At The National Interest, Lyle J. Goldstein explores the ramifications of a possible Russo-Chinese alliance and what that would mean for world affairs. He writes (abridged):
Many have speculated on the possibility of a Russia-China alliance. At a forum in China not long ago, I distinctly remember a senior Chinese specialist commenting: “The U.S. has many allies. China can also have allies.” Yet the prevailing conventional wisdom among specialists is that this is unlikely to occur. While keeping my mind open to various possibilities, I myself have been quite skeptical. After all, how could they really help one another? Russia is not going to count on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy in the midst of a contest for the Baltic any more than the Chinese are going to count on the Russian Navy turning the tide in the South China Sea.
Conceivably, an upgraded security partnership joining the Asian giants could lead to military-industrial efficiencies. They are already jointly developing a heavy-lift helicopter, but what if they genuinely cooperated in the fabrication of bombers and destroyers too? Or even submarines and aircraft carriers? Few have seriously entertained this possibility and it still seems far-fetched. However, a recent article in the newspaper Independent Military Review [Независимое военное обозрение] by Russian military specialist Alexander Shirokorad [Александр Широкорад] seems to blow through the generally pervasive skepticism. Not only does this author embrace the notion of joint Russia-China air and missile defense for the Arctic, but he also unexpectedly floats the entirely new concept of allowing Chinese submarines, nuclear-armed “boomers” or SSBNs at that, to gain critical support from Russian Arctic ports.
To be sure, the idea seems quite preposterous at first glance. Both countries are extremely touchy regarding sovereignty issues. Russians, so it would seem, would not be eager for China to gain a military foothold in this ultra-sensitive area along Russia’s northern flank. Meanwhile, China has only one military base overseas in Djibouti and has almost no experience with the hazardous maritime (let alone undersea) environment on the roof of the world. And yet, there could actually be a basis for investigating this admittedly eccentric proposition. Chinese strategists have previously discussed the Arctic as a Russia-China cooperative zone of strategic “resistance space [对抗的空间” to U.S. pressure, and I have previously noted China’s evident interest in studying submarine maneuvers through the ice.
Let us explore the Russian military analyst Shirokorad’s logic. He begins with a mystery, noting the slightly bizarre comments of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Finland during early May. According to the Russian analyst, Pompeo “broke out into an angry tirade aimed at the Celestial Kingdom [разразился гневной тирадой в адрес Поднебесной],” explaining that he accused Beijing of trying to turn the Arctic into the South China Sea. Noting the peculiarity of the chief American diplomat’s apparent fixation with the Northern Sea Route (NSR), Shirokorad observes caustically: “Taking into account the geography of American trade routes, ship owners from the United States are no more concerned about the Northern Sea Route than flying to Mars.”
Shirokorad, who has significant knowledge of both submarine operations and also the Arctic region, then throws Pompeo a “life-line,” suggesting that the secretary of state was merely reflecting the notion articulated in the most recent Department of Defensereport on Chinese military power: “[Beijing’s military plans for the Arctic] could include deploying submarines to the region as a deterrent against nuclear attacks.” Notably, the very next sentence of that U.S. government report hints at possible Russia-China frictions along the NSR, for example, with respect to the deployment of non-Russian ice-breakers along that route.
Read more here.
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