Russia-China Warming May Leave U.S. in Cold

Article excerpt

Chinese-Russian relations are better than at any time in a generation, U.S. analysts say, and they are only expected to get better after the appointment of Yevgeny Primakov as Moscow's new foreign minister.

"There is a triangular relationship between the United States, Russia and China," said James Lilley of the American Enterprise Institute, who served as U.S. ambassador to China under President Bush.

"The Russian-Chinese side of the triangle is improving. The U.S.-China side is fairly flat. And the Russian-U.S. side is going down. . . . The Russians are going up in their relations with the Chinese and down with us."

Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom, similarly said that "for the first time since 1972 - the year of President Nixon's first state visit to China - China and Russia have better relations with each other than either of them has with the United States."

That process is expected to accelerate under the foreign policy guidance of Mr. Primakov, who ran the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service, for four years until his Jan. 9 promotion and has long favored closer intelligence and strategic links with Beijing.

Virtually unnoticed in the West, he paid a visit to China last September that the Moscow newspaper Izvestia described as being "veiled in secrecy." The newspaper nicknamed Mr. Primakov "Academician 007" in an allusion to the James Bond spy stories.

It described the visit as "an unprecedented show of trust between Moscow and Beijing." Contacts between the intelligence agencies, or "special services," of the Eurasian giants "have become a matter of routine," the paper said.

Mr. Simes said Mr. Primakov and First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, a leading patron of Russia's old domestic industrial and arms-production interests, both have been pushing for closer ties to Beijing.

"They believe the relationship with the United States has gone a bit too far without giving Russia any appropriate benefits for its efforts to please the West," he said.

Mr. Primakov has another powerful political ally in his drive to improve ties with Beijing. Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who enthusiastically welcomed the new foreign minister's appointment, champions an Asian alliance with China rather than Japan.

The leader of the second most popular political party in Russia after December's parliamentary elections, Mr. Zhirinovsky met with top-ranking Chinese leaders in Beijing last November.

He later was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying a "Berlin-Moscow-Beijing alliance would be more profitable for Russia [and] more stable" than one involving Japan. …