not to: use force or the threat of force; adopt economic or other pressure; be the first to use nuclear weapons; or aim strategic nuclear missiles at each other (Korolev, 2019, p. 237). Article 8, in turn, contains provisions for the event of war, according to which both parties commit not to participate in any alliance or bloc that damages the sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity of the other party. They also commit not to permit a third country to use their territory to damage or establish an organization or group that 20 For an extended theory-grounded discussion of what formal treaties are an indication of and why they cannot be relied upon in assessing the actual content interstate alignments, see Chapter 2 above. 21 For the full English text of the treaty, see (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 2001). The treaty is still in force and is up for an automatic renewal after its f irst expiration in 2021.

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damages the national sovereignty, security, or territorial integrity of the other party. Both China and Russia commit to prohibiting such activities. More controversial is Article 9 that states that in a situation when one of the parties deems that peace is threatened or its security interests are involved, or it is confronted with the threat of aggression, the contracting parties shall immediately hold contacts and consultations in order to eliminate such threats (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 2001). Given that “the threat of aggression” and the means of “eliminating such threats” are open to interpretations, Article 9 can be viewed as containing certain features of an implicit defense pact, in a sense that if either party is attacked or becomes involved in a conflict, the other party is expected to help. At the same time, the absence of a military assistance provision is compensated for by Article 7, according to which the two parties commit to coordinate their military efforts and policies “so as to consolidate each other’s security and strengthen regional and international stability” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 2001). Article 16, in turn, contains provisions for increased military cooperation, such as the sharing of “military know-how.” As such the China–Russia Big Treaty can be viewed as an alliance treaty subtype that, while failing to qualify as an explicit defense pact, fully qualifies as a non-aggression pact and a consultation pact. With Articles 7, 9, and 16, it can be viewed as exceeding these categories.

The early stage: confidence building measures and regular consultations The first indicator of early strategic alignment in our framework is confidencebuilding measures (CBMs). In China–Russia relations, most of such measures were concentrated in the 1990s and were related to the multiple rounds of bilateral border negotiations. The earliest, low-level CBMs were joint attempts to normalize relations through a series of measures aimed at settling the disputed parts of the China–Soviet border and demobilizing military forces along the entire 4,300 km-long joint border. Given the complex history of the China–Russia border since the 17th century and the border conflicts of the 1960s, these were highly contentious and sensitive issues, and their resolution was necessary before there could be any progress in the relationship. It was from these border-related negotiations as well as the initial border demilitarization and de-securitization measures that the CBMs gradually developed and then subsequently transformed into a comprehensive mechanism of regular consultations on a wide range of strategic issues.

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On December 18, 1992, Boris Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin signed “The Memorandum of Understanding on the Guiding Principle for the Mutual Reductions of Armed Forces and the Strengthening of Trust in the Border Region,” which claimed to create a “common border of trust” (President of Russia, 1992). Negotiations to reduce military forces in the border area and strengthen inter-military trust continued for the next two years and culminated in Russia’s Chief of General Staff, Mikhail Kolesnikov, visiting Beijing in April 1994. In July 1994, the two countries signed “The Agreement on the Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities,” which aimed to further desecuritize the border and create procedures for dealing with “accidental border crossings,” which occurred along the long border. This agreement also established a mechanism of regular information exchanges regarding the movements and activities of the two countries’ border army units (Government of Russia, 1994). Two months later, Jiang Zemin visited Russia, and the two countries signed two additional important documents: the “Joint Statement on No First Use of Nuclear Weapons against East Other and Not Targeting Strategic Nuclear Weapons at Each Other” and the “Agreement on the Western Part of China–Russia Border,” which settled the western segment of the border (Zhongguo Falv Fagui Zixun Wang, 2010). Around this time, bilateral relations were upgraded from “good neighborliness” to “constructive cooperation.” These early measures were paralleled by China–Russia CBMs involving Central Asian states, which was an essential aspect of the initial trust building between the two countries. Russia has always considered Central Asia to be part of its sphere of interest and is highly sensitive towards other great powers trespassing into that area. In the context of China’s growing capabilities, misunderstandings, or lack of transparency between Moscow and Beijing in the region contains a danger of creating suspicion and tensions that could set the relationship back. This had been recognized in both countries. On April 26, 1996, the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan (the Shanghai Five) gathered in Shanghai to sign an agreement establishing a number of CBMs within a 100 km-wide zone on both sides of the 8,000-km border that China shares with the other four countries. These included limits on the number and scope of border-area field exercises and movements, measures to prevent hazardous military activities, and expanding contacts between the countries’ military forces and border troops. A year later, in April 1997, the leaders of the five countries signed the “Treaty on Mutual Reduction of Military Forces in Border Areas,” which

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required the withdrawal of most troops stationed within the 200 km-wide zone along the border that China shares with the four countries (Kile, 1999). On November 10, 1997, at a summit in Beijing, Boris Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin signed a new border agreement, which settled the demarcation of the longest eastern sector of the China–Russia border, with the two islands that were in the border rivers left to future negotiations. The agreement was a diplomatic breakthrough because it signified a settlement of almost the entire China–Russia border. This was also a turning point after which bilateral CBMs of a higher level were introduced. These CBMs aimed at deeper demilitarization of the border and more comprehensive information sharing. Thus, in August 1998, the two countries signed the “China–Russia Protocol on Border Defense Information Exchange,” which enhanced the procedures for mutual notifications about military activities close to the border. This was followed, in December 1999, by agreements for the complete removal of Chinese and Russian operational army units to 100 km away from the border, which created a vast demilitarized area (Wu, 2002). The formal and final resolution of the border issues occurred on October 14, 2004, through the signing of the “Agreement on the Eastern Segment of the China–Russia Border,” which resolved the issue of the two disputed islands – the Bolshoi Ussuriisky Island and Bolshoi Island – and closed the book on territorial disputes in China–Russia relations.22 While the CBMs mentioned above do not indicate that a high level of trust had been achieved in China–Russia relations, they demonstrate that the two countries openly recognized the problems the lack of trust can create for the relationship and decided to consistently work on it, which significantly helped to improve the overall spirit of bilateral contacts at the early stage of cooperation. 2 Regular consultations With the border issues resolved, the number and frequency of bilateral CBMs in China–Russia relations dropped considerably. Simultaneously the CBMs started to become more sophisticated in terms of form and content 22 At the time of writing, there are no off icial border disputes between China and Russia. However, the so-called theories of “unequal treaties” and “unfavorable territorial demarcations” between China and Russia prior to 1917 remain deeply entrenched in Chinese, and to an extent in Russian, societies, providing fertile soil for nationalism, irredentism, and historical revanchism, especially in connection to the “China dream” rhetoric, which is aimed at the restoration of the historical glory of the Chinese nation. For more on how China and Russia try to alleviate these negative historical memories, see Korolev & Portyakov (2019).

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and gained a broader, non-contentious agenda, thus gradually evolving into regular consultations.23 These contacts developed into a comprehensive, routinized mechanism of regular consultation at all levels. The mechanism further developed into a multi-level institutionalized infrastructure of contacts and regular information exchanges among almost all major government agencies and organizations – from the top decision makers and their administrative units to the Defense Ministries and their subdivisions as well as regional military districts and border garrisons and military educational institutions. Arguably, there is only one state other than Russia with which China has military interactions that are of comparable depth and comprehension: Pakistan.24 Of particular interest is the fact that even during Russia’s explicitly pro-West orientation under Yeltsin and early in Putin’s presidency,25 when the intensity of contacts between the two countries’ top decision makers appeared to decline, China and Russia never stopped bilateral consultations at different levels (see Figure 3.1). Moreover, the mechanism of inter-military consultations never ceased to expand as new consultations formats were added to it. Some of them were established through signing a formal treaty or agreement, whereas others emerged as an outcome of the routinization and institutionalization of regular practices. Formally, China–Russia military consultations began in 1992, when the then-Chinese Defense Minister, Qin Jiwei, visited Moscow and established official relations between the militaries of the two countries. On October 11, 1993, during Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev’s visit to Beijing, the two countries signed the “Military Cooperation Agreement between the Ministries of Defense of China and Russia,” which laid the formal foundation for bilateral inter-military cooperation.26 The first mechanisms of regular consultation included the Regular Meetings Between Defense Ministers of Russia and China, established in 1993, and the Annual Strategic Consultations among Chiefs of the General Staff, established in 1997. Both mechanisms take the form of annual meetings in 23 Arguably, the last CBM occurred in 2009 with the Agreement on Mutual Notification about Launches of Ballistic Missiles and Space Launch Vehicles, which established a new level of information sharing. See China News (2009). 24 Author’s interview with an expert on China–Russia military cooperation from the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, October 3, 2016. 25 On how Russian ruling elites in the 1990s and early 2000s were trying to hinge Russia to the Western neoliberal project by advocating closer cooperation with the developed West, see Hopf (2013). 26 For full Russian text of the agreement, see: Official Portal of Legal Information (1993).

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Moscow and Beijing on a rotating basis with agendas ranging from general issues of strategic orientation and military strategy in the two countries to military-technical cooperation. These mechanisms generate an active flow of information between top military officials and facilitate a common understanding of foreign policy orientations. However, given their relatively broad agenda and the presence of similar consultation practices in China’s and Russia’s interactions with other countries, as well as their at times procedural and symbolic nature, they do not reflect actual high-level cooperation. A shift to the high level of cooperation in terms of military consultations began in the early 2000s (after the CBMs resolved contentious border issues as outlined above) creating more specialized mechanisms that China and Russia do not have with many foreign states. An essential step in this direction was the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2001, which significantly expanded and institutionalized the interface of China–Russia military consultations. It introduced multiple new platforms for regular interactions between Defense Ministers and other military officials of different levels and generated is be called the Mechanism of Inter-Military Consultations within the Functioning Structure of the SCO. These mechanisms include the SCO’s Annual Summits, held annually in one of the member states’ capital cities, the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structures (RATS), established as a permanent body within the SCO, the Meetings of Heads of Ministries and Departments, which provide an extra platform for consultations between the two countries’ Defense Ministers, and the traditional bilateral military consultations “on the sidelines” of the SCO similar to the already routinized special “Putin-Xi forums” that regularly occur during multilateral meetings to demonstrate the special relationship between the two leaders (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, 2015a). A new advancement in the area of bilateral consultations occurred in October 2004, when a new mechanism focusing on China’s and Russia’s immediate national interests – Russia–China Consultations on National Security Issues – was established (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2004). This mechanism operates at the level of Heads of the Security Council (on the Russian side) and State Council representatives (on the Chinese side). It became a consultative format that China only has with Russia. According to China’s State Council representative, Tang Jiaxuan, the new mechanism is “the first precedent in which China creates an interstate mechanism of consultations on its national security issues with a foreign state” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation,

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2005a). This indicates the “convergence of Russia’s and China’s positions on major global and regional security issues” and “the transition of bilateral security cooperation into a new quality” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2005b). Both countries intend to use the new communication channel to jointly react to new challenges and protect their national security interests (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2005b). On December 8, 2009, at the fourth annual consultation in this format, the Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, and Chinese State Council member Dai Bingguo announced that this bilateral security dialogue should occur no less than four times a year (Sputnik News, 2009). The breadth and depth of China–Russia security consultations continued to increase, in response to the contingencies of the international environment in the Asia Pacific, such as the aggravation of tensions in China–US relations, the South China Sea territorial dispute, and the North Korean nuclear problem, among others. A case in point is the China–Russia Northeast Asia Security Dialogue – a new platform for regional security consultations, which was launched in April 2015 and aimed to “create effective security mechanisms in Northeast Asia” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2015). This security dialogue has become the most tightly scheduled format, with the frequency of meetings varying based on the urgency of regional issues, even happening bimonthly immediately after the US decision to deploy the THAAD missile shield in South Korea. Given the growing significance of cyberspace in international relations, China and Russia have developed consultation mechanisms in this area as well. In June 2016, Putin and Xi, after reconfirming their bilateral commitment to cooperate in “information space,” established that the Minister of Cyberspace Administration of China and the Aide to the President of Russia on Information Technologies Application would meet regularly to consult on the issues of common concerns and ensure inter-agency coordination (Bolt & Cross, 2018, p. 245). The spillover effect of the high-level consultations was the development of various regional military consultation formats between different types of troops and army units, which deal with the issues of border protection, topogeodesic, metrological, and combat support, combat training, and others. Examples include Blagoveshchensk-Heihe Border Garrisons Consultations and Meetings mechanism, or the consultations between Russia’s Central Military District and Beijing Military District, which comprises commanders of battalions and companies from the Volga Region, Ural, and Siberia (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, 2015b).

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Since the early 1990s, China and Russia have been launching new or enhancing existing consultation mechanisms every three to four years. Currently, all the mechanisms combined generate a frequency of 20 to 30 high-level security-related consultations every year. This number excludes the entire body of regional cooperation formats that occur between provinces and cities, educational exchanges, and military exercises. Thus, high-level inter-military contact between China and Russia occurs almost every two weeks. Most of these meetings end with a joint statement or declaration that reflects the two countries’ shared view on issues of international politics. All these mechanisms have been consistently operating since the date of their establishment.

Moderate cooperation: military-technical cooperation and regular military exercises The moderate stage of cooperation has been marked by the development of Military-Technical Cooperation (MTC), accompanied by military personnel exchanges, and the introduction of regular military exercises after various consultation mechanisms became institutionalized in the mid-late 2000s. While episodic military-technical exchanges between China and Russia began to occur in the 1990s, MTC fully flourished in the mid-2000s and early 2010s, after bilateral consultations were already institutionalized. Around this time, regular joint military exercises began to be launched, developing the interoperability of the two countries’ military forces. 3 Military-technical cooperation In the early 1990s, Russia was experiencing severe economic hardship. China–Russia military-technical exchanges during those years contained some barely legal practices, which constituted a large and hard-to-gauge “grey area” in the two countries’ bilateral transactions and contributed to the emergence of specific frameworks for China to obtain military hardware and technological expertise from Russia. In the 1990s Russia’s military-industrial complex rapidly degraded due to lack of funding and engineers’ incomes dropped below subsistence level. According to some sources, multiple Russian scientists and weapons designers went to China disguised as tourist groups, when in fact they were selling military technologies for generous payments compared to their salaries at home institutions. (Felgengauer, 1997). There are also records of some tragically comic episodes, such as, for

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example, bartering a Russian civilian jet airliner Tupolev Tu-154 for two freight cars of Chinese cucumbers (Larin, 2005, p. 75). Practices like these helped China to leapfrog over many early stages of military-technological modernization. They alleviated the impact of the western arms embargo, imposed by the United States and European countries against China in response to the Chinese government’s brutal suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Russia was the only available source of advanced military technologies, desperately needed for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) modernization. However, those were years of chaotic exchanges between China and Russia, and their actual impact on MTC remains underreported and not fully known. An attempt to regulate the China–Russia MTC started in 1992, with the signing of the “Military-Technical Cooperation Agreement” and establishing the “Russia–China Mixed Intergovernmental Commission on MilitaryTechnical Cooperation” (MICMTC), which became a platform for formalized discussion of arms sales from Russia to China and contributed to the overall normalization and regulation of the bilateral MTC. On May 30, 1992, China procured its first two modern Russian Su-27 fighters, the capabilities of which far surpassed any fighters operated by the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) at that time (Mei, 2018). By 1996, as a result of the work of MICMTC, China and Russia agreed on the Su-27 project – hitherto, the largest project for defense technology transfers from Russia to China, according to which China’s Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) procured a license to assemble 200 Russian supermaneuverable Su-27 jet fighters. The Su-27 project opened the era of Sukhoi fighters in Chinese military aviation and provided crucial channels for China to obtain technological expertise from Russia. As some observers have noted, the first China-made Su-27 fighters had to be shipped back to Russia for reassembly due to substandard work. Furthermore, to provide training, quality control, and management, and to facilitate the successful absorption of the production technology by the Chinese side, more than a hundred Russian engineers were assigned to the Su-27 project and travelled to China (Cheung, 2009, p. 141). The acquired technology has subsequently been exploited for the development of the Chinese Shenyang J-11B fighter – China’s own upgraded version of Su-27, which entered production in 2007. In 1997, China purchased a license to produce Krasnopol-M explosive projectiles (Cheung, 2009, p. 141). Between 1990-1997 there were also multiple purchases of Russian military hardware for both PLAAF and PLA Navy (PLAN). Many of these transactions were facilitated by the Chinese Admiral Liu Huaqing, considered by many to be the father of the modern PLAN, who

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visited Russia multiple times during that period (Wu, 2017). Those were signs of progress in China–Russia relations with significant impact on the development trajectory of China’s military forces. The impact of projects such as Su-27 on the shape of China’s air power cannot be underestimated. However, these were somewhat sporadic episodes of MTC. Vladimir Putin’s accession to power in 2000 and the consequent centralization of power in Russia marked the beginning of a complete overhaul of Russia’s arms export structure. The Russian Federation Committee for Military-Technical Cooperation with the Foreign States was established and empowered with broad control and supervisory functions.27 This measure allowed for increasing the volume of arms exports while improving quality controls. Also, it set the stage for more advanced forms of MTC. As a result, by the mid-2000s, technology transfers and joint ventures amounted to 30% of the overall transfers of Russian military equipment to China (Cheung, 2009, p. 141). In 2006, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov emphasized that in the sphere of MTC, China is Russia’s “privileged partner” and MTC constitutes the backbone of the China–Russia strategic partnership, which elevates the entire bilateral relationship (Lin, 2006). Despite this positive dynamic, China–Russia MTC experienced temporary stagnation in the mid-2000s, with arms trade volume between the two countries dropping significantly. Even the MICMTC meetings, taking place regularly since 1992, were suspended in 2006 and 2007 due to alleged “lack of topics for discussion” (Kashin & Gabuev, 2017, p. 14). Russia’s relative domestic recovery and, hence, reinvigorating massive purchases by the Russian Defense Ministry had made exports to China less necessary. Additionally, there were two China-related causes of the slowdown. First, the Chinese authorities believed that China had become more self-sufficient and capable of producing its own arms and, therefore, decided to reduce large-scale arms imports. Second, Russia’s concerns about China’s unlicensed reverse-engineering of weapons and potential competition with the cheaper China-made weapons on the markets of Latin America, North Africa, and other regions increased considerably (Kashin & Gabuev, 2017, pp. 15-17). Together, these factors generated an impression that Russia’s arms export to China would drop to insignificant levels (Kashin, 2018, p. 222). However, this trend was short-lived. On the one hand, the Chinese turned out to be over-optimistic in their assessment of the country’s defense industrial capacity to meet the PLA’s growing demands for high-tech items, 27 For more on Putin’s early policies in the area of defense exports, see Kozyulin (2001), Makienko (2001).

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particularly aircraft engines. China’s domestic industry failed to develop and produce the needed weapons systems in time (Kashin, 2018, p. 222). At the same time, the signing on December 11, 2008, during the 13th meeting of China–Russia MICMTC in Beijing, of the “Agreement of Intellectual Property in Military-Technical Cooperation” significantly alleviated Russia’s concerns about the reverse-engineering issue. Another factor behind Russia’s diminishing concerns about theft of technology by the Chinese was the strengthening of Russia’s counterintelligence system and an almost complete exclusion of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members, such as Ukraine and Belarus, from the design and production cycle of the most advanced Russian weaponry. As a result, China’s ability to gain illicit access to Russian know-how reduced dramatically (Kashin, 2018, p. 226). These changes resulted in the resumption of an upward trend in the China–Russia arms trade by 2010 and facilitated exports of more advanced arms and technologies to China. Among the many new deals of the early 2010s, there were a few notable ones that fall into four major categories. The first one has to do with aerospace engines – an area where China remains dependent on Russia (Raska & Bitzinger, 2020). In 2012, China received large deliveries of Russian aircraft engines, such as AL-31FN, D-30KP-2, RD-33, and RD-93 (Kashin, 2018, 223). AL-31FN and RD-33 are used on the Chinese J-10 and FC-1 fighters, respectively (Raska & Bitzinger, 2020, p. 96). In the same year, China placed new orders for 140 AL-31F engines and 184 D-30KP2 turbofan engines, needed for China’s new H-6K bomber and Y-20 transport aircraft as well as for retrofitting the PLAAF’s existing Il-76 transport aircraft (Kashin, 2008, p. 223). As a result, aircraft engines constituted 30% of China’s total arms imports in 2012-2016 with Russia being the largest supplier accounting for 57% of Chinese imports (Fleurant et al., 2017, p. 9). The second segment is related to export to China and maintenance of Russia’s S-400 “Triumf” (Triumph) anti-aircraft weapon systems. China became the first foreign purchaser of the previous generation of these systems – the S-300. This was also the case with the S-400 deals. After lengthy negotiations, the deal to deliver four battalions of S-400 systems to China, worth more than US$1.9 billion, was signed in 2014 (Kashin, 2008, p. 224). S-400 is widely regarded as one of the most advanced air-defense systems in the world “on par with the best the West has to offer” (Ritzen, 2018). Therefore, this transaction has seriously alarmed some Western defense analysis, who argue that China’s operation of S-400 means that in a possible crisis related to Taiwan, US and Taiwan planners must plan to yield air superiority to the Chinese or “accept high levels of risk to US aviation assets” (Heath, 2016).

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The third major project was the purchase of Russian Su-35 supermaneuverable fighter jets by China. The negotiations started in 2012, and in November 2015 a contract was signed for 24 Su-35 fighters at a price of US$2.5 billion. Soon after the first batch of four Su-35 was delivered to China in December 2016, the jets patrolled the South China Sea in February 2018 and near Taiwan in May of the same year (Goldstein & Kozyrev, 2020, p. 29). Su-35 fighters are held in high esteem among Chinese experts, not least because they can be rapidly put into service by PLAAF thanks to decades-long experience with Russian fighter jets (Huang & Fan, 2019). The fourth project has to do with China importing Mi-171 medium-lift helicopters for the PLA. China has purchased more than 200 such helicopters and in 2012 had more than 300 in operation. In 2011, China signed an agreement with Russia to legally manufacture the Mi-171 in China and, according to some predictions, may eventually have over a thousand Mi-171s (StrategyPage, 2012). Some experts argue that these helicopters have not only proved indispensable for dealing with humanitarian disasters, such as the earthquake in Sichuan, but have also formed the backbone of PLA ground forces’ air mobility (Goldstein & Kozyrev, 2020, p. 28). After a short-lived decline in bilateral military transactions, China–Russia arms deals were fully back on track by 2010-2012, with China retaining its role as one of Russia’s biggest arms buyers. Moreover, in the context of the Ukraine Crisis of 2014 and after, a more profound qualitative change started to unfold in the bilateral interactions – Russia started to consider China as not only a market but also a provider of critical items for Russian arms, increasingly making bilateral interactions a reciprocal “two-way street.” Examples include Russia starting procurement of naval diesel engines produced by Henan Diesel Engine Industrial Company instead of those produced by German MTU (Motoren- und Turbinen-Union) for its coast guard patrol ships and Buyan-class missile corvettes (VPK News, 2016). In 2014, the two countries started to explore the possibility of Russia procuring and acquiring production technology of space-grade radiation-resistant electronic components from the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation in exchange for Russian RD-180 liquid-fueled space carrier rocket engines and production technology (Lenta.Ru, 2016). The Russian defense industry searching for suppliers in China became a new development in the bilateral relationship (Kashin, 2008, p. 227). The major shift that indicates a transition to high-level MTC in China– Russia relations took place roughly in the mid-2010s when the pattern of MTC started moving away from merely providing a structure for arms and technology transfers to a more interdependent relationship that includes

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long-term joint projects related to joint development and production of arms and their components. The new trend has been marked by a gradual decrease in Russia’s significance as a net weapons provider accompanied by an increase in the number of long-term cooperation projects. Moreover, the relationship is increasingly characterized by joint R&D cooperation that serves the military needs of both countries. Technological partnership based on subcontracting work on various essential elements of the overall design and joint programs for defense innovation transform the nature of the originally transactional China–Russia MTC and create long-term mutual dependencies.28 While Russia designing or contributing to the design of Chinese weapons systems existed earlier, the new trend has been characterized by Russia beginning to develop critical elements of different platforms, such as suspension system elements for tracked vehicles, elements of aerial vehicle airframes, and specialized software, rather than entire platforms (Kashin, 2008, p. 225). This development interlocks arms production in both countries and increases interdependence. At the same time, as noted by Kashin (2008, pp. 224-225), even though such contracts, as well as contracts for military R&D, are difficult to track and they remain unidentified in the Russian media, their increased role in general China–Russia cooperation is a fact that has been registered by Rosoboronexport (Russia’s sole state intermediary agency for military exports and imports). The list of China–Russia joint long-term MTC projects is long and growing, even though different projects progress with different speeds, with some failing to fully enter the implementation stage. At the same time, information on many joint undertakings in this area is not publicized by either Russian or Chinese government and media, unless there is a strong intention on the government part to make the information public for political reasons. The most extensive China–Russia MTC programs are currently related to aircraft engines and anti-aircraft weapons. For example, the Chernyshev Moscow Machine-Building Enterprise and the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation are undertaking a joint program to modernize the Russian Klimov RD-33 turbofan engine for a lightweight fighter jet that has become the primary engine for the Chinese CAC/PAC JF-17 Thunder lightweight multirole combat aircraft. An indication 28 Joint development and production of arms by China and Russia deserves a separate study as it can be viewed as a factor creating levels of long-term interdependence higher than in today’s allegedly most advanced alliances (e.g., US–Japan alliance) the members of which do not build critical weapons systems together.

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of Russia’s readiness to increase bilateral cooperation in this area was the discussion of cooperation on joint production of a new fighter jet turbofan engine based on engine technology used in the Russian 117S engine, which powers the newest Su-35 fighters (Aviation Explorer, 2014). Another project indicative of the growing role of Russian companies as subcontractors in Chinese defense industry R&D and production projects is the joint construction and co-production of a large military helicopter, which was agreed by Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in May 2015, when Xi was attending the May 9 Victory Parade in Moscow. Beijing has already imported a few Russian Mi-6 super heavy helicopters, but the two sides decided to expand cooperation and invest in the joint development of a new helicopter. According to the Chairman of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, Lin Zuoming, who visited the “Russian Helicopters” company to meet with its General Director, Alexander Miheev, in 2015, the two parties agreed to accelerate the process and specified the tasks each side would undertake (People’s Daily, 2015). As of 2019, the project appears to be progressing as planned, even though it is still far from delivering a prototype (Goldstein & Kozyrev, 2020, p. 28). At the 2019 International Aviation and Space Saloon (MAKS-2019), which took place on August 27-September 1 at Zhukovsky airport close to Moscow, China and Russia signed an agreement, according to which, the jointly developed Advanced Heavy Lift (AHL) helicopter would take to the skies by 2032 (Defense World.net, 2019). Other projects showing, with varying success, growing interdependence in the MTC realm include the launching of the assembly of GAZ “Tigr” (Tiger) multipurpose, all-terrain infantry mobility vehicle in China (TASS, 2015); the space program which includes plans to build a joint base on the moon; the production of Russian rocket engines in China; and joint projects in satellite navigation, remote earth sensing, producing electronic components and space equipment, human spaceflight, and others (Krecyl, 2014). Another project worth mentioning as an indication of a gradual move towards creating an industrial alliance is the two countries’ agreement for jointly designing and producing a wide-body passenger aircraft, signed during Putin’s visit to China in 2016. Besides, according to officials from Rosoboronexport, work is underway to power the J-31 Chinese fifth-generation aircraft, which is considered an export program for competing with the US on regional markets, by Russian RD-93 engines (Krecyl, 2014). It is important to emphasize Russia’s changing attitude toward a more comprehensive and interdependent MTC with China, specifically the seemingly disappearing caution about relying on China in this area. When meeting with the Chinese Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission,

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Xu Qiliang, the Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoygu, stated that in the context of the strategic environment in the Asia Pacif ic, Northern Africa, and the entire world becoming increasingly difficult, “China–Russia MTC is gaining a special character and a special meaning. The level of our relations demonstrates that we do not have unsolvable problems. Our work will be aimed at the realization of our MTC projects” (Krecyl, 2014). In turn, Sergei Kornev from Rosoboronexport stated that the forefront of the China–Russia MTC is increasingly represented by the joint production of weapons in Chinese territory (Krecyl, 2014). According to the chief editor of the Moscow Defense Brief and Russia’s leading expert on China–Russia military cooperation, Vasili Kashin, “if previously Russia was constrained by political factors in its MTC with China, now those factors have disappeared. We are now too interlinked with the Chinese.” Moreover, China currently has much to offer, for example, electronic components, including those for the space program, composite materials, drone technologies, and engines for warships. Russia’s tendency to consider China as not only a market but also an indispensable MTC partner consolidated after the Ukraine Crisis. Some experts believe that given the current dynamics, even if Russia–Western political relations stabilize at some point, Russia has already passed the point of no return in its MTC with China (Krecyl, 2014). Moreover, according to Russian officials, the Kremlin trusts China and is going to consistently work to enhance bilateral MTC, disregarding Western provocations in the form of reconstructing “China’s threat for Russia” (People’s Daily, 2015). The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in his speech about the development of Russia’s comprehensive partnership with China on November 22, 2014, noted that: “We can now even talk about the emerging technological alliance between the two countries. Russia’s tandem with Beijing is a crucial factor for ensuring international stability and at least some balance in international affairs, as well as ensuring the rule of international law” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2014). A sign of the growing attention that political leadership in the two countries pays to the bilateral MTC was that in December 2017, General Zhang Youxia, the Deputy Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission responsible for science and technology issues, when attending a yearly meeting of the MICMTC in Moscow, was received personally by President Putin (Kashin, 2008, pp. 229-230). While the shift of attitudes in the top echelons of the Russian government may not by itself indicate a high level of bilateral trust, it shows that Russia is reconsidering its previous defense-equipment-for-cash model of MTC with China, which makes future enhancements in China–Russia MTC easier.

