According to the ‘People’s Daily’, a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), on February 27 Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov stressed the importance of Sino-Russian cooperation in a speech at the Diplomatic Academy.
“In general, Russia’s cooperation with China on foreign issues … is an important stabilizing factor in the current complicated international situation,” he was quoted as saying.
Lavrov emphasized that both China and Russia promote a foreign policy based on non-interference and peaceful settlement of international disputes. He argued that the world needs a “more democratic, impartial global order” and that Western countries should take into account the balance of interest and legal framework when cooperating with Russia.
In a recent statement, Qu Xing, the PRC ambassador to Belgium, said that the West should take into consideration Russia’s legitimate security concerns over Ukraine. He argued that the Ukraine crisis has been exacerbated by the power game between the West and Russia. He urged the West to “abandon the zero-sum mentality” with Russia and said that Moscow would naturally feel threatened by the West’s interference in Ukraine’s affairs.
Ties between Beijing and Moscow have improved in recent years, mostly because of a common opposition to Western foreign policy and liberal democratic values.
The strategic partnership between Russia and Moscow was highlighted by last year’s joint naval exercises in the politically sensitive South China Sea. China had never performed a joint drill operation of this kind with other foreign states before.
Over the past few years Russia often opposed Western countries’ foreign policy, and especially their reshaping of the political balance in Eastern Europe. The 1999 war against former Yugoslavia and Kosovo’s independence in 2008 can be considered two turning points in the history of relations between Russia and the West.
The war against Yugoslavia angered and embittered the Russian leadership and led to a surge of nationalist sentiment. Coupled with the severe economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the weak presidency of Boris Jeltsin, many Russians felt as if their country had been humiliated and become subservient to Western powers, who now proved to be not their allies but their enemies.
Ever since then, anti-Western, and particularly anti-American, nationalist sentiment has become a potent instrument of political mobilisation in Russia. When in 1999 Vladimir Putin became acting president, his long-term vision was to strengthen Russia and steer away from the weak, pro-Western stance of his predecessor. He cultivated a sense of nostalgia for the former Soviet Union and the fear and respect that it inspired. He promoted a desire for greatness and first-power status. Russia’s war against Georgia in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 can be seen as responses to Western influence in Eastern Europe and the realisation of Putin’s long dream of national revenge.