Putin's China visit shows warming ties between neighboring giants
The historically tense relationship has warmed in recent years, leading to flourishing bilateral trade. Vladimir Putin will be in Beijing Tuesday to discuss everything from trade, to Iran's nuclear program, to Syria's bloody war.
Newly inaugurated Russian President Vladimir Putin begins a two-day visit to China Tuesday that is expected to focus on the rapidly growing economic ties between the two giants and underscore their shared stances on burning international controversies such as Syria.Skip to next paragraph
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The Kremlin hopes the visit will emphasize the vast improvements made in the historically tense relationship between Russia and China since Mr. Putin first came to power more than a decade ago. Longstanding disputes along their 2,500-mile mutual frontier have been settled, cross-border trade has burgeoned, security cooperation has increased, and the two find themselves more and more on the same page in confronting what they see as Western attempts to dictate the shape of the global order.
"Russia finds political dialogue with China easier than with our Western counterparts, and Putin believes that Russia and China are two giants that have strong mutual responsibilities" to take a principled stand for things they jointly believe in, says Sergei Markov, vice president of the Plekhanov Economic University in Moscow and a frequent adviser to Putin.
"It's also a fact that Western economies are in crisis just now, while Asia is still seeing growth. All this justifies the qualitative improvements we are hoping to accomplish in our relationship with China. The importance of our growing cooperation can't be stressed enough," he says.
Putin will attend the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is led by Russia and China and includes most of the former Soviet Central Asian states. The SCO is the only major international group that has neither the US nor any of its close allies among its members; its Central Asian security role is bound to become increasingly important as NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan draws closer.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will be present as a SCO observer, is slated to meet Putin on the sidelines to lobby for Russian support for the Iranian negotiating position in the upcoming Moscow round of the P5 + 1 talks between the great powers and Iran over its nuclear energy program. Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told the official RIA-Novosti agency that Russia's basic stance at the meeting will be to "promote the thought that Iran's right to develop peaceful energy under the oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency should be approved."
But the issue of Syria, which has put Russia and China at loggerheads with most Western powers, is likely to dominate the headlines from Beijing. In meetings late last week with France's new president, François Hollande, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as at a Russia-European Union summit in St. Petersburg today, Putin stood his ground in resisting any new sanctions or international intervention aimed at removing embattled leader Bashar al-Assad from power, instead insisting that the international community focus on implementation of a peace plan formulated by UN special envoy Kofi Annan.