By Victor Larin
SINCE the mid-20th century, the intricacies within the China-Soviet Union/Russia-US strategic triangle are one of the most attractive and intriguing topics for scholars. They are focus of many analytical forecasts and pseudo-scientific speculations, providing visual material for politicians in power.
The whole history of this geopolitical structure involves continuous maneuvers by each side. The countries search for benefits, formulate elements of deterrence, and strike balances. It follows this logic: “Every party plays for itself,” or “two against one.”
The current configuration of relations in this triangle is not a replica of previous ones. Now we are watching a combination of “one against two” where the US is playing simultaneously against Russia and China. The White House is the initiator in the both games. The leaders of Russia and China have repeatedly stressed that their strategic partnership is cooperation with a plus sign; it is not aimed at any third power, including the US, or a bloc of countries.
However, US political elites are furious with the failure of their intentions to change the political systems of Russia and China as well as to tether the two countries as satellites into the world structure that is beneficial to the US and controlled by Washington. So they called Russia and China “strategic competitors” and resorted to various means and methods in order to not only weaken them, but also actively slow down their development. US elites works hard to undermine the countries’ economic and social stability, and also embroil them against each other.
Political pressure, economic blackmail and ideological sabotage are widely used to achieve this goal. The fight with China is being waged primarily on the economic and technological fronts. Meanwhile, the struggle against Russia is carried out in the field of global and regional politics. At the same time, Western propaganda actively and aggressively presents Russia and China as the sworn enemies of basic Western (American) values – freedom and democracy. And it works. According to a Pew Research Center poll in March 2020, 62 percent of Americans perceive China as a threat to the US, while roughly 56 percent think the same about Russia.
Hardly any of the US strategists, given the dominant anti-Russian and anti-Chinese sentiments within the US main political parties and public, today are seriously considering the idea of tactical “friendship” with one of Russia and China against the other, as happened successfully for the US in the 1970s. US political elites are internally divided, intolerant of opponents and extremely aggressive. They do not even think about seeking compromises and mutually beneficial solutions. This rich cabal is openly betting on forceful pressure and head-on collisions with any real and potential adversaries, rivals or competitors of the US. All means are good for this. Especially those drawn from the dusty arsenal of Anglo-Saxon diplomacy with its basic principle of “divide and conquer.” Therefore, Washington does not even show a minimal desire to shift relations with Moscow or Beijing into a trilateral positive dialogue. Instead it sophisticatedly strives to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing, sows seeds of doubt and mistrust, suspicion and enmity between them.
In the middle of first decade of 21st century, Washington realized that Moscow did not intend to follow the mainstream of US policy and was determined to fight back in case of an encroachment on Russia’s vital interests. At the same time, the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership began to be viewed in Washington as one of the serious challenges to US interests and politics. In the fall of 2006, a conference was held at the US State Department on American-Chinese relations for the years 1969-80. Several key individuals who shaped US Chinese policy at that time attended the event. The keynote speaker Philip D. Zelikow, counselor of the US Department of State, said the following: “We need the Chinese to correct the Russians and to discipline the Russians.” Sometime later, after Russia set its teeth at the Munich Security Conference (2007) and the North Caucasus (2008), two leading figures of US politics – Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski – launched the sensational notion to divide the world between the US and China, to form something like G2.
Generally speaking, it is difficult to imagine that the US would agree to concede at least an inch of its preferable seat on the top of Mt. Olympus, and not to anyone, particularly not an imagined “totalitarian Beijing.”
By its very nature, it was a loosely disguised provocation directed against the Kremlin, but this fake worked. Some politicians and experts in Russia took this idea seriously as the intention of the Big Two to divide the world. The contamination of “Chimerica,” coined by US scientists a little earlier, also came to the point. Its author Niall Ferguson interpreted his brainchild much more simply as “the partnership between the big saver and the big spender,” but the original meaning of the expression was soon forgotten. Despite the fact that China officially refused to even discuss such a deal, the world media, hungry for sensations, swallowed the bait along with the hook, discussing the prospects of building a “US-Chinese universe” in every way.
Parallel to this, Washington began playing the Russian card against China. US academic and journalistic communities were spinning the flywheel of the “yellow threat” in Russia, frightening Russians with the consequences of the “Chinese expansion” in Siberia and the Far East, supporting and fanning the fears and phobias already existing in Russian society. Tens and hundreds of publications on this topic appeared soon in scientific journals, electronic and print media in the US and Europe. This immense propaganda also finds its audience and response in Russia, where the anti-Chinese sentiments fostered during the Soviet-Chinese confrontation were revived in the 1990s and deeply embedded in the minds of some people. According to our estimates, such sentiments are typical for 20-25 percent of people living in Pacific Russia.
Nevertheless, it is obvious that the overwhelming majority of Russians support the development of relations with China. According to the American Pew Research Center, 71 percent of Russians have a favorable view of China. This figure is several times higher than in the US, Australia or Japan. A 2019 poll by the Russian Public Opinion Foundation gave a figure that said 51 percent of Russians consider relations between China and Russia as “the closest and friendliest.” Only 1 percent ranked China as an “unfriendly” state.
– The Daily Mail-Global Times news exchange item