Sino-Russian cooperation could be Biden’s biggest challenge


ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA JUNE 7, 2019: Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2019 plenary session of the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg (SPIEF).

Sergey Bobylev TASS | Getty Images

President Joe Biden faces a nightmare scenario with global consequences: intensified Sino-Russian strategic cooperation aimed at undermining American influence and stepping up Biden’s efforts to bring together democratic allies.

This is the most significant and insufficiently recognized test of Biden’s leadership so far: it could be a decisive challenge for his presidency.

In recent weeks, Russia and China have simultaneously escalated their separate military activities and threats to the sovereignty of Ukraine and Taiwan, countries whose vibrant independence insults Moscow and Beijing but lies at the center of US and allied interests in their regions.

Even if the actions of Moscow and Beijing do not result in a military invasion of any country, and most experts still believe this is unlikely, the scale and intensity of military moves require urgent attention. U.S. and Allied officials dare not rule out the certainty that Russia and China share intelligence or the growing likelihood of increasingly coordinating actions and strategies.

“It [Russian] the accumulation had reached a point where it could provide a basis for a limited military incursion, “William J. Burns, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee this week. “It’s something that not only the United States but our allies must take very seriously.”

For China, annual U.S. Threat Assessment the intelligence community said: “China is trying to exploit doubts about US commitment to the region, undermine Taiwan’s democracy and expand Beijing’s influence.” Lost in the media coverage of the report was a warning about “Russia’s growing strategic cooperation with China – in order to achieve its goals.”

Independently speaking, the Chinese and Russian challenges would be a handful for any American president. Should China and Russia act more cohesively and coherently, and you have a narrative that is more consistent than any action of Tom Clancy’s novel. It is a scenario for which the US and its allies do not have a strategy or even a common understanding.

Anyone who doubts Sino-Russian ambitions, one of my favorite places to read Chinese tea leaves is the Global Times, often a messenger for the Beijing leadership. In an editorial late last month, entitled “Sino-Russian ties deepen as the United States and its allies nod.” it was written: “The most influential bilateral relationship in Eurasia is the comprehensive strategic partnership of China and Russia for coordination for the new era.”

In a thinly shrouded warning to Japan and South Korea, he wrote: “China and Russia understand the weight of their ties … To be honest, no country in the region can be alone against either China or Russia, let alone fight forces. at the same time. It would be disastrous for any country that seeks to confront China and Russia by forming an alliance with the United States. “

Asked last October about the possibility of a formal military alliance with China, Russian leader Vladimir Putin he said, “Theoretically it’s quite possible.”

In any case, there is nothing theoretical about the military escalation around Ukraine and Taiwan.

Over the past week, Russia has amassed the largest concentration of troops along Ukraine’s border since annexing Crimea in 2014. Ukrainian government officials say Russian President Vladimir Putin has brought more than 40,000 troops near Ukraine’s eastern border for “combat training exercises” over a two-week period.

At the same time, China has stepped up military incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zone to unprecedented levels, flying more than 250 flights near the island this year. Last Monday, the Chinese military sent 25 warplanes in Taiwan, a record number since Taiwan began releasing data last year.

The Biden administration responded to Putin this week with a carrot summit and a baton of new sanctions. Tuesday, Biden calling Putin, giving a sign that he does not want to escalate tensions with the leader he has deal was a “killer” just a month ago.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stood next to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as they condemned the build-up of the Russian army. The Biden administration’s harshest reprimand came Thursday announced new economic sanctions against 38 Russian entities accused of meddling in elections and cyber attacks, expelled ten diplomats and introduced measures banning US financial institutions from trading in newly issued Russian government debt and bonds.

Chinese incursions into Taiwan followed shortly after the State Department issued guidelines loosening the rules for U.S. government officials who come into contact with Taiwan. It’s blinken he said the administration is concerned about China’s “increasingly aggressive actions” and is committed to ensuring that Taiwan “has the ability to defend itself.” The United States further showed its support for Taiwan on Wednesday sending an unofficial delegation consisting of a former U.S. senator and two former U.S. secretaries of state in Taiwan.

This great drama of power could happen at a worse time for the Biden administration, whose officials will not serve 100 days in office until April 30, but it is still the point of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, as they seek to gain an advantage before than Biden can provide a more secure foundation through policy reviews and staffing in key management positions.

These real-world events also complicate the Biden administration’s carefully crafted plans to methodically follow its actions, justifiably arguing that U.S. reconstruction is a prerequisite for effective global leadership.

Biden’s goal is to stifle Covid-19 by accelerating vaccine distribution, achieve economic momentum and competitiveness through stimulating and spending $ 4 trillion in infrastructure, and rebuilding relationships with key allies, a goal reflected in Biden’s meeting this week with the Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide.

The Biden administration is facing a number of other foreign policy challenges at the same time, starting with the president’s announcement this week that withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by 9/11 and efforts to restart nuclear talks with Iran despite last week’s attack Tehran’s Natanz nuclear power plant.

That’s a lot for every new president. However, as Biden deftly tackles the growing challenge of Russia and China, it will shape our era.

Frederick Kempe is the best-selling author, award-winning journalist and president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, one of the United States ’most influential think tanks on global affairs. He has worked for The Wall Street Journal for more than 25 years as a foreign correspondent, assistant editor-in-chief and as the longest-serving editor in the European edition of the paper. His latest book – “Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth” – was a New York Times bestseller and was published in more than a dozen languages. Follow him on Twitter @FredKempe and subscribe here to Inflection Points, his look every Saturday at the main stories and trends of the past week.

For more insights from CNBC associates, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.


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