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Maintaining a high level of cooperation between the two countries’ defense industries and militaries requires a significant pool of trained professionals with profound knowledge of the other side’s capabilities. Therefore, the development of military personnel exchanges paralleled the development of MTC and evolved from short-term visits for technical training to longer-term military education programs. Some Chinese analysts argue that for understanding China–Russia military cooperation one must understand that many of China’s most promising military officers have been or are being educated in Russian military academies (Yang, 2019, p. 11). Russia was the first foreign destination for PLA officers’ military education. The official statistics on the number of personnel involved in military educational exchanges are classified, mostly at China’s request.29 However, the existing open sources suggest that bilateral military personnel exchanges have been increasing. Moreover, interviews show that China does not have similar types of military personnel exchanges with any other major power. Although short-term exchanges and visits by PLA off icers to different countries, including the US, are not rare, long-term educational programs, in which officers are methodically trained to later join the PLA’s command staff exist in China’s relations with Russia only. It is not likely that military cadres that have extensive exposure to Western education will smoothly move to top-ranked command positions because China does not trust the US and its Western allies in military relations.30 In 1996, the Central Military Commission of China ratified a series of documents targeted at facilitating military educational programs specifically with Russia. These included the Notice on Sending Military Students to Russia and Other Countries (Guanyu Xiang Eluosi Deng Guo Paiqian Junshi Liuxuesheng de Tongzhi), the Methods of Management of China’s Overseas Students in Russia (Fu Eluosi Junshi Liuxuesheng Guanli Gongzuo Zanxing Banfa), and the Practical Suggestions Regarding Military Overseas Students Returning from High-Level Commanding Training in Russia (Guanyu Fu Eluosi Gaoji Zhihui Peixunban Junshi Liuxuesheng Huiguo Hou de Shiyong Yijian). In September 1996, China negotiated an agreement with Russia on sending Chinese students to Russian military educational institutions for comprehensive education and training and sent the first batch of 42 high- and medium-rank officers and engineers (Jiefang junbao, 2008). Beyond general education and training for military commanders, an essential aspect 29 Author’s interview with an expert on China–Russia military cooperation, Moscow, October 2016. 30 This assessment emerged during several interviews with both Russian and Chinese experts.

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of such exchanges consisted of training Chinese officers to use new advanced weapons systems, purchased from Russia, such as S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, SU-family aircraft, and Kilo-class submarines. In July 2000, the two sides signed a Basic Bilateral Agreement on Military and Defense Cooperation for the Period from 2000 to 2015, which further expanded the inter-military exchanges (Li, 2009). According to the agreement, China sent 450 air force, rocket force, and navy officers to Russia for advanced education. Russia, in turn, sent advisors to assist PLA officers in learning how to properly exploit Russian military hardware (Yu, 2004, p. 722). There are a few military educational institutions that are the primary destinations for Chinese PLA officers. Top-ranking officers typically go to the General Staff Academy of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, which provides general programs in strategic and tactical aspects of warfare and, according to some estimates, accepts up to 20 high-ranking PLA officers every year.31 Other important institutions are the Combined Arms Academy of the Armed Forces, the Gagarin Air Force Academy, and the Military Academy of Rear Services and Transportation. They provide two- to three-year programs, and each accepts 40-60 PLA officers every semester (mostly mid-career-level officers and General Staff officers who are between 35 and 45 years of age).32 Although the Chinese officers typically attend classes separately from their Russian peers, the actual content of the curriculum is similar to what is taught to Russian officers. Education in Russia has helped many PLA officers make significant career leaps. For example, Lu Chuangang, a Senior Colonel, studied at the Russian General Staff Academy and became the Head of the PLA’s Command Group for the 2008 “Peaceful Mission” China–Russia joint military exercises. Xu Linping, who was promoted to Major General in 2007 and served as a Commander of the 38th Army Group of the Beijing Military Area of the PLA during 2011-2014, also studied in Russia. In January 2014, he became the Vice-Commander of the PLA’s Lanzhou Military Region. Chen Zhaohai became the Director of the Military Training and Arms Department of the PLA General Staff Headquarters. It is worth noting that Cao Gangchuan, who was China’s Defense Minister between 2003 and 2008 and became the primary facilitator of China’s purchase of Russian arms, studied in Russia for six years. Although the tangible impact of China–Russia military educational exchanges is difficult to measure, the fact that large numbers of PLA officers 31 Interview with an expert on China–Russia military cooperation, Moscow, October 2016. 32 Interview with an expert on China–Russia military cooperation, Singapore, October 2016.

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study in Russian military institutions and are trained to use Russiandesigned military hardware should not be underestimated. Together with narrowly specialized knowledge, the PLA’s officers absorb the knowledge of Russian military traditions and strategies, which is likely to affect China’s military build-up and army organization and make the two countries’ overall thinking about modern threats and warfare more compatible. 4 Regular military exercises Transitioning to the next sub-stage in the moderate stage of strategic cooperation between China and Russia occurred by introducing joint military exercises, which contribute considerably to the enhancement of mutual trust, transparency and cooperation in the military field. The intention to start such exercises was first officially expressed in 2003 by Russia’s Chief of General Staff, Yury Baluevsky, who announced to the Chinese military leadership that consolidation of strategic cooperation with China is one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities and that regular military drills would push the partnership to a new level and provide a mechanism for mutual learning. The Chinese welcomed the suggestion, and on December 13, 2004, the two countries announced a decision to conduct the first large-scale joint military exercise, named “Peace Mission.” The first exercise – “Peace Mission 2005” – occurred on August 19-25, 2005, in China’s Shandong Peninsula and Russia’s Vladivostok, and engaged 10,000 soldiers and officers (8,000 Chinese and 2,000 Russians). The official reason for the new exercises was counter-terrorism. However, the large scale of the exercise and the use of heavy firepower, including long-range bombers, as well as practicing air and naval blockades, amphibious assaults, and occupying region demonstrate that the actual goals must have been broader. Some believe that the actual goals included intimidation of Taiwan or preparation for a post-Kim Jong-il regime collapse scenario. For Russia, the drill also became a showcase for its military hardware, after which significant arms deals were signed between China and Russia (Korolev, 2019). “Peace Mission”-type large-scale joint military exercises became regular and have been held every year since 2005. Some were held within the SCO format, and most included strategies and tactics for resisting the danger of “color revolutions” and curbing political turmoil in Central Asia. As a rule, Western observers and journalists were denied access to these exercises. After “Peace Mission-2009,” which occurred in China, there were the first Chinese calls to abandon the “non-alignment strategy.” It was argued that such a strategy is a strategic illusion that deprived the PLA of the valuable

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experience of aligned warfare (Huangqiu Shibao, 2009). “Peace Mission-2010,” in turn, was the longest exercise and lasted 17 days, from September 9-25, 2010, and included approximately 5,000 servicemen, more than 300 military vehicles and in excess of 50 aircraft and helicopters (Korolev, 2019). During the subsequent yearly “Peace Missions” China and Russia further practiced military cooperation and solidified the mechanism of joint military exercises. After more than 15 years of such exercises, the two countries’ militaries have made significant progress in improving interoperability. In 2012, another type of regular large-scale China–Russia military exercises – “Joint Sea” – was introduced. While “Peace Mission” involves predominantly ground and air exercises, “Joint Sea” aims to achieve better coordination between the two countries’ navies. The first “Joint Sea” occurred on April 22-27, 2012 in the Yellow Sea and included practicing convoying, anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare, anti-piracy and rescue activities, and naval logistics. The “Joint Sea” naval exercises have taken place every year since in different locations. “Joint Sea-2015” was a geopolitical game-changer, as it became the largest naval exercise undertaken by the PLA Navy with a foreign navy and, occurring in the post-Ukraine context, the second stage of it was located in the Mediterranean, which is considered the heart of NATO. Before heading out with Russian ships to the Mediterranean, Chinese military vessels entered the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. This military visit was also the first in the history of China–Russia relations and was symbolically connected to Xi Jinping’s attendance at the Victory Parade in Moscow on May 9, 2015. During the drills, the two navies demonstrated a high level of coordination in foreign waters (Bondareva, 2015). In turn, “Joint Sea2016,” which occurred on September 12-19, 2016, included surface ships, submarines, fixed-winged aircraft, helicopters, and amphibious vehicles and became the first major exercise of its type that included China and a second country in the disputed South China Sea after the Hague-based tribunal overruled China’s claims on the waters under its nine-dash line claim. The drills also featured sophisticated joint maneuvers, such as strike warfare, amphibious warfare, and anti-submarine warfare (Panda, 2016). “Joint Sea-2017” happened in the Baltic and featured one of China’s newest Type 052D destroyers (Goldstein & Kozyrev, 2020, p. 31). “Joint Sea-2019” drills, in turn, were significant because they took place close to the Cape of Good Hope “at the confluence of the Atlantic and Indian oceans, along major global shipping route” (Muhin, 2019). Combined, the “Peace Mission” and “Joint Sea” exercises guarantee that, every year, China and Russia have one to two large-scale regular joint

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military exercises, which include thousands of servicemen and hundreds of military vehicles, aircraft, helicopters, and naval ships. Some observers in Russia note that vast geographic range of China–Russia military drills, which spans from in and off the coast of eastern China to Central Russia and to Central Asia, and the leap in geography toward the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic and Indian oceans shows that the two countries are sending a message to the world about their close military partnership and demonstrating strategic unity (Trenin, 2015). In May 2016, China and Russia launched a new joint regular military exercise, “Aerospace Security 2016,” which took place at the Central Research Institute of the Russian Armed Forces and became the first Russia–China computer-simulated missile defense drill. “Aerospace Security – 2017” was located in Beijing in December 2017. According to China’s Defense Ministry, these drills will bolster cooperation between the two countries’ armies and secure a strategic balance of forces in the Pacific Rim. The main task of the exercises is “to work out joint planning of combat operations when organizing air missile defenses, operation and mutual fire support” (TASS, 2017). The third “Aerospace Security” drills took place in Russia in 2019. While both countries emphasize that the drills are not directed against third countries, they occur in the context of China–Russia joint opposition against the US global defense system and seek to strengthen bilateral military interoperability. Around the same time, China and Russia began to conduct another type of regular joint exercise – regular exercises for internal security troops, which include Russia’s National Guards and Federal Security Service and China’s People’s Armed Police. The frequency of these exercises varies from year to year, but often they are held more than once a year. The inclusion of these activities increases the number of Chinese–Russian regular joint military drills to five to six per year. After 2015, there was a new trend of holding various joint military activities in addition to regular exercises mentioned above or as a substitution for some annual exercises that did not take place.33 For example, in 2015, the annual “Joint Sea” was deemed insufficient, and the two countries conducted an additional drill in the Sea of Japan near Vladivostok two months later in August 2015, to which China dispatched its new PLAAF KJ-200 early warning/ battle management aircraft (Goldstein, 2016). In September 2018, China participated in “Vostok-2018” – Russia’s largest military drills since the end of the Cold War. Bringing in almost a thousand Chinese artillery pieces and 33 The Joint Sea exercises did not take place in 2018 and 2020 but were made up for by other bilateral and multilateral exercises.

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armored vehicles, 3,200 Chinese soldiers and 30 helicopters, the drills took place in Russia’s central and eastern regions and were carried out under joint Russian–Chinese command (Volkov, 2018). In July 2019, China and Russia started their first joint air patrol of the East China sea and joint strategic aviation exercise in the region. The event made headlines as South Korean interceptors had to fire warning shots at Russian aircraft. According to some Russia-based analysts, the air mission was conducted to further consolidate China–Russia military cooperation (Korostikov, 2019). While the frequency of these activities, outside of the scheduled “Peace Mission,” “Joint Sea,” and “Airspace Security” exercises, can vary from year to year, adding them to the mix significantly increases the number of joint military maneuvers each year. On August 9-13, 2021, amidst COVID-19 pandemic and international travel restrictions, China and Russia held an exercise Sibu/Cooperation-2021 that became the first exercise when China hosted Russian troops on its territory. The exercise involved more than 10,000 ground troops and air forces and took place in China’s north-central Ningxia region, which borders Xinjiang, where China is accused of detaining more than one million Uighurs in internment camps. This exercise also marks the first time Russian soldiers were using Chinese weapons, which is a step forward in terms of operability (O’Connor, 2021). The growing number of China–Russia joint military drills in different parts of the world and increasing coordination between the two militaries lay the foundation for potential joint military action in multiple theaters of operation simultaneously, which could significantly undermine the US’s capacity to maintain a decisive strategic advantage globally. China and Russia through the mechanism of military drills can effectively draw the attention and capabilities of the US and its allies to a specific region, thus reducing their ability to react to either China’s actions in the Pacific or Russia’s actions in the Western part of Eurasia. According to some analysis, the expanding geography of China–Russia military drills and the growing complexity of operations suggest that such a scenario is being considered (Kashin, 2008, 231).

Advanced cooperation: the growing interoperability of military forces The problem with assessing advanced levels of military cooperation is the lack of data. One way to address this situation is to examine the details of joint military activities more carefully. Although there is no current evidence of military base

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exchanges (indicator 6), the increasing comprehensiveness and regularity of China–Russia military exercises reveal growing military interoperability and integrated military command (indicator 5). Moreover, some early evidence of an emerging common defense policy become visible (indicator 7). Experts agree that the degree of compatibility and interoperability between Chinese and Russian forces has been growing as multiple exercises have involved the creation of joint command centers, tactical groups under a single command, or air groups implementing attacks jointly (Trenin, 2015; Kashin, 2018). Thus, during the above-mentioned “Peace Mission-2005,” a new system of command codes was introduced to allow for the transmission of orders and communication between Russian and Chinese pilots. “Peace Mission-2009” was also characterized by the improved coordination of military forces with elements of a joint defense simulation. More elements of interoperability and integrated command were observed during “Peace Mission-2010,” in which two Russian Mig-29s and three Chinese H-6 jet bombers were merged into one squadron and performed joint tasks to practice joint command codes and interoperability (China Military Online, 2010). It is also worth emphasizing that all China–Russia joint tasks during the drills operate in the Russian language. Chinese PLA soldiers and officers learn the Russian command system to facilitate interoperability.34 During “Joint Sea-2014,” the exercises included the joint defense of warships in anchorage, convoying and rescuing captured naval ships, elements of anti-aircraft warfare, and several rescue operations. All operations were coordinated from a joint command center. “Joint Sea-2015” marked a step forward because it included the joint command of warships in the foreign waters of the Mediterranean Sea. For that purpose, a joint command center was established in the Divnomorskoye Coordination Center of the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk (Parffit, 2015). According to the Chinese Defense Ministry, one of the aims of the exercise was “to increase our navies’ ability to jointly address maritime security threats” (Reuters, 2015). During the post-Hague tribunal “Joint Sea-2016,” which occurred in the South China Sea, the Chinese and Russian navies engaged in a range of activities, including search and rescue drills, anti-submarine warfare, and, remarkably, “joint island-seizing missions,” which appear to be a new addition to the “Joint Sea”-type drills that indicates growing interoperability and integrated military command. Remarkable in this regard is Zapad/Interaction-2021 China–Russia joint exercise. According to Senior Colonel Li Shuyin, a researcher of the Academy 34 Author’s interview with an expert on China–Russia military relations, Singapore, October 11, 2016.

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of Military Sciences of the Chinese PLA and expert on Russian military studies, one of the prominent features of the exercise was that Chinese and Russian troops did not plan independently and then act in respective groups under the same combat scheme, mostly demonstrating the relative independent operations of both parties in the same battlefield environment. Instead, this joint exercise has fully realized mixed grouping, joint planning and training, with joint operations accounting for an even larger part, thus further enhancing bilateral interoperability (China Military Online, 2021). What deserves special attention when discussing the advanced cooperation and interoperability between China and Russia is the ongoing integration of the two countries’ satellite navigation systems – China’s Beidou and Russia’s GLONASS. The two systems are expected to use the same signal, and China and Russia will cooperate in developing various applications for the system. According to Andrei Ionin, Chief analyst of the GLONASS Union, the GLONASS-Beidou cooperation, in creating a satellite communication system, can compete with the US’s Iridium network (Ionin, 2015). Other experts believe that the introduction of the common signal by GLONASS and BeiDou is a step of political significance and can be interpreted as the creation of a “navigation alliance” between China and Russia (Cheberko, 2015). Another indication of the growing high-tech cooperation between China and Russia is cooperation in cyberspace. According to a 2019 report on the high-tech partnership, the Chinese Huawei Technologies Group is actively facilitating China–Russia cyber integration by opening data centers in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Novosibirsk, and Nizhny Novgorod (Bendett & Kania, 2019, pp. 9-10). The apotheosis of strategic-level cooperation and integration of command systems was the announcement by President Putin in October 2019 that Russia was actively helping China to create a missile attack early warning radar system. The announcement was made on October 3, during the 16th annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi. Putin stated that “I don’t think I will reveal a big secret here. It will become known anyway,” but he also highlighted that “this is a very serious thing that will fundamentally enhance the defense capability of China because currently only Russia and the United States have such a system” (Nechaev, 2019). Subsequently, China and Russia were reported to have signed contracts worth US$60 million to develop software for the new system (Interfax, 2019b). Sergei Boev, the general designer of the missile attack warning systems and the General Director of the “Vimpel” Russian Interstate Corporation involved in the project, later stated that cooperation with China in this area was “ongoing,” but also that “we cannot provide more details since it has to do with confidential agreements” (Interfax, 2019a). According to some

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recent assessments, the new China–Russia missile early warning system is nearing completion. It will be based on the Russian “Tundra” satellites and “Voronezh” modular ground-based radar stations set up in Chinese territory. The system will provide advance warning on potential incoming missiles’ trajectory, speed, time-to-target and other critical information needed for an effective interception (Defense World.net, 2020). The new level of cooperation in this area is an outcome of the aforementioned “Aerospace Security” joint regular military exercises that have been taking place every year since 2016. At the same time, Russia sharing missile early warning capability with China is considered by experts unprecedented for China–Russia relations from both the historical and military-technical standpoints (Nechaev, 2019). Strategic arms, and specifically missile early warning systems, are the most critical and sensitive aspect of any country’s defense capability. China and Russia extending their cooperation into this area is a significant leap in terms of bilateral trust. Possession of the early warning system will enhance China’s defense capabilities immensely, because China will have a powerful tool to protect itself from becoming a victim of a disarming first blow from the US. Moreover, it opens avenues for the integration of China’s and Russia’s early warning systems, when warning stations in Russia and China are merged into a single complex to increase the speed with which the two countries can be warned of and intercept a potential strike from the United States. According to a retired Deputy Commander of Russia’s Air Defense Command, Alexander Luzan, Russia will benefit too because the creation of a unified information space and data exchange with Chinese radars will mean that “the security of our country [Russia] from the East will be better ensured” (Nechaev, 2019). Some Russian Asia specialists expressed concerns, however, arguing that Russia bears serious risk trusting China so much (Rosbalt News Agency, 2019). At the same time, some Moscow-based defense analysts argue that integration of the two countries’ early warning systems facilitates further convergence of Russia’s and China’s defense strategies, which could result in the formation of a common defense policy (Nechaev, 2019). If this happens, China–Russia military integration and interdependence is predicted to match the level of the advanced alliance relationships the United States has developed with countries such as France and the United Kingdom (Kashin, 2019).

Conclusion The above analysis demonstrates that China–Russia military cooperation is not impulsive or ad hoc, but rather strategic and displays immunity to

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Figure 3.1  Development of China–Russia military cooperation since 1991

High Common defence

low

Bases Integrated mil. Mil. exercs

CBM

Low

high

low

MTC Consult.

high

low

low low low

high high

high

early stage

moderate stage

advanced stage

Source: Created by the author

external perturbations. Since 1991, China and Russia have constructed comprehensive mechanism of inter-military cooperation that has steadily been expanding and continues to expand, starting to move into the initial stages of advanced alignment, as defined in the present framework (Figure 3.1). Each horizontal bar in Figure 3.1 represents a criterion examined above. Various frequent consultations provide a mechanism for both countries to deal with bilateral and international issues in a timely manner. MTC and exchange of military personnel raised the level of inter-military compatibility. Since 2005, as a result of regular joint military exercises, China and Russia have achieved a certain degree of episodic interoperability of their military forces. These developments increase mutual predictability in China–Russia relations. Moreover, with collaborative design and production of arms as well as elements of integrated military command and common defense policy, even though still episodic, but progressing (as is the case with the early warning system), the current scale of China–Russia cooperation goes beyond what some existing bilateral alliances represent. The current state of military interoperability shows that bilateral military interactions are highly functional and that there is a strong basis for further enhancements. Not announcing “alliance” does not mean alliance is not possible or not ready. Rather, delaying the off icial announcement, or not making such announcement at all, may be benef icial to both China and Russia. The

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authorization of an alliance comes down to political will, not technical readiness. Moreover, for China–Russia military cooperation to become an important factor in great power politics, a formal alliance is not necessary. The actual functionality of China–Russia alignment achieves an impact on international security matters that satisf ies both Beijing and Moscow.

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Larin, V. (2005). Rossiisko-Kitaiskie otnoshenia v regional’nuh izmereniyah: 80-e gody XX – nachalo XI veka [Russia-China relations in regional dimensions: 1980s-early 2000s]. Vostok-Zapad Press. Lenta.Ru (2016, April 19). Kitai predlozhil Rossii electroniky v obmen na raketnue dvigateli [China has offered Russia electronics in exchange for rocket engines]. https://lenta.ru/news/2016/04/19/china/ Li, C. (2009). Zhong-E junshi jishu hezuo: xianzhuang, wenti yu duice [China–Russia military technical cooperation: State of affairs, problems, and strategies]. Eluosi Yanjiu [Russian Studies], 155(1), 87-116. Lin, C. W. (2006). Zhong-E Junshi Hezuo de Zhuanbian – Cong Zhong-E Lianhe Junyan Tantao [China–Russia military cooperation: A probe into China–Russia joint military exercises]. Zhongguo Dalu Yanjiu [Mainland China Research], 49(4), 49-75. Makienko, K. (2001). November 2000 – January 2001 Reform of Russian Defense Export System, Moscow Defense Brief, 1. http://mdb.cast.ru/mdb/1-2001/at/rrdes/ Mei, Z. (2018). Su-35 dui Zhongguo de yiyi [The signifiacne of the Su-35 for China. Xiandai jianchuan [Modern Warships], 16, 45-50. Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation (2015a, June 30). Ministru Oboronu Rossii i Kitaya Provedut Segodnya v Sankt Peterburge Peregovoru ‘Na Poyah’ Soveschaniya Voennuh Vedomstv Stran SHOS [Defense ministers of Russia and China hold negotiations in Saint Petersburg ‘on the sidelines’ of the SCO memberstates’ Defense Ministries Summit]. http://function.mil.ru/news_page/world/ more.htm?id=12044152@egNews Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation (2015b, November 30). Oficeri CVO vstretilis s komandovaniem Pekinskogo voennogo okryga NOAK [Central military district officers met with the commanders of PLA’s Beijing military district]. http:// stat.function.mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12070552@egNews Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (2001, July 24). Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/ wjdt_665385/2649_665393/t15771.shtml Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (2004, October 11). Otvetu oficial’nogo predstavitelia MID Rossii A.V. Yakovenko na voprosu rossiiskih SMI po Rossiisko-Kitaiskim otnosheniyam [Russian foreign ministry representative, A.V. Yakovenko, answers to the Russian Media’s questions on China–Russia relations]. http://www.mid.ru/web/guest/maps/cn/-/asset_publisher/WhKWb5DVBqKA/ content/id/458210 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (2005a, February 2). Vustypleniya Presidenta Rossii V.V. Putina i Chlena Gosudarstvennogo Soveta Kitaya Tang Jiaxuena v hode Rossiisko-Kitaiskoi Vstrechi [The address by the

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Russian President Putin and the member of the Chinese State Council Tang Jiaxuan during Russia-China meeting]. http://www.mid.ru/web/guest/maps/ cn/-/asset_publisher/WhKWb5DVBqKA/content/id/449890 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (2005b, July 4). Sovmestnoe Rossiisko-Kitaisco Kommunike [China–Russia Joint Communique]. http://www. mid.ru/web/guest/maps/cn/-/asset_publisher/WhKWb5DVBqKA/content/ id/433748 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (2014, November 22). Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the XXII Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy. http://archive.mid.ru//brp_4.nsf/0/24454A08D48F695EC3 257D9A004BA32E Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (2015, April 25). O pervom raunde rossiisko-kitaiskogo dialoga po bezopasnosti v Severo-Vostochnoi Azii [About the first round of the China–Russia Northeast Asia security dialogue]. http://www.mid.ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/ content/id/1207275 Muhin, V. (2019, November 28) Flotu Rossii, Kitaya i YuAR ‘voyuyut’ s piratami: y musa Dobroi Nadezhdu korabli treh stran vpervue providiat sovmestnue ycheniya [The fleets of Russia, China and the South African Republic are ‘fighting’ with pirates: warships from the three states conduct joint military exercises for the first time near Cape of Good Hope. Nezavisimaya Gazeta [Independent Newspaper]. http://www.ng.ru/politics/2019-11-28/2_7739_pirates.html Nechaev, A. (2019, October 4). Rossiya zastrahuet Kitai on napadeniya SSHA [Russia will insure China against a US attack]. Vzgliad. https://vz.ru/ world/2019/10/4/1001276.html O’Connor, T. (2021, August 2). China hosts Russia troops to hold strategic military drills for f irst time. Newsweek. https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/world/ china-hosts-russia-troops-to-hold-strategic-military-drills-for-f irst-time/ ar-AAMRqzi?ocid=msedgntp Official Portal of Legal Information (1993). Soglashenie mezhdy Ministerstvom oboronu Rossiiskoi Federacii i Ministerstvom oboronu Kitaiskoi Narodnoi Respubliki o voennom sotrudnichestve [Military Cooperation Agreement between the Ministries of Defense of China and Russia]. http://pravo.gov.ru/proxy/ips/?docbody=&nd= 102026598&rdk=&backlink=1 Panda, A. (2016, September 12). Chinese, Russian navies to hold 8 days of naval exercises in the South China Sea. The Diplomat. http://thediplomat.com/2016/09/ chinese-russian-navies-to-hold-8-days-of-naval-exercises-in-the-south-chinasea/ Parffit, T. (2015, May 11). Russia-China clinch tightens with joint navy exercises in mediterranean. The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/

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europe/russia/11596851/Russia-China-clinch-tightens-with-joint-navy-exercisesin-Mediterranean.html People’s Daily (2015, December 15). Novui Etap v Kitaisko-Rossiiskom VoennoTechnicheskom Sotrydnichestve [A new stage in China–Russia MTC]. http:// inosmi.ru/military/20151215/234815876.html President of Russia (1992, December 18). Mezhpravitel’stvennui memorandum o vzaimoponimanii po voprosam sokrascheniya vooruzhennuh sil i ukrepleniya doveriya v voennoi oblasti v raione granitic [The Memorandum of Understanding on the Guiding Principle for the Mutual Reductions of Armed Forces and the Strengthening of Trust in the Border Region]. http://kremlin.ru/acts/bank/2619 Raska, M., & Bitzinger, R. A. (2020). Strategic contours of China’s arms transfers. Strategic Studies Quarterly, 14(1), 91-116. Reuters (2015, April 30). China, Russia to hold f irst joint Mediterranean naval drills in May. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-China–Russia-militaryidUSKBN0NL16F20150430 Ritzen, Y. (2018, October  8). Why do countries want to buy the Russian S-400? Aljazeera. https://w w w.aljazeera.com/features/2018/10/08/ why-do-countries-want-to-buy-the-russian-s-400/ Rosbalt News Agency (2019, October 10). Mu seriozno riskyem, nastol’ko doverias’ Kitayu [We bear serious risks trusting China so much]. https://www.rosbalt. ru/world/2019/10/10/1806930.html Sputnik News (2009, December 8). E-Zhong Jiang Meinian Juxing 4 Ci Zhanlue Anquan Cuoshang [Russia and China will hold strategic security consultations 4 times a year]. http://sputniknews.cn/russia_china_relations/20091208/42655990. html StrategyPage (2012, August 31). Air transportation: China cannot get enough Mi-17s. https://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htairmo/articles/20120831.aspx TASS (2015, September 2). Voenno-technicheskoe sotrydnichestvo Rossii i Kotaya. Docie [China–Russia military technical cooperation: A dossier]. http://tass.ru/ info/2228966 TASS (2017, December 11). Russian-Chinese joint air defense drills kick off in Beijing. http://tass.com/defense/980318 Trenin, D. (2015, April 9). From Greater Europe to Greater Asia? – The Sino–Russian Entente. Carnegie Moscow Center. http://carnegie.ru/2015/04/09/ from-greater-europe-to-greater-asia-sino-russian-entente/i64a# Volkov, K. (2018, August 20). Kitaiskie voennue privezut na ychniya ‘Vostok’ bolee 900 edinic tehniki [Chinese military will bring more than 900 items of equipment to ‘Vostok’ military drills]. Rossiiskaya Gazeta [The Russia newspaper]. https:// rg.ru/2018/08/20/reg-sibfo/kitajskie-voennye-privezut-na-ucheniia-vostokbolee-900-edinic-tehniki.html

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VPK News (2016, March 28). Kitaiskie dizel’nue dvigateli dlia maluh raketnuh korablei proekta 21631 [Chinese diesel engines for small missile ships of project 21631]. Novosti VPK [VPK News], https://vpk.name/news/152235_kitaiskie_dizelnye_dvigateli_dlya_malyh_raketnyh_korablei_proekta_21631.html Wilkins, T. S. (2008). Russo–Chinese strategic partnership: A new form of security cooperation? Contemporary Security Policy, 29(2), 358-383. Wu, J. (2017). Woshou zai lanse de haiyang: Eguo beifang shejijue yu Zhongguo haijun de junshi jishu hezuo (xia) [Shaking hands in the blue ocean: Technology cooperation between Russia’s Severnoye Design Bureau and the Chinese navy – Part 2]. Wuqi [Weapons], 5, 68-75. Wu, Y. (2002, July 10). Juxing Lianhe Junyan: Zhon-E Hui Jiecheng Junshi Tongmeng Ma? [Joint military exercises: Will China and Russia form a military alliance?]. Zhongguo Wang. http://www.people.com.cn/GB/junshi/62/20020710/772735.html Yang, Y. (2019, December 5). Ejun yuanxiao: youxiu junguang de yaolan [Russian military academies: the ‘cradle’ of excellent military officers]. Jiefang junbao [PLA Daily]. http://www.81.cn/jfjbmap/content/2019-12/05/content_249213.htm. Yu, X. (2004). Xin Shiqi Zhong-E Junshi Guanxi Fazhan Lunshu [Discussion of China–Russia military relations in the new century]. In J. Luan (Ed.), ZhongE Guanxi de lishi yu xianshi [History and Reality of China–Russia Relations] (pp. 718-725). Henan Daxue Chubanshe [Henan University Press]. Zhongguo Falv Fagui Zixun Wang [China’s law and regulations information] (2010, October 10). Zhonghu Renmin Gongheguo Zhuxi he Eluosi Lianbang Zongtong Lianhe Shengming [The Joint Statement of the Presidents of People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation]. http://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/3b_1. pdf?_=1316627913

4

Alignment Incentives: The Three Balances Abstract This chapter is the empirical examination of the second cluster of the alignment framework developed in Chapter 2 – the incentives for alignment formation as expressed by the balances of power, threat, and interests. It explores the changes within each “balance” as well as in the relationship between them to explain China–Russia alignment. The chapter examines the relative power dynamics within the contemporary international system and the perceptions of external threats and interests in China and Russia. It shows convergences between China and Russia in terms of how they view the evolving international order and demonstrates the gradually growing interconnectedness between the three balances in the context of China–Russia relations since the end of the Cold War. There are reasons to expect a further strengthening of the bilateral alignment. Keywords: Russia–China alignment, balance of power, balance of threat, balance of interests

According to the analytical framework developed in Chapter 2, applying the “three balances” approach to explain the dynamics of China–Russia alignment requires exploring three factors for alignment formation: 1) the relative material capabilities of the great powers and the impact of a potential alliance on the balance of power within the international system; 2) the compatibility of the potential allies’ views of external threats; 3) the potential allies’ interests in revising the international status quo. To better explain the alignment trajectory over a period of time, it is also essential to understand the interrelationship between the three balances across the stages of alignment formation, identified in Chapter 3. Since the three balances are not unrelated to each other, this raises the question of whether there is a convergence or divergence between them in terms of incentivizing China–Russia alignment.

