U.S. Frets as China, Russia Get Closer: Beijing's Money Buys Military Ties

Article excerpt

Alarm bells are sounding in Washington over weekend meetings in which Russia and China proclaimed major steps toward a "strategic partnership" for the 21st century.

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Bolshakov, on a six-day visit to China, signed major military and economic cooperation agreements.

He also laid the groundwork for visits to Moscow by Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng this month and President Jiang Zemin in the spring. His visit included three days of talks with China's military leaders.

Russian and Chinese news agencies said Liu Huaqing, the vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, and his Russian visitors expressed the hope of expanding significant military cooperation.

The meetings, virtually unnoticed in the Western media, are causing concern among U.S. analysts.

"The increased closeness between the two giant states means trouble for the United States," said Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation. "The Chinese will have access to the most advanced missile, thermonuclear and aerospace systems the Russians can offer."

The growing ties between Moscow and Beijing "could have major implications for the entire international system," said Paul Goble, former chief State Department analyst on Soviet nationalities.

"This relationship may lead ever more Russian political figures to see the Chinese model of development that combines rapid economic growth with authoritarian political controls as appropriate for Russia itself," said Mr. Goble, deputy director of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He spoke in a private capacity.

The Soviet Union and China were bitter ideological rivals and geopolitical enemies for more than 30 years after they split in 1958.

Although both nations were communist, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev cut off nuclear cooperation with Beijing because he feared that Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung would trigger a nuclear world war. In 1969, the two powers appeared on the brink of war after clashes in the Far East.

It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union that relations betweenMoscow and Beijing warmed up. Trade across their 4,500-mile border slowly expanded, with an industrializing China hungry for Russia's raw minerals and military systems and Russia desperately in need of China's cash.

The trend accelerated this year after Yevgeny Primakov became Russia's foreign minister.

Mr. …