Russia and China are moving towards an “alliance” despite fears of provoking the West as war rages in Ukraine, according to Pentagon policy chief Colin Kahl.
Kahl, President Joe Biden’s undersecretary for defense policy, told reporters on Tuesday that the world “should expect Russian-Chinese relations to deepen,” according to Defense News. He said the countries’ joint military exercises in September were proof that their relationship went beyond the “superficial”.
“They’ve really been much more willing to signal that this thing is heading towards an alliance rather than a superficial partnership,” Kahl said.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping cemented what they called a ‘limitless’ partnership as Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s border in early February, Kahl said China remained “nervous” about going too far with the partnership.
“[China will not be] doing too much too overtly in terms of open military support for Russia,” he said. “Although it is a relationship without limits, I think China is nervous about this relationship, at least about the fact that too many aspects of this relationship are public.
There have been some public signals of the limits of the Sino-Russian partnership. Despite Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, last week Xi warned Russia against using such weapons, in a joint statement with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to Reuters.
Kahl argued that China was backing Russia to oppose American power, while Russia was seeking an alliance because it “increasingly has nowhere to go” due to international condemnation of the war in Ukraine. He said Russia was banking on Chinese support “economically, technologically and potentially militarily.”
Kahl brushed aside concerns that deepening ties between Russia and China could help kick off a new Cold War-style arms race, arguing that the US should instead focus on maintaining the ability to fight back. in case of attack.
“It’s not a contest where the kid who dies with the most toys wins,” Kahl said. “We shouldn’t think that if Russia has 2,000 nuclear weapons and China has 1,000 nuclear weapons, the United States needs 3,001.”
Xi and Putin are expected to attend a potentially intense G20 summit in Bali next week.
Three senior administration officials said Tuesday that Biden would also attend the summit and promote messages that question China’s recent activities in the Taiwan Strait and Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
Newsweek contacted the Pentagon for comment.