mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Russia Arrests Chinese Spy

Generations of geostrategists have speculated about the possibility for an alliance between Russia and China.  If those two powers got together, they speculated, they could dominate Eurasia and therefore the world.

For a few years after Mao’s revolution, it looked as if that was happening, and it was this strategic nightmare that shaped a lot of American thinking (and panic) in the early years of the Cold War.  But conflicting interests soon pulled the two biggest communist countries apart, to the point where Soviets used to joke to their American counterparts towards the end of the Cold War, explaining Soviet paranoia by saying, “But you have to remember, we have reasons to be worried.  Just think how you would feel in our place.  The Soviet Union is entirely surrounded by hostile communist states!”

Since the collapse of the USSR, there have been periodic efforts to gin up the old alliance, with international organizations and secretariats springing up.  Yesterday’s UN veto of the Syrian resolution at the Security Council shows that the two countries are perfectly capable of cooperating when their interests are aligned.

But the idea of a Moscow/Beijing axis remains more theoretical than real, and this BBC story reminds us that two land powers lying side by side have a hard time developing a durable alliance.

A Chinese man faces a charge in Russia of attempted spying for allegedly trying to gain details of a missile system through bribery.

The man, identified as Tun Sheniyun, was arrested in Moscow on 28 October last year but his arrest was kept secret until now.

He allegedly sought technological and repair documentation on the Soviet-era S300 surface-to-air system.

There is not much trust between Russia and China today.  Russia fears China’s growing economic and technological prowess and fears that China will successfully replace Russia as the major power in formerly Soviet Central Asia.  China tends not to have a lot of respect for the former superpower to its north.

The Eurasian axis looks as wobbly as ever; this is good news for any English speaking maritime offshore balancers thinking about the geopolitics of Asia in the 21st century.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Scott

    I was recently reading Kissinger’s book “On China” and he thought the reason China was open to the Nixon’s initiatives in 1971 was they feared war with the USSR. I had not been aware of that previously.

  • Greg R. Lawson

    There won’t be a Beijing-Moscow axis in anything more than rhetoric. But a Washington-Moscow axis?…

    Is it time to reverse the Nixon-Kissinger triangulation? Instead of opening China to balance the Soviets, is it time to embrace the Russians to contain the Chinese?

    Is it time to let past and future President Putin have his new “Eurasian Union?” Russia has always feared the West (and with Napoleon and Hitler’s invasions), one can well understand why. But the future threat for them is the East where despite China’s “One Child” induced demography problem, China will still encroach on an even more demographically depleted Russia.

  • Luke Lea

    When I bummed across Siberia in 1960’s (having slipped my Intourist guide more or less by accident) the East Asian demographic presence was everywhere obvious. You saw it in epicanthic folds on most of the working-class faces you met.

    I don’t know my Siberian history very well (or at all actually) but I do know Russia lay claims to these regions “by right of conquest” only a couple or three centuries ago; and that China does not recognize them all. Perhaps WRM can enlighten us?

  • Steve M

    Ah, just like the good old days.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service