Korolev, Alexander, China–Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2022 doi: 10.5117/9789463725248_ch04

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Balance of power: the shift in the distribution of capabilities and its implications As highlighted in Chapter 2, the empirical assessment of the balance of power as a factor of alignment formation requires exploring two factors. The first is the systemic power distribution itself, and the second is whether a potential China–Russia alliance can mount a challenge to the dominant superpower significant enough to for effective balancing. According to the balance of power theory, the structure of the international system is reflected in the distribution of material capabilities among major powers (poles of power) defined in relative terms (Waltz, 1979). The measures of material capabilities, most widely used in the analyses of the balance of power, are the gross national product (GNP) and levels of annual military spending (Ripsman et al., 2016, p. 34-46). These measures are crude, but they provide a useful first point of reference to the structural incentives under which great powers operate. These measures reveal that the US’s dramatic power dominance, which since the collapse of the Soviet Union has generated an unsurpassable power threshold preventing any anti-US balancing attempts, has deteriorated. By the late 2000s, the period of US “hyperpower,” when other powers or alignments between them could not balance the US effectively, had ended. The international system, in a sense, moved “back to normal,” with the US being a “regular unipole” – still possessing obvious material supremacy vis-à-vis others but losing the the unprecedented unassailability of its dominance that used to make any potential anti-US alliances futile. In other words, the structure of the international system has moved to what can be called “regular unipolarity” – an environment that is most conducive to balancing actions, such as alliance formation, by other major powers. The relative power of both China and post-Soviet Russia vis-à-vis the US has increased substantially since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1991, the US’s total GNP of $6.158 trillion was more than 16 times that of China ($383.373 billion) and almost 12 times that of Russia ($517.963 billion). However, this unprecedented power imbalance was not long-lived. By 2013, China’s GNP reached more than half of that of the US ($9.57 trillion vs. $16.785 trillion). By 2015, China’s GNP was 60% of that of the US ($11.062 trillion vs. $18.219 trillion), and by 2019 it became almost 70% ($14.343 trillion vs. $21.374 trillion). Despite often being perceived as a declining power, Russia has shown an 11-fold increase in GNP from a meager $196 billion post-Soviet low in 1999 to $2.292 trillion in 2013. At the same time, the US has demonstrated a 2.7-fold increase of total GNP since 1991 (World Bank, 2019). With all the

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caveats,35 the change of material power structure in the international system is significant. The current power structure resembles the one that existed during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union’s GNP reached its peak of 60% of the US total in 1975 (Office of Soviet Analysis, 1984), and when great power balancing was the defining feature of international politics. Changes in annual military spending further demonstrate the power transition, as understood by the balance of power theory. Since 2010, the US has been cutting its military budget. In 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015, it was $711.3, $684.8, $640.2, and $596 billion, respectively. The downward trend was reversed in 2018 and 2019, which were years of growing military spending, but overall, between 2010 and 2019, the US’s military budget shrank by 15%. In contrast, spending by China and Russia grew by 85% and 30% respectively (Tian et al., 2020, p. 2). Actual military budgets fluctuate, and a lot depends on the period covered as well as countries’ local currency exchange rates. For example, during the decade before the Ukraine Crisis (between 2003 and 2014), the US’s military spending grew by 12%. In contrast, those of China and Russia grew by 170% and 108%, respectively (Perlo-Freeman & Solmirano, 2014, p. 2). In 2019, US had the world’s largest military budget of $732 billion, followed by China with its $261 billion, and Russia appearing as the fourth-largest spender with a defense budget of $65.1 billion (Tian et al., 2020, p. 2). Some have argued that that Russia is weaker than China and, hence, cannot well-manage closer strategic cooperation with Beijing (Nye, 2015). However, as the most recent assessments of China–Russia power balance demonstrate: “Russia’s population is smaller, but richer per capita, than China’s; its nuclear arsenal is larger; its military technology is superior; and its weighty influence in energy markets – control and ownership of vast energy resources, and energy transportation networks – all help to bring some balance to the relationship” (Stoner, 2020, p. 110). At the same time, experts have questioned the reliability of market exchange rates in calculating military spending. Such data (as above) grossly understates the real volume of spending in countries with relatively small per-capita incomes, such as Russia and China. Kofman and Connolly (2019) ask a pertinent question: how can Russia, with its defense spending allegedly on par with France or the United Kington, maintain over a million military personnel and carry out procurements of cutting-edge military hardware 35 One of the major caveats is that the actual GNP of China and Russia is not fully known. In the Russian case, significant fluctuation of national currency exchange rate makes the task of measuring GNP challenging.

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that dwarf that of most European powers combined? Calculations based on market exchange rates ignore the fluctuations of local currency exchange rates, such as, for instance, the sharp depreciation of Russian ruble in 20142015. While in dollar value the Russian military expenditure in those years was reported as declining, it increased significantly in ruble terms. Moreover, Russia produces most of its weaponry itself. It does not import costly arms from overseas, which means that a ruble spent at home buys significantly more than a dollar spent abroad (Kofman & Connolly, 2019). Therefore, using purchasing power parity (PPP)-adjusted estimates of military budgets is suggested as a more methodologically sound approach because it allows measuring non-traded goods and services that dominate military expenditure in countries like Russia (Connolly, 2019). Thus, the PPP-adjusted estimates of China’s and Russia’s military budgets in 2019 reached $500 billion and $166 billion, respectively (Wezeman, 2020). These are believed to be conservative figures that exclude hidden or obfuscated military expenditures that exist in both countries. The PPP-adjusted estimates reveal that the gap between the US, on the one hand, and China and Russia, on the other hand, has been closing rapidly over the past 15 years (Kofman & Connolly, 2019). Resolving the measurement issues, if it is possible at all, is beyond the scope of this study.36 However, the above analysis demonstrates that the distribution of power among China, Russia, and the US has been undergoing significant changes. While the US is still the most powerful, the power threshold it generates is becoming less insurmountable, and hence the costs of balancing against it more permissive. This change opens structural opportunities for effective balancing in the form of strategic alignment, provided that China’s and Russia’s strategic interests and perceptions of external threats coincide. At the same time, the remaining preponderance of US power over either China or Russia alone suppresses any incentives for Beijing and Moscow to balance against each other. How long this peculiar distribution of power lasts will be determined by a range of factors, and what will happen to China–Russia relations when (and if) China truly surpasses the US in terms of material power capabilities remains unknown. However, this uncertainty does not cancel the current conditions of the balance of power and the incentive structure created by it. As argued by Monteiro (2014, pp. 179-204), while a systemic hegemon represents the greatest overarching threat to the survival of other states, 36 For a systematic critique of the capacity of the existing indicators to gauge the transition of power between China and the US, see Brooks and Wohlforth (2016).

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such a threat is particularly overwhelming for states that are on the cusp of becoming great powers. The narrowing of the gap in material capabilities with the US has significant behavioral implications for both China and Russia. It moves the boundaries of possible action and emboldens Beijing and Moscow to undertake more assertive foreign policies, which, in turn, increases systemic pressure on both countries. This process provokes chains of reactions that make competing poles see each other as increasingly threatening. Thus, for challengers of the US-dominated international status quo, such as China and Russia, the growth of systemic pressure and the ensuing threats paradoxically blends with the growth of their own power and the overall improvement of their structural positions. For example, China’s transformation into a global economic power dictated the broadening of its core national interest and de facto taking many parameters and factors of its economy beyond the narrow framework of its national borders. China became a global economic power. In this context, the Chinese government started to develop a deep-sea navy (including the construction of an aircraft carrier) to protect cargo transportation routes most essential for China. China’s foreign policy became more assertive. China started to be the perceived as more nationalistic and more aggressive towards its multiple neighbors in Asia, the European Union, and the United States, which required a balancing response.37 Similar dynamics apply to Russia. As a result of massive rearmament programs, Russia has become more resurgent and aspires to restore its spheres of influence, which in turn triggers containment responses from the US. The ongoing power transition and the subsequent changes in the behavior of China, Russia, and the United States result in the emergence of what Buzan and Wæver (2003) called geopolitically charged regional security complexes (RSC). Such complexes are highly contentious, great-powerdominated regional settings in which “the members are so interrelated in terms of their security that actions by any one member, and significant security-related developments inside any member, have a major impact on others” (Lake, 2009, p. 35). Such RSCs have emerged in both US–China and US–Russia relations. The US–China RSC has formed in Southeast Asia to a significant extent as a result of China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea (SCS) and the US’s response in the form of “rebalancing to Asia,” aimed at reinstating the US’s strategic leadership in the region. China’s growing naval activities 37 For an explicit identification of a rising China as a threat and a call for balancing against China by prominent American China experts, see Shambaugh (2011), Christensen (2011).

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in the SCS have posed a challenge to the freedom of the US’s maritime and air navigation. The subsequent chain of events has put the two powers on a collision course, intensifying the balancing dynamics between them and contributing to their perception of each other as a threat. China’s approach to consultations on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the SCS with ASEAN member states prioritized the “elimination of interference,” which is a camouflaged warning not to involve the US (Zhao & Qi, 2016, p. 490). In March 2009, China challenged the regional maritime primacy of the US by harassing the USS Impeccable during its surveillance mission in the SCS and requiring that such activities cannot be carried out without permission. This incident triggered a formal protest from the US (Tyson, 2009). Subsequently, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that freedom of navigation, access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the SCS is in the US’s “national interests” (US Department of State, 2010). This statement has turned the issue of sovereignty over maritime features into a matter of US–China rivalry. In January 2012, Washington adopted strategic guidelines that identified China as a potential anti-access threat and announced a new approach to organizing its military power. The new Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) required increasing the deployment of US naval capabilities to Asia-Pacific (US Department of Defense, 2012). The bilateral tension further intensified when, on August 12, 2014, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) J-11 fighter intercepted, coming dangerously close, a US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft (Dutton and Erickson, 2015). Another step towards confrontation happened on October 27, 2015, when the destroyer USS Lassen undertook a high-profile voyage in the SCS. The goal of the mission was to assert the freedom of navigation and the UNCLOS principle that man-made islands built on low-tide rocks are not entitled to the 12-mile territory zone in surrounding waters (Panda, 2016). At this point, some experts started speculating about the danger of direct military clashes between China and the US (Auslin, 2015; Steward & Brunnstrom, 2015). The list of events contributing to the deterioration of US–China relations in the context of power transition can be continued to include US–China trade and tariff wars, multiple incidents of entry-visa denials on both sides, embargoes on goods, bans on Chinese 5G mobile network technology. This downward trend only accelerated in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has significantly exacerbated the already confrontational dynamics, with China simultaneously attempting to strengthen its international leadership role (Smith, 2020). As US–China rivalry intensifies, discussions about a prospective China–Russia alliance to deal with the

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“threat from the West” becomes more urgent. It is even more so after the US National Security Strategy, published in December 2017, called China and Russia US’s major adversaries (President of the United States, 2017, p. 25). Similar dynamics – from the accumulation of capabilities to increasingly assertive behavior and then to balancing and confrontation – can also be observed in the US–Russia RSC in Eastern Europe. Particularly illustrative are the Russia–Georgia war of 2008 and the Ukraine Crisis of 2014, which are central to the intensifying geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West (predominantly the US) and epitomize Russia’s attempts to reclaim its influence in what it considers areas of primary strategic interest. Russia’s military conflict with Georgia was ultimately aimed at thwarting the US’s geopolitical projects in the Caucasus and preventing Georgia joining NATO (Korolev, 2018). The Russia–Georgia war, which happened from August 7-12, 2008, was the first time since the end of the Cold War that Russia used military force outside its state borders. When the war began, there were reportedly 130 American military specialists attached to the Georgian army. As the war progressed, the US transported 2,000 Georgian soldiers from Iraq to Georgia and provided Georgia with $200 million in military aid (Sizov, 2009). The then US President George W. Bush assessed Russia’s behavior in Georgia as “unacceptable in the 21st century” (Alexander & Pleming, 2008). A few days after the war, the Russian Black Sea fleet engaged in naval maneuvering with the NATO fleet in the Black Sea, which further increased the temperature of US–Russia tensions. Some of Russia’s leading foreign policy experts with links to the Kremlin commented that Russia fought and won a war against Georgia that was backed by the US and NATO and, thus, gave “a firm rebuff to the aggressors” (Karaganov, 2011). Such assessments – that Russia was dealing in Georgia with a more significant external threat posed by the US – became dominant in various Russian language publications (Sizov, 2009). The Ukraine Crisis of 2014 further intensified Russia’s confrontation with the West, and specifically with the United States. It broke out in the context of the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) – Russia’s attempt to unify the Post-Soviet space under its leadership. The United States and its Western allies did not embrace Russia’s Eurasian agenda, calling it an attempt to re-establish the USSR (Hauslohner, 2014). The then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated shortly before the breakout of the Ukraine Crisis that “it’s [the EAEU] not going to be called that [Soviet Union]. It’s going to be called a customs union, it will be called the Eurasian Union and all of that, but let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is, and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it”

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(Klapper, 2012). As in the case with the Russia–Georgia war, the Ukraine Crisis reflected a more profound geopolitical confrontation between Russia and the West, which was only exacerbated by the crisis (Smith, 2020). The crisis was followed by Western sanctions against Russia and Russian countersanctions in response. Some studies have argued that Russia has been engaged in hard internal balancing against the US (Steff & Khoo, 2014; Korolev, 2018). It would be an oversimplification to argue that consistently there were no differences in Washington’s attitudes towards China and Russia, especially before 2010. Russia experienced pressure from the US to a larger extent than China, the relations of which with the US looked like a partnership that combined elements of both competition and cooperation (Mastanduno, 2019). At the same time, there were periods of closer relations between Russia and the US – during Vladimir Putin’s early years as a president and later through Medvedev’s presidency when Putin effectively remained in charge – and China and the US – e.g., with the introduction of the Group of Two (G-2) concept in 2005 to denote an allegedly special relationship between Washington and Beijing. However, these twists and turns appeared to be fluctuations within the trend rather than changes of the trend. As some analysts note, US–China partnership eroded to the point of collapse after 2010, and by 2017 US policymakers recognized that China, like Russia, had moved towards anti-US revisionism (Mastanduno, 2019, p. 503). Thus, by 2017-2018, both China and Russia found themselves in rather confrontational relationship with the United States. While gradually losing its military-technical advantage,38 the US explicitly identifies both China and Russia as major competitors that drive its defense decisions and military resource allocation. As demonstrated by Cheung (2018, p. 6), China is designated by the US as its main strategic rival and is given the primary place in US defense strategy. Washington increasingly takes steps to engage Beijing in a direct military-technological competition that is projected to be long-term and result in an arms race (Cheung & Mahnken, 2018, pp. 239-245). In response, the Chinese strategists increasingly make the US the primary focus of China’s defense policy (Chase & Mastro, 2018, p. 114). Since the mid-2000s, China’s national security policymakers and experts have increasingly viewed the US as a direct military competitor and a potential adversary that does not want to see big powers like China 38 For a detailed analysis of how the US is gradually losing the initiative in military competition and is starting to become reactive to China’s and Russia’s moves rather than setting the scope and pace of that competition, see Cheung & Mahnken (2018).

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and Russia become stronger (Cheung & Mahnken, 2018, p. 243). A 2011 study by analysts from the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences recommended that China must build strategic balancing capabilities in nuclear, space, and air deterrence, “even if this leads to an intense arms race” (Wang F, 2011). The same dynamics apply to US–Russia relations. Washington calls Russia a “revitalized malign actor” (US Department of Defense, 2019, p. 11) and imposes comprehensive sanctions against Russia. Moscow responds by engaging in anti-US balancing using all available means, particularly by aligning with China (Korolev, 2018). According to Alexei Pushkov (the head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house): “the United States runs the risk of making a huge foreign policy blunder by simultaneously antagonizing two major powers…. For the United States, Russia is an enemy, and China is a potential enemy. But the confrontational course with both major powers is a strategic mistake” (RIA Novosti, 2014). That simultaneous confrontational relations with both China and Russia systematically encourage China–Russia alignment and do not bode well for US long-term strategic interests has also been emphasized by some prominent IR scholars in the United States. Thus, John Mearsheimer castigated US foreign policy by calling it a “strategic foolishness of the first order” for driving Russia into the arms of China and neglecting the potential geopolitical consequences of this for the United States (Nikkei Asia, 2015). Indeed, as demonstrated in Chapter 3, in the early 2010s, China–Russia military cooperation has progressed into the advanced stage, which was marked by the growing interoperability of China’s and Russia’s military forces. Cooperation between China and Russia in the most critical and sensitive areas occurs as the two countries jointly oppose the US and both US–China and US–Russia relations deteriorate. In the context of the evolving power balance, this deterioration generates an external compulsion that removes any political barriers that used to constrain China and Russia from forming a de-facto alliance relationship. The above analysis demonstrates how the redistribution of material capabilities between China, Russia, and the US have gradually created conditions conducive to anti-US balancing by China and Russia. Such balancing has materialized in more assertive policies, which further precipitated the balancing dynamics. Facing China and Russia as long-term strategic adversaries simultaneously, Washington attempts to maintain its still existing power advantage by containing both challengers. China and Russia, strong but still weaker than the US, respond by enhanced military cooperation to deal with the US challenge more effectively. This triggers further acts of containment from the US, which further incentivize China–Russia alignment.

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Balance of threat: convergence of China and Russia’s perception of external threats The shared perception of external threats has been mentioned in the literature on China–Russia relations as a factor that drives the two countries closer. Cohen (2001) argues that the “emerging alliance of China and Russia depends on how deeply the two Eurasian powers feel that the United States threatens their interests.” Lee and Lukin (2016, p. 239) emphasize that China–Russia cooperation is cemented by the shared perception of the United States as the main threat to the two countries’ geopolitical interests, civilizational identities, and domestic political regimes. Trenin (2015) also argues that the existence of a common foe – the United States – has the potential to transform the China–Russia partnership into an alliance. As elaborated in Chapter 2, the empirical analysis of the balance of threat requires checking whether potential allies have a shared view of major external threats and how these perceptions evolved. Analyzing China–Russia bilateral documents, joint statements and declarations, as well as other primary and secondary sources, allows for achieving this goal. Exploring the evolution of external threat perceptions in China and Russia also enables understanding how the changes in the balance of power and the consequent foreign policies analyzed above have had a bearing on the formation of threat perceptions and vice versa. China and Russia each considered the US as an external threat. As relations of both countries with the US experienced long-term deterioration, the relatively distant threat posed by the US to China and Russia grew in proportion and gradually developed into an immediate threat to both China and Russia. Moscow and Beijing have recognized that sharing resources can provide the most effective way to tackle the technologically superior United States. The “US factor” has become a driving force of China–Russia military cooperation. China and Russia share views on US-related external security threats across a wide range of issues, including the US National Missile Defense (NMD) agenda in Eastern Europe, Washington’s attempts to strengthen its political and military influence in the Asia Pacific, the eastward expansion of NATO, the “color revolutions,” issues of territorial integrity, and other issues of global and regional politics. The two countries’ shared concerns about the US NMD, for instance, can be traced back to the bilateral declarations and joint statements of the 1990s. The most representative ones include “Joint Statement on Russia–China Relations at the Turn of the 21st Century,” dated November 23, 1998, the “Russia–China Information Communique about Consultations on the ABM

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Treaty-related issues,” signed on April 14, 1999, and “the “Russia–China Joint Statement” of December 10, 1999 (President of Russia, 2000a). By the mid-late 2000s, those concerns had grown into stronger resistance. They dominated the China–Russia bilateral agenda during the annual “ShanghaiFive” (today’s Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Summit meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on July 5-6, 2000. The summit took place shortly after the US Congress had passed legislation on the deployment of a defense system against limited ballistic missile attack. During the Summit, President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, organized their own “mini-summit” to discuss the role of the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty and potential threats associated with the US NMD. China–Russia concerns regarding the US NMD came to the fore again during Putin’s state visit to Beijing on July 17-18, 2000. The two sides signed nine documents, two of which – “The Beijing Declaration” (President of Russia, 2000b) and the “Joint Statement on ABM Treaty” (President of Russia, 2000a) – formally consolidated a common stance on the NMD and the US-dominated unipolar world order more broadly. China and Russia shared deep concerns about the US planning to build NMD and bypassing the ABM agreement. They stated that the “true goal of such a policy is to seek unilateral military and security dominance that will pose the gravest, adverse consequences to the security of Russia, China, other states, to the global stability and the United States itself” (President of Russia, 2000a). China and Russia also urged Washington to adhere to the ABM Treaty, warning that altering it “would trigger a new arms race and lead to an about-face in the positive trends that appeared in the world politics after the end of the Cold War” (President of Russia, 2000a). They also announced that Washington presenting the alleged “missile threat” to the US from “some countries” as a rationale for the new NMD was “totally unjustified” (President of Russia, 2000b). In early 2000s, still being relatively weak militarily and feeling threatened by the US plans to deploy a missile defense system against “rogues states” in Poland and the Czech Republic, Putin attempted a pro-US overture by suggesting that the US could use a Russian-controlled radar in Azerbaijan instead of US anti-missile hardware in central Europe. However, this counterproposal, which was nothing less than integrating US and Russia defense systems, was unsuccessful as both the Eastern European states and the US itself rejected it, even though Bush had called it interesting and innovative (Zakaria & Bohan, 2007). This rejection exacerbated Russia’s perception of the US as an existential threat, resulting in further deterioration of US–Russia relations and Putin vowing to target Europe if Washington pressed ahead with its shield plan.

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In this context, on May 23, 2008, the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao restated their shared view on international issues in general, and the US NMD, in particular. The newly signed “Joint Russia-China Declaration on Major International Issues” stated that “the creation of global missile defense systems and their deployment in different regions of the world … does not help to maintain strategic balance and stability, and hampers international efforts in arms control and nuclear nonproliferation” (President of Russia, 2008). As demonstrated in the previous section, these were the years of intensifying regional confrontation involving the US on the one hand, and China and Russia on the other. This process gradually resulted in the convergence of China and Russia’s views of external threats with respect to the United States. China perceived the US’s “pivot to Asia,” announced in 2011, and the subsequent revitalization of Washington’s policies in Asia as a severe security threat. Beijing viewed it as an attempt to create containment lines against China in the Pacific using Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, and other US allies, and as a preventive measure against the possibility of Asian countries gathering around China.39 The US was perceived to be playing up the security concerns of countries in the region to contain China. Articles in People’s Daily (the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party) pictured the US’s policies as threatening China’s core national interests and bolstering the US’s Asian allies “to assemble a coalition to counterbalance China’s growing power” (Wang T, 2011). Articles published under the name Zhong Sheng (“the voice of the Central”) are believed to be written by the Chief of the editorial staff at People’s Daily, and experts view them as soft announcements of new official policies. Some of such articles stated that the US’s “Air-Sea Battle concept would push the US into a dangerous position of provocative war planning against China” and “the US strategy of pivoting to Asia-Pacific has the obvious feature of confrontation” with China (Zhong Sheng, 2012, as cited in Swaine, 2012, p. 23). The perception among Chinese defense and national security policy planners that the US has become a direct military adversary of China increased after Washington launched the Third Offset Strategy (TOS). 40 The TOS 39 For a detailed analysis of Beijing’s perception of Obama’s “pivot” see Swaine (2012). For a criticism of the US’s alliances in Asia by Chinese officials and media, see Ruwitch (2014) and Wang, H. (2015). 40 The Third Offset Strategy is a reform of US strategic and defense technology institutions to enhance focus on innovation to counteract strategic technological advantages made by top adversaries. It aims at sustaining the US’s military advantage in the long-term and ensuring the capacity to both deter a war and to win one, if necessary.

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signaled that the United States had started engaging China in direct defense technological competition (Cheung, 2018, p. 6). The significant political, economic, technological, and geostrategic capabilities that the US has to employ to ensure that its TOS is successful contributes to the perception of the US as a threat to China’s growing ambitions and interests. In a study of US–China strategic distrust, Wang Jisi and Kenneth Lieberthal (two influential academics and foreign policy advisers) discovered that “some high-ranking Chinese officials have openly stated that the United States is China’s greatest national security threat. This perception is especially widely shared in China’s defense and security establishment and in the Communist Party’s ideological organizations” (Lieberthal & Wang, 2012, p. 13). The COVID-19 global pandemic and the subsequent deterioration of US–China relations have further added fuel to the fire of an already heated bilateral relationship (Bisley, 2020). When it comes to Russia, the United States and the rounds of NATO eastward expansion supported by it, have traditionally been viewed by Moscow as major security threats. The intensification of tensions between Russia and the United States that began in the late 2000s has exacerbated this perception. After the Russia–Georgia war of 2008, Moscow started to seriously consider the possibility of military conflict with the West. The Ukraine Crisis of 2014 has further consolidated this shift in Russia’s thinking about the future of warfare. According to official documents, it is not international terrorism or other non-traditional security challenges that threaten Russia the most. Instead, it is “major foreign powers” (the United States) and their military-technical advantages that pose an existential military threat (President of Russia, 2014c). The “National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation until 2020” states that the main threats to Russian security are associated with the attempts of “leading foreign countries” to achieve “predominant superiority in the military sphere, primarily in terms of strategic nuclear forces” (President of Russia, 2009). Russian security planning has long assumed that the US has been aggressively pursuing technological initiatives to achieve military dominance (Kashin, 2018, p. 217). The deterioration of Russia–US relations has triggered the convergence of Russia’s perception of external threats with that of China. Russia started viewing Washington’s predominantly China-centered policies through the lens of its own balancing against the United States. The TOS, mentioned above, is a case in point. As demonstrated by Kashin (2018, pp. 212-214), Russian writings on TOS have presented it as aimed at maintaining the US’s military advantage over strategic adversaries, such as China and Russia. However, they also acknowledge that it was a response primarily to China’s

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growing anti-access/area-denial capabilities in the Asia-Pacific and only secondarily to the growth of Russia’s military capabilities. This view of TOS as a primarily “anti-China” initiative could be found not only in scholarly publications but also in the media outlets of the Russian Ministry of Defence (Kashin, 2018, p. 215). 41 However, the changes in US–Russia relations as a result of the Ukraine Crisis and the subsequent anti-Russia sanctions have shifted this interpretation and incentivized a reconsideration of military cooperation with China to place greater emphasis on joint efforts as the most effective way to balance against the United States. On November 18, 2014, the Chinese Defense Minister, General Chang Wanquan, and his Russian counterpart, Army General Sergei Shoigy, issued a joint statement unequivocally identifying the United States as the primary external threat to both countries. They stated that China and Russia are “concerned with the US’s attempts to strengthen its political and military influence in the Asia Pacific,” and that China–Russia military cooperation becomes essential in this context. The two ministers also pledged to jointly resist the threat of “color revolutions” which are viewed as “experiments of the American spin doctors” that “threaten China’s and Russia’s national interests” (Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, 2014). The systemic pressure coming from the United States and the simultaneous deterioration of US–China and US–Russia relations has made China’s and Russia’s assessment of external threats also coincide in the SCS region – a region of seemingly low significance to Russia. As can be judged from multiple publications in leading Russian international studies journals, such as Aziya i Afrika Segodnia [Asia and Africa Today], Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn’ [International Affairs], Problemu Dal’nego Vostoka [Far Eastern Affairs], Rossiya v Global’noi Politike [Russia in Global Affairs], and specialized web portals, Russian experts and political elites interpret the US’s “rebalancing to Asia” as an attempt to contain China.42 China, in turn, is viewed as promoting an “alternative model of development,” which Russia supports because this model prioritizes the “reformation of the present international order” (Mihnevich, 2012). Fyodor Lukyanov, Russia’s leading political scientist and editor-inchief of Russia in Global Affairs, also argues that Washington exploits the security concerns of such countries as Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, and India to contain China (The Voice of Russia, 2012). Viktor Trifonov (2012), a former diplomat and now an international 41 See, for example, Udaltsov (2015). 42 For a comprehensive review of Russia’s views of the US’s rebalancing to Asia strategy, see Portyakov (2015, pp. 255-266).

