Fri, 01 Jul 2022

Cold War alliances are being strengthened while the classic foes of the "free West" are forging stronger links at a moment when France is exiting the helm of the EU.

"It is unwise to take an adversarial position to two adversaries in a way that drives them together," according to the world's most experienced diplomat, Henry Kissinger, speaking about relations between the West, China and Russia, during an interview with the Financial Times on 7 May, just weeks before his 99th birthday.

Kissinger was one of the architects of Washington's rapprochement to China in 1972, when, in the middle of the Cold War, he travelled with then US President Richard Nixon to China in a diplomatic move that changed the global political landscape.

Beijing and Washington established diplomatic ties in 1979, when China helped the US in spying on Soviet troop movements and the loose alliance eventually led to the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

But, like in George Orwell's novel 1984, the global alliances shifted. Forty years after the US and China forged an alliance against Moscow, It's now Moscow and Beijing linking up against the US.

On 15 June, Chinese President Xi Jinping had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin where he stressed the "good momentum of development" between the countries.

The official Chinese Xinhua News Agency avoided mentioning Western sanctions against either Russia or China, but showed a strong commitment to mutual economic support.

Meanwhile, Chinese and Russian companies are dominating the 25th edition of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (Russia's Davos) as most Western firms shun the event.

According to the Global Times, businesses of both countries aim at "achieving the goal of $200 billion in trade by 2024".

The Financial Times, reporting on the St Petersburg Forum, calls it "morale-boosting exercise" where delegations major Western multinationals were replaced with those from Cuba, Venezuela and Afghanistan's Taliban.

Security treaty

And while Russia keeps on trying to incorporate Ukraine's Donbas region into its territory, China is active expanding its own security alliances in the Pacific.

In April it signed a treaty with the Solomon Islands. Another, more comprehensive treaty with eight Pacific nations was rejected, but Beijing continues the push hard for it.

Meanwhile, on 17 June, Xinhua officially reported that China's navy finalised the construction of its third aircraft carrier, the 320-metre Fujian, modelled after the US Navy's USS Gerald Ford, currently the largest and most modern carrier in the world.

Far from enough to equal US Naval might, but "It is the next major step in exploring new capabilities. And gaining a lot of experience over the next years", Andreas Rupprecht, a defence expert and author of several books on the Chinese military, is quoted as saying by NavalNews.

At the same time, the website of Japan's NHK TV reported that 7 Russian and 2 Chinese warships were spotted in the Pacific Ocean off Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo.

China and Russia hold joint naval and military exercises on a regular basis.

Western alliance is strengthening

On Friday, The EU Commission sent a powerful symbol of solidarity with Ukraine when Brussels backed Kyiv's bid for EU candidate status, even as Russia shelled frontline Ukrainian cities and cut back gas supplies to the West.

The statement came out just after EU leaders Emmanuel Macron (France,) Olaf Scholz (Germany) and Mario Draghi (Italy) had visited Kyiv and et with Ukraine's leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine will also be on top of the agenda at the last EU Council meeting that is headed by France, on 23-24 June, before the rotating presidency turns to the Czech Republic in 1 July.

Did NATO's expansion drive Vladimir Putin to war?

With the European Commission's backing, Ukraine could now be added to the list of countries vying for EU membership as early as next week, when member state leaders meet at their Brussels summit.

Nato, whose five-phased eastward expansion since 1990 is one of the core reasons Putin cites as his reason to invade Ukraine, also seems more unified after it lost focus when former US President Donald Trump questioned its use and French President Emmanuel Macron described it as "braindead".

As a reaction to the Russian invasion, neutral EU states Sweden and Finland are now pushing to join the alliance.

In a parallel development, Australia, the UK and the US launched the Aukus strategic alliance, while Australia, the US, India and Japan increasingly work together in the Quadrilateral Dialogue, or Quad, format.

Both Aukus and Quad are designed to contain China's perceived expansion, but also contributing to an increasingly polarised world order.

Originally published on RFI

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