The two nations have established an informal partnership in opposition to the United States and other democratic countries. This collaboration is now further complicated by the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet with Chinese leaders in Beijing this week, underscoring China’s economic and diplomatic backing for Moscow during the Ukraine conflict. These two countries have formed an informal alliance against the United States and other democratic nations, which is now facing added complexity due to the Israel-Hamas war. China has endeavored to maintain a balance between its relations with Israel and its economic ties with Iran and Syria, both of which receive substantial support from Russia.

Putin’s visit also signifies his support for Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative, aimed at developing infrastructure and expanding China’s global influence. The Russian leader’s visit coincides with the 10th anniversary of Xi’s announcement of this policy, which has raised concerns in various countries such as Zambia and Sri Lanka due to heavy debt incurred after signing contracts with Chinese companies for infrastructure projects they couldn’t otherwise afford.

While Putin’s visit to China has yet to be officially confirmed, Chinese officials have hinted at his arrival late on Monday. In response to questions from reporters, Putin mentioned that the discussions during the visit would focus on Belt and Road-related projects, with the goal of aligning them with the efforts of an economic alliance composed mostly of ex-Soviet Union nations in Central Asia, all working towards common development objectives. He downplayed any adverse effects of China’s economic influence in a region traditionally regarded as Russia’s sphere of influence.

Putin emphasized that he and Xi will also discuss the expanding economic and financial ties between Russia and China. This includes a focus on financial relations and the creation of incentives for payments in national currencies, with growing opportunities in high-tech sectors and the energy industry.

Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, explained that from China’s perspective, Russia is seen as a reliable neighbor providing valuable resources, support for Chinese global initiatives, and access to advanced military technology. For Russia, China plays a critical role in mitigating the economic impacts of its actions in Ukraine, serving as a major market for Russian goods and providing currency and payment systems for international trade.

Although a full-fledged military alliance between Russia and China is unlikely, their defense cooperation is expected to strengthen. Both nations are self-sufficient in terms of security but stand to benefit from increased collaboration, improved interoperability, and joint efforts in projecting military influence, including in regions like the Arctic. This expanded cooperation is likely to complicate U.S. nuclear planning and strategies in Asia and Europe.

While China and the former Soviet Union were once Cold War adversaries vying for influence, they have since become partners in economic, military, and diplomatic realms. Ahead of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, Putin and Xi met in Beijing, and their agreement pledged a “no-limits” relationship. However, China’s attempts to position itself as a neutral peace mediator in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine have been met with skepticism from the international community.

Xi visited Moscow in March, reinforcing the strong relationship between the two nations. While China has criticized international sanctions against Russia, it has not directly addressed the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Putin on charges related to alleged involvement in the abduction of thousands of children from Ukraine.

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