Russia and China seek new ‘client states’?


U.S. President Barack Obama raised eyebrows around the world with a difficult-to-interpret reference to Ukraine in his final annual State of the Union address that lumped the post-Soviet state and its West-leaning government together with Syria as Russian “client states,” RFE/RL reports.

“Even as their economy contracts, Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria — client states they saw slipping away from their orbit,” Obama said. “And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.”

Twenty-five years after Lithuania challenged Soviet rule, and amid speculation that Russia may again assert itself in the Baltic States. The Soviet crackdown following Lithuania’s declaration of independence culminated on January 13, 1991. Fourteen people died after Soviet troops attacked television and radio facilities in Vilnius. Lithuanian leader Vytautas Landsbergis remained defiant through the crisis. Now 83, he discussed the historical turning point and new regional threats in a special interview series with 12 post-Soviet leaders, “Russia & Me” (above).

Sharing common authoritarian values and a common adversary in the United States, China and Russia can be expected to continue to cooperate in the near term on what Chinese media describe as mutual benefit, notes June Teufel Dreyer, a Senior Fellow in FPRI’s Asia Program and Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami:

Yet there are concerns that, while the cooperation may be mutually beneficial, the benefits are far from equally distributed, leading to friction between them.  And, although Xi Jinping does not challenge Russia’s moves in Ukraine nor Putin criticize China’s assertive behavior in the East China and South China seas, neither wants to become enmeshed in the foreign policy problems of the other.  Note that, for all the talk of solidarity, the two continue to eschew the word alliance, preferring instead the more limited term “strategic partnership.”

China and Russia increasingly achieve geopolitical gains, catching the West off-guard, with a mix of hybrid tactics, Hudson Institute analyst Richard Weitz argues in Yale Global Online.

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