Summary: Engagement in Central Asia, the Russian Far East, and the Arctic has tested Russia’s and China’s abilities to manage their differences and translate the rhetoric of partnership into tangible gains.
Under former president Boris Yeltsin, Russia moved toward the West, seeking advice from the United States and Europe on how to push through democratic reforms—processes that largely failed, as the country descended into early post-Soviet economic, political, and social chaos.
Although the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) initially embraced Moscow as a partner in the early 1990s, it expanded to include former Warsaw Pact countries, conducted operations in the Balkans against Moscow’s wishes, and eventually increased its military footprint across Eurasia to support the Afghan war effort.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow and Beijing have transformed their relationship from being Cold War adversaries to become pragmatic partners with a common goal of pushing back at a Western-dominated international system.
Their relationship is tactical and opportunist but marked by increasingly compatible economic, political, and security interests.
Sharing a geopolitical worldview of multipolarity, they both have firm desires to contain Western power and seek to accelerate what they see as the weakening of the United States.