Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 235

In yet another indication of the growing importance attached by Moscow to relations with Beijing, Russian government sources indicated yesterday that Chinese premier Li Peng could be the first foreign leader to meet with Boris Yeltsin following the Russian president’s expected return to the Kremlin later this month. The Chinese leader is scheduled to pay an official visit to Moscow from December 26-28, and on December 27 will hold talks with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the sources said. A representative of Russia’s Foreign Ministry underscored the significance that Moscow attaches to the visit, reiterating that the Kremlin "sees in China not only a powerful neighbor, but also a strategic partner for the 21st century." He also said that the visit is of great importance in terms of advancing preparations for a Chinese-Russian summit scheduled for the spring of next year. (Interfax, December 16)

It is not entirely a coincidence that Russia and China are intensifying high level bilateral contacts at a time when the West is accelerating its own efforts to advance integration in Europe through NATO and the European Union — steps that have raised tensions with Moscow. A Russian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov signed a protocol on military-technical cooperation during a high-profile visit to Beijing that coincided with the recent NATO meeting in Brussels. Moreover, the run-up to the 1997 Chinese-Russian summit will likely parallel preparations for a NATO summit — scheduled for late in the spring — at which new members are expected to begin the process of admission into the alliance. The Kremlin has long warned that its response to NATO enlargement would include the construction of closer ties with Asian partners — including China — and undoubtedly sees the upcoming series of talks between Russian and Chinese leaders in that context. China, which has experienced its own rocky relations with the West, and especially with the U.S., has made a similar calculation. And closer ties with Moscow are bringing China’s still backward armed forces a small bonanza of advanced Russian military technology, a development that has earned Russia’s defense industries much needed hard currency but also raised some concerns in Moscow over the wisdom of arming a potential rival. (See below)

Moscow Counts on Foreign Arms Sales to Finance Domestic Programs.