One of the most complex relations of the 20th century is the China-Russia relations. The two countries, which had problems many times in the past, now trying to build an “unprecedented” partnership. Why I say unprecedented is because the presidents of both countries use this expression when describing the status of Sino-Russian relations.

China and Russia seem to have agreed on an approach that includes strategic manoeuvres against the global liberal order dominated by the USA.

It is essential to analyze the institutional efforts of the two countries, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

In addition, developments such as the navy exercise held in the Baltic Sea in 2017 and Russia’s sale of S-400 missile systems and SU-35 warplanes to China are important to see the dimensions of the relations.

Partnership based on multipolarity

The military exercise called Vostok 2018, which was held in 2018, turned into a show of strength with the participation of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

The two states are also in a regional rivalry. Total trade volumes have exceeded 100 billion dollars. However, these countries are pursuing strategic alignment between Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative and the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union.

The call for a new global order from both China and Russia and the tendency towards multipolarity have drawn attention, especially in the last few years.

It is possible to say that there is strong alarmism on the side of the USA against this unnamed alliance of China and Russia. So much so that Brzezinski, the national security adviser to Carter, one of the former presidents of the USA, said that “Nothing could be more dangerous for the national interests of the USA than such an outcome” for a possible Sino-Russian alliance.

US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats made similar warnings and underlined the uncertainty posed by the Sino-Russian rapprochement. Therefore, we can say that there is a serious concern about the Sino-Russian rapprochement on the US side.

Problems between China and Russia manageable

Meanwhile, relations between China and Russia are not smooth. Although Russia’s arms sales to India and the problems experienced in the S400 delivery, which is planned to be given to China by Russia, increase the tension between the two states, this is manageable.

China is aware of the need to draw power like Russia to its side in the total competition with the USA. This is a strategic move. For this reason, it covers the costs of regional problems for now.

Therefore, it keeps existing problems at a manageable level.

Russia is aware of the benefits of its regional and economic partnership with China. Evaluating its relationship with India from a similar perspective, Russia acts tactically at this point.

Russia’s arms sales to India should be evaluated in this context.

It should also noted that 2005 was the peak of Russia’s arms sales to India and the graph has been on a downward trend since then. At the moment, the issue that will most affect China-Russia relations is the S400 delivery. The official statement is that postponed because of the pandemic.

Geopolitical turbulence and the new architecture of strategic partnership

However, some experts think Russia responding to China because of the conflict on the Sino-Indian border. There is also India’s efforts to include Russia in the Indo-Pacific group, which is perhaps one of the most important issues.

It will be difficult if Russia joins the Indo-Pacific group known for its anti-Chinese sentiment. Although Pompeo thinks this is possible, it seems unlikely that Russia will be part of a US-coordinated group.

As a result, although it is known that there are political and geopolitical animosities between China and Russia in the historical framework, the global conjuncture shows that this historical situation is manageable.

Meanwhile, according to a March 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center, 62 per cent of Americans see China as a threat to the United States, while 56 per cent think the same about Russia. According to a survey conducted by the same centre, 71 percent of Russians have a positive view of China. Already, the United States had confronted both China and Russia as “revisionist powers” in the national security strategy document it published. Should be noted.

However, whether it can open the door to new regional crises because of this organic crisis that the international system has entered in these days when global competition is intensifying is important. Regional crises can also cause geopolitical turbulence, with consequences that have global implications.

But I think it is important to focus on the variables that develop on a global scale in the relations between China and Russia.

It should also be noted that China and Russia will not come to the stage of a formal alliance, which means close and mutual defence obligations.

Because China and Russia don’t need to become official allies, it is more likely that they plan to work in close cooperation.

This makes itself felt more and more as a geopolitical reality.