US-Russia thaw will not affect China’s ties with Kremlin

By Chen Yu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/19 22:48:41

The summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump on Monday took up a whole range of topics including bilateral ties, strategic stability, Syria, Ukraine and denuclearization of North Korea. There were some agreements signed as well. 

Noticeably, Russia prepared some concrete suggestions, which showed the importance that Putin attached to the meeting. Interestingly, Trump seems to have held back at the press conference and did not reveal any valuable information. This indicates that he may have drawn lessons from his meeting with Putin at the G20 summit last year and keeps pushing forward his Russia policy in a low-key manner to avoid opposition from within his country.

At the summit, Russia and the US agreed to set up a working group for developing economic cooperation. They also agreed that representatives from their national security councils will meet to follow-up on all the issues they addressed. Experts from both sides will discuss possible extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the US and Russia.

As for Syria, Trump suggested the US, Russia and Israel work together. Putin believes that the task of establishing peace and bringing about reconciliation in Syria "could be the first showcase example of the successful joint work." Putin also said that Russia has reached consensus with the US over some issues in the south of Syria and has taken Israel's interests into consideration.

The summit was not only symbolic, but produced some results. Putin said negotiations with his US counterpart took place in a frank and business-like atmosphere.

Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the Upper House of Russian Parliament, said the summit "is the first important step toward establishing a political dialogue."

Trump said the US' relationship with Russia "has never been worse than it is now." However, "that changed as of about four hours ago."

Some Russian scholars view the summit as a starting point of restoring Russia-US relations.

These achievements have prompted some foreign media outlets to hype Trump's deals with Russia and his intention to woo Moscow to counter Beijing, which, however, will not be the case now or in the future.

On the one hand, relations between Russia and the US will not change fundamentally. The two will not become strategic partners. They have a slew of differences which cannot be resolved just by a summit.

Meanwhile, US domestic politics will continue to hold back Trump. Before the summit, the "Russiagate" investigation team charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers. After the summit, the US Congress and mainstream media hit out hard at Trump, revealing that some US elements still use Russia-related affairs as an excuse against Trump, which squeezed the space of his Russia policy.

What's more, structural contradictions still exist between the two countries. The newly released US National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy view Russia as a strategic rival, which means that the US has not given up on its objectives of containing Russia. NATO may expand eastward and absorb Macedonia into the alliance. Georgia joining the alliance is also on the agenda.

The US strategic articulation contrasts with that of Russia which wants to be a polar in world politics and enhance its dominance in the former Soviet region. Without this contradiction being solved, Russia-US relations will not change fundamentally.

On the other hand, the current international architecture is essentially different from the Cold War. Although the triangular relations between China, the US and Russia are still a subject of discussion, how the three countries interact is different from the past. Bilateral ties between each of the three have their own foundation. China-US relations are based on complex and intertwined economic interests and geopolitical competition and cooperation, which have little impact on China-Russia relations.

Similarly, the driving force behind China-Russia ties is the complementary economic relations and strategic coordination on the world stage. The Russia-US relationship also has its own rationale. Bilateral cooperation will not impede triangular relations. China is willing to see that Russia and the US can manage their differences and conflicts.

The author is assistant research fellow at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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