With the annexation of the Crimea and the engagement in confrontation with the West, Russia has embarked on a course of making the military force into a useful instrument of policy. Moscow has effectively sacrificed the goals of modernization and development for the sake of geopolitical ambitions. The question about the price of Russia’s revisionist enterprise is relevant for many states that are not satisfied with the unfair and often discriminating rules of the world order, first of all China. Russia hopes to inspire other states dissatisfied with the “unipolar” world order to challenge the West more boldly, but the result of its assault on the principles of nonintervention and territorial integrity might work in the opposite way. The states of East Asia could take a good measure of the risk inherent to embarking on the course of projecting power at the expense of modernization and become even more committed than before to upholding their unique prosperity-producing peace. China has a vested interest in Russian internal stability and must be worried by the prospect of a post-Putin crisis.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
We addressed this fundamental question in Baev and Tønnesson (2015).
Niccolo Machiavelli (see Chapter XXXIX in his Discourses on Livy, 1517) derived this insight from the proposition on the constant character of human nature, which has «the same desires and passions» (Bondanella and Musa 1979). While this point has particular relevance for regimes empowering a strong leader, our reading of history seeks more to trace durable patterns and traditional perceptions.
This phenomenon constitutes the focus of East Asian Peace research program at Uppsala University; for the most current research findings, visit the website (http://www.pcr.uu.se/research/eap/).
The most valuable source on that episode is the collection of documents published by the National Security Archive in 2013; see Jones (2013).
One analysis (by the Stratfor group) was so confident that the deal was done that the bottom line was «Cartographers, warm the presses» . See “Russia–Japan island dispute looms on the horizon” (2000).
The final settlement was achieved in the Complementary agreement (2004), according to which the Tarabarov island and a half of the Bolshoi Ussuriisky island were transferred to China in 2008; see Shcherbakov (2008).
The first stage to Skovorodino was launched in May 2009, and the second stage to Kozmino was completed by the end of 2012, while presently nearly all oil flow goes directly to China; see Chow (2015).
The command of the Russian Navy was initially skeptical about that bargain but then recognized the unique opportunity to add four major surface combatants to the much diminished combat order and developed far-reaching plans for the versatile Mistrals; see Daly (2014).
On the mounting problems with implementing this program, see Baev (2015a).
According to the most reliable of Russian opinion polls, the negative attitude to the USA reached 80% in early 2015 (the previous peak in autumn 2008 was 67%), and the negative attitude to the EU reached 71% (the previous peak was only 39%). The positive attitude to China was registered at a steady 75%. See “Western countries: Attitude, sanctions, cooperation” (2015).
For an investigation of the scope of Russian military engagement, see Czuperski et al. (2015).
One consise evaluation of its current status is «The withdrawal that wasn’t» (2016).
The minimal assessment of the daily costs Syrian intervention amounted to $US 3.3 million; see Arkhipov and Meyer (2015). In mid-March 2016, the conservative total cost estimate was $ US 550 million, but the volume of direct military and economic aid to the al-Assad regime was probably of even larger magnitude; see Baev (2016).
Vladislav Inozemtsev (2014), one of the independent-minded Russian experts, argued that because of the ideological reasons Russia «has focused exclusively on China ignoring the opportunities in Asia–Pacific» .
One sound analysis of that deal at the initial stage was Grivach (2014).
We have encountered this argument in the interviews with Chinese experts in October 2015 and October 2016.
The problems with Russian arms export to China are scrutinized in Khramchihin (2016).
On the impact of China–US relations on Russia’s position, see Ying (2016).
One sharp reflection on this parade is Perlez and MacFarquhar (2015).
Even Russian experts ventured opinion on impracticality of this negative attitude; see Stapran (2016).
One competent analysis of Russia’s half-hearted pro-forma involvement with Asian regional institutions is Gabuev (2015c).
A critical assessement of the high-level agreement to harmonize the Chinese initiative with Russia’s attempts to keep the Eurasian Economic Union on track is Korostikov (2016).
One competent Russian assessment of the key parameters of China’s military reform is Kashin (2015b).
The strategic priority of countering the US deployment of elements of strategic missile system was reiterated at Putin’s lengthy meeting with the top brass in November 2015 and strengthened further at the meeting of Russian Security Council in May 2016. On the former, see Felgengauer (2015); on the latter, see Latuhina (2016). On the THAAD dilemma, see Haenle and Sherman (2016).
