Common interests around North Korea are helping to bring Moscow and Beijing together
Russia and China share a border and trade; while suspicions remain, the alliance is growing
With another crisis looming on the Korean Peninsula, it’s extraordinary how old rivals Russia and China are – yet again – speaking with a single voice.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping just had a summit in Moscow at which the countries issued a joint statement, articulating a common peace plan for the peninsula, and together condemning US militarization in the region.
Indeed, Russia and China have common interests there.
Both share a land border with North Korea and have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
But, above all, both are desperate to check US ambitions in their backyards.
It’s this desire, this fear of being hemmed in by the West and its allies, that is one of the factors pushing Moscow and Beijing together in a seemingly ever tightening embrace.
The two nations often vote in tandem at the UN Security Council, where both wield permanent member vetoes.
On Iran and Syria, Moscow and Beijing routinely follow each other’s line, usually putting them at loggerheads with the West. And there has been some alignment on North Korea, too.
It’s a potent diplomatic alliance between two giants who were once sworn communist rivals.
A brief border confrontation in 1969 threatened to spark a nuclear conflict between China and what was then the Soviet Union.
Decades of mutual suspicion followed.
But economics transformed the relationship, and as China emerged as one of the world’s biggest energy consumers, it was naturally drawn to one of the world’s biggest energy producers across a long, shared border.
For Russia, isolated by Western sanctions after its annexation of Crimea in 2014, China’s economic muscle proved an even more crucial financial lifeline and served to accelerate its geopolitical pivot east.
Hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of deals, mainly in the energy and infrastructure sectors, have been agreed between the two nations.
There are, of course, still problems.
Scratch the surface, and many Russians remain deeply suspicious of their powerful Asian neighbor.
For emerging China, declining Russia doesn’t even make it into their list of top 10 trading partners.
Still, for Moscow and Beijing, their alliance appears well worth papering over the cracks.