Have Russia and China signed a secret defense pact?

This would be an unexpected development, as the two countries have long avoided forming Cold War-style alliances and blocs.

Source : Responsible Statecraft, Ted Snider
Translated by the readers of the Les-Crises website

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016. (shutterstock/plavevski)

In late November, reports that Russia and China had secretly signed a defense agreement began to emerge.

An article published in November on the site Russian Matters of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center reports that when Putin visited Beijing on February 4, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he secretly signed an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping ” that their countries would help each other militarily, but only in the event of a foreign invasion ». The article quotes ” Owen Matthews, longtime Russia watcher “.

Matthews then reported in a November 26 article that, in a ” confidential appendix » in their agreement of February 4, we found « a guarantee of mutual securitythis that Russia had been asking China for decades but had been unable to obtain until now. (…) Like NATO Article 5 who wants thatan attack on a member that is an attack on all Beijing and Moscow pledged to assist each other militarily in the event of a foreign invasion of their territory and if special conditions were met regarding the reasons of such an invasion “. Matthews quoted ” a source with close ties and for a long time with the more d-levelspower China’s political and military ».

the washington post gave some weight to this story by including it in parentheses in a Dec. 2 opinion piece by Robert Wright. The article said that ” every day there is a risk to see a fortuitous event transformr this situation into a war more generalimplieddirectly NATO. Even if such a war did not become not nuclearare ravaged couldint be huges. Talk about World War III »might bebe exaggeratede but not necessarily (especially in light of a recent report that China and Russia have a secret mutual defense agreement) “. The editorial of Post refers to the same article by Matthews.

The existence of such a confidential agreement would be an unexpected development in relations between the two countries, which have long avoided forming Cold War-style alliances and blocs.

And that may not be true. Alexander Lukin, a leading expert on Russia-China relations, told Responsible Statecraft thathe not’exist no proof. It’s probably just gossip, and like all gossip, it can to reveal true or false “. He also said that some Chinese authors have argued in favor of such an alliance but added that they do not speak of ” message official from the Chinese government. Lukin has in the past criticized Western analysts who do not differentiate enough ” between official opinions and majority that reflect and determine foreign policy [de la Chine]and informal, even fringe opinions that have little influence on official policy ».

According to Lukin, it is possible that this comes from an interview given in May by Yan Xuetong, a famous Chinese foreign policy expert who advocated for the formation of an alliance with Russia, but who, adds Lukin, not‘is not representsative ofan official position “. Yan told the South China Morning Post that ” China should consider providing security guarantees to neighboring countries. This is not to help them invade others, but to provide security guarantees when others invade them “.

In a part of the interview that was not included in the English translation, Yan went on to explain that “The concept of alliance is misinterpreted in society. Many people think that‘ae covenant, cit means that if your allies enter in war, you automatically participate in this one. It’s wrong. A alliance » means when your ally is invaded by others and waging a war resistance to aggressionyou are automatically involved in the war. One alliance treatythisst I help you protect yourself »not I help you invade others “.

But he never said that such a treaty existed.

The distinction made by Matthews and Yan between an obligation that is triggered by being invaded and not by invading is consistent with the tone of other Chinese partnerships. Even before cementing its close partnership with Russia, China enjoyed an exceptionally close relationship with Pakistan. But while Pakistan has been at war with India more than once, China has not once intervened with its troops.

The reason is that China has made the very distinction that Yan insists on. According to Andrew Small in ” The China-Pakistan Axis “, China would never come to help Pakistan in conflicts that itself would have provoked. But, according to Small, Chairman Mao Zedong (in power from 1949 to 1976) said that China could intervene. Sources interviewed by Small said China could intervene if India attacks Pakistan. In other words, China could come to the aid of its partner if its own existence were threatened by a foreign invasion. China would not come to the aid of its partner if it were the cause of the crisis.

In the case of the Ukraine crisis, China did not blame Russia for causing it, but rather consistently pointed the finger at the United States and NATO. Xi personally told Biden that “ the heart of the Ukrainian crisis “concerned” security concerns so much from Russia that from Ukraine “. He told Biden that provocations from the United States were the root of the problem. On June 23, Xi again stressed the need to “ reject the mentality of style Gcold war and block confrontation ” as well as ” behaviors hegemonywhat “.

The Kremlin spokesman said on December 13 that Xi and Putin are “in constant communication”. The two leaders are said to have planned to meet at the end of December to “discuss the events of 2022”.

Nevertheless, both Russia and China have moved away from Cold War-style alliances. Although their extraordinarily close strategic partnership approximates a quasi-alliance relationship, it is far from a military alliance.

Just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, Xi said Russia-China relations “even exceed those ofan alliance through their proximity and their effectiveness”. A joint statement issued on February 4 by Putin and Xi affirms, perhaps for the first time officially, that the friendship between the two states does not know no limits, there are no prohibited areas of cooperation”. The statement adds that this is d‘a new kind of relationship’ who is “superior to the political and military alliances of the Gcold war ».

In this friendship “all proof”Russia and China have conducted military exercises under a joint command and control system that has given each other unprecedented levels of access, demonstrating a very high level of strategic and military coordination.

As recently as October 27, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that “China will firmly support the Russian side, under the leadership of President Putin, to unify the Russian people to overcome difficulties and conflicts.ferences, in order to achieve a strategic objective ofe development and of further strengthen Russia’s status as a great power”. He promised that “China and Russia will deepen theurs exchanges at all levels”.

But, as far as we know, there are still no mutual defense obligations.

The question of whether there is a confidential mutual security guarantee might, in practice, not make much difference. An attack on Russian territory that would inherently threaten Russia could cause China to play its own security interests: China has no desire to face a confrontation with the United States and NATO without the Russia. China might be incentivized to come to Russia’s aid in the event of an invasion, not by an agreement with Russia, but out of concern for its own security interests.

And, most importantly, there is the little-discussed Article 9 of the 2001 Sino-Russian treaty, known as the Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation. It states that “When a situation arises in which one of the parties considers that the peace is threatened and compromised or that its security interests are at stake, or when it is faced with the threat of aggression, the contracting parties must immediately establish contacts and carry out consultations to eliminate these threats.

Regardless of whether or not there is a confidential mutual security guarantee between Russia and China, they have a close and still evolving quasi-alliance relationship that knows no ” no limit and they have already concluded a treaty allowing them to help each other and eliminate any threat to their respective security interests.

Source : Responsible Statecraft, Ted Snider13-12-2022

Translated by the readers of the Les-Crises website

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Have Russia and China signed a secret defense pact?