Arbatov, Alexei. 2015. The first strike trap. Commentary, Carnegie Moscow Center, 16 November. http://carnegie.ru/commentary/2015/11/16/first-strike-trap/ilxl.
Arbatov, Alexei. 2016. Russia and the arms race. Nezavisimaya gazeta, 26 April. http://www.ng.ru/scenario/2016-04-26/13_race.html (in Russian).
Arkhipov, Ilya, and Henry Meyer. 2015. Putin’s quagmire in Syria proves Obama prescient. Bloomberg, 9 December. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-09/putin-proves-obama-prescient-on-syria-as-russia-faces-quagmire-ihzauuvr.
Astakhova, Olesya, and Chen Aizhu. 2016. Russia likely to scale down China gas supply plans. Reuters, January 15. http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-russia-china-gas-exclusive-idUKKCN0UT1M0.
Baev, Anton. 2016. Russia could have spent some 38 billion roubles on the Syrian operation. RBC.ru, March 15. http://www.rbc.ru/politics/15/03/2016/56e7f5619a794767f0378583 (in Russian).
Baev, Pavel K. 2015a. Ukraine: A test for Russian military reform. Focus Strategique no. 56, Paris: IFRI, May. https://www.ifri.org/fr/publications/enotes/focus-strategique/ukraine-test-russian-military-reforms.
Baev, Pavel K. 2015b. Putin’s pivot to China: Profit-free but problem-rich. Eurasia Daily Monitor, 31 August. http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=44308&no_cache=1#.Vzs97b51d_k.
Baev, Pavel K., and Stein Tønnesson. 2015. Can Russia keep its special ties with Vietnam while moving closer and closer to China? International Area Studies Review 13 (3): 312–325.
Barry, Ellen. 2010. With visit, Russia reinforces its custody of islands, angering Japan. New York Times, 1 November. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/02/world/asia/02Kurils.html?_r=0.
Bashkanova, Anastasiya. 2015. Instead of oil, Russia places the stake on armaments. Nezavisimaya gazeta, 27 October. http://www.ng.ru/economics/2015-10-27/1_serbia.html (in Russian).
Blagov, Sergei. 2015. Russia takes hard-line stance on the territorial dispute with Japan. Asia times, 23 August. http://atimes.com/2015/08/russia-takes-hard-line-stance-on-territorial-dispute-with-japan/.
Blank, Stephen. 2015. Russia’s game in Southeast Asia. Eurasia Daily Monitor, 29 April. http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=43850&tx_ttnews[backPid]=786&no_cache=1#.Vzv3rL51d_k.
Bondanella, Peter, and Mark Musa. 1979. The Portable Machiavelli. New York: Penguin Books.
Buszynski, Leszek. 1986. Soviet Foreign Policy and Southeast Asia. New York: Routledge.
Chow, Edward C. 2015. Russia–China gas deal and redeal. Commentary, Washington: CSIS, 11 May. http://csis.org/publication/russia-china-gas-deal-and-redeal.
Czuperski, Maksymilian, John Herbst, Eliot Higgins, Alina Polyakova, and Damon Wilson, 2015. Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine, Washington DC: The Atlantic Council, October. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/reports/hiding-in-plain-sight-putin-s-war-in-ukraine-and-boris-nemtsov-s-putin-war.
Daly, John C.K. 2014. Russian Pacific Fleet receives new ships, missions. Eurasia Daily Monitor, 12 March. http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=42082&no_cache=1#.VlHghb_YFBw.
Dower, John. 1991. Embracing defeat: Japan in the wake of World War II. New York: Norton.
Felgengauer, Pavel. 2015. The Judgement day torpedo. Novaya gazeta, 15 November. http://www.novayagazeta.ru/comments/70744.html (in Russian).
Gabuev, Alexander. 2015a. A reality check for Russia’s China pivot. Vedomosti, 29 September 2015, English translation in. http://carnegie.ru/2015/09/29/reality-check-for-russia-s-china-pivot/ijr3.
Gabuev. Alexander. 2015b. Sino–Russian trade after a year of sanctions. Commentary, Carnegie Moscow Center, 11 September. http://carnegie.ru/2015/09/11/sino-russian-trade-after-year-of-sanctions/ijyx.
Gabuev, Alexander. 2015c. Asia is not aware: Russia tries to integrate into the Asia–Pacific inter-state structures. Security Index, vol. 21, no 3 (114), pp. 67–80. http://www.pircenter.org/articles/1969-aziya-ne-v-kurse-ili-kak-rossiya-pytaetsya-integrirovatsya-v-mnogostoronnie-struktury-atr (in Russian).
Gabuev, Alexander 2016. A pivot to nowhere: The realities of Russia’s Asia Policy. Commentary, Carnegie Moscow Center, 22 April 2016. http://carnegie.ru/commentary/2016/04/22/pivot-to-nowhere-realities-of-russia-s-asia-policy/ixfw.
Gady, Franz-Stefan. 2016. Confirmed: 2nd ballistic missile sub joins Russia’s Pacific Fleet. The Diplomat, 28 September. http://thediplomat.com/2016/09/confirmed-2nd-ballistic-missile-sub-joins-russias-pacific-fleet/.
Gaiduk, Ilya V. 1996. The Soviet Union and the Vietnam War. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee.
Goldstein, Lyle J. 2016. Watch out: China and Russia are working together at sea. The National Interest, April 13. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/watch-out-china-russia-are-working-together-sea-15767.
Grivach, Alexei, 2014. The window into Asia, Russia in Global Affairs, 2 June. http://www.globalaffairs.ru/number/Okno-v-Aziyu-16777 (in Russian).
Haenle, Paul, and Anne Sherman. 2016. Finding the right answer to China’s THAAD dilemma. The Japan times, 19 September. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/09/19/commentary/world-commentary/finding-right-answer-chinas-thaad-dilemma/#.WCXetSRrN_k.
Huard, Paul Richard. 2015. Russia’s blast from the past: Beware the Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber. The National Interest, 22 August. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russias-blast-the-past-beware-the-tu-95-bear-strategic-13669.
Inozemtsev, Vladislav. 2014. We have long become addicted to the Chinese needle, interview with Novaya gazeta, 17 October. http://www.novayagazeta.ru/economy/65738.html (in Russian).
Jones, Nate ed. 2013. The 1983 War Scare: “The Last Paroxysm” of the Cold War. National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 426. http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB426/.
Karaganov, Sergei. 2015. The Eurasian promise: China’s turn to the West is good for Russia. Rossiiskaya gazeta, 26 October. http://www.rg.ru/2015/10/26/karaganov.html (in Russian).
Kashin, Vassily. 2015a. Selling S-400s to China: A new front in the Cold War? Commentary, Moscow Carnegie Center, 27 April. http://carnegie.ru/2015/04/27/selling-s-400s-to-china-new-front-in-cold-war/ik1m.
Kashin, Vassily. 2015b. China’s Grand Military Reform: What will it be like? Analysis, Russian International Affairs Council, 11 September. http://russiancouncil.ru/en/inner/?id_4=6556#top-content.
Khramchihin, Alexander. 2016. China is a virtual ally. Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, 29 April. http://nvo.ng.ru/gpolit/2016-04-29/1_china.html (in Russian).
Korostikov, Mikhail. 2016. The high-level connection: One year of implementing the agreement on cooperation between Eurasian Economic Union and Silk Road Economic Belt. Kommersant-Vlast, May 9. http://kommersant.ru/doc/2978877 (in Russian).
Koval, Vadim. 2015. On one side of the continent. Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, 5 June. http://nvo.ng.ru/concepts/2015-06-05/3_atr.html (in Russian).
Kozlov, Valentin. 2009. Time to return to Cam Ranh. Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, 22 May. http://nvo.ng.ru/history/2009-05-22/1_kamran.html (in Russian).
Krylov, Maxim. 2016. What “new approach” to the Kurils have Putin and Abe agreed upon. Commentary, Carnegie.ru, 11 May. http://carnegie.ru/commentary/2016/05/11/ru-63547/iy56 (in Russian).
Lain, Sarah, and Veerle Nouwens. 2016. What’s behind the Sino-Russian exercises in the South China Sea? RUSI Commentary, 22 September. https://rusi.org/commentary/whats-behind-sino-russian-exercises-south-china-sea.
Latuhina, Kira. 2016. To maintain the balance. Rossiiskaya gazeta, 13 May. http://rg.ru/2016/05/13/putin-rossiia-sdelaet-vse-dlia-sohraneniia-strategicheskogo-balansa-v-mire.html (in Russian).
Lokshin, Grigory 2015. The pivot to the East is postponed? Nezavisimaya gazeta, 19 November. http://www.ng.ru/world/2015-11-19/3_kartblansh.html (in Russian).
Lukyanov, Fedor. 2010. The Kurils on the Asian background. Russia in Global Affairs, 9 November. http://www.globalaffairs.ru/redcol/Kurily-na-fone-Azii-15033 (in Russian).
Lukyanov, Fedor. 2015. Unpredictable China. Forbes.ru, 14 October. http://www.forbes.ru/mneniya/mir/302841-nepredskazuemyi-kitai (in Russian).
Perlez, Jane, and Neil MacFarquhar. 2015. Friendship between Putin and Xi becomes strained as economies falter. CNBC Asia–Pacific News, 3 September. http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/03/friendship-between-putin-and-xi-becomes-strained-as-economies-falter.html.
Rogov, Sergei et al. 2013. The Obama Doctrine: The Lord of Two Rings. Analysis, Russian International Affairs Council, May. http://russiancouncil.ru/inner/?id_4=1783#top-content (in Russian).
Russia–Japan island dispute looms on the horizon. 2000. Stratfor Analysis, 21 April. https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/russia-japan-island-dispute-looms-horizon.
Safronov, Ivan 2015. China is the first foreign importer of Su-35. Kommersant-FM, 19 November. http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2857441 (in Russian).
Scalapino, Robert A. 1986. Asia in a global context: Strategic issues for the Soviet Union. In Soviet Far East Military Buildup, ed. Richard H. Solomon, and Masataka Kosaka. Dover: Auburn House.
Sergeev, Mikhail 2015. China doesn’t need the Sila Sibiri any more. Nezavisimaya gazeta, 6 October. http://www.ng.ru/economics/2015-10-06/1_silasibiri.html (in Russian).
Shcherbakov, Dmirti 2008. The Amur lands have changed hands, Kommersant, 15 October. http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1040943 (in Russian).
Stapran, Natalya. 2016. TTP’s First-Mover Advantage. Analysis, Russian International Affairs Council, 1 March. http://russiancouncil.ru/en/inner/?id_4=7315#top-content.
The withdrawal that wasn’t. 2016. The Economist, May 14. http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21698688-syria-still-provides-useful-stage-russian-strategyand-propaganda-withdrawal-wasnt.
Torkunov, Anatoly. 2000. Zagadochnaya Voina: Koreiskii Konflikt 1950–1953 (Mysterious war: Korean conflict 1950–1953). Moscow: ROSSPEN.
Tønnesson, Stein. 2015. Deterrence, inter-dependence and Sino–US peace. International Area Studies Review 18 (3): 297–311.
Western countries: Attitude, sanctions, cooperation. 2015. Levada.ru, 2 December. http://www.levada.ru/2015/12/02/strany-zapada-vospriyatie-sanktsii-gotovnost-k-sotrudnichestvu/.
Xiao, Ren. 2016. Idea Change Matters: China’s Practices and the East Asian Peace. Asian Perspective (forthcoming).
Xiaoming, Zhang. 2002. China, the Soviet Union and the Korean War. Journal of Conflict Studies, vol. 22, no. 1, Spring. https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/jcs/article/view/368/582.
Ying, Fu. 2016. How Chia sees Russia: Beijing and Moscow are close, but not allies. Foreign Affairs, January/February. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2015-12-14/how-china-sees-russia.
Zuenko, Ivan. 2016. “Rust belt” on the border with Russia in the public eye. Analysis, 4 May, Russian International Affairs Council. http://russiancouncil.ru/en/inner/?id_4=7640#top-content.
Support for our research from the Norwegian Ministry of Defense is deeply appreciated.
About this article
Cite this article
Baev, P.K., Tønnesson, S. The Troubled Russia–China Partnership as a Challenge to the East Asian Peace. Fudan J. Hum. Soc. Sci. 10, 209–225 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40647-017-0166-y
- East Asia