Editor's Note: Below is a complimentary research note written earlier this week by National Security analyst General Dan Christman. To access our Macro Policy research email sales@hedgeye.com.

Russia and China: United by Common Grievances - qpgIAJkmQUAzYE9BVYkyT0ZedSLMAoeJ

Two weeks ago, the first molecules of natural gas from Russia’s “Power of Siberia” pipeline began flowing into northern China.  Commercially, this will not be a bonanza for Moscow; sensing Russian vulnerability in the wake of its annexation of Crimea, China drove a hard bargain to consummate the deal in May 2014.

  • But strategically, “Power of Siberia” is part of a game-changing shift in geopolitical relationships between Beijing and Moscow; almost totally ignored, this shift is steadily eroding U.S. security interests in every corner of the globe.
  • A year before he died in 2017, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in commenting on international security relationships, warned that “the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China and Russia ...united not by ideology but by complementary grievances.”
  • “Power of Siberia” is but the latest manifestation of Zbig’s scenario, now being operationalized by two determined U.S. adversaries.

Years before Russia’s east-flowing natural gas pipeline came on-line, there was clear evidence of the deepening Beijing-Moscow relationship – rhetorically and operationally.

  • Putin is now, for example, lauded by Xi Jingping as his “best, most intimate friend.” And much was made about the first visit Xi made following his elevation to the Chinese presidency – to Moscow of course.
  • But more serious examples abound in the physical arena, each designed to undercut U.S. strategic relationships and interests: 
    • In this hemisphere, both countries have colluded – militarily and economically – to keep Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro in power.
    • On Asia’s periphery, Russian and Chinese military jets flew into South Korea’s air defense zone last summer in a coordinated effort to assert China’s regional territorial claims.
    • Moscow’s sale of military equipment to Beijing is no longer limited to older generation gear; latest versions of Russia’s S-400  air defense system are now marketed to China.
    • And joint exercises, including in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas, are solidifying interoperability.

Geopolitical pundits for years have downplayed the prospects of a future China-Russia “condominium;” deep historical and geographical divides are cited to justify the skepticism. Even former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis opined, “I see little in the long term that aligns Russia and China.”

But as Graham Allison, former Dean of the Kennedy School, rebutted more than a year ago, “He should look harder!”

In 1972, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger deftly played the “China Card” with Chairman Mao, a move that changed for decades great power relationships. It is no exaggeration to state that President Xi is now playing the “Russia Card” with Putin.

  • Unless Washington ups its diplomatic game, to include an “all-of-government” outreach to new and traditional allies, the strategic implications of the burgeoning Beijing-Moscow coalition will be no less significant.
  • The difference, of course, is that it will be the U.S. in this century, unlike the Soviets a half century ago, that will suffer the enduring consequences.  

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LTG Dan Christman, USA, Ret. serves as Hedgeye Potomac Research’s Senior National Security Analyst, providing deep insight into international affairs and national security.  Most recently, Dan provided strategic leadership on international issues affecting the business community for organizations such as the US Chamber of Commerce.  Dan’s long history of leadership includes his service as a United States Army lieutenant general and former Superintendent of the United States Military Academy.  He served in highly visible and strategically important positions and four times was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the nation's highest peacetime service award.

He also served for two years as assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during which time he traveled with and advised Secretary of State Warren Christopher.  He was centrally involved during this period with negotiations between Israel and Syria as a member of the Secretary's Middle East Peace Team. Further, Christman represented the United States as a member of NATO's Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium.

Graduating first in his class from West Point, Christman also received MPA and MSE degrees in public affairs and civil engineering from Princeton University and graduated with honors from The George Washington University Law School. He is a decorated combat veteran of Southeast Asia, where he commanded a company in the 101st Airborne Division in 1969.