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relations researcher, also argues that the US’s activity in the Asia Pacific, and specifically in the SCS, is aimed at dragging China into a confrontation. The dominant view in Russia of the US’s policy in the SCS region strikes a chord with China’s assessment of the issue (Korolev, 2019a). Some of Russia’s military experts argue that China’s growing assertiveness in the SCS is beneficial for Russia’s broader security interests. Thus, the construction of military infrastructure in the SCS by China can provide Russia with extra protection against US Aegis systems, navy ships, and SM-3 Tomahawk missiles in the Asia-Pacific region (Litovkin, 2016). Other experts have proposed forming a permanent Russia–China joint naval operation group supported by Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bombers to contain the US–Japan coalition naval forces in the area (Mardasov, 2016). Others believe that by supporting China, Russia will be able to accelerate the return of the balance of power in Asia, which is beneficial to strategic stability (Novikov, 2015). Further analysis of the meeting protocols of China–Russia regular security consultations, such as regular meetings between defense ministers, strategic consultations between Chiefs of the General Staff, Russia–China consultations on national security issues, and China–Russia Northeast Asia security dialogues,43 reveals increasing concerns about the “US factor” and the importance of a China–Russia joint reaction to it. The critique and condemnation of US policies in Asia and elsewhere as “increasingly threatening” and the designation of the international environment as “increasingly complicated and unfriendly” as well as the proclamation of the intentions of China and Russia to join efforts in resisting the growing US threat have become an embedded norm of China–Russia security dialogue. The US’s alleged intentions to contain China and Russia via various means, including the NMD program, THAAD in South Korea, “pivot to Asia,” economic sanctions, or NATO eastward expansion; the danger of the “West-ignited color revolutions” in Central Asia and the US’s broader onslaught on “legitimate political power” (and the potential threat to the political regimes in Moscow and Beijing); emphasis on a mutual consensus and understanding of each other’s views on the geopolitical security environment; and outlining of China–Russia future collective security arrangements in Asia – all have become a routinized content that travels from top to bottom of multiple China–Russia multiple security consultations. 44 43 For a detailed review of these regular consultation mechanisms see Chapter 3 above. 44 For a concise summary of a selection of various China–Russia joint statements that identify the United States as a threat for both countries and an explicit call for coordinated actions against the US’s attempts to increase its influence in Asia-Pacific and beyond, see Korolev (2019b), p. 239.

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In its interactions with the United States (or with any other country), China never calls Russia a threat. Russia too never frames China as a threat in its formal contacts with other countries. On the contrary, Russian authorities and military experts have consistently refuted the “China threat” theory. In 2010, President Putin stated that: “Foreign experts keep telling us about the threat from China. We are not worried at all…. There is no threat on the side of China …. We have coexisted with China for a thousand years. We had difficult moments, and at times better relations, but we know each other very well and we have got used to respecting each other …. China does not have to populate the Far East and Eastern Siberia to get what it needs: natural resources …. We have just finished the construction of an oil pipeline. We are ready to build two gas pipelines. We will be supplying coal to them …. China does not want to worsen relations with us” (Reuters, 2010).

In his 2012 article “Russia and the Changing World,” Putin focused on the increasing importance of the Asia-Pacific region in international affairs and emphasized that “with its stand in the international arena, China does not provide any reason to talk about its desire to dominate. Indeed, China’s voice does resonate more confidently in the world, and we greet this since China shares our views on the evolving multipolar world order” (Putin, 2012). There also seems to be a consensus in the Kremlin that in the foreseeable future, China will not pose a threat to Russia. According to General Leonid Reshetnikov, who heads the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank under the Russian president: “We are closely following the situation in China. Of course, this is a big country, where different factions exist, including expansionist ones. China’s main rival is the United States, not Russia. Therefore, China needs a well-protected and quiet rear area. For the next 30-40 years, Russia is unlikely to face any threat from China. Beijing is doing its best to avoid whatever might cause Russia’s irritation and negative reaction. A serious conflict between Russia and China is possible only if grave mistakes are made by us or by the Chinese, or else if the American agents do a good job in China. The Western countries are keen to set Russia and China against each other. They keep forcing on us this China threat notion. Yet we will never buy that” (cited from Lee & Lukin, 2016, p. 106).

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Simultaneously, the Russians’ perception of China has improved significantly. According to a public opinion survey “Foreign Enemies and Friends of Russia,” conducted at the end of 2014, more than 60% of the Russian population considered China–Russia relations as friendly (Levada-Center, 2014). Other major public opinion research centers have also registered a positive perception of China in Russia since the mid-2000s (FOM, 2014). Comparable public opinion surveys in China demonstrate similar dynamics. More than 70% of the Chinese consider China–Russia relations to be either “very good” or “good” (Pan & Wu, 2008). This data reveals that Russia seems to have significantly resolved the “China threat” complex that existed in Russian society and among political elites in 1990s and early 2000s. The demilitarized common border and the absence of any visible border security arrangements either in Blagoveshchensk or Khabarovsk (the two Russian cities bordering on China), also testifies to that. This improvement in China–Russia mutual perceptions does not mean that no one in Russia views China as a threat. China surpasses Russia in various significant metrics, and it is to be expected that Russian political elites and ordinary people have reasons to worry about a rapidly rising China. From this standpoint, closer cooperation with Europe or the United States as a preventive counterbalance against China is not unreasonable. One can also think that the cultural affinity between Russia and the West that is arguably stronger than that existing between Russia and China. However, as Lee and Lukin (2016, p. 104) rightly contend, this argument is problematic simply because Moscow sees the US-led West as a bigger, and more immediate, threat than China. A similar point was earlier made by the Deputy Director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Portyakov, who argued that “at present, any unprejudiced person is much better aware than before that today and tomorrow Russia faces a much bigger, more dangerous and more real threat from the West than a hypothetical threat from a rising China in the day after tomorrow” (Portyakov, 2014). These perceptions, strengthened by the simultaneous deterioration of US–China and US–Russia relations, and exacerbated by the COVID-19 global pandemic, incentivises closer military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing.

Convergence of interests and implications for China–Russia alignment An empirical assessment of common interests requires exploring how China and Russia see the international status quo with regards to the most powerful

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state in the international system (the US) and whether they want to revise it. As argued by Trenin (2013, p. 6), China–Russia strategic cooperation is solid “for it is based on fundamental national interests regarding the world order as both the Russian and Chinese governments would prefer to see it.” The question is whether China and Russia display revisionist inclinations and how those evolved along with the changes in the balance of power and balance of threat conditions analyzed above. The content of China–Russia post-Cold War declarations and statements reveals that both countries are not interested in maintaining the unipolar status quo in which the United States occupies a dominant position. In multiple joint declarations and statements, China and Russia emphasized the necessity for cooperation to promote the principle of multipolarity.45 The anti-unipolarity mood grew substantially in the late 1990s and evolved from calling multipolarity a desirable world order to manifesting determination to promote such an order. On April 23, 1997, Yeltsin and Jiang signed “Russian–Chinese Joint Declaration on Multipolar World and the Formation of a New International Order.” The document expressed determination to “promote the multi-polarisation of the world and the establishment of a new world order.” It stated that “no country should seek hegemony, exercise power politics, and monopolize international affairs” (Diplomaticheskii Vestnik, 1997). In the joint statement made on November 10, 1997, China and Russia restated that for ensuring world peace and development, all countries should follow the trend toward multipolarity (Sovmestnoe Rossiisko-Kotaiskoe Zayavlenie, 1997). Against the backdrop of the wars in the Balkans, the US withdrawal from the ABM treaty and plans to deploy a new NMD, an increasing American military presence in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, and the US operation in Iraq, the revisionist anti-unipolarity mood in both China and Russia increased. On February 12, 2007, President Putin delivered his famous Munich speech, which reflected the geopolitical ambitions of the new post-Soviet Russia and explicitly rejected the concept of a unipolar world, dominated by the United States. According to Putin: “The unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in 45 See China–Russia joint declarations dated September 3, 1994; April 25, 1996; April 23, 1997; November 10, 1997; and November 23, 1998. The documents are available through the Diplomaticheskii Vestnik [The Diplomatic Herald] journal, published by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political, and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilization” (President of Russia, 2007).

The following year, on May 23, 2008, China and Russia issued the “Joint Statement of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Major International Issues” (also called the “Medvedev-Hu” statement). In the document, they explicitly supported BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and presented it as a needed counterbalance to the US-led unipolar world (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 2008). In the subsequent years, Russian and Chinese leaders on multiple occasions have emphasized their shared preference for a more multipolar world in which the voices of the “non-West” hold more sway. President Putin was reported to have repeatedly stressed that Russia’s economic future lies with China, which is on track to surpass the United States as the leading global economic power (Korolev, 2016, p. 385). Russia’s insistence on multipolarity is glaringly present through Putin’s increasingly strongly worded statements at various international summits and conferences. On October 24, 2014, in his speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club in the city of Sochi, Putin stated that a unipolar world is not sustainable, because: “a unilateral diktat [of the US and its allies] and imposing one’s own models produces the opposite results. Instead of settling conflicts, it leads to their escalation; instead of sovereign and stable states, we see the growing spread of chaos; and instead of democracy, there is support for a very dubious public ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals” (President of Russia, 2014b).

Similar rhetoric, containing increasingly direct accusations aimed at the West, and specifically the US, and rejecting the US-led global order can be traced in multiple public speeches by the Russian leader, such as “The Crimean Speech of Vladimir Putin” (President of Russia, 2014a), “The UN General Assembly Speech of 2015” (President of Russia, 2015). China reciprocates in a less confrontational tone but supporting the commonality of interests with Russia. In his speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations about the importance of China–Russia strategic cooperation, Xi Jinping criticized foreign interference in states’ domestic affairs and stated that “Strong China–Russia relations not only answer to our interests but

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also serve as an important, reliable guarantee of an international strategic balance and peace” (Soldatkin, 2013). Overall, both Moscow and Beijing increasingly emphasize that their positions on major international issues are “similar or identical”; that their bilateral relations have “no problems” or lack “problems that cannot be solved”; or, at least, “there is no conflict of core interests” (Portyakov, 2015, p. 143). Chinese leaders and diplomats are more circumspect in their rhetoric compared to their Russian counterparts. Therefore, it is useful to examine Chinese experts’ assessments of where China’s interests stand vis-à-vis Russia and the United States. In this regard, the “China’s Relations with Great Powers” dataset, created at the Institute of International Relations of Tsinghua University in Beijing, is particularly illuminating. 46 The dataset contains monthly expert-coded assessments of China’s relations with major powers since 1950. The assessments are aggregated into a scale from -9 to +9. The lowest three values (-9 to -7) indicate high, medium, and low levels of “confrontation,” which is defined as a relationship between “enemies.” The next three (from -6 to -4) are for the same three degrees of “tensions.” The range from -3 to -1 stands for high, medium, and low levels of “disagreements” – situations when conflicting interests dominate over common interests. Relations falling between +1 and +3 are “regular” with the commonality of interests slightly surpassing competition; +4 through +6 stand for “good relations” in which common interests significantly exceed disagreements, even though the latter can be considerable. The top of the scale, from +7 to +9, indicates “friends” with shared strategic interests and near-identical positions on major international issues. 47 This scale allows for assessing long-term trends of commonality of China’s interests with other powers as viewed by China’s top international relations experts. Figure 4.1 reveals the convergence between China’s and Russia’s interests with the simultaneous divergence of China’s and the US’s interests. The deterioration of China–US relations was most dramatic after 2016, and since mid-2018 China–US relations have been ranked significantly below the traditionally tense China–Japan relations, reaching the mark of -7.6. Tsinghua scholars give China–Russia relations in 2020 a value of +8.3, which 46 Tsinghua University is one of China’s leading universities. It is ranked as the 15th best university in the world according to the QS World University Rankings, and is considered the best university in Asia by the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings. 47 For more details on coding procedures, refer to Zhongguo yu daguo guanxi shujuku shiyong fangfa [Manual for the dataset on China’s relations with great powers], available at the Tsinghua’s Institute of International Relations web-portal http://www.imir.tsinghua.edu.cn/publish/ iis/7522/index.html.

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Figure 4.1  Commonality of China’s interests with Russia and the US (1991-2020) 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6 -7 -8

China-U.S. relaons

China-Japan relaons

China-Russia relaons

Source: Calculated by the author based on the Tsinghua University dataset “China’s Relations with Great Powers,” available at http://www.imir.tsinghua.edu.cn/publish/iis/7522/index.html

means “highly friendly.” This is the highest assessment China has had of its relations with great powers, and it indicates a commonality of interests and consensus on a wide range of international issues. While these assessments can be questioned from various methodological standpoints, they offer a valuable Chinese perspective on China’s relations with major powers. China–Russia cooperation within multilateral formats, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS, also indicates an intention to revise the international status quo. For example, the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank (New Development Bank) on July 15, 2014, and the creation of the reserve currency pool (the Contingent Reserve Arrangement) represent attempts to challenge the dominance of the US dollar in global trade, as well as dollar-back institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. There is a conviction in China and Russia that under multipolarity both countries would have more freedom of action and opportunities to protect and expand their national interests. At the same time, along with the deterioration of US–China and US–Russia relations, the China–Russia relationship has become increasingly permeated by the intention to flesh out the “non-Western” identity in international relations, which deepens the ideational and normative rift between China and Russia on the one hand, and the United States on the other. In this regard, some scholars have noted that China–Russia revisionism has fundamental causes related to “cultivating a community of like-minded,

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non-Western countries” that could have greater leverage over shaping the future of the international order (Haenle & Trenin, 2015). Even though there is no Cold War-style ideological confrontation with the US, the current fault lines might be even more profound. Now China and Russia fundamentally reject the idea of American global leadership and the “universal values” of the West, which, as some Russian experts have argued, are increasingly associated with a new wave of colonialism under the slogan of “democracy” (Lukin, 2015). China, in turn, identifies itself as a leader of the developing “South” and attempts to cultivate its traditional morality, rooted in Confucianism (Lukin, 2015, p. 90; An, 2014). According to Rozman (2014, p. 1), there are “striking parallels in the ways in which presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin envision the resurgence of their countries domestically and internationally.” The firm conviction shared by the two countries is that the West poses the main obstacle to grand projects of “Sinocentrism” and “Russocentrism” (Rozman, 2014, p. 1). In this context, the US-dominated world order is viewed by China and Russia as a civilizational threat. Such non-acceptance of American leadership and rejection of Western ideology result in the tighter consolidation of the “non-West” where China and Russia see themselves as the core players.

Conclusion When projected on current China–Russia relations, the balance of power, balance of threat, and balance of interest are shown to be incentivizing a stronger alignment between China and Russia. Current China–Russia relations display a growing balancing momentum against US-led unipolarity, which is strengthening their alignment. In the medium term, the trend toward closer strategic alignment between Russia and China is likely to be stable, and a clash of interests between Beijing and Moscow is unlikely. More pressure from the US is likely to accelerate China–Russia alignment. It will incentivize both China and Russia not only to enhance military cooperation but also work on fundamentally improving their bilateral relations, ironing out any remaining contentious issues. At the same time, depending on how their relations with the US and Europe evolve, China and Russia could gradually reduce their anti-West rhetoric and reverse the alliance trajectory within their bilateral cooperation. However, given the state of China’s and Russia’s relations with the US as well as how far Beijing and Moscow have gone in their strategic cooperation, it is most likely for China and Russia to become more interdependent and their cooperation more comprehensive in the years to come.

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Nikkei Asian (2015, March 26). US, China heading toward face-off, says Mearsheimer. http://asia.nikkei.com/magazine/20150326-Singapore-after-Lee/Viewpoints/ US-China-heading-toward-face-off-says-Mearsheimer Novikov, D. (2015, June 7). Neravnobedrennui Treugol’nik: Celi i Vozmozhnosti Rossii v Otnoshenii Kitaisko-Amerikanskogo Dueta [Scalene triangle: Goals and opportunities of Russia regarding the Chinese–American duo]. Russia in Global Affairs. http://www.globalaffairs.ru/number/Neravnobedrennyi-treugolnik-17499 Nye, J. (2015, January 12). A new Sino–Russian Alliance? Project Syndicate. http:// www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/russia-china-alliance-by-joseph-s–nye2015-01 Off ice of Soviet Analysis (1984). A comparison of Soviet and US gross national products, 1960-1983. Directorate of Intelligence. https://www.cia.gov/library/ readingroom/docs/DOC_0000498181.pdf Pan, D., & Wu, W. (2008). Zhong-E liangguo lianghao guanxi de yinzheng – ‘Zhongguo ren yan zhong de Eluosi’ shehui yulun diaocha [The evidence of good relations between China and Russia – Public survey: ‘Russian in the eyes of the Chinese]. Eluosi Zhongya Dongou Yanjiu [Russian, Central Asian, and European Studies], 5, 79-85. Panda, A. (2016, September 12). Chinese, Russian navies to hold 8 days of naval exercises in the South China Sea. The Diplomat. http://thediplomat.com/2016/09/ chinese-russian-navies-to-hold-8-days-of-naval-exercises-in-the-south-chinasea/ Perlo-Freeman, S. & Solmirano, C. (2014). Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2013. SIPRI Factsheet. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. https:// www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/files/FS/SIPRIFS1404.pdf Portyakov, V. (2014, July 2). Vozvyshenie Kitaya: chto dal’she? [The rise of China: What is next?]. Russia in Global Affairs. https://globalaffairs.ru/articles/ vozvyshenie-kitaya-chto-dalshe/ Portyakov, V. (2015). Vneshniaya Politika Kitaiskoi Narodnoi Respubliki v 21-m Stoletii [The PRC’s foreign policy in the 21st century]. Moscow: Institute of Far Eastern Studies Press. President of Russia (2000a, July 17). Sovmestnoye Rossiisko-Kitaiskoye Zayavlenie po Voprosam Protivoraketnoi Oboronu [Joint Russia–China statement on anti-ballistic missile treaty, 17 July 2000]. http://kremlin.ru/supplement/3182 President of Russia (2000b, July 17). Pekinskaya Deklaraciya [Beijing Declaration]. http://kremlin.ru/supplement/3181 President of Russia (2007, February 10). Speech and the following discussion at the Munich Conference on security policy. http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/ transcripts/24034

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5

Robustness Check: Economy and Diplomacy Abstract The military-security dimension of alignment has the highest bar for cooperation. However, empirical assessments of alignments often move beyond it to include the economic and diplomatic spheres. This chapter assesses economic and diplomatic cooperation as a robustness check on the comprehensiveness of China–Russia cooperation’s upward trend. In its discussion of economic cooperation, it attempts to unpack the geopolitical pressures generated by the economic cooperation model and assess its impact on China–Russia alignment. With regards to diplomatic cooperation, the emphasis is on the patterns of China’s and Russia’s voting behavior in the United Nations Security Council and their activities within other regional international institutions. The chapter shows that bilateral cooperation in non-military dimensions is not yet as strong. However, it has steadily improved. Keywords: China–Russia alignment, economic cooperation, diplomatic cooperation

The analysis below explores China–Russia economic and diplomatic cooperation. When assessing economic cooperation, it uses quantitative indicators, such as the volume of bilateral trade and its share in each country’s total external trade. It also looks at the composition of China–Russia trade and how it has changed since the end of the Cold War. Particular emphasis is placed on the model of economic cooperation, the roles China’s and Russia’s economies play in it, and the geopolitical implications it generates from the standpoint of strategic alignment. The below analysis also assesses the degree of diplomatic cooperation by exploring China–Russia voting behavior in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the agendas of China–Russia cooperation in regional formats.

Korolev, Alexander, China–Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2022 doi: 10.5117/9789463725248_ch05

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Economic cooperation: trade, unequal interdependence, and new initiatives Since the beginning of the Policy of Reforms and Opening in 1978, China has been much more successful economically than post-Soviet Russia. The difference between China’s and Russia’s economic transition experiences manifests itself most remarkably in the growing gap between the size of the countries’ economies as expressed by GDP. In 2013 the ratio of China’s to Russia’s total GDP was 4.3:1, calculated in current dollars based on the market exchange rate, and 4.5:1, based on purchasing power parity (PPP)-adjusted estimates. By 2016, these ratios became 8.7:1 and 5.6:1, respectively. Meanwhile, Russia’s to China’s per capita GDP ratio in 2013 was 2.2:1. However, in 2016 it became 1.1:1, which means that China’s per capita GDP is almost on par with Russia’s – a rather devastating outcome for Russia, given the two countries’ demographic parameters. 48 The formation of “unfavorable complementarity” in China–Russia economic relations China–Russia relations have often been viewed as “warm in politics, but cold in economics” or “hot at the top and cold at the bottom” due to the allegedly unrealized potential for economic cooperation and small total volume of trade (Shtraks, 2015). Some scholars highlight that “the lack of substance” in trade and economic ties constitutes a severe limitation in the China–Russia partnership (Lo, 2009, p. 177). While these assessments may not fully conform to reality, they invite extra examination of economic cooperation as a factor in China–Russia strategic alignment. The gap between the total volume of China’s and Russia’s economies by itself is not an insurmountable barrier for economic cooperation. China–Russia trade has grown substantially since the end of the Cold War. Throughout the 1990s, its total volume was a meager $5-7 billion and by 2000 reached only $8 billion. However, by 2011 it had grown tenfold and reached $80 billion. In 2014, before the Russian ruble devaluation in the aftermath of the Ukraine Crisis, China–Russia bilateral trade reached $95.28 billion. China became Russia’s largest single-country trade partner (see Table 5.1). In 2015, China–Russia trade dropped to slightly more than $68 billion, due to the Russian currency depreciation but bounced back quickly. In 2018, 48 Calculated based on World Economic Outlook Database, see (International Monetary Fund, 2017).

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Table 5.1  China–Russia trade (1992-2019) Years

1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

Total China–Russia Trade (billion USD) 5.86 7.68 5.08 5.46 6.85 6.12 5.48 5.72 8.00 10.67 11.93 15.76 21.23 29.10 33.40 48.17 56.83 38.80 55.45 79.25 88.16 89.21 95.28 68.06 69.53 84.72 106.89 109.74

China’s share in Russia’s external trade (%)

Russia’s share in China’s external trade (%)

4.81 5.67 3.59 3.39 4.34 3.74 3.71 4.28 4.52 5.06 6.04 6.05 5.77 5.97 6.53 7.31 7.61 8.42 9.52 10.17 10.4 10.54 11 11.9 14.76 15.43 15.65 16.54

3.54 3.92 2.15 1.94 2.36 1.88 1.69 1.59 1.68 2.09 1.92 1.85 1.84 2.05 1.89 2.21 2.22 1.76 1.86 2.18 2.28 2.15 2.21 1.72 1.89 2.05 2.31 2.40

Source: Calculated based on China’s and Russia’s customs statistics and United Nations Comtrade database https://comtrade.un.org/. The calculations may vary slightly depending on the source, but the dynamics of trade within the presented period remains unchanged regardless of the data source.

it surpassed the epochal $100 billion, set up as a strategic goal by both countries. The growth has continued since then (United Nations, 2020a). Despite the significant growth, China–Russia trade in 2019 was only slightly more than one-fifth of China–US trade ($109.74 vs. $541.82 billion), despite the drastic decline of China–US trade in 2018, and 2.5 times smaller than Russia–EU trade in the same year ($277.1 billion). China–Russia trade glaringly lags behind China–US and Russia–EU trade in terms of volume. At

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the same time, a closer look at the data reveals a trend that is indicative of some critical proportional changes over the last few years, especially after the Ukraine Crisis in 2014. As shown in Table 5.1, Russia’s share in China’s total external trade has been incomparably smaller than that of China’s in Russia’s external trade. While Russia accounted for only around 2% of China’s total external trade, China’s share in Russia’s external trade has been steadily increasing from only 5% in 2001 to 16.54% in 2019. While Russia’s share has been growing consistently since 2015, from 1.72% to 2.4%, which is a significant change, given the initially low share, it is too early to say whether it is a consistent trend. Thus, in terms of trade, Russia depends on China much more than China depends on Russia. On the other hand, what Russia exports to China are strategic goods, such as crucially important high-tech military hardware and energy resources the strategic significance of which may not be fully grasped by the above figures. The Ukraine Crisis, plummeting oil prices, mutual sanctions between Russia and Europe, and the dramatic devaluation of the ruble in 20142015 caused a 30% decrease in Russia’s total external trade. At the same time, Russia’s trade with the EU as a whole (Russia’s largest trade partner) decreased by 45% from $417 billion in 2013 to $230 billion in 2015, which is more significant than the overall decline of Russia’s external trade. In turn, China–Russia trade dropped only by 24% over the same period, which is less than the overall decline. As a result, right after the Ukraine Crisis Russia’s trade with China has grown vis-à-vis its trade with the EU. This trend becomes more pronounced if looked at from a longer-term perspective covering the post-Ukraine Crisis years. Thus, in 2019 the total volume of Russia–EU trade had dropped by 34% compared to pre-crisis 2013. In turn, China–Russia trade volume has grown by more than 23% in US dollar terms despite all the odds, including the ruble devaluation. Against the backdrop of pressure from the West to isolate Russia, China responded by offering Russia multiple new opportunities of economic cooperation (The Straits Times, 2015; Ostroukh, 2015). By all evidence, China has contributed to filling the void that emerged in Russia’s foreign trade due to Western sanctions and Russia’s retaliatory embargo. As explained in the analytical framework developed in Chapter 2, an indication of deeper economic cooperation is the emergence of projects that involve long-term commitments and obligations from both sides as well as mutual vulnerabilities, as in the case of, for instance, constructing immovable and costly energy infrastructure. Unlike regular trade exchanges, such projects generate greater interdependence and are not taken lightly

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by the governments. China–Russia cooperation in the energy sector falls within this category of economic cooperation. As in the case of military-technical cooperation analyzed in Chapter 3, China–Russia cooperation in the energy sector in the 1990s and early 2000s was sporadic, small scale, and often undisclosed. In those years, economic exchanges rarely went beyond transactional buying and selling, and the two countries were not significant to each other’s energy sectors. Recovering from the Soviet collapse and highly dependent on the export of mineral resources, early post-Soviet Russia attempted to increase its oil and gas export to Asian countries. However, it remained reluctant to increase its energy cooperation with China significantly. The situation began to change by the end of President Vladimir Putin’s second term, and later in the context of Russia’s “reorientation to Asia” strategy (Korolev, 2016). Russia had become a significant oil and gas supplier for China, while the Chinese market had become one of the primary destinations for Russia’s energy exports. Moreover, the new joint energy-related projects went beyond the traditional trade transactions. They involved establishing long-term energy cooperation that included large-scale, onland energy infrastructure cutting across the China–Russia border. This development connected China and Russia closer, making any perturbations in the relationships costly for both sides. The first such project was the construction of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline – a 1,056 km-long pipeline from Skovorodino (Russia) to Daqing (China), jointly constructed by the Transneft (Russia’s state-controlled pipeline transport monopoly) and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). The construction of the pipeline was completed in 2010. On January 1, 2011, oil shipments started (Soldatkin & Fletcher, 2011). The ESPO pipeline has had a significant impact on oil export from Russia to China, which more than doubled between 2010 and 2015, and exceeded 800,000 barrels per day in 2016. 49 Due to the large capacity of the ESPO pipeline, in 2014 Russia became China’s third largest supplier, accounting for 11% of China’s total oil imports. In 2015 and 2016, Russia continued to take market share from other oil exporters and overtook Saudi Arabia as the largest crude oil supplier to China. In 2018 and 2019, Russia remained the largest crude oil supplier to China, averaging 1.6 million barrels per day, which amounts to 15% of China’s total crude oil imports (US Energy Information Administration, 2020). 49 For the sake of comparison, in 2000 Russia’s oil export to China was only 88,000 barrels per day.

