Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping oversaw an ambitious joint military exercise in China this summer, which along with reported collaborations in aviation, undersea and hypersonic-weapons technology point to a solidifying defense alignment, according to military analysts.
U.S. officials and military specialists say it is difficult to pin down the level of collaboration between two nations that tightly control information, and whose actions are increasingly opaque to outsiders. But Western officials and defense experts are growing more convinced of the closer relationship based on recent economic alliances, military exercises and joint defense development, as well as the few public statements from government leaders.
While U.S. officials have long been skeptical of a unified threat from the two countries, some are now changing their tune. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that Beijing and Moscow are now more aligned than at any point in the past 60 years.
“They are distinct threats. But they are now interrelated because of the collaboration,” said Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis group in Arlington, Va.
In October, after years of Russian ambiguity regarding Taiwan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin considered the island nation a part of China.
Moscow and Beijing also see advantages of increased engagement in trade, technology and energy. Over the past six years, Messrs Putin and Xi have met more than 30 times.
“The conversation first was that Russia and China are not going to align,” said Mr. Kofman, the Russian military expert. “Then the conversation was, it appears there’s an alignment, but it’s not very significant. Then it evolved to, there’s an alignment, and it is significant, but it probably won’t last. And that conversation is now evolving into the next stage.”
“In a triangle with three countries, you don’t want to be the one opposite the other two,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, who worked on Russian issues at the Central Intelligence Agency and is now at the Center for a New American Security, a Democrat-leaning national-security think tank in Washington.
Read the full story and more from The Wall Street Journal here.