War Games and Trade: A Relationship That Could Shift Global Politics

Simone Henry ’22

The Western world watched on September 11 as Russia began their biggest military exercise since the Cold War. For four days, over 3,000 Chinese troops and 30 Chinese aircrafts joined the 300,000 Russian service members, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircrafts, and 80 ships in this display across Siberia. Russia has also began plans for liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Vladivostok to expand their energy market away from Europe and towards China and East Asia.

A Sino-Russo relationship may be more feasible than previously thought. Although the possibility of this relationship has become close in the past, neither country has ever been able to commit. Regardless of its longevity, a  relationship between Russia and China could shift how we think of and act on global politics.

During the Cold War, China and Russia were both communist countries with common enemies, but neither country was able to commit to an alliance. Pomona Professor of US Foreign Policy, Mietek Boduszynski, suggests that globalization and more integrated world economies, in addition to pressure from the US and EU, have caused these two countries to move closer together now. Professor Boduszynski added that this is all about power; as the US decreases in power, China and Russia want to step in to fill that space. Russians want to show their strength to the world. But Russia’s power is unusual because their economy is smaller than the state of Texas, yet they are able to make a high impact in the world at a low cost. “It’s more important to be seen as strong” wrote Mark Galeotti from The Atlantic.

Russia and China working in military exercises together may not be an immediately aggressive action. If Russia had not invited China, China would have seen the war games as an act of aggression, as Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, Michael Carpenter, suggested in a BBC interview. It is more the unusual of collaboration between the two countries that raises concerns.

Europe’s energy sanctions against Russia have caused Russia to pivot its energy market of natural gas towards China and other Eastern-Asian countries. In 2013, Russia was not a major supplier of oil to China and “there is even less cooperation in the area of natural gas,” stated political scientist for The Diplomat, Scott W. Harold. Currently, Russia is planning the $7.5bn Vladivostok LNG Plan to export LNG to China and Pacific Asia. Russia has also agreed to a $400bn deal to export gas to China. This growth shows great cooperation between the two countries.

“If the United States pushes too far, [Russia and China] are going to move closer to each other,” said the chairman of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, Alexander Gabuev. China is signaling to Washington that Russia isn’t a threat to them right now. The two countries moving closer to each other “should be a concern to the United States” said Michael Kofman, the senior research scientist at CNA, a U.S.-funded research organization. Russia needs China as a powerful military ally and trade with China could potentially greatly grow their economy. China does not need Russia economically, but they benefit from energy, tech and weapons export.  

The EU has responded by beefing up defense in Eastern Europe and by closely monitoring the war games. There has been no verbal or written response out of Washington, but the Trump administration has implemented more military in the Pacific since being in power.


Main Resources:

Vladivostok LNG Project:

A Russia-China Alliance Brewing?:

War games and business deals: Russia, China send signals to Washington:

Don’t fear the Russian military:

Russia kicks off massive war games, hosts Putin-Xi meeting:

Russia to hold biggest war games since Cold War:

Xi, Putin meet as Russia kicks off biggest ever war games:

Russia launches biggest war games since the Cold War with more than 300,000 troops: