Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Kremlin on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Kremlin on Tuesday. (Grigoy Sysoyev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

As two autocrats traded tributes over a feast of quail, venison, Siberian white salmon and pomegranate sorbet, China and Russia seemed to conjure the anti-Western compact the US has long feared.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s state visit this week to his friend, President Vladimir Putin, came at a critical moment of Russia’s quagmire war in Ukraine and of Beijing’s emergence as a great power whose influence now stretches far beyond Asia.

The entire visit has been refracted through a prism of both nations’ mutual antagonism toward the United States. And at every step, Washington, watching hawkishly from the sidelines, poured scorn on the idea of China as a peacemaker in Ukraine, accusing Xi of offering diplomatic cover to a thuggish Russian leader who was just cited for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

But whether China and Russia have truly forged the kind of united anti-US front long dreaded by Washington’s foreign policy professionals seems doubtful.

Still, the United States clearly now has a serious foreign policy challenge on its hands. The US is simultaneously gearing up for what many experts warn could become a Cold War with China and waging a proxy fight in Ukraine with its foe in the 20th century’s version of that showdown. And China and Russia, together, have more capacity to frustrate American goals in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Xi and Putin are united on a core foreign policy priority — discrediting and even dismantling a world order that they believe is built on Western hypocrisy and denies them due respect as great global powers. This resentment has festered in Putin’s mind ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, and he has tried for years to reshape the international system. But according to Biden’s national security strategy, China is the only US competitor with “the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to” reshape that order.

Read the full analysis here.

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