Analysts in the U.S. and beyond point to two nations — China and Russia — as the world’s most immediate and significant military threats. Ahead of a meeting between the leaders of those countries, it’s a good time to take a look at their evolving relationship with each other.
A defining decade
When Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, it set in motion Vladimir Putin’s ultimate plan to invade Ukraine in an attempt to take control of the neighboring nation. Much of the world denounced that move nearly a decade ago, but China reacted differently.
Even as the U.S. and many of its global allies impose harsh sanctions on Putin and other Russian leaders since last year’s invasion, China has been a lifeline for the beleaguered nation.
What Russia wants
On a national level, Russia needs a superpower with which it can trade. The Russian economy has been badly battered by sanctions from other countries, so being able to sell oil and other commodities to China has helped it survive the past year.
As an individual, Putin has been ostracized and is now facing an international warrant for war crimes. So his connection to Chinese leader Xi Jinping is an important buffer against his foes almost everywhere else.
What China wants
President Xi is pursuing global domination and clearly sees a strategic relationship with Putin as a step in that direction.
Both countries share a desire to bring about the end of the West’s global dominance. The two nations have engaged in joint military exercises and China has reportedly been buying a wide array of Russian military equipment and weaponry.
The two nations aren’t technically allies, but their tenuous connection is giving nations around the world plenty to worry about as Xi and Putin prepare for their upcoming tete-a-tete.