National Interest on April 22, 2019, published a thoughtful article on Russia’s grand strategy. The author went through a number of earlier views on Russia’s long term strategy and concluded:

[The] vision is one in which Moscow is one of several centers of power, perhaps as U.S. hegemony gives way to a multipolar or even a Chinese-centric world order…While Russia is not about to copy a Chinese model of economic or political development, it seeks to position itself in such a way as to embrace China in a soft alliance; one in which Moscow can maintain a position of sovereignty and independence as its eastern flank becomes home to the world’s largest economy, most populous state, and perhaps the next global hegemon.

Both Russia and China have come a long way since the 1990s, and the “friendship” that emerged in the immediate post-Tiananmen period and continued to grow over the years now today appears to be one of the strongest bilateral alliances on the planet. Not only does the alliance provide each country with a secure rear flank, technology transfers and weapons sales support each other’s military-industrial complexes and military modernization. While Russia is still ahead of China in certain areas, including maritime, aviation, and weapons systems, the Kremlin knows that this edge will likely give way in the next ten to twenty years, as China emerges as the more advanced and powerful of the pair.

Together, Russia’s influence on its former Soviet neighbors and Moscow’s strategic alliance with Beijing in pursuit of a multipolar world form the two main pillars upon which Putin’s grand strategy rests. All other aspects of its foreign policy behavior can be traced back to this dual-pronged grand strategy. As the 2018 [U.S.]National Defense Strategy puts it, “Russia seeks veto authority over nations on its periphery in terms of their governmental, economic, and diplomatic decisions, to shatter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and change European and Middle East security and economic structures to its favor.” These, in a nutshell, are the objectives of Russia’s grand strategy. All of Moscow’s machinations—both foreign and domestic, from clamping down on civil liberties at home to meddling in Venezuela’s revolution abroad, are all in support of these larger strategic objectives.

Comment: The author of the article is Christopher Marsh. He is the president of the Special Operations Research Association and editor of its professional journal, “Special Operations Journal”. He was also the past executive editor of “Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization”. Marsh is fluent in Chinese and Russian, and his research interests are many but particularly military cooperation between Russia and China.

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