Editorial | Russia and China challenge Biden

Response from Russia and China to his exclusion from the Summit for Democracy called by the President of the United States, Joe Biden, last week took place this Wednesday in the videoconference held by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, which brought together all the ingredients of a marriage of convenience. The memorial of grievances of both leaders, with a recognizable global influence – more in the Chinese case than in the Russian one – appeared in the four corners of the conversation and the purpose of straining relations with the White House and its allies, particularly Europe, too. Nothing was left in the pipeline, of the situation in Ukraine the US diplomatic boycott of Winter Olympic Games to be held in Beijing, from Chinese support to security guarantees that Russia demands from the European Union and NATO to the need expressed by China to increase cooperation with Moscow on security, which is to say military.

Beyond the rhetoric to use, the impression left by the telematics summit is that who went in search of strategic support was PutinWhile Xi maintained the profile of someone who is in a position to challenge the United States for hegemony and manage multilateralism according to their needs. The fact is that although Russia and China are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on equal terms, the dynamism and diversification of the Chinese economy gives an incontestable plus of influence to the Forbidden City, while the Russian energy monoculture makes the Kremlin especially vulnerable to market fluctuations.

At the same time, Putin’s recourse to the politics of emotions – the memory of the greatness of the USSR, assimilated to the greatness of Russia – has led him to legitimize before his fellow citizens some risky bets, of which the most destabilizing of European geopolitics is undoubtedly Ukraine. None of this is needed by the Chinese rulers, at the head of a productive machine that has completely transformed the country in a quarter of a century and has made the Communist Party a platform to spread a state-of-the-art nationalism that hardly dent cases like that of the tennis player. Peng Shuai.

All of which does not prevent the impression that this ‘ad hoc’ Russian-Chinese alliance and Biden’s willingness to confront it with his allies with renewed impetus herald bad days and fear a Remembrance of the Cold War with new rules, perhaps more imprecise than those that prevailed between the USSR and the United States, with hybrid warfare as a proven instrument for unleashing states of crisis. Neither U.S is willing to accept without further ado the transition from hyperpower to power bound to share planetary power spaces with China nor does it enter into the Russian calculations to simply bow to the reality that, despite having a large nuclear arsenal, it lacks the necessary rods to participate in the always risky race for hegemony.

The implicit danger is that the tension between the new eastern bloc and the West follows the logic of a classic escalation at a time when two pressing issues intersect on the path of great-power rivalry: the fight against the pandemic and against the climate emergency. In both cases, global strategies they are the only effective ones, but right now it seems like a chimera to think about them.


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