Russian Foreign Policy in a Time of Rising U.S.-China Competition

Russian Foreign Policy in a Time of Rising U.S.-China Competition

by Marcin Kaczmarski
January 11, 2022

This chapter assesses Russia’s response to the challenges brought on by U.S.-China competition, deglobalization, and the Covid-19 pandemic.



U.S.-China competition has not changed Russia’s foreign policy trajectory during the past decade. Instead, the Russian leadership continues to deepen cooperation with Beijing and push back against Washington. Russia has provided China with strategic support but lacks similar capacity to assist technologically or economically in the Sino-U.S. trade war. Challenges to globalization have only marginally influenced Russia’s capacity to generate national power due to its limited role in the global economy, which is concentrated in a few sectors such as energy and arms. Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic has impeded efforts to improve demographic trends and initially threatened the Putin regime’s legitimacy. The Kremlin, however, has used measures to control the pandemic as an opportunity to consolidate power by pushing through constitutional amendments and cracking down on political opposition.

  • Although Russia cannot be expected to support the U.S. in its competition with China, Russian support for China has clear limits. Moscow is not ready to endorse Beijing’s territorial claims or bid for regional hegemony in East Asia. Russia has been accommodating of China’s growing economic and political influence in Central Asia, but Moscow attempts to maintain the upper hand in the security realm. Thus, the prospect of a revisionist Sino-Russian alliance directed against the U.S. and its allies is unlikely.
  • Russia will attempt to capitalize on the U.S. preoccupation with China and improve its position globally—in particular in the post-Soviet neighborhood, Europe, and the Middle East.
  • Whereas deglobalization has not significantly affected Russia, climate change and international efforts to reduce carbon emissions pose serious challenges to the political-economic model built around Vladimir Putin.

Marcin Kaczmarski is a Lecturer in Security Studies in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow.