Analysis of the US Relations with Russia and China

Throughout the world history, there were different systems of international relations and the last transformation in this sphere was from the bilateral to multipolar world order. Nowadays, many countries claim being a superpower on the global arena. Nevertheless, the most influential are usually considered the European Union, Japan, the United States, China and Russia. However, the most special relationship is established between the last three.

They conduct their foreign policies according to their own national interests: they cooperate and compete, but are not equally advantageous for each other. Such difference in national interests creates intense debates whether Russia is more important to the USA’s national interests than China or vice versa. This issue is rather controversial, but most likely the United States would get more benefits from economic and political cooperation with China than with Russia. The objectives of the paper, thus, are to investigate the national interests of the US and provide three reasons why the US-China bilateral relations are more promising than those ones with Russia.

The National Interests of the United States

The USA defines its foreign policy as a certain number of goals and means used while taking actions towards other countries or international organizations. Officially, the foreign policy doctrine of the United States comes to the interests of providing a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for its citizens and the international community. One of the main interests of the US foreign policy is the democracy and the spread of democratic values (Rice, 2008). The United States have various global interests concerning its international relations that is collaborating with beneficial states, settling disputes, resolving conflicts. Additionally, to satisfy the national interests, the United States have the most advanced diplomatic mission network in the world, a number of collaboration programs, memberships in most of international and regional organizations: specifically, the USA is a founding member of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Alliance; also a member of the UN Security Council.

The US Relations with Russia

The relations between Russia and the United States are crucial not only for these countries themselves but also for the whole world. According to the democratic peace theory distributed by Americans, all democratic countries are not only friendly with each other, but also seek the ways to help to not yet democratic countries. In the past, the USA and Russia were into fierce competition for strategic influence in the world (so-called “Cold War”), that determined the development of global processes for half a century and is one of the factors defining current the US-Russia relationship. At present, relations between Russia and the United States are developing mostly in such areas as the fight against terrorism, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and space research (Men & Shen, 2014). However, the degree of tension in Russian-American relations often rises against the backdrop of the conflict in the Middle East and in the recognition of the Republic of Kosovo, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia (Men & Shen, 2014). The new stage of the voltage between the two countries was triggered by the events in Ukraine and the seizure of Crimea by the Russian Federation.

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Despite certain disagreements in the political sphere, the United States are traditionally one of Russia’s leading trading partners: there is the strong cooperation in the sphere of high technologies, innovation and science. To exemplify, there is the Russian-American Innovation Council on High Technologies with the Intergovernmental Committee on Science and Technology there. Moreover, Russian companies are frequently involved in innovation forums in the United States. Finally, the leading companies in the US aerospace industry actively cooperate with Russian companies within the ISS project, space launch, and the production of aircraft engines (Men & Shen, 2014).

Nevertheless, the Russian interests and the US ones are directly opposite on the essential quantity of issues. Thus, American politicians regularly speak in plain text that America should stop all Russian attempts to increase its influence on the world stage. In recent years, Russia and US relations worsened due to Ukrainian issue: the United States supported and funded anti-Russian coup in Ukraine, as well as Russia took advantage of this for reunification with Crimea. Furthermore, Russia gave the support to Ukrainian Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic that it had actually created. In response, the United States, adopted anti-Russian sanctions and forced the European Union and a number of satellite states to do the same. Nowadays, US officials bluntly call Russia the main threat to US security.

Russia also holds top positions in the world for oil and natural gas production, thus, exerting a tremendous impact not only on the global economy, but also on the world politics. The US trade interests require control over the Russian oil, but Russia naturally wants to retain control in this sphere. The same conflict of interest, although to a much lesser extent, can be observed in the construction of nuclear power plants.

The US Relations with China

Nowadays, the US-China relations are frequently considered the most important diplomatic, political and economic relationship in the world today. This is a relationship between the potential superpower (China) and current superpower (the United States) (Foot & Walter, 2011). China and the USA are each other’s second largest trading partner: the volume of trade between them reached $ 500 billion in 2012 (Morrison, 2015). Meanwhile, the United States trade deficit with China has reached the 2012 all-time high of $ 315 billion (Morrison, 2015). Additionally, China is the largest holder of US debt (Zhang, 2012). Currently, the annual human exchanges between the two countries reached 3 million entries and 110 passenger flights between the two shores of the Pacific Ocean occur weekly (Morrison, 2015). At the beginning of 2011, there were 120 thousand Chinese studying in the United States and more than 20 thousand Americans studied in China (Roach, 2014).

The beginning of 2010 marked cooling of relations caused by the decision of the Obama administration to approve the sale of a large ($ 6.3 billion) batch of weapons to Taiwan (Foot & Walter, 2011). The reasons also were China’s demands to revalue the yuan, the intensification of the US Armed Forces in the South China Sea and the naval exercises in the Yellow sea conducted jointly with South Korea (Foot & Walter, 2011). Nevertheless, China and the United States cooperation have made a significant contribution to the development of the Asia-Pacific region and helping the global economy to come out of the global financial crisis.

Reasons Discussion

The United States with China and Russia have certain similarities. Three countries have the largest resources, are nuclear states and the members of the UN Security Council obtaining the right of veto. Yet, there are also conflicts between them. To specify, the United States does not approve Russian foreign policy towards Ukraine and Syria while China is against the US-Taiwan relations (Kaczmarski, 2015). China always considered the question of Taiwan the main obstacle to the development of positive relations with the United States. Additionally, China and Russia have breaches in democratic order and level of freedom of their citizens (Kaczmarski, 2015). It is likely that China is more important to the US national interests than Russia. There are three main reasons to support that.

Reason 1. Fulfilling the U.S. interest of becoming a world’s primary superpower.

During the unipolar system of international relations, the U.S. was a superpower that is a country with enormous political, economic and military superiority over the majority of other countries. Nowadays, the USA is still a powerful state, but that does not help it to exercise hegemony over the world because many countries claim that leadership. For the US national interests, three northern Eurasia regions (Northern Europe, Russia and China) have the capital, workforce and leadership needed to create power, wrecking everything in its path. It is not surprising that Russia’s foreign policy for the last two centuries was aimed at the alliance with China or the major European powers to form a mega-state of this kind. Nevertheless, the USA is doing its best for such a union never happened. It is necessary to keep Eurasia divided by the largest possible number of states (preferably hostile to each other).

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In the “New military doctrine of the US” 2011 the government set out the main challenges that the United States military may face in the coming years (Zhang, 2012). Specifically, in the next decade, the US military should pay special attention to the situation in the Asia-Pacific region as China proclaims itself as a leader there. The relations between the countries are also characterized by the fierce competition, sophisticated collaboration and mutual restraint of each other. It worth mentioning that such kind of relationship is quite new for the international relations system and may become its main characteristic in future. Presumably, our world is in the era of “soft war,” which differs from the former “hard war” (Pickrell, 2015).

The Sino-US relations cannot become so confrontational like the US-Soviet during the Cold War, although they also cannot be like the United States allied relations with Japan, Europe and the United Kingdom. The main reason for having not open confrontations with the U.S. is that China is not bellicose like Russia and it does not claim world leadership to the extend Russia does. Moreover, one should not count on the “castling roles” like occurred previously in the UK, the Netherlands and Spain, or the United States from Great Britain (Pickrell, 2015). The United States would only benefit from the cooperation and suffer losses during the confrontation. Moreover, the common interests of both countries are closer now than they have ever been because China looks better ally for the U.S after the rapid raise in Chinese economic development. Additionally, China is more prone to concessions on the global arena if comparing to Russia. Finally, the United States have a special foreign policy pattern defined as “soft power” while Russia uses “hard power.” In that regard, China is closer to the U.S. in terms of defining the foreign policy.

Reason 2. With the help of China, the economic goals of the U.S., energetic and military interests would be satisfied and the market would be widened.

The US is highly interested in economic cooperation with China. This is due to the growing interdependence of the economies of both nations. Currently, China is considered a country with the largest foreign exchange reserves and trade surplus. Naturally, the United States is interested in such a partner. The United States also rely on China’s trade surpluses and savings to finance the US bloated budget deficit. It is rather interesting to mention that the total economic volume of China and the United States accounts for one-third of the entire global economy. In 2014, bilateral trade between the countries amounted to over 555 billion US dollars and bilateral investments exceeded 120 billion US dollars (Morrison, 2015). Therefore, the economic cooperation between the United States and China is the largest and most promising one on the global arena.

