China vs USA vs Russia

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

In 1949, the famous author George Orwell wrote a book called Nineteen Eighty Four. This classic book had several themes; but one vision in this Orwellian world was a world divided geographically, politically and militarily into three rival superstates: Oceania (North America plus Britain); Eurasia (Russia plus Europe) and Eastasia (China). Orwell’s prediction of an endless three-way global confrontation has not yet happened. The Soviet Union imploded and divided into several countries.

Today, militarily, there are still three superpowers in the world – USA, Russia and China. Xi Jinping and Putin are trying to bring their two countries closer together in an alliance against the United States. However, there are geopolitical obstacles to smooth relations between the two nations.

In 1972, Nixon through his foreign secretary Henry Kissinger is said to have sought China’s help against the Soviets. The biggest missed opportunity was in 1991, when Communism fell and the USSR and Warsaw Pact splintered into different countries. It was clear that under Gorbachev, Russia wanted to join the West but as an equal partner. Decades of suspicion stood in the way. Russia was not accepted in the European Union and NATO. The other Eastern European countries that used to be under the influence of Russia were all accepted in the EU and NATO. Those countries were Poland, Eastern Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary. While there have been some problems integrating them into the European mainstream, these countries have remained in the EU and NATO. In fact, while the United Kingdom has left the European Union, these countries have remained in the EU.

The failure to admit Russia into EU and NATO is said to be the principal reason why Putin and his KGB cohorts rose to power in order to restore Russian greatness.

The recent Biden-Putin summit came out better than expected. Biden called Putin a “worthy adversary” while Putin called Biden a “professional.” Biden’s signal was clear in that he believes that the threat from China was much bigger and more dangerous than any threat from Russia. Western Europe is preparing for a future where Russia and the rest of Europe are interdependent, especially in the field of energy. The natural gas pipeline being built from Russia to Germany will make a large part of Western Europe energy dependent on Russia.

The biggest obstacle to any improvement in Russian-Western relationship is Putin, but history has shown that eventually no one man can fight against historical forces. Historically Russia has always been a European land power. Any alliance with China is, at best, simply a pragmatic solution, not a continuation of historical roles.

China and Russia have been increasing bilateral cooperation primarily to offset US pressure and counterbalance increasing US influence in different multilateral forums. During the Trump administration, Washington reached out to Russia as a friend and not just an ally. It is noticeable that Trump continued to view China as a competitor and Russia never stepped in to try to serve as a bridge.

China and Russia have had serious differences in the past. There have been border conflicts. This is inevitable since the Sino-Soviet border measures 4,209 kilometers or 2,615 miles. On one side of the border is Russia with a total land area of 6.6 million square miles and a total population of 141,000,000. It is rich in the natural resources that China badly needs like oil, natural gas, timber, rare earth minerals and grain.

China, on the other side of the border, has a population of approximately 1.4 billion and a land area of 3.7 million square miles.

There have been border conflicts between the two countries in the past. Mutual interests deter any present conflicts. But the ingredients for conflict are there. One country is overpopulated and has minimal natural resources. Another country on its border has massive virtually empty land space and abundant natural resources.

The other factor that could affect Sino-Russian relations is how long Russia will accept the role of a junior partner. At the beginning of the last Cold War, the Soviet Union was clearly the senior partner. In fact, China tried to create an image of neutrality. Today, China is clearly the senior partner. This relationship will definitely affect relationships between the two nations.

Dr. Vu Le Thai Hoang wrote: “In the context of sustained globalization coupled with a growing disparity in power between the US and China relative to Russia, this modern configuration of this triangle should persist for years to come. The US and China, superior in total power and locked in long term strategic competition, will serve as the ‘constant.’ Russia meanwhile will assume the role of the ‘variable,’ seeking not to go toe-to-toe with the other two but rather to utilize its leverage and manipulate the balance of power to its advantage.”

Going forward, this means that George Orwell’s tri-polar will be the future reality. The world will not be a bipolar world where the USA will be aligned against a Sino-Russia alliance. Instead it will be China versus United States versus Russia.

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A writing workshop for adults: Writing from One’s Roots by Kristian Sendon Cordero, June 26, 2-3:30 p.m. Writefest2021, an annual 6-session workshop, returns on July 12-23. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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