Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, and China's President Xi Jinping, meet in Beijing earlier this year. Pic: AP.

A developing Russia–China partnership doesn’t mean an alliance, writes Asia Sentinel’s Khanh Vu Duc 

With the United States distracted by the Gaza situation, opportunities are abound for Russia to continue its mischief along the Ukrainian border and for China to flex its muscle in the South China Sea. Facing crises on separate continents, the US must find a way to respond effectively, especially when it is trying to follow through with its rebalancing strategy.

The competitive and oftentimes adversarial relationship between the US and China and US and Russia need not be explained in great detail. Given the shared obstacle that is the US, it is perhaps not surprising that China and Russia have at times walked the same path.

In May, Moscow and Beijing signed a staggering US$400 billion energy deal that will have Russia selling 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas to China. With Chinese demand for energy rising and fears that Europe will turn away from Russian energy as a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, a partnership of sorts has begun to form.

Dividing America’s attention east and west, to say nothing of the mess in the Gaza Strip, might not have been planned somewhere along the road between Moscow and Beijing, but it has certainly worked to their advantage. An America distracted is far easier to manage than one that is attentive.

However, the US can take some comfort in the knowledge that a Russia–China partnership is a marriage of convenience. Barring drastic changes to the politics and economics of this partnership, a Russia–China alliance is unlikely to threaten the US in the near future.

Although Moscow and Beijing bond over their desire to challenge Washington’s leadership in the world, mutual distrust prevents any potential alliance from taking root. Evidence of this distrust can be seen in the declining sales of Russian armaments to China.

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