After the arrival in the White House, the Obama’s administration has outlined two trends. The first one was a weakening of the ideological and political confrontation with Beijing. The second one was to change the position on the economic issues. The new position reflects the current US economic expectations for China. For example, the United States want China to raise the yuan’s exchange rate (Pickrell, 2015). In addition, the U.S. seeks to prevent the adoption of protectionist measures by China established to protect its domestic economy. China is very interested in the preservation of the American market; PRC wants to attract foreign investments mainly from the US (Men & Shen, 2014). This allows the country to maintain high rates of economic growth, even during the recession, and to develop the most backward sectors of the economy. At the same time, the US has trade barriers and restrictions on exports of high-tech products towards China (the US side explained that fact by considerations of the national security).

The cooperation of the countries in energetic sphere is interconnected with economic interests. Nowadays, the power of a state largely depends on the amount of energy resources available, including nuclear energy. In the energetic sphere, Russian nuclear rivalry with the United States is rather beneficial to China, which helps to build up its own military power (Efremenko, 2012). Therefore, the U.S. would better collaborate with China. Recently, China has signed an agreement with the United States on cooperation in the military sphere. The United States Army Chief of Staff and the vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission certified this document; essentially, it was the first agreement of this kind in recent years (Morrison, 2015). Such collaboration would lessen the tensions and prevent including China in the plan of the U.S. Third Offset Strategy (Morrison, 2015).

Thus, China and the United States are highly importing trading partners with the greatest turnover in the world. Nevertheless, they still have many economic and social spheres to collaborate. The energetic resources component plays a crucial role in the national interests of the U.S. However, it is important that China does not intend to build alliances based on political intentions and cannot be forced to join any unions.

3. With the help of China, the United States could exercise an impact on Russia.

Compared to the Sino-Russian relations, there is more developed cooperation between China and the United States; at the same time, the Sino-US relations are rather complicated. Many American experts say that the United States and its allies, from year to year, incorrectly assess the Russian-Chinese relations (Allison, Blackwill, Simes & Saunders, 2011). For instance, in the West, they are seen as an axis of a mutual benefit. Nevertheless, it is rather the axis of national identity. In the past, Russia and China have had much in common. To exemplify, both countries were empires once, and then survived the revolution, the communist despotism and a certain period of “thaw”: a political relaxation of tensions in Russia, and economic growth in China (Allison et al., 2011). It would be a mistake to describe the contacts between Moscow and Beijing as an equal relationship. Undoubtedly, China today has more benefits than Russia. With strengthening vector of isolation from the West, Moscow has become increasingly dependent on Beijing. Interestingly, China is also the largest trading partner of Russia (Allison et al., 2011). However, in contrast to the Russian Federation, China is experiencing a period of expansion, which makes this partnership for Russia more like the formula of “the customer is always right” (Allison et al, 2011). That means China can dictate the rules to Russia. As Russia and China are historically and ideologically close, the close relationship of the United States and China would enable the U.S. to take a part of control over Russian Federation.

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Undoubtedly, there are still certain controversies between China and the United States concerning the South China Sea, Taiwan, some economic and trade issues. China is highly concerned about the United States plans to establish a military alliance in the Asia-Pacific region, especially after America declared strategy of rebalancing to Asia. One of the ways to influence Russia is the U.S. impact on China’s veto right in the UN Security Council. Additionally, the United States, Russia and China are together in many international organizations (the UN, WTO, G20 etc.), where China may be the main support for America in taking measures towards Russia including probable political vacuum.


The current relationship between China, Russia and the United States look like a scalene triangle, in which the longest distance is between Washington and Moscow. Comparing the relations between the three countries, one can deduce that the Sino-US relationship is the constant ups and downs, while the relations between Russia and the United States remain very strained, as now Russia is suffering from the severe sanctions the USA applied. Therefore, according to the U.S national interests, which are improving the country’s position, enhancing economic sphere and making necessary impact on the main competitors, the most beneficial is the cooperation with China. China would facilitate the U.S. becoming a sole superpower and become the way to influence Russia. Moreover, China can be a very powerful partner in economic relations.

There is a problem that Russia and China are making more effort to ensure that they achieve greater power in the world. In this scenario, it forces both Moscow and Beijing to put pressure on the West, and primarily on the US. Against the background of the already raging conflicts in the world, the most important thing is that the US-China-Russia relations remain a collaboration or peaceful confrontation. Finally, one can conclude that to satisfy the national interests completely, the Unites States should find the proper levers of power, as well as the right approaches to all developing states and already mighty countries.

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