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As the planned summit was announced Tuesday, who happened to be paying a high-profile visit to Moscow but China's top diplomat, Politburo member Yang Jiechi, who is spending a few days there to conduct "strategic consultations" with Nikolai Patrushev, Russia's National Security adviser. Yes, the same Yang Jiechi who warned Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security adviser Jake Sullivan not to try to speak to China "in a condescending way" or from a claimed "position of strength" at their acerbic meeting on March 18 in Anchorage.
And, yes, the same Nikolai Patrushev who had an opportunity to size up his US counterpart, Jake Sullivan, in Reykjavik on May 19. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Yang Jiechi and Nikolai Patrushev compare notes on how best to approach their US interlocutors.
The symbolism of Yang Jiechi's Moscow visit, "for the 16th round of strategic security consultations" will be missed only by the most benighted, nostalgic adherents of the dogma of US "indispensability" and "exceptionalism."
Are Biden's Advisers Even Aware?
Whether or not Official Washington fully appreciates the gradual -- but profound -- change in America's triangular relationship with Russia and China over recent decades, what is clear is that the US has made itself into the big loser. The triangle may still be equilateral, but it is now, in effect, two sides against one.
Gone are the days when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger skillfully took advantage of the Sino-Soviet rivalry and played the two countries off against each other, extracting concessions from each. Slowly but surely, the strategic equation has markedly changed -- and the Sino-Russian rapprochement signals a tectonic shift to Washington's distinct detriment, a change largely due to US actions that have pushed the two countries closer together.
There is little sign that today's US policymakers have enough experience and intelligence to recognize this new reality and understand the important implications for US freedom of action. Still less are they likely to appreciate how this new nexus may play out on the ground, on the sea or in the air.
Instead, the Biden administration -- like its predecessors -- is behaving with arrogance and a sense of entitlement, firing missiles into Syria, blustering over Ukraine, and dispatching naval forces into the Black Sea and waters near China. Since tension over Taiwan presents the most ominous current flashpoint, I would expect it to be raised by Putin out of concern that Russia's "strategic partner," China, may find itself in a hot war there, presenting awkward choices for Moscow.
Post-Coup in Ukraine
A revized Russia and a modernizing China now represent a counterweight to US hegemony as the world's unilateral superpower, a development that Washington accelerated with its strategic maneuvers to surround both Russia and China with military bases and adversarial alliances by pressing NATO up to Russia's borders and now trying to enlist NATO in confronting China.
The U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014, marked a historical breaking point as Russia finally pushed back by approving Crimea's request for reunification and by giving assistance to ethnic Russian forces in eastern Ukraine who resisted the coup regime in Kiev.
On the global stage, Putin fleshed out the earlier energy deal with China, including a massive 30-year natural gas contract valued at $400 billion. The move helped Putin demonstrate that the West's post-Ukraine economic sanctions posed little threat to Russia's financial survival.
As the Russia-China relationship grew closer, the two countries also adopted remarkably congruent positions on international hot spots, including Ukraine and Syria. Military cooperation also increased steadily. Yet, a hubris-tinged consensus in the US government and academe continues to hold that, despite the marked improvement in ties between China and Russia, each retains greater interest in developing good relations with the US than with each other. It is far from clear that Biden's sophomoric advisers can get it into their elitist heads that things have changed -- markedly.
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