The lengthy huddle between the leaders of China and Russia is a bromance playing out in parallel universes. While it may look like the rising of a new Evil Empire, this is the reality: an increasingly desperate Putin and an opportunistic regime in Beijing.
For starters, let’s look at the disparity between the reality of Putin’s war on the ground in Ukraine versus the theatrics taking place in Moscow this week.
Many experts predicted a failed Russian winter offensive. The Russians would grind through their forces, not accomplish much, and be ill-prepared for an expected counter-offense from Ukrainian forces in the Spring.
Putin attacked anyway, proving once again he is as bad a commander-in-chief as there is in modern memory.
Even with no results to brag about, Putin still started bragging with a midnight romp through occupied Mariupol — more odd than triumphant. Then Putin scoffed at the International Criminal Court’s war crimes indictment. Indeed, one of his cronies (presumably at least half-joking) threatened to blow up the court with a hypersonic missile. Putin wrapped his madcap long weekend by welcoming Xi to Moscow.
There is still a lot of wondering over what Putin expects to get from China other than ludicrous, grandiose pronouncements that together they’re going to “stand guard” over world order against the disruptive Westerners.
Does Putin really think Xi is going to help him with his war of aggression? Russia has been fighting for a year, and China has contributed what to the battle? There are some reports of Chinese companies shipping some arms to Russia, though Ukrainian intelligence hasn’t seen any on the battlefield.
And the reality is, Chinese friendship comes at a price. Just ask Sri Lanka, Pakistan and other countries that have had to give Beijing sweetheart deals.
Putin is in an even worse state. He is hardly negotiating with Xi from a position of strength.
From Beijing’s perspective, China wins no matter what the outcome. They dread Putin losing, but not enough to take any real risks to help him. They are happy to exploit the relationship. They are also pondering how to take advantage if Putin stumbles badly, happy to supplant Russian influence in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America, thank you very much.
The fact that Russia and China are acting as thick as backstabbing thieves doesn’t mean America and our friends and allies shouldn’t take the partnership seriously. After all, what drives Moscow and Beijing together? A hatred of the U.S and our history as the world’s leading superpower.
These powers fully intended to exploit Biden — the most inept, feckless, and gullible opponent they have faced since Barack Obama. They are constantly hoping to play that to their advantage. For one, Xi hopes that any tough talk against Beijing will be all hat and no cattle. After all, this administration has done nothing but take CCP money and refuse to hold the regime accountable for a laundry list of abuses.
Now is exactly the time for the U.S. to place maximum strain on its relationship with Beijing. In Europe, many Europeans are already stepping up. It is exactly the right time to set NATO on a path to success in the years ahead. In the Indo-Pacific, the U.S. needs to be serious about strategic deterrence and a conventional force, led by an overmatching naval force that will make China think twice about trying anything.
The U.S. and its friends and allies need to get their act together and once and for all mitigate the risks China poses to our economy, security, and way of life.