Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 174

If Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji’s visit to Russia and his meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was a success on the trade front, it was unclear if the same was true of his talks on September 11 with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting appears to have been a low-key one, perhaps in part because coverage of it was so thoroughly eclipsed by what occurred the same day in the day in the United States. The two leaders did praise their countries’ growing trade ties, and a Kremlin official was quoted as saying that Zhu’s and Putin’s talks were “the most successful in recent years.” But although reports in the leadup to Zhu’s arrival in Russia had suggested missile defense would be high on the agenda when the two men met in Moscow, their public remarks were notable for the absence of any mention of U.S. missile defense plans. While Moscow and Beijing have never been entirely in agreement on the subject, they have generally chosen to accent their joint concerns over what they say would be the adverse effects of U.S. missile defense testing and deployment plans on global strategic stability. It is unclear whether the silence on September 11 was due to recent Russian-U.S. talks on missile defense and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty–which some say has resulted in a weakening of Russia’s position–and the emergence of tensions between China and Russia as a result (BBC, September 11; VOA News, September 12; AFP, September 6, 10, 12).

But whatever their respective current views on the missile defense debate, Moscow and Beijing demonstrated on September 18 that they are continuing to consult on important security policy issues and that their joint policy positions will not always be to Washington’s liking. That, at least, was suggested by reports indicating that Putin and Jiang had used a telephone conversation on that date to agree on joint measures aimed at strengthening the international fight against terrorism. While few details of their proposal were made public, it appeared to involve at least in part an effort aimed at internationalizing the battle against terrorism by ensuring the involvement of the United Nations and the UN Security Council (of which both China and Russia are permanent members). That would fit in with Beijing’s and Moscow’s long-standing calls to rein in what both say is Washington’s penchant for unilateralism by strengthening the role of the UN in international affairs. It would also dovetail with the reservations both Russia and China have more recently expressed with regard to expected U.S. retaliatory strikes against those seen to be responsible for the September 11 terrorist strikes in the United States. Moscow and Beijing may be angling to make any U.S. military actions beyond limited initial strikes dependent on Security Council approval (DPA, Interfax, September 19).

Russian military aircraft manufacturers, meanwhile, may be gearing up to begin delivery of advanced fighters to China’s military. According to reports published last week, officials from Russia’s Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft firm were in Beijing finalizing plans for the delivery of thirty-eighty advanced Russian Su-30MKK fighters to China. The same Russian company will reportedly also be providing assistance for the licensed production in China of Russian Su-27s. A Russian newspaper, meanwhile, reported yesterday that “rumors of an unprecedented increase of weapons deliveries to China were officially confirmed.” According to Vremya Novostei, Prime Minister Kasyanov has signed a decree under which the Russian armed forces are to construct transit facilities at an airbase jointly run by the Komsomolsk plant and the Russian Air Force. It is intended to function from 2001-2005 and will be used to transport fighters and, presumably, other military hardware to China (AFP, Vremya Novostei, September 19).