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Putin: Russia-China military alliance ‘quite possible to imagine’

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 30, 2018, China's President Xi Jinping, left, shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders' Summit. (Mikhail Metzel/Tass/Abaca Press/TNS)
October 26, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Russia doesn’t need a full military alliance with China, but said such an alliance could be possible.

Asked during a conference call with international foreign policy experts, whether a military alliance between Russia and China could happen, Putin said, “We don’t need it, but, theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it,” the Associated Press reported.

Russia and China have held a strategic partnership, in which the two countries have participated in joint military drills and Russia gave China new weapons systems, but Moscow and Beijing have not committed to a military alliance.

“Without any doubt, our cooperation with China is bolstering the defense capability of China’s army,” Putin said, adding that even closer military ties between the two countries could form in the future. “The time will show how it will develop,” Putin said, adding that “we won’t exclude it.”

In October 2019, Putin announced Russia would help China build its missile defense systems. The two countries also joined with Iran for a set of joint war games in December.

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Past Russian and Chinese cooperation has also seen the two countries meet on an internet censorship treaty and start a new gas pipeline between Russia and China. During the coronavirus outbreak, Russia and China also reportedly engaged in similar disinformation campaigns, aimed at shifting blame for the toll of the Covid-19 pandemic away from China where the outbreak began, and onto the U.S.

The potential for a full military alliance between Russia and China also comes as the U.S. has sought to form an “alliance of democracies” to counter China’s actions in the South China Sea. Russian relations with the West have also sunk to post-Cold War lows following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

During his Thursday remarks, Putin did suggest the possibility of improved cooperation between Russia and the U.S. by extending the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the U.S. Putin said Russia “wasn’t clinging to the treaty” and would ensure its security even without the treaty.

President Donald Trump has called for a new nuclear arms control treaty to include China, but China has refused to consider joining the arms control talks taking place between the U.S and Russia. The U.S. has recently shifted its position, offering a one-year extension of the existing New START treaty, but the U.S. and Russia are still working through challenges to the potential deal.