CHINA and Russia are forming a new axis of power, NATO’s top general has warned.
Tod Wolters, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, or SACEUR, has told reporters that growing co-operation “really does suggest an emergence of a partnership of convenience”.
It’s a partnership that potentially spans the globe, from the Middle East to the Western Pacific and Arctic north.
“We are ever so vigilant with respect to that growing co-operation,” Wolters said. Such co-operation advanced mutual interests, “and that advancement could be to the detriment of Europe and corresponding and surrounding nations”.
NATO has accused Russia of breaching international treaties through the development of new nuclear weapons. It also blames Russian-sourced cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns for destabilising the West.
China is also coming under increased scrutiny over its repression of the Uighur and Tibetan peoples and its aggressive territorial claims and ‘debt-trap’ diplomacy.
Things haven’t always been so genial between the two powers.
Russia and China share a 4200km border. And large portions of Moscow’s mineral-rich eastern provinces are claimed by Beijing as part of its historical domain – including the city of Vladivostok.
For now, President Vladimir Putin and Chairman Xi Jinping have put that source of disagreement aside.
Russia and China began strengthening their diplomatic, economic and military ties after Western nations imposed sanctions on Moscow in 2014. Russia had just invaded the Crimean Peninsula and launched covert combat operations in eastern Ukraine.
In 2018, the two powers contributed hundreds of thousands of troops and aircraft and warships towards their largest-ever joint military exercise.
In 2019, Putin and Xi shook hands over a significant gas pipeline project linking Siberia to northeast China.
In 2020, Russian warships and combat jets joined Chinese military exercises in the western Pacific.
And they’ve begun co-operating in the Arctic.