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Another significant shift in China–Russia energy cooperation occurred in 2013 when Beijing received access to Russia’s gas fields. Moscow has always been cautious about granting China access to its natural resources. However, at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg on September 5, 2013, the CNPC and NOVATEK (Russia’s largest independent natural gas producer) concluded, in the presence of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, an agreement to the purchase of a 20% equity share in the large Yamal LNG project by CNPC. The project includes the construction of a large LNG plant with a capacity of 16.5 million tons per annum, based on the feedstock resources of the South-Tambeyskoe field near Sabetta in the Yamal peninsula, and the construction of transport infrastructure which includes a seaport for large-capacity LNG carriers and an airport (Novatek News, 2013). Not everything went smoothly. For instance, China getting access to Russia’s gas fields could be juxtaposed with the failed acquisition of shares in the biggest oil field in Russia, the Vankor field. However, as emphasized in the analytical framework developed in this book, any assessment depends on the point of reference. If one is to take what might hypothetically have happened should there be no hurdles in China–Russia energy relations (the expectations of a full-fledged energy alliance) as a reference point, it is easy to spot Russia’s or China’s reluctance to unleash the cooperation fully. Yet if one is to compare with what existed in reality between the two countries, the above-mentioned developments are a significant step forward. The signing of the $270 billion oil and $400 billion gas megadeals in 2013 and 2014, respectively, are other important milestones in China–Russia energy cooperation. Analysts emphasize the geo-economic importance of opening the Chinese market to Russian hydrocarbon resources (Trenin, 2015). Some analysts argue that given the international circumstances, the China–Russia gas agreements are the primary successes of bilateral economic cooperation in 2014 (Portyakov, 2015a). Thus, the gas deal provided for the annual supply by the Russian state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, of 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas for 35 years via the “Sila Sibiri” (the Power of Siberia) gas pipeline the construction of which was also part of the signed deal. These developments are in stark contrast to Russia’s cautiousness towards cooperation with China in the energy sector in the 1990s and early 2000s. The Ukraine Crisis of 2014 and the changing conditions of the balances of power, threat, and interests as the primary causes of alignment formation (see Chapter 4) have transformed Russia’s approach to energy cooperation with China in a similar way to how they have affected China–Russia cooperation in the military realm. In February 2015, the Russian Deputy

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Prime Minister responsible for overseeing Russia’s gas and oil industries, Arkady Dvorkovich, stated that there were no more psychological barriers or political obstacles in the sphere of energy cooperation between China and Russia. He mentioned that China was Russia’s primary partner in Asia, and Russia would consider allowing China to have more controlling stakes in strategically important energy projects (RBK, 2015). A year earlier, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated that the critical bilateral decisions and agreements “pave the way to an energy alliance between Russia and China” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2014). Assessments by the International Energy Agency (IEA), issued in 2015, also forecasted a significant increase in Russia’s pipeline gas supply to China to the level of 80 bcm by 2040 that would constitute 30% of Russia’s total gas exports (International Energy Agency, 2015). China and Russia have become more interdependent in the energy sector, and Russia has displayed a willingness to accept a greater degree of economic vulnerability to China. In this context, “complementarity” had become a catchword for China–Russia economic cooperation, especially from the Chinese side’s perspective. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, during his meeting with Russian President Putin in 2014, after the agreement on the delivery of Russian gas to China via the Power of Siberia pipeline was signed, emphasized the “enormous complementarity” of the two countries’ economies (InoTV, 2014). The “complementarity” argument was also echoed by high-level advisors associated with China’s Ministry of Commerce (Tsoi, 2016). Xi Jinping himself emphasized the complementarity of China’s and Russia’s economies during his meetings with Vladimir Putin (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 2015). The affirmation that Russia’s and China’s economies’ complementarity provides opportunities for expanding bilateral cooperation is also regularly repeated by some Russian experts (Radio Liberty, 2016; RUSSIAN.NEWS.CN, 2017). At first sight, the difference between China’s and Russia’s economic models and the ensuing complementarity of the two economies should incentivize closer China–Russia cooperation. According to the logic of comparative advantages, Russia’s role as a major provider and China’s role as a major consumer of energy resources should stimulate mutually beneficial economic cooperation conducive to closer alignment.50 For Russia, revenues from the export of natural resources constitute the lion’s share of its national budget. In turn, China is a resource-thirsty country whose diplomacy, to a 50 For the theoretical elaboration on how economic cooperation can enhance alliance formation, see Chapter 2.

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considerable extent, is driven by the need to secure energy resources, which has a bearing on partner selection.51 Some studies have also demonstrated that the supply of natural resources is an essential driver of China’s alignment choices. Thus, “China is more likely to enter into partnership relations with countries that have large producers of petroleum and/or strategic industrial minerals within their territory” (Strüver, 2016, p. 19). From this standpoint, China–Russia energy cooperation should contribute to closer alignment. However, such interpretation obscures the complexity of the situation. A closer look at the model of China–Russia economic cooperation and the division of labor it fosters reveals that the oft-praised “complementarity,” allegedly conducive to closer cooperation, actually creates geopolitical pressures that spawn pitfalls for closer cooperation. The two countries find themselves on different sides of the market which, given the history of Russia and China–Russia relations, creates deep division in terms of their respective developmental interests and has adverse spillover effects on other areas of the relationship. In the current economic cooperation model, Russia has secured a role that it cannot fully embrace. This situation creates discomfort on the Russian side and a constant resistance against the status quo in the bilateral economic cooperation, even though this resistance is often silenced due to geopolitical circumstances. At the same time, there is a recognition that changing the status quo and improving the quality of bilateral economic cooperation poses significant challenges that are mostly Russia’s responsibility, even though not without support from China. The crux of the issue is that the rapid growth of China–Russia trade’s total volume has been accompanied by the emergence of a bilateral trade structure that is too unbalanced (Table 5.2). These changes reflect a gradual degradation and primitivization of Russia’s economic model since the Soviet collapse. The patterns of economic growth of China and Russia over the last three decades have differed dramatically. Russia has almost entirely lost its manufacturing industries and has firmly slipped into the category of a petrostate. In turn, China has become the world’s factory on a gargantuan scale, producing more than 20% of global manufacturing output. It is worth noting that a similar trade structure characterizes Russia’s trade with Europe. How Russia fares in trade relations with China is not because of Beijing’s sinister intentions to exploit Russia’s resources and turn it into an energy appendage. Instead, it is an outcome of failed economic reforms in Russia 51 On how “energy diplomacy” has been an important driving force behind China’s relations with different countries and regions, see Zhu (2016), Currier and Dorraj (2011), and Heath (2012), among others.

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and Moscow’s incapacity to produce competitive manufactured goods. If Russia is becoming an energy appendage, it became such in relations with Europe much earlier than with China. Table 5.2  Non-energy share of China–Russia trade in 2001-2019 (%)

Year

2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

Share of machinery and equipment in China’s total export to Russia 9.33 10 17.6 17.2 20.1 28.9 30.6 36.8 33.5 38.4 40.9 42.4 45.16 46.13 36.07 38.78 41.89 43.39 43.38

Share of machinery and equipment in Russia’s total export to China 28.7 20.1 12.9 4.8 2.0 1.2 1.3 1.7 2.0 1.44 0.7 0.6 0.36 1.14 2.05 2.74 6.56 2.93 4.28

Share of mineral resources in Russia’s total export to China 10.2 11.63 19.81 29.59 33.65 41.90 43.64 52.33 49.4 54.58 65.6 69.61 70.67 74.80 66.71 63.30 65.30 73.59 69.90

Source: Calculated based on China’s and Russia’s custom statistics and UN Comtrade database https://comtrade.un.org/. The calculation results may differ slightly depending on the source, but the dynamics of trade within the presented period remains unchanged regardless of the data source.

As shown in Table 5.2, the share of machinery and equipment progressively grew in China’s exports to Russia – from 9.33% in 2001 to 20% in 2005 and 38.4% in 2010 – but drastically dropped in Russia’s exports to China – from 28.7% in 2001 to 2% in 2005, and 1.44% in 2010. Simultaneously, the share of oil and oil products in Russia’s exports to China grew from 10.2% in 2001 to more than 50% by 2008. In 2013, the share of machines and equipment in China’s exports to Russia reached 45.16%. Similar Russian exports to China fell to a meager 0.36%, while the share of oil and oil products reached 70.67% (Table 5.2). Thus, in less than two decades, the share of machines and equipment in Russia’s exports to China plummeted from almost 30% to

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less than 1%, whereas oil and oil products soared to more than 70%. These changes reveal significant transformations in each of the two countries’ economic structure and the consolidation of respective specializations in the global division of labor. At the same time, China’s role as “the world’s factory” is gaining a new dimension as machinery and equipment produced by China approach the level of those produced in developed countries in terms of both quality and technical characteristics. This industrial success has allowed China to become one of the major exporters of various types of machinery. According to some expert assessments, China has significantly surpassed Russia on various indexes of innovation and information technology development (Portyakov, 2014). The deterioration of Russia’s economic standing vis-àvis China could diminish Russia’s significance for China as an economic partner. Nor can Russia effectively play its signature “energy diplomacy” with China in the way it does with Europe. Unlike Europe, for which Russia is a major energy resource provider, China does not strongly depend on Russian resources. Even with all its energy exports to China, Russia occupies only slightly more than 2% of China’s total external trade. In sum, the evolution of China–Russia trade since the collapse of the USSR has been dramatic. In the 1990s, Russia’s imports from China predominantly comprised light industrial products and common consumer goods, such as textiles, clothes, shoes, consumer electronics and home appliances. In turn, China’s demand was concentrated on Russian arms, iron, timber, a broad spectrum of machinery and equipment, and chemical fertilizers. In the 2000s, there were drastic changes in the bilateral trade structure with important implications for strategic cooperation. At least four such implications can be discerned. The first implication has to do with the clear division of roles of a major exporter and a major purchaser of energy resources between Russia and China. Such a provider-consumer divide often places Russia and China on the opposite sides of the negotiating table in economic transactions and national economic interests more broadly. Naturally, the purchaser wants to buy cheaper, whereas the provider wants to sell more expensive. This situation has made both China and Russia reluctant to compromise in bilateral economic transactions. A telling example in this regard is the notoriously protracted price disagreements in China–Russia energy transactions. It took the two countries almost ten years before they agreed, in 2014, on the price of the Russian gas that was to be delivered from Siberia to China’s North-eastern regions. The agreement was reached only after Europe and the US started to impose economic sanctions on Russia in the aftermath of the Ukraine Crisis

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(Luhn & Macalister, 2014). A similar situation was observed in negotiations over the price for electric energy supplies from Russia to China. For Russia, whose budget and economic well-being depend on revenue from the export of energy resources, the price of such resources is an existential concern. The protracted price disagreements and constant bargaining generate dissatisfaction with the partner that can affect cooperation in other areas, as was the case with military-technical cooperation when Russia failed to implement an agreement to deliver a large number of military transport aircraft to China (Portyakov, 2015b, p. 87). When it comes to economic cooperation in the global market and energyrelated international institutions and regulations, China is more likely to appear on the same side of the negotiating table as Japan, South Korea, the US and other energy importing countries. A testimony to this is the meeting of leading global energy importers, such as China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United States, which took place in Beijing in 2006 with the intention of establishing cooperative mechanisms, aimed at reducing dependence on energy imports and importers (People’s Daily, 2006). Such episodes indicate that China, as an importer, and Russia, as an exporter, of energy resources in many respects are driven by different economic interests, which can potentially undermine the strategic unity within China–Russia alignment. The second implication of the existing pattern of China–Russia economic cooperation is psychological and has to do with mutual perceptions. China increasingly perceives Russia as a net energy exporter. This perception and the torturous process of adjusting to this role within Russia creates a very complicated psychological mix and ignites various deep-seated anti-China phobias in Russian society. Except for the military-industrial complex, Russia is less and less perceived as a source of innovation and new, modern technologies and more and more as a source of energy resources and a market for finished manufactured products. Russian society does not seem to be ready for that. For Russia, which only twenty years ago was ahead of China on many economic development indicators, this is a harrowing outcome that thins out the otherwise strong foundations of China–Russia strategic cooperation. A well-known Russian expert on China from Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East, Viktor Larin, has aptly grasped the essence of the problem and the Russian sentiments associated with it in the title of one of his books on the issue – In the Shadow of the Awakened Dragon (Larin, 2006). Many in Russia experience emotional discomfort, resentment, and even humiliation about Russia’s standing in bilateral economic cooperation with China, which harms China–Russia ties. The Russian general public becomes cautious and sometimes displays negative attitudes toward China. Even

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though these emotions do not develop into open aggression, they generate an implicit public demand for protecting Russia’s national markets and producers from Chinese economic expansion and preventing Russia from turning into China’s resource appendage. Indeed, the growing inflow of finished commodities from China threatens Russia’s ailing manufacturing industries. A telling example was the rapidly increasing volume of the sale of steel pipes imported from China to Russia, which grew 2.5-fold in 2007 and 4-fold in 2008. After resentment expressed by Russian pipe producers, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade had to officially announce the beginning of an anti-dumping investigation against China at the end of 2008. Such incidents undermine the overall climate of China–Russia economic and strategic relations. The third implication that emanates from the model of China–Russia economic cooperation is the reluctance on China’s side to invest in industrial manufacturing and technology-intensive production in Russia. The consolidating view of Russia as a source of mineral resources and an export market drives this reluctance. Another problem is the unfavorable business climate in Russia, which is only exacerbated by the energy export-dominated economy controlled by large state corporations, and the lack of attention to the role of small and medium-sized businesses. China’s low interest in investing in production capacities in Russia fully manifested itself in the 2009 Joint Program of Cooperation between North-East China and Russia’s Far East and Siberia, adopted by the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao. According to this document, the lion’s share of joint projects suggested by the Chinese for realization in Russian territory addressed mineral resources extraction only. In contrast, processing and production facilities that feed on those resources were to be erected in Chinese territory (Kostenko et al., 2009). The fourth implication has to do with regional geopolitical ramifications in Russia’s Far East and in Central Asia. Russia undoubtedly needs cooperation with China to accelerate the development of its Far East and Siberia. However, the existing bilateral economic cooperation model with clearly delineated roles cannot generate high growth rates in those territories or improve the well-being of the population there. Nor can it enhance the region’s macroeconomic stability or increase the competitiveness of locally produced goods on the Chinese market. The closure of multiple factories in Russia’s Far East after the USSR collapsed has increased unemployment and triggered an outflow of population from an already sparsely populated region. This trend, in turn, reduces the region’s agricultural and industrial self-sufficiency. Thus, China’s and Russia’s existing economic models and

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their “mutual complementarity” creates an economic cooperation pattern that is suboptimal for achieving fruitful and comprehensive economic cooperation. In the long term, it could have significant negative implications for the development of Russia’s far eastern territories. Not surprisingly, these developments have fed public fears in Russia regarding China. These fears peaked before the systemic deterioration of Russia’s relations with the US and Europe, after which the main threat is perceived to be coming from the West, not East.52 Quite revealing in this regard are Russians’ views of China in the early 2000s, when according to FOM (Russia’s Public Opinion Foundation), more than 40% of the Russian population viewed China’s rapid rise as a threat to Russia’s interests; by 2014 this figure had dropped to 18% (FOM, 2014). Russian epistemic communities and policy-making elites have also highlighted the potentially negative consequences of the existing pattern of China–Russia economic relations for Russia. According to Sergei Karaganov (an academic and presidential advisor to both Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin), if the current economic trends persist, there would be a danger of Russia’s eastern territories and subsequently all of Russia becoming not only an economic but also a political appendage of China. Such analyses inevitably fed the sentiment in favor of containing China (Karaganov, 2011). In this regard, quite indicative was a report prepared by the Russian Foreign and Defence Policy Council (a non-governmental public association) in 2001, focusing on Russia’s strategy in Asia. The report presented a prognosis that Chinese economic and demographic expansion is inevitable, and that Moscow should take measures in advance to prevent Siberia and the Far East from becoming a zone of ethnic and socio-political confrontation (Russian Foreign and Defense Policy Council, 2001). After visiting Russia’s Far East in 2008, the then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also complained about the regrettable economic situation in the region and sent a warning that without active measures there was a danger of “losing everything” (Vesti. Ru, 2008). In a similar vein, the alleged China–Russia competition in Central Asia boils down to the divergence of interests along the provider-consumer divide under the conditions of weak economic integration, rather than China’s pursuit of political and strategic dominance in the region. Driven by the 52 On the evolution of perceptions of external threats as a driving force behind China–Russia strategic alignment, see Chapter 4. As will be demonstrated below, the systemic push emanating from the changes within and between the “three balances” analyzed in Chapter 4 have also had an impact on China–Russia economic cooperation.

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quest for natural resources, China is interested in obtaining access to the rich energy reserves of the Central Asian states at an affordable price. Therefore, Beijing pro-actively invests in oil and gas extraction in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. On the other hand, as a large producer of all manner of manufactured products, China wants its goods to have access to the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). However, these interests contradict those of Russia, which, as an exporter of resources and a country with weak manufacturing industries, is interested in maintaining control over the region’s energy sectors and, simultaneously, restricting the inflow of cheap goods into the EAEU economic space. These divergencies of economic motivations impede joint China–Russia projects and policies and negatively affect the bilateral relationship. Telling examples in this regard are the protraction of negotiations regarding the integration of the EAEU and China’s Belt and Road Initiative project and Russia’s reluctance to conclude a free trade agreement between China and the EAEU. At the same time, such a free trade agreement was signed with Vietnam. This situation irritates China and provides a breeding ground for mutual mistrust. Attempts to reverse the trend The existing model of China–Russia economic cooperation has always been a concern, at least for the Russian side. There has been a recognition that a more diversified economic cooperation with China could significantly contribute to the modernization of the Russian economy. At the same time, considering Russia its important strategic partner, China has been moderately willing to respond positively to Moscow’s attempts to change the status quo. However, such attempts became distinguishable only after the Russia–Georgia war in 2008, and they materialized more fully in the aftermath of the Ukraine Crisis in 2014-2015. The Crisis had changed the policy options available to Russia. With respect to China, those were years of aggravation of tensions in the South China Sea. During these events, both China’s and Russia’s relations with the system leader (the United States) deteriorated. As demonstrated in Chapter 4, the worsening of both Russia–US and China–US relations was associated with the internationalsystemic changes in the three balances – the balances of power, threat, and interests – that drive strategic alignment. Changing the existing model of China–Russia economic cooperation is diff icult because it requires certain sacrif ices from both Russia and China. What is needed is nothing less than Russia’s reindustrialization by

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developing and diversifying its manufacturing industry and forming an investment-and-innovation-based model of China–Russia cooperation. These changes would require departing from the primitive “fast cash” transactional approach and transitioning to a model that would go beyond energy and primary materials exports and include longer-term joint projects in high-tech, engineering, manufacturing, agriculture, and finance. Resisting the simple logic of short-term profits and, instead, investing political and material capital into something that will not entirely accrue benefits until some point in the distant future is not comfortable. It can occur only gradually and requires serious and consistent efforts by both China and Russia. In the case of China–Russia relations, creating a multifaceted and mutually beneficial bilateral economic cooperation that would take into consideration each other’s interests requires, in a sense, going against the market logic of supply and demand. This is a difficult task, especially for cash-strapped Russia. Nevertheless, as China–Russia strategic alignment progresses, such transformation attempts are being made, with varying degree of success. In 2008, China demonstrated its willingness to accommodate Russia’s economic interests by agreeing to resume the construction by Atomstroyexport (Russia’s nuclear power equipment and service exporter) of the third and fourth units of the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant – China’s largest nuclear plant, located in Jiangsu province on the coast of the Yellow Sea. On November 23, 2010, Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation also signed a contract with Atomstroyexport according to which Russia would supply 1060 MWe VVER-1000 reactors53 for Units 3 and 4 worth $3.3. billion. Construction of unit 3 was temporarily delayed by the 2011 nuclear accident in Japan but finally began in December 2012 (World Nuclear News, 2012). Additionally, Russia’s strategy of “reorientation to Asia,” which emphasizes cooperation with the Asia-Pacific region and China’s Belt and Road initiative have created joint infrastructure development opportunities. An example of this is the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway in Russia, which involves significant Chinese investment. It is also worth noting the emergence of multiple non-energy related contracts between China and Russia in 2014. The most notable ones include the collaborative design and production of a long-range wide-body civilian aircraft; the foreign-exchange swap of 150 billion RMB between the Chinese and Russian central banks; the China–Russia Silk Road Innovation Park in 53 VVER stands for the Russia-designed “Vodo-Vodyanoi Energetichesky Reaktor [Water-Water Energetic Reactor]” – a pressurized water reactor with a very high power output.

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the city of Xian (China); cooperation on manufacturing jet engines using Russian technologies; new joint R&Ds in the development of satellite navigation systems; as well as other projects in agriculture, space exploration, education, and medical care (RT, 2014). In this context, in his speech on the development of China–Russia comprehensive partnership on November 22, 2014, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that “We can now … talk about the emerging technological alliance between the two countries” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2014). Quite remarkable in this regard is the composition of the large package of China–Russia agreements signed during Xi Jinping’s symbolic visit to Moscow in 2015 to attend the May 9 Victory Parade. Only 24% of those agreements were related to natural resources. The area of finance, banking, and investment stands out, occupying 38% of all agreements. R&D and high-tech account for 21%; transport and infrastructure – 10%; the remaining 7% are related to media and information security (Smirnova, 2015). While these figures are based on the number of agreements signed and do not reveal each group of agreements’ actual value, they demonstrate an attempt to go beyond the energy sphere and transform the energy-dominated pattern of economic cooperation. During the same visit, Putin and Xi also signed an agreement on the joint construction and production of a large military helicopter and a joint statement declaring an intention to merge the development of the Russia-led EAEU and China’s Belt and Road initiative to reduce the likelihood of potential confrontation in Central Asia. President Putin stated in this regard that “the integration of the Eurasian Economic Union and Silk Road projects means reaching a new level of partnership and implies a common economic space on the continent” (RT, 2015a). A year earlier, in another joint statement, the Russian leadership positively commented on “the readiness of the Chinese side to take Russia’s interests into consideration when elaborating and realizing the conception of SREB (Silk Road Economic Belt)” (President of Russia, 2014). The most notable non-energy China–Russia projects have been making progress. For example, the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway has received $6 billion of Chinese investment (Centre for Research of Developing Markets, 2016a, p. 4) and, at the time of writing, was expected to be put into operation in 2026. In November 2016, at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in the Chinese city of Zhuhai, the f irst mock-up of the above-mentioned jointly designed wide-body civilian aircraft was presented by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) (Ptichkin & Cherniyak, 2016). At the same exhibition, China agreed to purchase several Russian Beriev

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Be-200 multipurpose amphibious aircraft, which was an international breakthrough for the Russian producers. This transaction deserves special attention because, by that time, China’s Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) had completed the design and construction of its own large amphibious flying boat the TA-600, which was also displayed in Zhuhai (Ptichkin & Cherniyak, 2016). Despite having a competitive model entering the market themselves, the Chinese side agreed to purchase the Be-200, which signaled their willingness to consider Russa’s commercial interests. At the same time, China and Russia also launched various projects in satellite navigation, remote earth sensing, electronic components and space equipment, and human spaceflight, many of which are areas of comparative strengths for Russia (Centre for Research of Developing Markets, 2016b). The full realization of these projects will take time. However, they will contribute to forming a more balanced pattern of economic cooperation between China and Russia and greater long-term interdependence. Equally important is the expanding access for various Russian nonresource-related Companies to the Chinese markets. In May 2015, Russian smartphone manufacturer YotaPhone launched the new YotapHone-2 model in China. Now the Chinese market generates more than half of the total revenue of the company. The Alibaba Group Holding Limited (China’s largest e-commerce company) jointly with the Russian Export company (Russia’s first cross-border international trading corporation) has launched an online platform for promoting Russian goods on the Chinese market. Simultaneously, the Chinese corporation Haier has invested $55 million in opening modern refrigerator production facilities in Naberezhnye Chelny (Russia). It became the first joint China–Russia factory with a high degree of localization which is not related to the energy sector (Business Online, 2016). Additionally, the LeEco Corporation (a Chinese technology company and one of the largest online video companies in China) signed an agreement with the Russian Export Centre and the Institute of Internet Development to promote Russian media content in China. While these projects are still only initial steps, they contribute to the transformation of the “unfavorable complementarity” pattern in China–Russia trade relations. It is also evident that China and Russia are gradually simplifying trade regulations in the non-energy sector. In 2016, China started to ease restrictions on the import of meat and offal from Russia. China also increased imports of Russian chocolate tenfold, becoming the largest importer of chocolate and confectionery from Russia. Simultaneously, Russian exporters of grain, corn, rice, soy, and rapeseed successfully passed the access procedures and entered the Chinese market, where their market share has

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since grown. Notably, China is willing to simplify trade regulations with regards to Russia further. Bilateral cooperation in agriculture has also been growing in other ways. China and Russia have established a Business Council on Agricultural Cooperation and Investments. The two countries are also creating a new, and first in Russia, Chinese animal and husbandry cluster in Primorsky Krai in Russia’s Far East. Chinese agricultural corporations also contributed to the revival of two milk factories in the region. The Chinese Tiangong Group LTD started cooperating with agricultural companies in the Altai Region (Russia) on importing food to China. Simultaneously, China and Russia are involved in the construction of a China–Russia grain logistics center in Mikhaylovksy District in Russia’s Far East (Centre for Research of Developing Markets, 2016b). If they succeed, such projects will contribute to the diversification of China–Russia trade and help Russia benefit from China’s economic growth. One should also mention the completion of two new bridges across the Amur River along the China–Russia border, which significantly facilitate direct economic exchange between the two countries (Portyakov, 2020, p. 67). The above list of China–Russia non-energy-related projects is inevitably incomplete as cooperation in this sphere is expanding rapidly. However, it can be concluded with a high degree of confidence that significant attempts are being made by both China and Russia to diversify the structure of bilateral economic relations. Going beyond the narrow limits of hydrocarbons trade can enhance mutual benefits and mitigate the energy provider-vs.-consumer hurdle. As documented in Table 5.2 above, the structure of China–Russia bilateral trade at the national level has demonstrated slight changes in the positive direction (see Table 5.2 after the year of 2013). The year 2013 appears as a relative transition point after which Russia’s non-energy exports to China started to pick up slowly, even though the growth has not been stable. In 2015, for the first time in over a decade, the share of machinery and equipment in Russia’s exports to China exceeded 2%. In 2016 it approached 3%, and in 2017 it reached the record 6.56%, which is a significant improvement, given the low starting point. While hardly a stable trend yet, these changes indicate some degree of success and give Moscow and Beijing a reason for cautious optimism. Even though the progress has been modest, these changes alleviate Russia’s concerns about becoming an energy appendage of China that negatively affect China–Russia strategic alignment. Noting the progress, Russian President Putin emphasized in his press conference on September 5, 2016 at the G20 Summit in Hanzhou that “the structure of our bilateral trade

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is improving due to the growing export of Russian machinery and other advanced products to the Chinese market, and also due to the growing number of joint high-tech projects.” This structural shift, according to Putin, is “a positive change in our bilateral relations,” which is “much more important than the absolute figures of trade turnover” (TASS, 2016). A significant qualitative change in China–Russia trade and economic cooperation structure will require consistent attempts on both sides for years or even decades. There is currently no reason to expect miracles, and the structure of Russian export to China in the next five to ten years is unlikely to change dramatically. Export of oil and other resources is most likely to continue to occupy the predominant position (about two-thirds of total exports). Simultaneously, the share of manufactured goods in Russia’s imports from China is likely to increase, also as a part of growing Chinese investment in Russia. Given how firmly Russia has consolidated its role as an energy exporter, even full commitment from China is unlikely to change the bilateral trade pattern soon. Nevertheless, the growing mutual recognition of the problem and the introduction of relevant policies and initiatives opens the door for cooperation and a closer strategic partnership. The intention to move further along the way of building a more balanced and mutually beneficial pattern of economic cooperation has been testified by signing more than twenty documents on China–Russia economic cooperation in various spheres during Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia on June 5-6, 2019 (Portyakov, 2020, p. 67). An external factor that incentivizes closer cooperation in the sphere of high tech is the ban introduced on the use of American technologies by the Chinese Huawei corporation (one of the world’s largest producers of smartphones), imposed by Washington. It appears that the external pressure generated by the changes within and between the “three balances” (see Chapter 4) drives both the military-defense cooperation and, with some delay, economic cooperation between China and Russia.

Diplomatic cooperation: a reflection of geopolitical interests Economic cooperation between China and Russia, explored above, lags significantly behind their military-strategic cooperation. However, China– Russia diplomatic cooperation is close to it, responding to the changes along the three balances explored in Chapter 4. Both countries have used existing international institutions quite effectively to jointly resist the US

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or its allies’ attempts to use force to remove recalcitrant regimes or exert economic pressure on states deemed by the US and its allies as guilty of human rights violations. As mentioned in Chapter 2, a useful indicator of diplomatic cooperation is the voting behavior in influential international institutions, such as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Voting patterns are effective indicators of alignment in international politics (Kim & Russett, 1996; Ferdinand, 2014). Meanwhile, a stronger indicator of alignment is not merely similarity of votes, such as voting of “yes,” “no,” or “abstained” together with other members of UNSC or other international platforms, but the joint use of the veto power – when a project supported by the majority is blocked by the minority. The power of a negative vote or veto, available to the permanent members only, prevents the adoption of a resolution or a proposal, even if it has received the required votes. It is a stronger political statement that often entails high reputational and political costs, triggers disagreements or even confrontation, and sometimes criticism of the entire Security Council or international community more broadly. It is the element of going against the majority of influential players that makes joint vetoes a stronger indication of an alignment. Since 1991, only three countries – China, Russia, and the United States – have used the veto power in the UNSC, and only two – China and Russia – used joint veto (Table 5.3). While in the early 1990s there were no joint China–Russia vetoes, after 2007, more than half of all Russia’s vetoes and all of China’s vetoes in the UNSC were joint China–Russia vetoes. Table 5.3  Veto records in UN Security Council (1991-2020) Total

United States

Russia

China

China–Russia

46

17 (13 before 2007)

14 (3 before and 11 after 2007)

2 (both before 2007)

13 (all after 2007)

Note: 2007 is the year of the first China–Russia joint veto in the UNSC.

The first time China and Russia jointly vetoed a UN resolution – the resolution over Myanmar – was 2007. Since then, the incidence of China–Russia joint vetoes in the UNSC has increased in number and frequency, reflecting a higher level of diplomatic cooperation (see Table 5.4). In 2008, another veto was imposed to protect Mugabe’s Zimbabwe from censure. The intensity of

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China–Russia cooperation within the UNSC increased in the early 2010s with the series of China–Russia joint vetoes on US-backed resolutions on Syria. Thus, China and Russia jointly vetoed four such resolutions: on October 4, 2011; February 4, 2012; July 19, 2012; and May 22, 2014 (United Nation, 2020b). These vetoes effectively thwarted the US-led efforts, together with France, the UK, Germany, and Portugal, to topple the Assad regime. The US and its allies castigated China and Russia for the joint vetoes and accused Beijing and Moscow of buying time for President Assad to smash the opposition (The Guardian, 2012). The then US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, stated that the United States was “outraged” and “disgusted” by the China–Russia joint vetoes (Voltairenet.org, 2011). In turn, Hillary Clinton indicated that China and Russia would “pay the price” for supporting Assad (RT, 2012). UN envoys also stated with regards to the China–Russia joint vetoes that the US and its allies’ efforts to impose sanctions on Syria were met with “fierce resistance” from Russia and China (Charbonneau, 2011). However, at a 2014 meeting in Beijing, Russian and Chinese leaders congratulated each other for preventing a western intervention, which, from their perspective, would have made matters much worse, and would have undermined any moves toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict (Cox, 2016, p. 325). As demonstrated in Table 5.4, the highest intensity of China–Russia cooperation starts in the second half of the 2010s, with seven joint vetoes happening between 2016 and 2020, which demonstrates the formation of a China–Russia power axis within the UN. Six of those joint vetoes were against UN resolutions on the situation in the Middle East, and one had to do with the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Table 5.4  China–Russia joint vetoes in the UNSC since 1991 US US RF

RF US

US CH

RF US CR US

US CH

US US US RF

US CR CR RF

CR CR

CR RF CR RF RF CR CR

US US US US

US

US CR

RF RF RF RF RF CR CR RF

1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

CR

Note: Compiled by the author based on data from United Nations (2020b). Each abbreviation indicates a veto on different resolutions. RF stands for vetoes by the Russian Federation, US – by the United States, CH – by China, CR – China–Russia joint vetoes.

