When Vladimir Putin met China’s president Xi Jinping on Sunday, a memorandum of understanding for a second massive gas supply deal caught most of the attention.
For the Russian president, the deal may be less appealing for its commercial benefits than its ability to advance a larger strategic goal of cementing ties with its eastern neighbour.
According to Russian officials and security analysts, Moscow’s worst stand-off with the west since the end of the cold war has convinced Mr Putin’s government that it must moor its security interests to China because the Euro-Atlantic security architecture is broken beyond repair.
“Cooperation between Russia and China is extremely important to keep the peace in the framework of international law, making it more stable,” Mr Putin told his Chinese counterpart, just two weeks after he accused the US of destabilising the world by frequently violating international law.
Russia’s updated military doctrine is expected to target Nato and the US more clearly as the Ukraine crisis has frayed Moscow’s relations with the western alliance.
The current doctrine only lists Nato expansion, foreign troop deployments in neighbouring states, destabilisation in certain countries and deployment of missile defence systems as “external military dangers”.
People familiar with the document said Nato and the US would be openly designated as threats or adversaries in the document’s new version, due to be published next month.
Russian diplomats and analysts also said Moscow hoped to build the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, founded by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tadjikistan in 1996, into a more meaningful security alliance.
Another longstanding piece of the European security architecture is the Nato Russia Act, in which Nato pledged not to create permanent bases on Russia’s borders.
But the tension over the Ukraine crisis has fuelled Russian fears that this promise is being undermined.
In addition, even though Nato has little intention of welcoming Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance, member countries see it as politically impossible to openly rule out their membership in order to keep them as buffers between the western alliance and Russia.
Mr Putin is under no illusion that things will get any easier. The next US president is almost certain to be more hawkish towards Russia than Barack Obama, who entered the White House seeking a hopeful reset of relations.
Full article: Putin aims to cement China links as ties with west fray (Financial Times)