But as 2023 draws to a close, conflicts are flaring across the world, and Russia and China are growing increasingly aggressive in their shared ambition to topple the US as the world’s biggest power.
Their authoritarian leaders, Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, are seeking to exploit global instability to damage the US and its allies, say analysts, and are drawing closer to forming a military alliance that poses the biggest threat the US has faced in decades.
“It is clear that the two states see themselves as military partners, and that this partnership is growing deeper and more experienced, even if it is not a formal alliance in the Western sense,” Jonathan Ward, CEO of the Atlas Group, told Business Insider.
In conflicts across the world, the rivalry between the US and the Russian and Chinese partnership is playing out. China has provided Russia with vital economic and diplomatic support in its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, while the US has provided billions in aid to Kyiv.
In the Middle East, Russia and China have aligned themselves with Iran and criticized Israel’s attacks on Gaza to destroy the Tehran-backed terror group Hamas. The US, meanwhile, has provided military aid and diplomatic support for Israel.
China, say experts, is likely watching the outcome of the Ukraine war carefully for signs of how the world will react should it act on plans to seize control of Taiwan.
And as they draw closer, China and Russia are increasingly coordinating their military resources. “The Russia-China ‘comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era’ has always been about military power,” said Ward.
Over the past two years, Russia and China have launched joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan, Russia has handed China submarine technology that could give it the edge in a war with US allies in the Pacific, and the leaders have pledged to cooperate on high tech weapons development, Putin said in November.
Russia has also sold China Su-25 jets, MI-17 helicopters, and S-400 air defense systems. Though the leaders have not signed a formal military alliance, such moves should be of huge concern to the US and its allies, writes Chels Michta in a recent article for the Center for European Policy Analysis.
“A full-scale China-Russia alliance would present the United States with a threat unlike any it has confronted since the end of the Cold War,” writes Michta.