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In addition to the UNSC, voting behavior in the Human Rights Council displays an even stronger alignment pattern. From 2006 to 2012,54 out of the total of 120 voting occasions, China was never on the same side with the US. However, there was a 99% rate of agreement between China and Russia (Wu, 2017). An important aspect of China–Russia diplomatic cooperation is the still nascent attempt to form an alternative system of international governance with particular emphasis on the regional level. In this context, some scholars speak about the emergence of a new, non-Western, regionalism, led by China and Russia and attempting to compete with, if not challenge, the West-led formats of regional integration and institution-building (Kaczmarski, 2017). Thus, China and Russia have enhanced cooperation within multilateral formats, such as the SCO and BRICS. For example, the 2015 consultations between the SCO members stressed that economic sanctions without authorization by the UNSC were unacceptable (The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, 2015). Russia has suggested a BRICS energy association to ensure the energy security of BRICS member states (RT, 2010). On June 29, 2015, Russia officially joined the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a co-founder and the third largest stakeholder after China and India. Asian nations have 75% of the bank’s shares. Russia joined as a regional – “Asian” – signatory with 6.66% founding share and gained 5.53% percent of voting share that gives it a role more significant than that of any other “Western” signatory in not only investment decisions but also in the formation of the board of directors (Huang & Chen, 2015). The Russian authorities have been reported to believe that AIIB “will contribute to Eurasian integration” and that Russia considers itself to be “a country belonging to the target region of the bank’s operations” (RT, 2015b). In the context of deteriorating Russia–West relations, these initiatives are viewed by some experts as marking the end of the epoch of post-communist Russia’s integration with the West and the emergence of new Eurasian geopolitics in which Putin’s vision of a “greater Europe” from Lisbon to Vladivostok is being replaced by a “greater Asia” from Shanghai to St. Petersburg (Trenin, 2015). Particularly important are China and Russia’s efforts to synchronize their regional projects within the geopolitical space of Greater Eurasia. It appears that even in the areas of competing interests, such as in Central Asia, Beijing and Moscow have found a way to cooperate. The 2015 agreement to connect 54 After six years on the UN Human Rights Council, China had to leave it in compliance with a rule that was set by the Council for each member state.

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the development of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative testifies to that spirit of cooperation (Korolev, 2016). In his presidential address to the Russian Federal Assembly in 2019, Putin re-emphasized that economic coordination in Eurasia and the creation of common markets “include implementing the decision to coordinate the activities of the EAEU with China’s Belt and Road initiative,” which will pave “the way to a greater Eurasian partnership” (President of Russia, 2019). The eventual practicalities of merging the EAEU and China’s Belt and Road initiative remain to be seen. However, as can be judged by recent exchanges between Putin and Xi, in the COVID-19 affected year of 2020, the two countries “have smoothly promoted coordination between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union” (ConsulateGeneral of the People’s Republic of China in Sydney, 2020).

Conclusion The above analysis demonstrates that China–Russia economic cooperation, while showing signs of improvement, lags behind military cooperation. Russia, important for China in a geopolitical sense, as reflected in diplomatic cooperation, occupies a very modest position in China’s economic interests. Even though Russia’s economic significance for China is gradually growing, this is happening due to the growing energy exports to China. After the construction of the “power of Siberia” gas pipeline, China’s energy dependence on Russia has increased. However, in other, non-energy spheres of economic relations, Russia’s role in China’s economic growth and wellbeing is barely significant. From the purely economic standpoint and beyond the energy sector, it is possible to suggest that Russia is not a priority partner for China. The problem of economic cooperation in the context of China–Russia relations goes deeper than an uncomplicated insufficiency of such cooperation or less-than-desirable trade volume. China’s and Russia’s different economic models – namely China being a major importer and Russia a major exporter of energy resources – create unfavorable (mostly for Russia) complementarity, which complicates the bilateral relationship and can be viewed as a hurdle for a tighter alliance formation. At the same time, the growing systemic pressure as a result of deteriorating relations with the system leader (the US) and the ensuant changes within the three balances as the causes of alliance formation incentivizes China and Russia to begin implementing policies to transform, if not remove, the

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existing economic problems. While the hurdles remain, the two countries have been working hard, especially since 2014, to minimize their impact by trying to change the pattern of economic cooperation. Only some modest results have been achieved by the end of the second decade of the 21st century. However, it appears that as the pressure emanating from the intensifying confrontation with the US increases, Moscow and Beijing search for ways to overcome the existing economic divergences and disagreements to jointly address the external pressure.

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6

Comparative Mapping: US–India and China–Russia Alignments Abstract To better understand the extent of China–Russia alignment, it is useful to assess it in relative terms. This chapter applies the alignment criteria developed and tested in the previous chapters to US–India alignment. US– India alignment is a new development in the post-Cold War international politics formed in the context of rising China and believed to share certain features with China–Russia post-Cold War alignment. This makes it a useful reference point for assessing the relative depth of China–Russia strategic cooperation. The goal of the comparison is twofold. First, it aims to see how China–Russia alignment fares vis-à-vis US–India alignment and where it is ahead or behind. The second goal is to execute a plausibility probe for the developed framework by applying it to a new case of strategic cooperation. Keywords: strategic alignment, China–Russia relations, US–India relations

The previous chapters have demonstrated that China–Russia strategic cooperation has progressed considerably and consistently since the end of the Cold War. However, if the evidence of growing strategic cooperation is presented without comparison, the depth of such cooperation risks appearing greater (or smaller) than it actually is. While the upward trend in China–Russia strategic cooperation is evident, assessing the level of that cooperation and the amount of its progress requires comparison. As shown below, the US–India alignment shares certain features with the China–Russia alignment. At the same time, both alignments have been the subjects of expert debates regarding their depth and sustainability, and there has been no systematic, theory-grounded assessment of US–India alignment explicitly applying an alignment framework. The analytical framework offered in Chapter 2 provides the metrics for comparative mapping of different interstate relations along the stages of

Korolev, Alexander, China–Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2022 doi: 10.5117/9789463725248_ch06

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alignment formation, which facilitates understanding of those relations. At the same time, systematic application of that framework to the case of US–India alignment, besides its empirical value, is also significant from the standpoint of a plausibility probe (George & Bennett, 2005; Levy, 2008; Eckstein, 1991). Given the nature of the task, this chapter will explore the parameters of US–India alignment in a more abridged form, with the overarching goal of assessing the level of cooperation compared to the China–Russia case.

US–India cooperation from the strategic alignment perspective The US and India, like China and Russia, are not identified as formal allies. Therefore, it is not surprising that none of their four bilateral “foundational agreements” (often referred to as “enabling agreements”) delineating specific aspects of defense cooperation – the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), signed in 2002; the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) of 2016; the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), signed in 2018; and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geopolitical Intelligence, signed in October 2020 – contain any clearly defined obligations to defend each other (White, 2021, p. 6). Nor such obligations exist in any of the auxiliary annexes to these documents or any other bilateral documents.55 As argued throughout this book, however, formal alliance treaties are a weak indicator of the level of actual alignment because states can act as allies without binding treaties and, conversely, an alliance on paper does not necessarily mean an alliance in reality.56 Overall, US–India relations have transformed fundamentally from the rather tense bilateral relationship of the late Cold War into a strategic partnership with extensive defense ties, joint military exercises, joint training and education programs, and other aspects of a growing strategic alignment. Progress has been particularly significant since the early 2000s 55 The additional documents include The New Framework for India–US Defense Relations, signed in 2005 and updated in 2015; a Maritime Information Sharing Technical Arrangement (MISTA), signed in October 2020 to advance maritime domain awareness; and Industrial Security Annex to the GSOMIA, signed in 2019. For more on the history and the nature of US–India bilateral strategic cooperation documents in the context of broader US–India relations, see White (2021); Pant and Joshi (2017); Rajagopalan (2020). 56 For a more in-depth discussion of the role of formal alliance treaties in alignment formation and development see Chapter 2.

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and, according to some assessments, has exceeded what India ever achieved with the Soviet Union during the Cold War (Tellis, 2015, p. 6). As with the relationship between China and Russia, post-Cold War US–India relations have also been subject to conflicting assessments. Furthermore, like the studies of China–Russia relations, the existing writings on US–India cooperation have provided a wealth of empirical material on its various aspects but have so far failed to test the historical record against a theory-grounded alignment framework.57 US–India relations have been described as a “global partnership with the potential to shape the future security architecture of the Indo-Pacific” (Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019b, p. 52). The relations have been viewed as based on a “broad convergence of geostrategic and geoeconomic interests” (Puthan Purayil, 2021, p. 3). The United States has been identified as India’s “single-most important external partner” (Mohan, 2008, p. 56). Indian officials have called the US and India “natural allies” (Parthasarathy, 2000). Top US officials, including Kurt Campbell (Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs), Leon Panetta (Defense Secretary), Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State), as well as Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump on various occasion have emphasized the significance of US–India cooperation for international peace and security (Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019b, p. 54). In 2014, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama jointly penned a Washington Post article presenting the US–India partnership as capable of defining the 21st century (Modi & Obama, 2014). Soon after, the US administration announced India as its first “major defense partner,” authorizing bilateral military-technological cooperation at the level of the US’s most advanced alliances (Paul & Underwood, 2019; White, 2021). However, the progress in US–India strategic cooperation has not been consistent and smooth, witnessing ups and downs and even significant setbacks. For example, the signing of the LEMOA – one of the foundational defense agreements – took more than a decade since it was first proposed in 2004, primarily due to New Delhi’s reluctance to enter a closer defense partnership with the US (Pant & Joshi, 2017, p. 133). The relationship also stalled on many other issues, and many experts started questioning the initial enthusiasm that surrounded it (Boggs & Burns, 2015; Goel, 2014; Lavoy & White, 2015; Perkovich, 2020; Smith, 2014), suggesting that inflated expectations do not conform to the realities of US–India cooperation (Lalwani & Byrne, 2019). Some assessments even suggested that in terms of foreign policy 57 An attempt to examine post-Cold War US–India alignment by applying a consistent set of analytical questions, but dissociated from any explicit theory, can be found in Mistry (2016).

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preferences, India is no closer to the US than is Russia or China (Shad, 2018). According to Cara Abercrombie (former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia), the US–India partnership “lacks the maturity critical to enabling the cooperation envisioned” (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 20). This divergence of assessments invites systematic analysis applying a theory-grounded alignment framework. Confidence building measures and US–India alignment During the Cold War, the US and India belonged to opposing geostrategic camps, and their relations during those years have been deemed as “little more than floundering” (Puthan Purayil, 2021, p. 3) and “largely fraught” (Xavier, 2019, p. 23). As some experts argues, the very idea of the US working closely with India would have been far-fetched only a decade ago (Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019b, p. 53). In his June 2016 address to the US Congress, Modi also hinted at the baggage of historical distrust by mentioning the need to overcome the “hesitation of history” (Pant & Joshi, 2017, p. 133). Indeed, when India conducted nuclear tests and declared itself a nuclear weapons state in 1998, Washington sanctioned India, which severely undermined the bilateral trust (Tellis, 2015; Xavier, 2019). Given this historical record, confidence-building measures (CBMs) were necessary before the relationship could progress towards closer strategic cooperation. Unlike China and Russia, the US and India do not share disputed borders, so CBMs between them were different. There were no “emergency contacts” aimed at preventing dangerous military activities along the border, as was the case at the outset of China–Russia post-Cold War cooperation. US–India CBMs had to deal with other thorny issues undermining the bilateral trust. One such issue was India’s nuclear weapons program and the US’s policy of containing it. India was under US sanctions for more than 30 years after it tested its first nuclear weapon in 1974. Nor was Washington willing to accept a new nuclear state after India’s tests in May 1998. The nuclear issue dragged the bilateral relationship down, significantly hampering cooperation (Pant & Joshi, 2017; Puthan Purayil, 2021; Tellis, 2015; Xavier, 2019). Washington accommodated India as a de facto nuclear state in 2005 through the US–India nuclear accord. On July 18, 2005, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a joint statement, agreed to enter into a civil nuclear agreement. Singh thanked Bush for ending the “nuclear apartheid,” imposed on India for more than 30 years, making New Delhi unable to trade in nuclear materials (Firstpost, 2017). This

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agreement marked the first recognition of India as a nuclear power and became a landmark that US policymakers hoped would “help transform the partnership between the world’s oldest and world’s largest democracy” towards closer cooperation (Rise, 2006). It signaled that the US was serious about building strong relations with India and would now treat India as a valued geopolitical partner rather than a target of its non-proliferation policies (Tellis, 2015, p. 6). The 2005 nuclear accord laid the groundwork for the 2008 US–India Civil Nuclear Agreement, which further enhanced bilateral trust and facilitated strategic cooperation. The United States agreed to work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India and, according to some assessments, did nothing less than overturn existing global norms and rules by obtaining exemptions to many Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) rules for India to support the agreement (Nasralla & Murphy, 2016; Rajagopalan, 2020). Signing the agreement also required amending US domestic laws, especially the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The 2008 nuclear agreement was a high point in US–India relations that indicated the US’s recognition of India as a “responsible nuclear state that should be integrated into the global nuclear order” (Pant, 2007, p. 455). These measures helped to convince New Delhi of the US’s commitment to the partnership and laid the foundations for the steady growth of bilateral ties. Other issues and related measures contributing to confidence building had to do with the Iran factor in US–India relations with Washington displaying accommodation towards each other’s interests. In response to Iran’s nuclear program, the US imposed tight sanctions on Tehran. Other countries that imported oil from or had investment projects in Iran were also subject to sanctions. However, Washington made exceptions for India, acknowledging New Delhi’s “legitimate business interests” in its Chabahar port project in Iran – a measure supported by both the Obama and Trump administrations (Kutty, 2019, p. 110). In June 2018, US officials announced that they understood the interests that come into play for India in the Chabahar port complex, which provided a new transportation corridor for landlocked Afghanistan and promised millions of dollars in trade (Nichols, 2018). In November 2018, Washington exempted the port project from sanctions, which further confirmed its intention to accommodate India’s interests (Landay, 2018). These measures do not fully resolve the Iran issue but, together with Washington’s willingness to defer some regional security issues in South Asia to New Delhi and engage India in international formats, such as G7, they contribute to the confidence building needed for strategic cooperation (Puthan Purayil, 2021; Xavier, 2019).

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Mechanisms for regular consultations in US–India strategic cooperation As mentioned in Chapter 2 and demonstrated in Chapter 3, regular consultations are necessary for the smooth functioning of strategic cooperation and are an indispensable aspect of alignment. The US and India have made significant progress by expanding their consultation structure from sporadic contacts to more regular formats. The most important consultation mechanism, which took place for the first time on September 6, 2018, is the annual US–India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue involving the US secretaries of state and defense and the Indian ministers for external affairs and defense. The 2+2 Dialogue replaced the US–India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, which had existed since 2015, to shift the discussion of regional security cooperation to a higher strategic plane and to insulate defense and security issues from contentious disagreements on trade (Roche, 2017; White, 2021, p. 7). Another important mechanism is the US–India Maritime Security Dialogue, inaugurated in April 2016. It operates at the Assistant Secretary/ Joint Secretary level and aims to intensify consultations on maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region (Pant & Joshi, 2017). Another primary consultative mechanism is the Defense Policy Group (DPG). It operates at the level of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (from the US side) and Defense Secretary (from India’s side) to guide US–India strategic defense cooperation. Established in the mid-1990s, it consists of five sub-groups that advance different aspects of US–India defense cooperation and report directly to DPG. These include the Defense Procurement and Production Group (DPPG), co-chaired by the Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (US) and the Director General for Acquisition (India) and focusing on defense acquisition and other trade issues between the two governments; the Senior Technology Security Group (STSG), led by the Defense Technology Security Agency Director (US) and Additional Secretary for Defense Production (India) and dealing with export licensing and technology security processes; the Joint Technical Group (JTG), co-chaired by the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research (US) and Director General of Production Coordination and Services Integration (India) to provide a forum for discussion and coordination of defense research and production issues. The remaining two groups within the DPG are the Military Cooperation Group (MCG), which guides cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces, and the Executive Steering Group (ESG), which works in conjunction with the MCG and focuses on developing military service-related cooperation. One should also mention the Defense Technology

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and Trade Initiative (DTTI), which focuses on technology co-development and co-production and is co-chaired by the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, on the US side, and the Secretary for Defence Production, on India’s side (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 127; US Department of Defense, 2015). In terms of the number of high-level defense and security dialogues, US–India alignment appears to be on par with China–Russia alignment.58 However, according to the metrics developed in Chapter 2, US–India alignment scores lower than China–Russia alignment.59 First, the US–India consultation infrastructure is less comprehensive. Communication happens regularly at the highest levels but not between bureaucracies at the local level, creating communication gaps. In order to be considered comprehensive, bilateral consultations require a more comprehensive range of actors beyond the Ministry of External Affairs, such as defense services, functional ministries, and military staff (Xavier, 2019, p. 43; Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019b, p. 56). Routinized engagement at all levels – from the strategic to the tactical – is required to develop the habits of practical cooperation and build the “connective tissue” that characterizes a mature strategic partnership (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 136). As shown in Chapter 3, the architecture of China–Russia consultations is comprised of a multi-level infrastructure of contacts and regular information exchanges among almost all government agencies and organizations – from top decision makers and their administrative units to defense ministries and their subdivisions to multiple regional consultation formats that occur between provinces and cities and further down to regular contacts between border garrisons and different types of troops and army units. The second, related deficiency of US–India security consultations has to do with India’s state capacity, precisely the staffing issues that create a significant institutional mismatch between the two countries and hinder effective cooperation. Relative to its size, India has a very small foreign service comparable, in terms of staff numbers, to that of New Zealand and Singapore (Markey, 2009). The Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Defence are not adequately staffed to support the full spectrum of strategic cooperation with the US (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 141). For example, the Indian Ministry of Defence has only one Joint Secretary (the equivalent 58 For China–Russia defense consultation mechanisms, see Chapter 3. 59 For the recognition of deficiencies of US–India bilateral security consultations and their impact on strategic cooperation, see Abercrombie (2019, p. 122), Xavier (2019, p. 20, p. 43), Kutty (2019, p. 96).

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of a US Assistant Secretary) in charge of international engagement with the entire world. Nor does it have counterparts to the US offices that focus on political-military affairs and regional development (Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019b, p. 70-71). The shortage of staff limits the number of diplomatic functions that India can undertake at any one time and constrains New Delhi’s ability to participate in new diplomatic initiatives. It also requires selectiveness and constant prioritization of competing demands. In this context, it is revealing that India has ten uniformed officers in its Moscow embassy’s defense representative office, against only three in Washington, and multiple civilian representatives who assist with managing joint production projects with Russia (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 143). The final aspect that places the US–India consultations mechanism behind the China–Russia one is the communication content. US–India consultations are dominated by technical issues related to procurement and military exercises but lack the holistic strategic assessments of external threats and security challenges necessary for forming a shared understanding of the global and regional environments (White, 2021, p. 9). The thematic agenda of US–India communications does not facilitate “thinking together” about external challenges, which undermines effective coordination and does not help to reduce China’s ability to exploit the existing communication gaps (Xavier, 2019, p. 50). As demonstrated in Chapters 3 and 4, many China–Russia consultations are designed to share strategic views on pressing issues of international politics and prepare for possible joint reactions to global and regional challenges. The three interrelated issues presented above weaken the consultation component of US–India alignment. While the two countries have made significant progress and their mechanism of consultations cannot be ranked as “low,” it cannot be ranked “high” either and is below the level achieved by China and Russia.60 Military-Technical Cooperation (MTC) MTC as a part of post-Cold War US–India relations had not seen significant development until the early 2010s. A milestone in this regard was the establishment in 2012 of the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), aimed at accelerating defense co-production and co-development efforts and streamlining related bureaucratic processes (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 131). DTTI 60 This invites further finetuning of the framework by introducing a more detailed breakdown at each stage of alignment formation.

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was to identify specific pathfinder technology projects for collaboration. It became the primary bilateral consultations forum, and by 2015 four initial co-production pathfinder projects were identified: co-development and co-production of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), roll on and roll off kits for the C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft,61 a mobile electric hybrid power source for expeditionary operations and deployments in isolated locations, and a next-generation uniform integrated protection ensemble for personnel operating in biological and chemical warfare environments (Tellis, 2015, p. 8). In 2016, these four projects were expanded to include seven working groups dealing with more sophisticated programs, such as aircraft carrier and jet engine technology cooperation and cooperation in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 132). India expected that these initiatives would facilitate technology transfer from the United States (Pant & Joshi, 2017, p. 140). In 2016, in parallel with these initiatives, the US government designated India as its “major defense partner,” a status unique to India, to facilitate bilateral goods and technologies exchanges and demonstrate the US’s intentions to treat India as its close ally. In 2018, the US Department of Commerce granted India the Strategic Trade Authorization Tier 1 status to further simplify export controls (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 132). Simultaneously, India became an important purchaser of American weapons, such as F-16s fighter jets, Apache and Chinook helicopters, C-17 and C-130 transport aircraft, light howitzer artillery, P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, jet engines and aircraft carrier technologies, and naval drones (Paul & Underwood, 2019, p. 359; Reuters, 2017). These initiatives increased the volume of arms transfers. They were also intended to indicate the two countries’ willingness to move from simple buyerseller arrangements to more co-development and co-production. Bilateral defense cooperation was further enhanced through educational exchanges, with Indian officers regularly attending US Staff Colleges and officers from both countries engaging in reciprocal training and knowledge sharing. However, despite all the progress, the transformative impact of the DTTI and the subsequent initiatives on bilateral defense cooperation has been limited and failed to generate technological interdependence, which places US–India MTC well below China–Russia MTC. Throughout the 2000s, India appeared uninterested in and even at times hostile towards the idea of deepening MTC with the United States. (Pant & Joshi, 2017, p. 136). Defense co-production, though trending upward, is the area in which India’s policies 61 Roll on and off kits can be cargo modules or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems built into a trailer-like container that can be rolled on and off an aircraft.

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converged with the US’s preferences only to a low extent or did not converge at all (Mistry, 2016, p. 24). This was evidenced by the Indian government rejecting multiple co-production options offered by the US, as was the case in 2012, when under DTTI, Washington offered India co-production of the Sikorsky Seahawk naval helicopter, the Javelin anti-tank missile, a 127 mm naval gun, and a delivery system for scatterable mines. New Delhi decided not to accept these offers and rejected the Javelin in favor of an Israeli anti-tank missile (Mistry, 2016, p. 26). According to Abercrombie (2019, p. 132), DTTI has failed to accomplish its objective of the joint production and development of arms. While the US tried to use DTTI to build an institutional partnership with India and US firms wanted to capture the Indian market for coproduced weapons, India continued to subject DTTI projects to its standard defense procurement processes that required competition between multiple potential suppliers. Moreover, it was challenging to identify projects needed by both countries and simultaneously making business sense for the private-sector partners on the US side. As highlighted by White (2021, p. 13), the progress with co-development and co-production through DTTI has been halting, with some agreed-upon projects being “embarrassingly modest” while others have proved “too challenging.” The issue has been exacerbated by India’s limited research and development capacity, which makes the involvement of prominent US original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) unviable. India’s tangible and intangible contributions to joint projects were never sophisticated or inexpensive enough to justify cooperation, especially where the most cutting-edge programs are concerned (Tellis, 2015, p. 7-8). As a result, DTTI has primarily served to bypass the obstacles in the Indian procurement system rather than stimulating joint defense production, and the research, and development of weapons. At the same time, India collaborates extensively with another great power – Russia – which is in direct geopolitical confrontation with the United States. Even though Russia–Indian MTC is not as advanced as Russia–China MTC, Russia has been India’s longstanding (since 1960s) partner in developing advanced weapon technologies in a way that surpasses US–India MTC. Examples include India’s collaboration with Russia’s Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering on the development of India’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant and the co-production by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited of the Russian Mig-21, Mig-23/27, Mig-29, and Su-30 fighter jets. India also remains reliant on Russia for spare parts and upgrades for a disproportionate segment of its armory. According to some assessments, even if all four DTTI projects between the US and India

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succeeded on all accounts, it would still be questionable whether DTTI could ever progress to the level of India–Russia MTC (Tellis, 2015, p. 9). Indian purchases of Russian systems like the S-400 long-range surface to air missile system and leases of Russian nuclear submarines only contribute to the “rough stasis” in US–India MTC after years-long efforts at joint production (Lalwani & Byrne, 2019, p. 47). Russia also easily remains India’s largest arms supplier, with the value of defense purchase agreements signed only in 2018 reaching US$15 billion, which is near the US$16 billion of US defense sales to India over a decade (Shukla, 2019). In 2020, the US remained “still a distant second to Russia” in arms supplies to India (Rajagopalan, 2020, p. 84). Washington has been warning India about possible sanctions under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) due to India’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400. These developments raise concerns regarding the feasibility of US–India strategic alignment. As in the case of regular bilateral consultations, US–India MTC has made significant progress, and bilateral cooperation in this area might increase. However, due to the factors reviewed above, US–India MTC cannot be ranked “high” according to our framework. Regular joint military exercises in US–India relations Since the early 2000s, US–India joint military exercises have grown in size and sophistication. The Indian military today conducts more exercises with the US than with any other country (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 128; Rajagopalan, 2020, p. 85). There are bilateral exercises for each of the three services – army (Yudh Abhyas exercises), navy (Malabar and RIMPAC exercises), and air forces (Exercise Red Flag). The frequency of exercises within each service can vary, with navy exercises happening twice a year, army exercises – once annually, and air force exercises – once in several years. India and the US also conduct bilateral exercises involving special operation forces (Vajra Prahar and Tarkash exercises) and small-scale naval exercises, such as Habu Nag, Spitting Cobra, and Salvex, focusing on amphibious operations, explosive ordnance destruction, and diving and salvage, respectively (Mistry, 2016, p. 25), even though not all of these minor exercises occur annually. The most advanced and frequent are navy exercises. The annual Malabar exercise, originally launched as a mere passing exercise62 in 1992, has become 62 A passing exercise is an exercise between two navies to ensure that they are able to communicate and cooperate in times of humanitarian relief or war. Common drills include flashing light drills, semaphore drills, and flaghoist drills.

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the largest naval exercise involving US and India. It has grown from involving just one or two warships from each side in the early 2000s into large-scale navy drills involving multiple warships in the mid-2000s and even aircraft carriers in 2017 (Khera, 2017, p. 18). In 2015, Japan joined the Malabar exercises as a permanent participant (Raghuvanshi, 2015). US–India maritime security cooperation has received a further boost due to China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea. In 2015, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi released the US–India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, in which they announced their intention to enhance maritime security cooperation (The White House, 2015). Starting from 2018, India’s military attaché in Bahrain also serves as a liaison officer at the US Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain – an arrangement that is believed to significantly enhance US–India cooperation in the Indian Ocean region (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 133). At the same time, there are issues with US–India joint military exercises that place this parameter of US–India cooperation below China–Russia cooperation. First, the US and India exercise less frequently than China and Russia. As demonstrated in Chapter 3, China–Russia regular joint military exercises of various formats and configurations consistently take place five to six times a year. US–India exercises take place less regularly and with a frequency that fluctuates between one and four exercises every year. Thus, even though India exercises with the US more than with any other country, the frequency of the exercises is insuff icient to achieve interoperability (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 130).63 Moreover, the analysis of the frequency and content of India’s and the US’s military exercises with foreign countries reveals that New Delhi and Washington are not the priority strategic partners for each other but, instead, ones among many. This situation is predominantly due to India’s reluctance to rapidly advance its military cooperation with the US, as evidenced by significant delays with signing the LEMOA, COMCASA, and BECA enabling agreements. Second, in terms of geographic range and sophistication, US–India exercises also lag behind China–Russia exercises. US–India exercises have mostly taken place in either India or the US, or their and other participants’ immediate geopolitical environments. China–Russia military exercises, in contrast, have consistently moved into distant regions during tense 63 For the sake of comparison, US Navy annual engagements with the Japan Maritime SelfDefense Force can be as many as 28. Even Singapore, which is not formally aligned with the US and whose active forces number only 5% of India’s, conducts more (up to eight) military exercises with the US than India annually (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 130).

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international situations, as in the cases of the Joint Sea-2015 in the Mediterranean shortly after the breakout of the Ukraine Crisis, the Joint Sea-2016 in the disputed South China Sea after the Hague tribunal overruling China’s territorial claims, Joint Sea-2017 in the Baltic, and Joint Sea-2019 close to the Cape of Good Hope (see Chapter 3). The number of troops involved in US–India exercises, while having grown significantly, is measured in tens in the smaller exercises and mere hundreds in the larger ones (Mistry, 2016, p. 25), which is significantly less than the thousands typically involved in China–Russia military exercises. Air force exercises are considered the highest level in the hierarchy of international military exercises due to their impact and high demand on interoperability of forces (Khera, 2017, p. 28). However, US–India combined air force exercises have been infrequent and irregular. US–India air force exercises, compared to other services, have lagged in recent years, largely due to problems of aircraft compatibility (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 129; White, 2021, p. 11). There have been calls in the expert community that the US should seek greater air force participation in Malabar and encourage bilateral air force simulations, wargaming, and exchanges on issues that include both doctrinal and technical dimensions, such as airborne warning, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in denied environments (Burgess, 2019). The third aspect that hiders interoperability between the two militaries is New Delhi’s strong preference for multilateralism, at times involving countries at odds with the United States. However, it is bilateral exercises that result in greater interaction between the participants (Khera, 2017, p. 30). Lalwani and Byrne (2019, p. 46) have called India’s tendency to prioritize breadth of partners over depth of cooperation “strategic promiscuity.” Even the most important and comprehensive US–India exercise – the Malabar exercise – has moved towards multilateralism, with Japan and Australia joining as permanent participants in 2015 and 2020, respectively. Thus, US–India military exercises do not significantly stand out vis-à-vis India’s exercises with other countries. India holds regular military exercises with 23 countries, and it exercises with Singapore almost as often as it does with the US. India’s exercises with the US engage all three services (Army, Navy, Air Force), but so do its exercises with Indonesia, the U.K., Singapore, and Russia (Khera, 2017, pp. 25-29).64 Despite this diverse portfolio of partners, some Indian experts and former military officers have called for revisiting 64 Exercises with France and Sri Lanka have engaged two services and the remaining 16 countries have been engaged by a single service only (Khera, 2017, p. 29).

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India’s engagement policy towards reducing the frequency of military exercises with certain countries “in order to engage a greater number of countries,” because the “gains from engaging different countries would far outweigh repeated engagement with the same partners” (Khera, 2017, p. 35). In contrast, the US side believes that increasing the number of partners instead of increasing the frequency of exercises with key capable partners helps India familiarize itself with numerous militaries but does not yield operational benefits (Abercrombie, 2019). Finally, India’s extensive engagement with Russia undermines US–India cooperation. As shown in Table 6.1, US–India exercises are slightly ahead of India–Russia exercises in terms of frequency for the period from 2012 to 2020.65 However, the gap is not significant, and in some years, India and Russia exercised more frequently than the US and India. Moreover, the data reveals that India has more tri-service and air force exercises with Russia than it does with the United States. While this may change, it adds an important sobering footnote to the observed upward trend in US–India military cooperation. Table 6.1 India’s major regular military exercises with the United States and Russia

year

United States Qty

2012

2

2013

1

Description

– Malabar in Pacific Ocean (IN, USN) – Yudh Abhyas in India (IA, USA)

– Malabar in the Bay of Bengal (IN, USN)

Russia Qty

Description

2

– –

INDRA-V in Russia (tri-service) INDRA-VI in the Arabian Sea (tri-service)

1



INDRA-V in India (tri-service)

– – Malabar in the Sea of Japan 2014

3

(IN, USN, JMSDF) RIMPAC in the US (IN, USN, and navies of 20 countries) – Yudh Abhyas in India (IA, USA)



4

Avia Indra-I in Russia (IAF, Russian Air Force) – Avia Indra-II in India (IAF, Russian Air Force) – INDRA-VII in Russia (tri-service) – INDRA-VIII in the Sea of Japan (IN, Russian Navy)

65 The list of exercises presented in the table is not exhaustive and offers a rough estimate. It includes major regular exercises only. There are other irregular and/or infrequent exercises, such as Cope India and Red Flag (between India and the US) or small-scale episodic exercises on the sidelines of major exercises (as happens in both India–US and India–Russia interactions).

Comparative Mapping: US–India and China–Russia Alignments

year

United States Qty

Description

171

Russia Qty

Description

– Malabar in the Bay of Bengal 2015

2

(IN, USN, JMSDF)

– Yudh Abhyas in the US (IA,

1



INDRA-VIII in India (tri-service)

USA)

– Malabar in the Pacific Ocean 2016

4

(IN, USN, JMSDF) Red Flag-16 in the US (IAF, USAF) – RIMPAC in the US (IN, USN, and navies of 25 countries) – Yudh Abhyas in India (IA, USA)



– 2

INDRA-VIII in Russia (IA, Russian Army) – INDRA-IX in the Bay of Bengal (IAN, Russian Navy)

1



INDRA-IX in Russia (tri-service)

2

– –

INDRA-X in India (tri-service) Avia Indra- III in Russia (IAF, Russian Air Force)

– Malabar in the Bay of Bengal 2017

2

(IN, USN, JMSDF)

– Yudh Abhyas in the US (IA, USA)

2018

2

2019

3

2020

1

Total

20

– Malabar in the Bay of Bengal (IN, USN, JMSDF) – Yudh Abhyas in India (IA, USA)

– Malabar in Japan, off the coast

– Tsentr-2019 in Russia (IA, Rus-

of Sasebo (IN, USN, JMSDF) – Tiger Triumph in India (tri-service) – Yudh Abhyas in the US (IA, USA)

sian Army, and the armies of China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan) – INDRA-XI in India (tri-service)

– Malabar in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea (IN, USN, JMSDF, RAN)

2

1



INDRA-XI in the Andaman Sea (IN, Russian Navy)

16

Note: Compiled by the author based on various publicly available sources. Abbreviations used: IN – Indian Navy; IA – Indian Army; IAF – Indian Air Force; USA – United States Army; USAF – United States Air Force; USN – United States Navy; JSDMF – Japanese Self-Defense Maritime Force; RAN – Royal Australian Navy.

Advanced cooperation and interoperability of US and Indian military forces The characteristics of advanced alignment, as defined by our framework’s three indicators of integrated military command, military base exchanges, and common defense policy, are largely absent from US–India strategic cooperation, with the only exception of nascent and episodic elements of integrated military command. Any possibility of basing access seems, as Lalwani and Byrne (2019, p. 47) put it, “unfathomable” in US–India

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relations. Like China or Russia, India is highly sensitive about the issue of its sovereignty. Moreover, in the Indian case, this issue is even more problematic given India’s colonial history. For this reason, any attempts by a foreign state to permanently deploy its troops on Indian soil are likely to be circumscribed by New Delhi, even if doing so is dictated by the need to tackle a severe external threat. While China–Russia alignment does not include base exchanges either, it appears ahead in terms of integrated military command and the emerging elements of common defense policy. There is little evidence of moving towards a common defense policy in US–India relations. The US–India maritime cooperation framework, originally announced in 2006 as a way to deal with non-traditional security threats, such as disaster response, counterpiracy, and transnational crime (Government of India, 2006), never picked up steam due to the lack of a political imperative for cooperation (Abercrombie, 2019, pp. 132-133). The lack of progress towards joint planning and coordination on regional security issues is related to the characteristics of US–India regular consultations (indicator no. 2 explored above), which focus predominantly on technical issues of procurements or exercise-specific discussions but lack substantive assessment of common regional and global threats. In this light, some experts argue that US and Indian policies are expected to continue to operate independently and “in parallel” instead of becoming a joint effort (Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019b, p. 55). In terms of integrated military command, despite multiple joint activities under the rubric of freedom of navigation and the freedom of the seas, there has been little evidence of direct coordination between the Indian and US militaries (Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019b, p. 66). An exception was the 2019 Tiger Triumph joint military exercise in which the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet commander served as the overall force commander, with a US Marine Corps officer attached with him as a liaison officer (Gurung, 2019). However, examples like this are not regular, and the two countries’ armed forces are still far from being interoperable (Abercrombie, 2019; Lalwani & Byrne, 2019). This makes the potential participation of US and Indian forces in combined operations rather challenging.

Explaining US–India strategic cooperation: power, threats, and interest As demonstrated above, the functioning of US–India strategic cooperation has fallen below the level of “natural allies” originally expected. According

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to our framework, the causes of alignment formation and performance are in the condition of the balances of power, threat, and interests and the interrelationship between them. The alignment incentives in US–India relations are weaker than in China–Russia relations, primarily due to discrepancies between the three balances. This correlation between the incentives and the outcomes in the context of US–India relations further confirms the robustness of the framework. Starting with the material power balance, US–India alignment is expected because the rapid rise of China to the position of a great power with global geopolitical ambitions has generated a systemic pressure that should incentivize US–India alignment. The expectation of US–India alignment are even stronger given the complicated nature of China’s relationship with both countries. India is much weaker than China militarily, economically, and technologically. Recognizing the significant power imbalance, India’s military commanders have made their position unambiguous by stating that India is “no match” for China’s military capabilities (Singh, 2009) and that it is “not ready” for a war with China (Unnithan, 2011). Since New Delhi cannot rely on internal balancing to cope with China’s rise, it has to reach out to the US to mount an effective external balancing against China (Pant & Joshi, 2017, p. 145; Puthan Purayil, 2021, p. 2; Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019b, p. 67). The US is still most likely capable of countering China by itself, but it would be much easier to deal with China in cooperation with India (Rajagopalan, 2017, p. 39). As a former US Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns, highlighted in the mid-2000s, the US’s growing engagement with India had “a tremendous strategic upside” because of its “real promise for the global balance of power” (Burns, 2007, p. 131). Therefore, as in China–Russia alignment, the structural factor of the balance of power pushes India and the US together. The existing structure of the international system can explain the ongoing rapprochement and suggests further alignment between New Delhi and Washington (Mistry, 2016, p. 8). However, US–India alignment is affected by the divergences between the condition of the balance of power and those related to threats and interests. The discrepancy between the three causal factors, largely absent in China–Russia relations, dampens alignment incentives in the US–India case and explains why New Delhi appears reluctant to step into a tighter anti-China alignment with Washington. On the surface, the US and India’s perceptions of the major external threat coincide. There is a consensus in the literature that China is the primary driver of US–India alignment. Balancing China has been seen as a major reason behind US–India cooperation since the early 2000s (Mistry,

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2016, p. 8). China’s rapid rise, assertiveness, and geopolitical clout appear to have forced the two countries into unusually close security collaboration (Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019a, pp. 12-14). China is also a common threat for US and India and the “most prominent structural variable” in the upward trajectory of US–India relations (Pant & Joshi, 2017, p. 144). Even though policymakers are reluctant to admit it publicly, India’s relationship with the US is “clearly a response to the rise of China” (Basrur, 2017, p. 17). Driven by their converging concerns over China’s rise, both Indian and American leaders started, at the turn of the 21st century, to come up with increasingly severe threat assessments about China and invest in long-term bilateral security cooperation (Xavier, 2019, pp. 20-28; Rajagopalan, 2020, p. 84; Puthan Purayil, 2021, p. 4). Some high-level political statements have borne out these assessments. In 2014, in a joint statement, Modi and Obama for the first time expressed concerns about “rising tensions over maritime territorial disputes” and threats to freedom of navigation (The White House, 2014). The 2015 US–India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region further emphasized the importance of safeguarding maritime security, freedom of navigation, and overflight in the South China Sea (The White House, 2015). In 2017, the then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson highlighted that “China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international rules-based order, even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nations’ sovereignty” (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2017). According to former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, India must align with the US (alongside Japan, Australia, Indonesia, and Vietnam) to countervail China, which has become the main adversary (Saran, 2017, p. 148). From this vantage point, China appears as a common threat contributing to the consolidation of US–India strategic alignment. However, a closer analysis reveals that beneath the façade of shared concerns about the rise of China and calls for deeper cooperation, the specific “China threats” faced by the two countries are categorically different. Washington is concerned about China’s economic and military growth, technological advancements, and increasing global ambitions that challenge the existing US-dominated global order.66 It is concerned about China becoming the closest peer competitor to the US in multiple respects and the ensuing systemic challenge to the global status quo. Specific China-led schemes and initiatives, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), power 66 For more on how China constitutes a threat to the US, see Chapter 4.

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projection in the South and East China Seas and the Indo-Pacific more broadly, and the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) (in which India is second only to China itself as the largest shareholder) all concern Washington as they challenge the global hegemonic role of the United States. India’s threat assessments are driven by categorically different considerations. India is less concerned with China’s alleged global ambitions and its systemic challenge to the West. Instead, for New Delhi, the most significant security threats from China are all related to geopolitically proximate challenges “close to home,” which dictates a different pattern of behavior towards China. The issues that top India’s agenda, but concern the US only tangentially, include the enduring land border tension with China, Beijing’s support of Pakistan by arms transfers and assistance with its missile program, and China’s building of all-weather ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka (Pant & Joshi, 2017, p. 144; Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019a, p. 13; Paul & Underwood, 2019, p. 352; Puthan Purayl, 2021, p. 5). The modernization of the Indian armed forces is directed towards the disputed border – to deal with the proximate geopolitical threat posed by China (Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019a, p. 13). Allocation of resources for the Navy, in turn, not only remains the lowest among the three services but has declined from 19% of the total military budget in 2010-2011 to just 15.5% in 2018-2019, which is indicative of a threat perception which is quite different from that of the United States (Rajagopalan 2020, p. 89). As highlighted by Lalwani and Byrne (2019, p. 53), India favoring the identification of the China threat as primarily terrestrial instead of maritime or related to global order makes India’s strategic motivations different from those of the US, which are principally based on expectations of maritime security coordination and cooperation on global balancing against China. As far as China’s BRI is concerned, India worries less about how it might change China’s regional and global influence and more about the fact that an important part of BRI – the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – cuts through parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which India considers its territory. Because of China’s presence in India’s immediate neighborhood, the issue of the disputed border, together with India’s relatively limited military capabilities, require New Delhi to be more sensitive to Beijing’s potential reactions to what it might perceive as challenging its core interests (Xavier, 2019, p. 26; Singh, 2019, p. 93). Such a categorical discrepancy in threat perceptions does not exist between China and Russia. In the US–India case, this discrepancy explains the limited nature of bilateral strategic cooperation and New Delhi’s reluctance

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to cooperate militarily in high gear, not to mention moving into an antiChina alignment with the United States. Once the core goals of defense cooperation moved closer towards balancing against China, India has been noted to start backpedaling and proved to be an “underwhelming partner,” which has led experts to question its alignment with the United States (Lalwani & Byrne, 2019, p. 45). While a common view of external threats currently exists between the US and India only to a limited extent, the situation might change. On June 16, 2020, Indian off icials announced that 20 Indian army personnel had died in a military standoff with China, the first time since 1975 that border tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC)67 resulted in bloodshed. Some observers have called the incident a “turning point,” after which China–India relations can no longer be business as usual (Guha, 2020). The incident has raised India’s security concerns about China considerably. Soon after the incident, New Delhi decided to ban Chinese apps with perceived security issues, reconsider certain Chinese investments in India from the perspective of national security, and deploy its Navy’s frontline warships in the South China Sea. These developments may remove the existing hurdles in US–India security cooperation and are believed by some to illustrate the formation of a more consolidated balancing behavior towards China (Puthan Purayil, 2021, p. 2). If this conflictual dynamic continues, India may recalibrate its threat perception regarding China and, as a result, depart from its adherence to a rather careful political stance towards China. When it comes to the balance of interests, the gap between India and the US widens, further weakening alignment incentives. As in the case of perceptions of threats, the general strategic interests of India and the U.S seem to coincide. India’s Act East Policy on surface dovetails well with the US’s strategy of rebalancing to Asia as both aspire to enhance stability in the Asia-Pacific (Mistry 2016, p. 10). The two countries claim to pursue a collaborative approach to regional and global security (Pant & Joshi, 2017, p. 141). A joint communique, issued after Modi’s visit to Washington in June 2017, calls the US and India “responsible stewards in the Indo-Pacific region” whose partnership is “central to peace and stability in the region” (Government of India, 2017). Both sides pledged to “work together and in concert with other partners toward advancing a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, based on recognition of ASEAN centrality and respect 67 The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a notional demarcation line separating Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory in the Sino-Indian border dispute.

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for sovereignty, territorial integrity, the rule of law, good governance, free and fair trade, and freedom of navigation and overflight” (Government of India, 2018a). Some believe such diplomatic language indicates the US and India’s shared interests and concerns (Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019b, p. 63). Pledges to work together on the realization of common interests have been present, with little variation, in nearly every bilateral joint statement since 2001 (Abercrombie, 2019, p. 125). However, beneath the surface of seemingly similar objectives are significant divergences of interests that hinder closer alignment. These divergences have to do with different understandings of the strategic geography and normative foundations of the “free and open Indo-Pacific,”68 different visions of the US-led international order and the values it propagates, differences in approaches to relations with China and international institutions dominated by it, and continuing divergences on the issues of regional security involving Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The US’s view of the Indo-Pacif ic approximates the US Indo-Pacif ic Command area of operations, which stretches from the west coast of the US in the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of India in the Indian Ocean (Singh, 2019, p. 79). This approach places greater emphasis on Southeast Asia and particularly India. In contrast, India views “Indo” in broader terms which include the whole of the Indian Ocean from South Africa to Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean islands to India’s west, and it views Indo-Pacific as extending, in Modi’s own words, “from shores of Africa to that of the Americas” (Government of India, 2018b; Kutty 2019, p. 98). At the same time, while identifying as a democracy, India has not fully embraced the extension of the concept from simply “Indo-Pacific” to “free and open Indo-Pacific,” which has stronger normative, value-loaded connotations and anti-China flavor. Thus, New Delhi has refused to participate in joint US–India “freedom of navigation” patrols in the South China Sea (Rajagopalan, 2020, p. 79; Singh, 2019, p. 85; Xavier, 2019, p. 28). These differences reflect a divergence of interests, which poses obstacles for coordinating military and diplomatic strategies and undermines the US–India joint balancing effort against China (Lalwani & Byrne, 2019; Singh, 2019, p. 78). Nor is India on the same page with the US regarding the vision of a US-led international order and its value system. For example, having a strong anti-colonial and anti-imperialist sentiment, New Delhi has 68 For an extended discussion of the contested views about the Indo-Pacific region, see Pande and Nagao (2018), Gyngell (2018), Beeson and Wilson (2018).

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been acting against the interests of the US by steadfastly supporting Mauritius in its claims over the contested territory of Diego Garcia, on which Washington has military bases. Thus, India supported a UN process and the subsequent International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that seriously jeopardized US basing in Diego Garcia, which is critical to Washington’s power projection in the region (Baruah & Joshi, 2021, p. 19). India also remained silent on Russia’s annexation of Crimea and voted together with China and Russia in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons against an investigation into chemical weapons attacks by Russia in England against a former spy (Lalwani & Byrne, 2019, p. 49). There are also significant differences between the US and India in understanding the role of democratic values in foreign policy and international relations. As demonstrated by Xavier (2019, pp. 44-48), these differences create tensions between the two countries, as happened during the refugee crisis in Myanmar in the mid-2000s. Indian officials continued to engage with the regime in Myanmar and refused to join US efforts to exert pressure on it through what they considered as “counter-productive,” “intrusive,” “country-specif ic,” and “condemnatory” UN resolutions backed by the United States (Bhasin, 2007 as cited in Xavier, 2019, p. 45). This behavior by India, arguably driven by the intention of preventing Myanmar from falling into Chinese hands, marked a significant split between New Delhi and Washington (Xavier, 2019, pp. 45-46). India’s and the US’s approaches to China and international institutions where it plays a significant role also diverge. India has always sought dialogue with China despite frequent diplomatic and military confrontations. It has consistently sought to avert the deterioration of relations with Beijing, emphasizing that the common interests of the two countries far outweigh the existing differences and accommodating China’s concerns by not subscribing to any anti-China alliance building (Rajagopalan, 2020, pp. 89-90; Mistry, 2016, p. 14). The reality of the Asia-Pacific region and India’s status as a developing country with limited capabilities require that New Delhi cultivates functional relations with China and avoids actions that risk jeopardizing the bilateral trade and inflow of investment from China (Joshi, 2015, p. 60). Quite indicative in this regard is Modi’s rather nuanced and balanced keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018 in which he expressed a “firm belief” that “Asia and the world will have a better future when India and China work together in trust and confidence, sensitive to each other’s interests” (Government of India 2018b). India also took common positions with China on such international issues as climate change and

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freer international trade when the US started practicing protectionism under Trump (Rajagopalan 2020, p. 90). India actively participates in a number of multilateral forums and organizations that China favors, such as the RIC (Russia–India–China) forum, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), the AIIB, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).69 Only a week after Obama’s visit to India in 2015, which was poised to mark a qualitative change in the US–India relationship and the beginning of India’s stronger tilting towards the US, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj went to Beijing to join her counterparts from China (Wang Yi) and Russia (Sergei Lavrov) for the 13th Russia–India–China trilateral foreign minister’s meeting. The Joint Communiqué issued after the meeting emphasized that the three countries “need to further strengthen coordination on global issues and practical cooperation” (Tiezzi, 2015). Moreover, it praised Russia’s role in fostering conversation between the Syrian Government and “opposition groups” while also supporting “the efforts of the Syrian government to combat terrorism,” making no mention of the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. The communiqué also termed the Ukraine Crisis an “inter-Ukraine conflict” and called for a peaceful resolution through political negotiation (Joshi, 2015, p. 6; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 2015). In a similar vein, the 10th BRICS Summit Johannesburg Declaration of June 27, 2018, highlighted the member states’ commitment to “multilateralism and the central role of the United Nations in international affairs” (South African Government, 2018). According to Stuenkel (2017), given the growing degree of institutionalization of BRICS, the Declaration indicates the signatories’ intention to counteract US’s destructive impact (under Trump) on global rules and norms. India’s active participation in the consolidating institutions dominated by US’s structural rivals (China and Russia) indicates that a closer US–India relationship does not necessarily imply balancing against China. The interests of India and the US continue to diverge even further on Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. India cultivates high-level diplomatic and economic interactions with Iran to balance Pakistan and connect to Western Afghanistan via the Chabahar port (Lalwani & Byrne, 2019, p. 46). Washington’s engagement with Pakistan and the persisting sanctions on Tehran are viewed in India as barriers to its economic and geostrategic 69 The SCO includes Russia, the former Soviet Central Asian republics, and China. India sought admission and officially joined SCO as a full member in June 2017.

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interests, creating strain in US–India relations (Puthan Purayil, 2021, p. 10). The US has made attempts to accommodate India’s interests by granting New Delhi some relief from its anti-Iran sanctions to allow India to cooperate with Iran in certain areas (such as India’s investments in the Chabahar port). However, the persistent divergence of national interests and priorities on Iran’s role in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific more broadly continues to dampen the progress in US–India strategic cooperation. Indian strategic interests in developing relations with Iran are in striking contrast to the US’s strategic goals of containing Iran (Mistry, 2016; Kutty, 2019; Puthan Purayl, 2021; Singh, 2019). Overall, the issues with divergent interests explored above are not unrelated to each other. Together they have stymied closer US–India strategic alignment, and any one of them could complicate the bilateral cooperation in the future.

Robustness check Similar to China–Russia alignment, US–India cooperation suffers from the challenge of insufficient economic ties and a weak economic foundation. Even though US–India trade is significant, second only to India–China trade in 2020, the economic link is believed to be the weakest in the bilateral relationship (Pant & Joshi, 2017, p. 141). As in China–Russia alignment, US–India relations are disproportionately dependent on defense and security ties, which requires attention, specifically from the US administration, which has a stronger capacity to shape the relationship (White, 2021, p. 20). Some experts argue that for US–India alignment, economic and trade hurdles are a more significant challenge than the issue of Iran (Kutty, 2019, p. 114). The existing economic problems are structural and cannot be quickly resolved. They include longstanding disagreements over the issues of market access and intellectual property rights. These issues are exacerbated by the fact that the two economies are at significantly different stages of development: while the US is a free-market economy, India’s economy has a long way to go before it reaches that stage (Puthan Purayil, 2021, p. 10). US–India diplomatic cooperation, as illustrated by voting patterns in the United Nations (UN), also reveals a low level of congruence between the two countries’ interests. According to the US Department of State, between 2009 and 2014, of all the votes on about 80 issues during annual UN General Assembly sessions, India voted with the US on only 25-35%

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of issues. In contrast, the US’s Asian and European allies voted with the US on more than 70% of matters. The percentage of voting on the same side as the US is even lower (less than 20%) on issues related to human rights, nuclear arms control, and Israel–Palestine issues (Mistry, 2016, p. 46). When it comes to issues of humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect, India’s approach appears to converge more with Brazil, Russia, China, and South Africa (India’s BRICS partners) and with the nonaligned countries than with the United States (Sidhu, Mehta, and Jones, 2013 as cited in Mistry, 2016, p. 46). This constitutes a signif icant difference from the nearly identical voting of China and Russia at the UN.

Conclusion Many experts notice that US–India strategic cooperation has not lived up to its initial high expectations. Therefore, policymakers, especially on the US side, should be more realistic about what can be achieved between the two countries in terms of building a strong policy alignment (Mistry, 2016; Ladwig III & Mukherjee, 2019b; Abercrombie, 2019; Lalwani & Byrne, 2019; Puthan Purayil, 2021). There are a number of unanswered questions in US–India relations regarding whether the US will persist in strategic cooperation with India and stand by India even if the alignment doesn’t deepen, whether India would be willing to compromise on its policy of keeping the door open to other partners to consolidate its cooperation with the US, and whether the two countries would be able to habituate and routinize their ongoing bilateral security cooperation to be able to move to more advanced alignment. By applying the alignment framework developed in Chapter 2, this chapter has specified the weaknesses in US–India strategic cooperation and mapped them against the case of China–Russia relations. As demonstrated above, despite signif icant progress over the last decade, US–India alignment remains behind China–Russia alignment on most indicators included in our framework. Table 6.2 summarizes the comparison on all the indicators and causal factors and specifies where exactly and how US–India alignment has lagged behind. It demonstrates that while on some parameters US–India alignment might look on par with China–Russia alignment, there are qualitative differences that place it behind. US–India alignment has not made significant strides into the advanced level of alignment, whereas

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China and Russia have started moving in this direction, especially after implementing plans to develop an integrated missile attack early warning system.70 China’s rise and its assertive policies have generated a sense of momentum in the US–India relationship. However, the structural push to form a tighter alignment weakens as one moves from the factor power to threats and interests. The discrepancy between the factors of alignment formation makes the US–India case different from the China–Russia case. The weaker structural incentive is reflected in the reluctance of India to unequivocally align with the US, especially when it comes to dealing with an increasingly assertive China. Simultaneously, it is essential to highlight that US–India strategic cooperation is not set in stone but evolving based on the above analysis. The combination of the degree of alignment between the three causal factors might (and is likely to) change depending on China’s rise and its behavior towards India and the United States. These changes will determine whether India and the US move towards a closer alignment or further away from it. Table 6.2  Comparison of China–Russia and US–India alignments

Advanced alignment

Alignments → Criteria (stages) ↓

China–Russia alignment

US–India alignment

Common defense policy

Low: emerging cooperation in the sensitive area of strategic arms. Integration of the two countries’ early warning systems facilitates further convergence of Russia’s and China’s defense strategies.

absent

Military bases exchange

absent

absent

Entering high level: frequent establishment of joint command centers and air groups for exercises in distant regions; integration of satellite navigation systems; development of integrated early warning missile defense system.

Low: episodic practices of integrated military command in joint exercises within or close to allies’ territory; limited involvement of air force to form joint air groups; lack of habits of exercising joint command.

Integrated military command

70 See Chapter 3 for more details.

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Alignments → Criteria (stages) ↓

Moderate alignment

Regular joint military exercises

Military technical cooperation

Early alignment

Mechanism of regular consultations

Confidence building measures (CBMs)

China–Russia alignment

183

US–India alignment

High: consistently regular and frequent large-scale exercises in regions geopolitically distant from the territory of both allies; sophisticated content of exercises actively involving air force; limited engagement with countries that are rivals to either ally.

Developing: less frequent and less regular exercises, especially when involving the most advanced service (the air force); predominantly held either in allies’ own territory or close to it; extensive engagements of one ally (India) with a strategic rival (Russia) of the other (US). High: transition from providing Developing: lack of technotechnical training and assistance logical interdependence; related to procurements to procurements-focused actual military technology cooperation; little progress with transfers and long-term projects co-development and cofor joint design and production production of arms; extensive of arms and their components; and higher-level cooperation by growing technological one ally (India) with countries interdependence. (especially Russia) that are strategic rivals to the other ally (US). High: comprehensive multiDeveloping:71 consultations level infrastructure of regular infrastructure is skewed towards contacts with unique consulta- top decision makers. The consultion platforms existing only tation content is dominated by between China and Russia. The technical issues of procurement consultations agenda includes or exercise-specific discussions both technical matters and and lacks strategic assessments holistic assessments of external of external threats. threats. High and completed: CBMs had High and ongoing: CBMs had contributed to the resolution contributed to initial trustof the border dispute and building at early stages and trust-building at the early stage helped remedy the post-Cold of alignment, and some of them War “hesitation of history” later evolved into mechanisms legacy. Yet several unresolved of regular consultation. thorny issues, such as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, still require effective CBMs.

71 As mentioned above, the simple high-low metrics offered in Chapter 2 might requires

further breakdown into intermediate levels of cooperation at each stage. The US–India case has demonstrated that while the bilateral strategic cooperation fails to qualify as high, it is not low either. “Developing” appears a proper term.

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Formation factors

Alignments → Criteria (stages) ↓

China–Russia alignment

US–India alignment

Conducive to alignment formation: shared interest to reduce US global dominance; active participation in international institutions promoting an alternative order; no participation by either ally in international institutions with agendas explicitly unfriendly to the other. Conducive to alignment formation: aligned perceptions of threat; the US is the most significant common threat of systemic nature for both China and Russia.

Misaligned: diverging approaches to the US-led global order, regional security issues, relations with China. Active participation by one ally (India) Compatibility in international institutions of interests (BRICS, SCO, IAAB) promoting an alternative order and with agendas unfriendly towards the other ally (US). Ambivalent: China is a common high-level threat, but perceptions of specific China-related Perceptions threats differ categorically: the of external US’s concern is China’s global threats ambitions; India’s concerns are their border dispute and neighborhood geopolitics. Conducive to alignment forma- Conducive to alignment tion: the US maintains its power formation: cooperation between Systemic power preponderance, but the costs of India and the US can reduce balancing become permissive if individual costs of balancing configuration China and Russia align with each against rapidly rising China’s other. power.

