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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

March 22, 2023

After the end of the (First) Cold War and the start of what Francis Fukuyama dubbed the "End of History", the world seemed firmly in the hands of the political West. For the next two to three decades, this resulted in one of the most disastrous and unstable periods in recent human history, with the political West ravaging much of the world, while most of the rest was held under near-constant self-defeating subservience.

The US-led power pole engaged in what can only be described as war hopping, starting one aggression after another, or worse yet, several consecutive invasions against countries on multiple continents, with its numerous vassals and satellite states sending auxiliary forces or at the very least providing support in logistics and financing. America's superiority was both quantitative and qualitative, leaving nearly everyone else far behind. The only exception was Russia, whose only advantage was its massive strategic arsenal, the last vestige of the (First) Cold War that kept the US from exerting absolute dominance.

Moscow's main trump card was also the world's trump card, providing precious several decades of peace to other sovereign-minded powers, primarily China. Beijing's meteoric rise to superpower status would have been all but impossible without it and the Asian giant's leadership is well aware of this. It could be said that both Russia and China "have each other's backs", with the cooperation reaching unprecedented levels, not seen in approximately 60 years.

Not counting the purely ideological "cold war" in the aftermath of the Sino-Soviet split, the relationship between Moscow and Beijing has been cordial at worst. However, in the last 30 years, particularly since President Putin consolidated Russia's geopolitical standing, this relationship has transformed into a fully-fledged strategic alliance in virtually every aspect, truly limitless, as Putin and Xi Jinping recently described. Since the early 1990s, Russia has transferred copious amounts of its massive technological know-how, particularly in military tech, helping push China's defense capabilities nearly half a century ahead in less than a decade.

The result was quite positive for Beijing, but was seen with contempt in Washington DC, which loathes the idea of having to deal with "another Soviet Union", especially after investing nearly half a century into dismantling the original and after the Clinton administration announced the US will "never let the rise of another superpower" with the equivalent or close to the power of the USSR. However, despite US attempts to prevent it, exactly this happened. Russia, at first a mere shadow of its former glory and essentially dismissed as a "done deal" by the political West, started regaining its strength, but this time not as a socialist empire, but perhaps the world's premier realpolitik superpower. With such an approach, Moscow kept most of its historic geopolitical partnerships and was also able to expand them, including with China. President Xi Jinping's latest visit, the first foreign trip he went on after being reelected for his third term, serves as a testament to this growing alliance.

The superpowers signed over a dozen key strategic agreements outlying the prospects of their unprecedented cooperation by the end of this decade and beyond. Apart from the growing trade exchange, which is racing towards $200 billion annually, one of the key aspects of this is a technological and military partnership. China and Russia will further expand their cooperation in areas such as information technologies and advanced AI, involving approximately 80 new projects assessed at over $165 billion. This includes aircraft and machine tools manufacturing, space research and strengthening of military cooperation, including further unification of Moscow's and Beijing's know-how.

In a joint statement, the (Eur)Asian giants reiterated their commitment to regularly conduct bilateral naval and aerial patrols, as well as regular military exercises, expand cooperation within and beyond the framework of existing bilateral agreements and deepen mutual trust and interoperability between their armed forces.

One particularly important segment of this growing alliance is the exchange of military technologies in which both countries excel. China's impressive strides in microelectronics and semiconductors are of great interest to Russia, while Moscow's traditionally world-class expertise in rocket/missile and space technologies is greatly appreciated in Beijing. This includes the latest Chinese developments in new network-centric capabilities, with drone swarms being of particular interest for Russia, which could provide key tactical advantages on the battlefield.

Moscow has certainly developed a plethora of its own similar capabilities, but getting Beijing to participate in these efforts will help expand the said capabilities even further. On the other hand, China is greatly interested in Russia's unrivaled hypersonic technologies, especially naval, as the primary threat to its security and development comes from the belligerent thalassocratic powers of the political West and their regional vassals.

Russian military expert Andrei Martyanov outlined the virtually unknown (to the vast majority of mainstream media) aspects of this cooperation, including the immediate threat that the AUKUS represents for Beijing. With virtually all of China's Tier 1 cities and provinces being exposed to naval aggression from the US, the Asian giant is seeking ways to nullify this possibility or at the very least push it to a minimum. Of particular concern is the US Navy's AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile), a stealthy air-launched cruise missile deployed by American CBG (carrier battle groups), including the 2000-km range JASSM-XR variant. And while such missiles can hardly be considered comparable to the latest Chinese weapons, they are relatively cheap (by US standards) and numerous (at least 2000 procured by USAF and USN), providing a strong first-strike capability for Washington DC. According to Martyanov, precisely this was very likely one of the key topics of the behind-closed-doors talks between Russian and Chinese delegations.