Judgment and Prediction: Lavrov’s Speech Reveals Russia’s Relations with China
On January 10, 12 and 13, Russia held an official meeting with the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). For this round of negotiations, Russia’s goals are still the three points it has always sought for: NATO should not expand eastward, there should not be military cooperation with the former Soviet Union countries, and the United States should not sanction Russia. However, after the meeting, NATO and the United States have yet to accept the point proposed by Russia that NATO should not expand eastward.
However, on January 17, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov stated in Russian state-owned Sputnik news agency that “as for our relations with the People’s Republic of China, they are not subject to the situation and are developing regardless of what our Western colleagues think about this. Our friendship with China is not aimed against anyone”.
While Russia has said similar things before, what deserves special attention this time is that Lavrov’s words are not only directed to NATO and the United States, but more importantly, the time of Lavrov’s speech was when Russia was negotiating with the U.S., NATO, and OSCE at the expense of China. This was done for Russia to achieve its geopolitical and strategic goals. The Foreign Minister’s words reveal the following messages:
First, Russia and China are independent, therefore U.S.-China relations will not affect Russia-China relations. If the United States and China go to war, Russia will remain neutral;
Second, Lavrov said that Russia’s relations with China “are developing regardless of what our Western colleagues think about this”, which indicates that Russia will negotiate with China according to its own needs.
Third, and most importantly, is that Lavrov mentioned “our friendship with China is not aimed against anyone”. This points out that Russia will not confront the West with China, nor will it become a military threat for the West.
Lavrov’s message contains a lot of implicit significances. Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed through Lavrov’s words that Russia and China are neither comrades-in-arms nor allies. In the negotiations with the U.S. and NATO, Russia does not wish its relationship with China affects the Russia-U.S. relations. In addition, Putin appears to openly clarify what China believes, i.e., they are “not allies, but better than allies”.
Lavrov also mentioned at his annual press conference in Moscow on January 14 that he will meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on February 3 to further discuss the relationship between the two countries. By then, we will find out whether such judgement is accurate.
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