Multipolar World

Russia dependency on China, war and peace in Europe

Jorge Costa Oliveira

Over the last decade, we have witnessed a significant shift in Russia’s positioning. Part of this repositioning stems from the theories of “Russian exceptionalism,” deeply imbued with the imperial ideology of a “Greater Russia” theorized by A. Dugin and executed by Putin.

This repositioning also results from the strong reaction of Europe, which has led to a reduction in trade between Russia and Europe; a reduction, but not a cut, since there are still EU countries that continue to import basic Russian products (such as oil and gas) and companies from nearly all European countries indirectly export to Russia, via Central Asia. However, the determination of European authorities and sanctions have forced the Russian government and businesses to seek other international trade partners and markets, particularly in Asia, with a focus on China and India.

Given the numbers involved, the intensification of trade with China, now by far Russia’s main trading partner, deserves special attention.

Russia sells oil, natural gas, critical metals to China, and buys cars, machinery, and critical components for its defense industry from China (e.g., drone and missile engines, semiconductors). The growing interdependence between the two countries facilitates good trade deals for Chinese companies and is also causing some relocation to China of crucial parts of the value chains of strategically important products, such as the foundries of Norilsk Nickel. On the other hand, the progressive isolation from Western markets is making Russia and its companies dependent on Chinese firms or Chinese authorities.

In recent months, American think tanks have stated that Russia is increasing China’s military capacity by providing Beijing with advanced aerospace technology, as well as advanced air defense systems and technology used in China’s new and revolutionary silent submarines. Certainly, within the Shanghai Organization and other agreements, Moscow and Beijing already had good cooperation in the areas of security and defense. However, only in recent months has Russia provided advanced military and aerospace technologies.

The “unlimited friendship” between China and Russia is based on combating an international order dominated by the main Western powers. However, the confrontational path with the West is dangerous and entails costs that can be very burdensome, especially in terms of financial sanctions. China understands this, but does not want Russia to be too weakened and has been benefiting from the advantageous supply of goods and advanced technology.

The longer the war in Ukraine lasts, the more Russia is forced to cede goods and technology under disadvantageous conditions. It is no wonder, therefore, that Putin has reiterated his openness to a peace agreement in Ukraine. However, in the historical backdrop created, neither the USA nor China have an interest in a quick end to the war. Only Europe has an interest in this. It is important that European leaders act accordingly, with strategic autonomy and without subservience to the interests of others.

Categories Multipolar World Opinion