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Has Putin Reversed Nixon?

Russia and China have historically had an uneasy relationship, exemplified by the Sino-Soviet split of 1960, which Richard Nixon sought to cement on his trip to China 12 years later. But Russia and China do not need to be perfect allies for their relationship to disrupt the international order.

MADRID – On February 21, 1972, US President Richard Nixon arrived in China for what would become a transformative week-long visit. Beyond establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic, Nixon’s trip deepened the estrangement between China and the Soviet Union, thereby laying the foundations for a new world order. But, 50 years later, China and Russia are pursuing their own entente, with far-reaching implications.

Even if Russian President Vladimir Putin withdraws some of the troops massed near Ukraine’s border, as he has announced, and a diplomatic solution to the standoff with the West averts a Russian invasion, tensions between Russia and the West will not disappear any time soon. Nor will the Kremlin’s efforts to deepen Russia’s ties with China.

The rapprochement between China and Russia, which began with the 2001 Treaty of Friendship, has been slow but steady. It received a boost after Russia’s 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea, with Putin (somewhat reluctantly) pivoting to the East, including by signing a 30-year, $400 billion deal to deliver gas to China.

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