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Russia’s China Dilemma: Is Moscow Losing Its Independence?


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Moscow’s evolving relationship with Beijing is raising questions about the true cost of Russia’s alliance with China.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) argues that Russia’s deepening connection with China comes at the expense of its own economy, prompting the need for the United States to serve as a counterbalance in this intricate geopolitical equation. In this article, we delve into the dynamics of Russia’s partnership with China and the potential consequences for its economic and strategic interests.


The Moscow-Beijing Nexus

Russia and China have cultivated a strategic partnership that has drawn them closer, emphasizing a “no limits” friendship. This partnership has translated into a significant boost in trade, reaching an all-time high of $190 billion in 2022. However, the CFR asserts that the benefits of this alliance are not as evenly distributed as they may seem.


Uneven Benefits

While China stands as one of Russia’s most dependable trading partners, the extent of its investments in Russia has been limited. The CFR’s Thomas Graham highlights that China appears to prioritize its own economic interests, sometimes engaging in trade relations that favor itself inordinately. Additionally, China’s expanding influence in other parts of Asia has implications that could be detrimental to Russia’s interests.


Economic and Military Disparities

China dwarfs Russia economically and militarily. With the world’s largest economy and military, China’s might is considerably greater. These disparities further underline the question of whether Moscow’s alliance with Beijing is entirely in its own interest.


The Need for a Counterbalance

The CFR’s assessment is that Russia, recognizing its increasing dependence on China, may need the United States to act as a strategic counterbalance. Multilateral groupings and smaller bilateral relationships might not provide the necessary leverage to counterbalance the Beijing-Moscow partnership.


Putin’s Denial

Despite the challenges and potential vulnerabilities, it is noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to acknowledge the need for a strategic shift. His strong anti-American stance and close ties to Chinese President Xi Jinping make it difficult for him to seek a closer relationship with the United States, even if it could be strategically advantageous.




As Russia’s economy grapples with Western sanctions and the costs of its Ukraine invasion, the country finds itself in a precarious position. Its deepening ties with China, while economically significant, have raised concerns about strategic subordination. The CFR’s analysis suggests that Moscow may need to turn to the West, particularly the United States, as a counterbalance to ensure its own interests are protected. The complex geopolitical dance between Russia, China, and the United States is poised to have lasting implications on the global stage.

Saeed Minhas
Saeed Minhas
Saeed Minhas is an accomplished journalist with extensive experience in the field. He has held prominent positions such as Editor at Daily Times and Daily Duniya. Currently, he serves as the Chief Editor (National) at The Think Tank Journal

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