Ever since the height of the Cold War, a key goal of U.S. diplomacy and security strategy has been to ensure a rift between China and Russia – two of America’s main strategic competitors. But those efforts may be unraveling, according to America’s top diplomat.
Returning from the Munich Security Conference in Europe yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China is already providing Russia with non-lethal support for its war effort in Ukraine and may soon include lethal weapons into the mix.
“We’ve seen already over these past months the provision of nonlethal assistance that does go directly to aiding and abetting Russia’s war effort. And some further information that we are sharing today, and that I think will be out there soon, that indicates that they are strongly considering providing lethal assistance to Russia,” Blinken said.
On the margins of the Munich conference, Blinken met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for the first time since the spy balloon incident three weeks ago. The Biden administration cancelled a scheduled Blinken trip to China earlier this month as the balloon story was breaking.
The U.S. is being “hysterical” about the balloon incident, Yi chided at the conference.
Already, Russia has been receiving drones from Iran, which it has been utilizing in its Ukraine war effort, often to kill civilians. Last month, the U.S. expressed concerns to Beijing about its “private” companies offering Russia support. As a totalitarian, Communist state, there really are no private companies in China.
According to the RAND Corporation, China is increasingly using arms transfers as an instrument of its geopolitical strategy. This marks a dramatic uptick and change from the economic colonialism China has been practicing in places like Africa over the last decade.
As is often the case with a China that plays the long game, this recent shift in arms transfers to Russia may be intended as a way to get bargaining pressure over Washington. Last fall, U.S. defense experts spoke about the necessity of turning Taiwan into a “porcupine” of weapons in order to deter China’s aggression in the East Pacific region.
When asked by a reporter at a news conference intended to assuage concerns in the U.S. about flying objects over the homeland whether or not his family connections complicate efforts to take a tougher line of China, U.S. President Joe Biden said:
“C’mon man,” and walked offstage.