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Joshi, R. (2015, February 3). Obama’s India visit: An Indian foreign policy tilt. The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2015/02/obamas-india-visit-an-indianforeign-policy-tilt/ Khera, K. K. (2017). International military exercises: An Indian perspective. Journal of Defence Studies, 11(3), 17-40. Kutty, S. N. (2019). Dealing with differences: The Iran factor in India-US relations. Asia Policy, 26(1), 95-118. Ladwig III, W. C., & Mukherjee, A. (2019a). India and the United States: The contours of an Asian partnership. Asia Policy, 26(1), 3-18. Ladwig III, W. C., & Mukherjee, A. (2019b). Sailing together or ships passing in the night? India and the United States in Southeast Asia. Asia Policy, 26(1), 51-76. Lalwani, S., & Byrne, H. (2019). Great expectations: Asking too much of the US–India strategic partnership. The Washington Quarterly, 42(3), 41-64. Landay, J. (2018, November 7). Pompeo allows sanctions exception for Iran port development. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclearafghanistan-idUSKCN1NB2HW Lavoy, P., & White, J. (2015, February 4). Sustaining ambition in the U.S.India relationship. Foreign Policy. https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/04/ sustaining-ambition-in-the-u-s-india-relationship/ Levy, J. S. (2008). Case studies: Types, designs, and logics of inference. Conflict management and peace science, 25(1), 1-18. Markey, D. (2009). Developing India’s Foreign Policy ‘Software.’ Asia Policy, 8, 73-96. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (2015, February 2). Joint communiqué of the 13th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China. https://www.fmprc.gov. cn/mfa_eng/wjdt_665385/2649_665393/t1233638.shtml Mistry, D. (2016). Aligning unevenly: India and the United States. Honolulu, HI: East-West Center. Modi, N., & Obama, B. (2014, September 30). A renewed U.S.–India partnership for the 21st century. Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ narendra-modi-and-barack-obama-a-US–Indiapartnership-for-the-21stcentury/2014/09/29/dac66812-4824-11e4-891d-713f052086a0_story.html Mohan, C. R. (2008). The U.S. role in South Asia. In America’s role in Asia: Asian and American views (pp. 53-61). San Francisco: Asia Foundation. Nasralla, S, & Murphy, F. (2016, June 9). Resistance to India joining Nuclear Suppliers Group softens. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/US–India-nuclear/ resistance-to-india-joining-nuclear-suppliers-group-softens-idUSKCN0YV13Z Nichols, N. (2018, June 27). U.S. envoy Haley tells Modi important to cut imports of iranian oil. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iran-india/usenvoy-haley-tells-modi-important-to-cut-imports-of-iranian-oil-idUSKBN1JN24K

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Pande, A., & Nagao, S. (2018). Whose Indo-Pacific? American Interest. https://www. the-american-interest.com/2018/08/03/whose-indo-pacific Pant, H. V. (2007). The U.S.–India nuclear deal: The beginning of a beautiful relationship? Cambridge review of international affairs, 20(3), 455-472. Pant, H. V., & Joshi, Y. (2017). Indo-US relations under Modi: The strategic logic underlying the embrace. International Affairs, 93(1), 133-146. Parthasarathy, M. (2000, September 9) India, U.S. natural allies: Vajpayee. Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-miscellaneous/tp-others/indiaus-natural-allies-vajpayee/article28042382.ece Paul, T. V., & Underwood, E. (2019). Theorizing India–U.S.–China strategic triangle. India Review, 18(4), 348-367. Perkovich, G. (2020). Toward Realistic US–India Relations. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Puthan Purayil, M. (2021). The rise of China and the question of an Indo-US alliance: A perspective from India. Asian Affairs, 52(1), 62-78. Raghuvanshi, V. (2015, October 13). Japan to join Malabar as permanent participant. Defense News. https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2015/10/13/ japan-to-join-malabar-as-permanent-participant Rajagopalan, R. (2017). US–India Relations under President Trump: Promise and peril. Asia Policy, (24), 39-45. Rajagopalan, R. (2020). Evasive balancing: India’s unviable Indo-Pacific strategy. International Affairs, 96(1), 75-93. Reuters (2017, June 24). U.S. approves sale of drones to India: General Atomics. https://www.reuters.com/article/US–India-usa-drone/u-s-approves-sale-ofdrones-to-india-general-atomics-idUSKBN19E2DA Rise, C. (2006, March 13). Our opportunity with India. The Washington Post. https:// www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/2006/03/13/our-opportunity-withindia/c7a9a490-425f-4de3-94f9-09dbddf4a124/ Roche, E. (2017, August 18). New dialogue format to help shift India–U.S. ties to a higher plane. Livemint. https://www.livemint.com/Politics/hrsSAywXTBqsuGD2uzn7TO/New-dialogue-format-to-help-shift-IndiaUS.html Saran, S. (2017). How India sees the world: Kautilya to the 21st Century. New Delhi: Juggernaut Books. Shad, H. (2018, August 29). Can America and India really be strategic partners? National Interest. https://nationalinterest.org/feature/can-america-and-indiareally-be-strategic-partners-29967 Shukla, A. (2019, March 12). Russian arms sales boom in the face of prickly ties, possible sanctions. Business Standard. https://ajaishukla.blogspot.com/2019/03/ russian-armssales-boom-in-face-of.html

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Singh, R. (2009, August 11). India no match for China: Navy chief. Hindustan Times. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/india-no-match-for-china-navy-chief/ story-OYkJQjfLtOR9rOjmrECJ4H.html Singh, S. (2019). The Indo-Pacific and India-US strategic convergence: An assessment. Asia Policy, 26(1), 77-94. Smith, J. (2014). Cold peace: China-India rivalry in the twenty-first century. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. South African Government (2018, June 27). 10th BRICS Summit: Johannesburg declaration. https://www.gov.za/speeches/10th-brics-summit-johannesburgdeclaration-27-jul-2018-0000?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI26bQteWx8AIVzamWCh 1MuA4uEAAYASAAEgIjwfD_BwE# Stuenkel, O. (2017, September 7). The BRICS leaders Xiamen declaration: An analysis. Post Western World. https://www.oliverstuenkel.com/2017/09/07/ leaders-declaration-analysis/ Stuenkel, O. (2018, September 7). The 10th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg: An analysis. Post Western World. https://www.oliverstuenkel.com/2018/07/29/ johannesburg-declaration-analysis/ Tellis, J. A. (2015). Beyond buyer-seller: The question is, can the DTTI deliver? Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The White House (2014, September 30). U.S.-India joint statement. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/30/US–India-joint-statement The White House (2015, January 25). U.S.-India joint strategic vision for the AsiaPacific and Indian Ocean region. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/ the-press-office/2015/01/25/US-India-joint-strategic-vision-asia-pacific-andindian-ocean-region#:~:text=As%20the%20leaders%20of%20the,on%20a%20 Joint%20Strategic%20Vision Tiezzi, S. (2015, February 3). India joining the China containment brigade? Not so fast. The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2015/02/india-joining-the-chinacontainment-brigade-not-so-fast/ Unnithan, S. (2011, October 29). Indian Army not ready for war with China. India Today. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/indian-army-war-readiness-againstchina/1/157763.html US Department of Defense (2015, June 3). 2015 framework for the India-U.S. defense relationship. https://archive.defense.gov/pubs/2015-Defense-Framework.pdf White, J. T. (2021). After the foundational agreements: An agenda for US–India defense and security cooperation. Foreign Policy at Brookings. Xavier, C. (2019). Converting convergence into cooperation: The United States and India in South Asia. Asia Policy, 26(1), 19-50.

7 Conclusion Empirical Findings and Theoretical Implications Abstract This concluding chapter takes stock of the empirical and theoretical findings presented in the previous chapters. Empirically, it summarizes the key features and the trajectory of post-Cold War China–Russia strategic cooperation and predicts its future development in the context of the evolving international environment. Theoretically, the chapter discusses the importance and future development of the theoretical model of alignment formation offered in this book. It highlights the significance of theorygrounded knowledge and discusses how the framework can be applied to other cases of interstate strategic cooperation, including formal alliances and informal alignments, both bilateral and multilateral, to understand their nuances, functional features, and development prospects. It also revisits the phenomenon of China–Russia relations and its significance for understanding the formation and development of interstate alliances. Keywords: China–Russia relations, alliance, alignment

As stated at the beginning of the introductory chapter, this study is driven by two analytical goals – one empirical and one theoretical. The empirical goal is to assess, as accurately as possible, and explain the upward trend in post-Cold War China–Russia relations. In order to achieve this goal, the study also compares the case of China–Russia alignment with that of US–India alignment to highlight its strengths and weaknesses and assess how it fares vis-à-vis a comparable case. The theoretical goal is to develop a theory-grounded alignment framework and corresponding measurements that draw on the case of China–Russia alignment but are also general enough to travel across different cases, allowing comparative assessments. The below discussion summarizes research outcomes regarding both goals.

Korolev, Alexander, China–Russia Strategic Alignment in International Politics. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2022 doi: 10.5117/9789463725248_ch07

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China–Russia relations: an ever-consolidating strategic alignment? The central empirical finding that challenges the existing assessments is that the high level of China–Russia strategic cooperation is not an ad hoc phenomenon. It is not a knee-jerk reaction to the deterioration of US–Russia relations in the aftermath of the Ukraine Crisis or growing US–China tensions in Southeast Asia and beyond. Instead, it is the outcome of a consistent consolidation of China–Russia cooperation since the end of the Cold War. There have been ups and downs in the relationship, such as the temporary stagnation in China–Russia military-technical cooperation in the mid-2000s and the occasional suspension of regular Russia–China Mixed Intergovernmental Commission meetings on Military-Technical Cooperation. These and other events might contribute to the impression that China–Russia cooperation is a bumpy ride and fluctuates in its closeness due to various reasons. However, these ups and downs have happened against the backdrop of an overall continuous upward trend. Zooming out the focus of analysis to increase the timeframe reveals a consistent, stadial progress in bilateral cooperation that is, when viewed in its entirety, immune to short-term perturbations and fluctuations. At the same time, the signing by China and Russia of a formal alliance treaty is not impending, not because the conditions for one do not exist but because this move is unnecessary from the standpoint of a functioning and consequential alignment. The absence of a formal alliance treaty should not be viewed as a weakness of strategic cooperation. Alliance treaties by themselves tell very little about the actual alignment because the lack of clear defense obligations and the vagueness of the language are common features of modern alliance treaties. The analysis of even the most advanced alliances on the subject of the casus foederis clause (conditions under which obligations to defend an ally are activated) further proves this point. For example, the United States and Japan are treaty allies and have consistently been identified as such. However, their 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, the bedrock of the alliance that covers each party’s rights and responsibilities, does not contain any strict defense obligations. Its language is vague and does not specify how and when either party is obliged to enter a war against a potential aggressor. Article 4 only requires the parties to “hold consultations” when Japan’s security or international peace and security in the Far East is threatened. The most important passage, Article 5, only states that in case of an armed attack against either party in the territories under the administration of Japan, each of the two countries would “act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional

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provisions and processes” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan). As some experts note, with the literal wording of the articles silent on both the deployment of forces and collective defense, the obligation to assist each other in case of armed attack or direct threat is open to interpretation (Finnegan, 2009). One such interpretation is that the obligation is not mutual: Japan is not obligated to defend the US if the latter is attacked (Chanlett-Avery et al., 2019, p. 50). In this context, the meaning of Washington’s regular reaffirmations that Article 5 of the alliance treaty covers the Senkaku Islands, claimed by China, is less than straightforward. As noted by Kashin (2019), the same ambiguity applies to the most advanced and powerful alliance – North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The pivotal Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty (also known as the Washington Treaty and considered a tight alliance treaty) does state that “an armed attack against one or more of them [NATO member states] in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.” However, it does not spell out the mechanism of how the collective defense right is activated and only states that the alliance parties “will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area” (Kashin, 2019). From this standpoint, there is not much difference between the US–Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and the North Atlantic Treaty, on the one hand, and the China–Russia Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation signed in 2001, on the other. As shown in Chapter 3, Article 9 of the China–Russia treaty also requires the two parties to cooperate to jointly eliminate an external threat or aggression. Taken out of the context of actual strategic cooperation, the obligations outlined in the China–Russia treaty do not look qualitatively different from those outlined in the other two advanced alliance treaties. This is not to argue that China–Russia alignment is on par with either NATO or the US–Japan alliance but simply that it is actual military cooperation rather than treaty norms that make for an alliance. Viewed from this perspective, China–Russia alignment appears as constantly consolidating and deepening. The best way to define the condition of China–Russia strategic cooperation is as one that is “on the verge of an alliance” (Korolev, 2019). This condition means something more than the mere fact that it is not yet a formal alliance in the conventional sense. It also means that China–Russia cooperation is free from the limitations of a formal alliance as an upper bar for the relationship. In the China–Russia

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case, being “on the verge of an alliance” is a dynamic process of constant modernization of the relationship without a clear identif ication of its endpoint. Such cooperation can fall short of what is epitomized in “formal alliance,” but it can also go beyond that level in certain aspects. The growing interdependence of arms production processes in the two countries, explored in Chapter 3, deserves special attention in this regard because it creates long-term interdependence at levels higher than in most informal alignments and even some advanced alliances. The consolidation of China–Russia strategic alignment is likely to continue because it is driven by systemic factors rather than short-term changes within the two countries. Explanations of China–Russia alignment emphasizing the political leadership factor, such as good chemistry or mutual understanding between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, or other unit-level (domestic) factors related to Russia’s non-Western (i.e., not sufficiently European) culture do not work. Russia was explicitly pro-Europe, and proWest more broadly, in its identity and orientation in the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin. Nevertheless, as demonstrated in Chapter 3, this did not significantly impact the overall upward trend in China–Russia relations. Even President Putin in the early 2000s was looking to the West, airing ideas unfathomable in the current geopolitical context, such as Russia joining NATO and even building a joint missile defense system with the United States.72 Yet again, China–Russia strategic cooperation progressed consistently despite these fluctuations in foreign policy. The gradual consolidation of China–Russia strategic alignment is the outcome of long-term structural transformations within the international system as reflected in the balances of power, threat, and interests. As shown in Chapter 4, the shrinkage of the power gap between China and the US, but with the US remaining the most powerful country within the system, has created a strong system-level dispositional pressure on China and Russia to align with each other. At the same time, the converging perceptions of external threats and interests between Beijing and Moscow since the end of the Cold War have transformed this dispositional pressure into actual policies of alignment. These are long term trends and are likely to continue. It is possible to imagine a dramatic shift in the US’s foreign policy or a hypothetical Soviet-style implosion that would paralyze the US’s (or China’s) state capacity. However, at the time of writing, such dramatic scenarios appear unlikely. 72 For more on pro-Western orientation of Putin in the early years of his presidency, see Hopf (2013).

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China–Russia cooperation is not without its problems. The most significant hurdles to closer cooperation, explored in Chapter 5, are in the economic realm. They are caused by the different models of economic development in China and Russia and the resultant roles China’s and Russia’s economies play in the global division of labor. The existing economic cooperation model with clearly delineated roles of a major exporter and a major purchaser of energy resources that exists between China and Russia fails to generate a high growth rate in Russia and has negative geopolitical implications from the standpoint of strengthening alignment. However, as also shown in Chapter 5, both Beijing and Moscow appear to have recognized the challenge as evidenced by deliberate attempts to transform the pattern of economic cooperation. Starting from the 2010s, as a result of decisions at the top level, multiple non-energy-related projects have been initiated to diversify China–Russia economic cooperation. The growing mutual recognition of the problem and the introduction of relevant measures have helped to alleviate the economic problem and show, more broadly, that domestic-level circumstances are amenable to policies aimed at creating more favorable conditions for cooperation. The gradual removal of domestic-level hurdles enhances the alignment’s resilience and longevity. These attempts at fostering smoother cooperation are helped by how Beijing behaves itself in its interactions with Russia. Unlike the Soviet Union in the years of the China–Soviet alliance (1950-1979), China in its interactions with post-Soviet Russia does not behave as an unequivocally dominant “big brother.” The Soviet Union’s material help to China cannot be underestimated. However, the Soviet–China alliance was unequal not only in material terms but also in the explicit assignment to China the role of a subordinate partner. Today’s China seems to be more careful not to make the impression of a dominant partner, either economically or geopolitically. Beijing consistently emphasizes the equal nature of China–Russia cooperation and keeps Moscow informed of its activities in Central Asia and other parts of Russia’s immediate geopolitical environment. The trajectory of China–Russia alignment is a continuous process of strategic cooperation driven by long-term system-level transformations. Understanding this is crucial for the assessment of the overall tendency of power relations within the international system and has significant policy implications, particularly for the US and its allies. Developing an increasingly contentious relationship with both China and Russia is bound to fail and will only push Moscow and Beijing closer towards each other. Nor will minor adjustments of relations with either China or Russia, such as the temporary “reset” of US–Russia relations after the Russia–Georgia war of 2008, help Washington reverse the consolidation of China–Russia alignment.

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Given the nature of China–Russia alignment, the only possible effective response to it for the West, and Washington specifically, must be at the systemic level. Simply reacting to China’s increasing capabilities or tackling Russia’s growing assertiveness is not going to help. What is required is a new version of the great triangle diplomacy accompanied by substantial changes in Washington’s behavior, particularly towards Russia as the weakest side of the US–China–Russia triangle. For example, the US could better utilize the fact that it has no significant geopolitical disagreements with Russia in the Indo-Pacific, in contrast to Europe. Moreover, India is a friend and an important strategic partner of both Washington and Moscow – a factor which, together with the common interest to benefit from Asian economic growth, opens new avenues for US–Russia cooperation. The attempts of the Trump administration to invite both Russia and India to join the 46th G7 summit in Camp David, although rejected and blocked by some US allies, was a move in the right direction. Through substantive cooperation with Russia in the Indo-Pacific, the US is likely to be able to slow down, if not reverse, the consolidation of China–Russia alignment.

The alignment framework and the study of interstate strategic cooperation The analysis of the China–Russia case helps illustrate how a great power relationship can start from a very low level and progress to a closer alignment and the stages it goes through and how. In cross-fertilization with the existing theoretical knowledge about alliances, alignments, and strategic partnerships, this analysis enables the development of an innovative ordinal model of strategic alignment, offered in Chapter 2. The model helps to answer such questions as to how to define and measure strategic alignments between states and what stages alignment goes through before it becomes an advanced strategic alignment. At the same time, the model is flexible and can be used to assess strategic cooperation that goes deeper than what is observed in conventional alliances.73 To better reflect the trajectory and degree of an alignment, the model reflects a stadial process because the development of a functioning alignment takes time. Interstate strategic cooperation must pass an early and a moderate stage before it moves into an advanced stage. To reflect this idea 73 For the point that what China and Russia have achieved in terms of strategic cooperation might be even better than an alliance, see Blank (2020).

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of the “life cycle” of an alignment, the developed model is ordinal, with some indicators preceding the others. It consists of three sub-clusters – three stages of alignment formation – measured by seven indicators. Early strategic cooperation is covered by two indicators: confidence-building measure and mechanisms of regular consultation. Moderate cooperation is measured by two indicators: military-technical cooperation and joint military exercises. The third, advanced stage of alignment comprises three indicators: integrated military command, bases exchange, and common defense policy.74 The model is also designed to illustrate the actual working of an alignment, something that has come to fruition rather than the promises of formal treaties, which are weak indicators of alignments because the link between treaties and behavior is tenuous. By focusing on cooperation that has materialized, the analysis follows the alignment literature which states that a formal alliance treaty “merely adds formality and precision” to alignment (Wilkins, 2012, p. 56), and that it is the actual behaviors that are of major interest (Snyder, 1997, p. 123). Thus, by offering a set of criteria gauging the early, moderate, and advanced stages of alignment development, the model allows rigorous comparative assessment of various instances of actual strategic cooperation in international relations – something that has been missing in the literature so far. As such, the model goes beyond the case of China–Russia alignment. It has proved useful for understanding the relative depth and scale of the contemporary US–India alignment. In turn, the analysis of the US–India case has helped to generalize the model, establish its validity, and identify directions for its further refinement. Thus, in Chapter 6, the US–India alignment was shown to display a clear upward trend, like the China–Russia alignment. At the same time, the application of the model shows that US–India alignment lags significantly behind China–Russia alignment on most indicators of strategic cooperation. While, from the standpoint of the balance of power, the rapid rise of China incentivizes US–India alignment, the perceptions of the external threats associated with China in New Delhi are different from those in Washington. India does not fully share the US’s concerns about the new global order, allegedly promoted by China. When it comes to interests, the US’s and India’s positions diverge further, with Washington trying to contain China and India needing China for its economic development. The model further helps identify and specify the areas where US–India alignment is most significantly behind its China–Russia counterpart. Insufficient infrastructure of bilateral consultations focusing on the technical issues 74 See Chapter 2 for the detailed examination of each indicator at each stage.

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of arms procurements, the lack of technological interdependence and little progress with co-development of arms, and less regular military exercises, especially when involving air force and activities in distant geopolitical regions, are the areas where US–India cooperation needs strengthening to be on par with China–Russia alignment. The model also shows that US–India alignment has failed to make significant strides into the advanced level of alignment – another area where the two alignments differ. At the same time, this comparative exercise suggests avenues for further improvement of the model. It reveals that the breakdown of each stage of alignment formation into a “low” and “high” level of cooperation, while helpful in terms of outlining the overall trajectory, might need refinement to identify the level of strategic cooperation with greater precision. Thus, while the analysis of US–India alignment demonstrates that the level of strategic cooperation it displays is below the level achieved by China and Russia and, hence, cannot be ranked “high,” it cannot be ranked “low” either. It is somewhere in between, and in Chapter 6 is termed “developing,” indicating an upward trend and significant progress but lack of maturity and comprehensiveness. Applying the model to more cases will help to further hone it by introducing a more detailed breakdown into stages of alignment or, perhaps, changing the order of some stages if more cases reveal a different trajectory of alignment formation. The model structures and systematizes information about the parameters of strategic cooperation in a theory-grounded way and can be applied to cases of both bilateral and multilateral strategic cooperation. Basrur and Kutty (2021) have adopted the earlier version of the model to analyze cases of bilateral (India–Japan), trilateral (India–Japan–US) and quadrilateral (India–Japan–US–Australia) strategic cooperation. The next candidates for the analysis could be other cases of strategic cooperation that are of pivotal importance to international politics, either at the systemic level or regionally, such as China–Pakistan and China–Cambodia alignments, Russia–India and Russia–Vietnam comprehensive strategic partnerships, Japan–Australia strategic cooperation and other cases across different regions that are of consequence to how international politics will evolve in the 21st century. The framework can also shed light on the depth and breadth of strategic cooperation within multilateral formats, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), and other cases of multilateral strategic cooperation. Systematizing a sufficient pool of data on the actual performance of these and other cases using the suggested model could generate new empirical data that could help shed new light on our understanding of the institutionalization, performance, and

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reliability of alignments and alliances, which has so far been predominantly based on the analysis of formal alliance treaties.75

References Basrur, R., & Kutty, S. N. (2021). Modi’s India and Japan: Nested strategic partnerships. International Politics, 1-23. Blank, S. (2020). The un-holy Russo-Chinese alliance. Defense & Security Analysis, 36(3), 249-274. Chanlett-Avery, E., Campbell, C., & Williams, J. A. (2019, June 13). The U.S.-Japan alliance. CRS Report RL33740. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Finnegan, M. (2009). Benchmarking America’s military alliances: NATO, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. Washington, DC: Center for U.S. Korea Policy, Asia Foundation. Gibler, D. M. (2009). International military alliances, 1648-2008. (Version 4.1.) [Data set]. C.Q. Press. https://correlatesofwar.org/data-sets/formal-alliances Hopf, T. (2013). Common-sense constructivism and hegemony in world politics. International Organization, 67(2), 317-354. Kashin, V. B. (2019, September 2). Rossiya i Kitai: soyuz ili strategicheskaya neopredelennost’ [Russia and China: An alliance or strategic uncertainty]. The Russian International Affairs Council. https://russiancouncil.ru/analytics-and-comments/ analytics/rossiya-i-kitay-soyuz-ili-strategicheskaya-neopredelennost/ Korolev, A. (2019). On the verge of an alliance: Contemporary China–Russia military cooperation. Asian Security, 15(3), 233-252. Leeds, B. A. (2018). The Alliance Treaty Obligation and Provisions Project (ATOP) (Version 4.01.) [Data set]. http://www.atopdata.org/ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the United States of America. https://www.mofa.go.jp/region/namerica/us/q&a/ref/1.html Snyder, G. H. (1997). Alliance politics. Cornell University Press. Wilkins, T. S. (2012). ‘Alignment’, not ‘alliance’ – the shifting paradigm of international security cooperation: Toward a conceptual taxonomy of alignment. Review of International Studies, 38 (1), 53-76. 75 As mentioned in Chapter 2, the existing quantitative datasets on which multiple empirical studies of alliances are based had been compiled based on formal alliance treaties. Both the Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions (ATOP) dataset (Leeds, 2018) and The Correlates of War (COW) dataset (Gibler, 2009) are based on formal alliance treaties, including defense pacts, non-aggression treaties, and ententes and do not pay attention to the actual performance of those alliances.

Index alignment and formal alliance treaty 37-41, 158, 158n56, 190, 195, 197, 197n75, 19n4 incentives for the formation of 42, 48-55, 99-120 stadial approach to 26, 36, 37, 42, 90 the concept of 19-22, 23, 23n7, 42 the ordinal index of 41-48, 42 alliance and China-Russia relations 14-16, 17-18, 24, 25 the concept of 19-21, 35-36, 37-40 alliance treaty as an indicator of alignment 37-40 in China-Russia relations 66-67 area studies 22 and China-Russia relations 16-19 balance of interests as a factor of alignment formation 26, 27, 49, 53-55 in China-Russia relations 115-120 balance of power as a factor of alignment formation 26, 27, 49-51, 54-55 to Goldilocks logic of 50-51 in China-Russia relations 100-107 balance of threat as a factor of alignment formation 26, 27, 49, 51-53, 54 in China-Russia relations 108-115 Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) 142, 143, 144, 151, 174, 175 Bush, George W. 105, 109, 160 Central Asia 68, 84, 85, 113, 141, 142, 144, 150, 179, 193 China-Russia border 44, 67, 68, 69, 133, 146 China-Russia trade 129, 130, 131, 132, 136, 137, 138, 145, 146, 147 diversification of 142-147, 193 China threat the theory of 114 in China-Russia relations 114-115 in US-India relations 174, 175 Clinton, Hillary 104, 105, 149 colour revolutions 83, 108, 112 confidence-building measures as an indicator of alignment 42, 43-44 in China-Russia relations 67-69 in US-India relations 160-161 diplomatic cooperation as a robustness check 23, 27, 28, 40, 56, 58 in China-Russia relations 147-151 in US-India relations 180-181

Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) 105, 142, 144, 151 early warning radar system 88-89, 90, 182 economic cooperation as a robustness check 56-58 in China-Russia relations 129, 130, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 147, 151, 193 in US-India relations 180 Georgia 21, 105-106, 111, 142, 193 Hu Jintao 110, 111 interoperability and alignment formation 36, 46, 47, 86 in China-Russia relations 25, 73, 84, 85, 87-88, 90, 107 in US-India relations 168, 169, 171 Lavrov, Sergei 80, 135, 144, 179 Medvedev, Dmitri 106, 110, 117, 140, 141 military spending 100-101 military-technical cooperation as an indicator of alignment 42, 45-46, 73, 195 in China-Russia relations 73-83, 133, 139, 190 in US-India relations 164-167 Modi, Narendra 159, 160, 168, 174, 176, 177, 178 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) 84, 105, 108, 111, 113, 191, 192 Obama, Barack 110, 159, 161, 168, 174, 179 Pakistan 70, 171, 175, 177, 179, 183 Putin, Vladimir 14, 66, 70, 71, 72, 75, 79, 88, 106, 109, 114, 116, 117, 120, 133, 134, 135, 141, 144, 146, 147, 150, 151, 192 regional security complex (RSC) 103, 105 regular consultations as an indicator of alignment 27, 42, 44-45, in China-Russia relations 67, 69-73, 90, 113 in US-India relations 162-164, 167, 172, 183, 195 regular military exercises as an indicator of alignment 27, 42, 46-47, 73, 195 in China-Russia relations 73, 83-86, 87, 89, 90, 182, 183 in US-India relations 158, 164, 167-171, 182, 183, 196

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South China Sea 72, 77, 84, 87, 103, 142, 168, 169, 174, 176, 177 strategic partnership in the China-Russia relations discourse 14, 17, 20, 75 in conceptualization of alignment 21, 23, 35, 36, 46 theory and the studies of China-Russia relations 13, 15-16, 18-19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 29, 37 of alignment formation 19-21, 42-48, 48-58 Third Offset Strategy 110-111, 111-112 Trump, Donald 159, 161, 179, 194 Ukraine Crisis 14, 17, 21n5, 77, 80, 84, 101, 105, 106, 111, 112, 130, 132, 134, 138, 142, 169, 179, 190 unequal interdependence 130, 131-132

unfavorable complementarity 130-132, 135, 137 strategic implications of 138-142 attempts to reverse 142-147 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) 28, 58, 129, 148, 149, 150 United States as a driver of China-Russia strategic alignment 99-120 the relative decline of 15, 100-103, 106 and China 103-105, 106-107, 110-111 and Russia 105-106, 107, 111-113 US-India alignment 24, 28, 157-158, 159n57, 160, 163, 164, 173, 180, 181, 182-183, 189, 195, 196 Xi Jinping 14, 71, 72, 79, 84, 117, 120, 134, 135, 144, 147, 151, 192 Yeltsin, Boris 68, 69, 70, 116, 141, 192