Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy knows how to end the greatest threat to American national security.
That threat would be the combination of the world's two most dangerous states: China and Russia.
"I would freeze the current lines of control," the candidate told Fox News's Jesse Watters during his prime time show, referring to the battlefields in Ukraine.
"I would further make a hard commitment that NATO will not admit Ukraine to NATO. That's enough to get Putin to do the deal."
"But I would require something even greater in return, Jesse," Ramaswamy said. "Russia has to exit its military alliance with China."
Putin will take the deal, the charismatic candidate assured Watters:
"He's gonna say, 'Ok' because I'm going to say, 'We'll reopen our economic relations with Russia and further, we'll end the Ukraine war and also make sure NATO never admits Ukraine.' "
The interview occurred in late August, but these themes are often heard, in America and elsewhere. Is Ramaswamy on the right track?
In theory, it should be possible to separate Moscow from Beijing. After all, China and Russia have for centuries been competitors, adversaries, and even enemies. Take something as fundamental as their common border. After border skirmishes, they finally settled the boundary only in 2008, when Moscow formally transferred various parcels to China.
Vladimir Putin knows, however, that no border is ever finally fixed, and Chinese migrants are pouring into the sparsely populated Russian Far East. There, many of them hope to "retake" lands ceded by the Qing dynasty to Moscow in the 1850s and 1860s in what Chinese officials now call "unequal treaties." Beijing has made no formal claim to Vladivostok and surrounding areas, but it has been continually pushing the idea nonetheless.
In short, China poses the greatest threat to Russia, at least over the long term.
The Ramaswamy proposal, however, ignores the reality that as long as Putin and Xi Jinping rule, there is no realistic possibility of breaking up the two states. Both dictators view the world in similar terms; believe that their short-term interests coincide; and identify the same adversary, the United States of America. As Xi said on December 20 as he welcomed Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to Beijing, "Maintaining and developing China-Russia relations well is a strategic choice made by both sides based on the fundamental interests of the two peoples."
The two regimes, Xi's words reveal, have been on the same page for some time. They declared their closeness with the 5,300-word joint statement issued after Putin met Xi in Beijing on February 4 of last year, just 20 days before Russia's attack on Ukraine. That is when they declared their "no-limits" partnership.
China and Russia are more than just working together. They are forming the core of a new axis. Around this core are proxies and proxies of proxies, such as Iran, North Korea, Algeria, and a host of terrorist groups.
The Chinese and Russian leaders are forming this grouping because they believe the United States, the final guarantor of the international system that frustrates them both, must be taken down. Xi, by, among other things, declaring a "people's war" on America, has made it clear that the U.S. must be destroyed and Americans exterminated. Putin is less ambitious, only wanting the U.S. out of his way as he recreates the Russian Empire at its greatest extent.
Moreover, Xi and Putin believe that the United States is in terminal decline. "Change is coming that hasn't happened in 100 years," the Chinese dictator said on March 22 to the Russian dictator in Moscow while bidding farewell after their 40th in-person meeting. "And we are driving this change together."
Even if Xi and Putin were not so confident there are reasons for the Russian leader to reject the overtures of a President Ramaswamy. "Washington has little leverage over Russia," Rebekah Koffler, the author of Putin's Playbook and former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, told Gatestone. "There are no carrots to offer to Putin, and the sticks haven't worked."
Yes, the Biden administration could drop sanctions and abandon Ukraine, but even those actions, which would be deeply injurious to the U.S. and the international system, would not be enough to break Putin's bond with Beijing. "Russia does not trust the U.S. and Europe," Koffler says. "Russia believes the West will continue to try to weaken it economically and militarily. Moscow believes that regardless of who occupies the White House, a Democrat or a Republican, the U.S. will pursue an anti-Russia policy."
Democrats and Republicans should pursue "anti-Russia" policies: Russia has refused to abide by the rules and norms of the international system. Russia is not only an aggressor state, but it is also engaging in barbaric acts in Ukraine, some of which constitute "genocide" as defined in Article II of the 1948 Genocide Convention.
Ramaswamy says "we have wrongfully cut off Russia from the West." It is true that Americans and Western actions, as Koffler remarked, "hit the key revenue drivers of the Russian economy," but how could any nation allow Putin to, among other things, use its banks and financial system while his soldiers were torturing, raping, and killing Ukrainian women and children; committing acts of mass murder in town after town; and abducting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia in an apparent attempt to eliminate Ukrainian identity?
To finance acts of aggression and barbarism in the face of sanctions, Putin has found support from China. By November, China-Russia trade hit $218.2 billion in 2023, exceeding their announced target of $200 billion by the end of 2024. Trade during the first 11 months of 2023 was double the volume in 2018 of $108.3 billion, which itself represented an increase of 24.5% over 2017. Putin will not break this established and fast-growing trade relationship for mere promises from a West he neither likes nor trusts.
China does not, as Ramaswamy tells us, have a "military alliance" with Russia—China has no formal alliances except the one with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea—but the Chinese and Russian militaries are nonetheless close.
The two forces are worrying the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino. This month in Tokyo, he publicly stated that he was "very concerned" about their joint exercises: "I view it as far beyond the marriage of convenience at this point in time."
In other words, China and Russia are preparing to go to war together. As no country threatens either of them, they are undoubtedly thinking of perpetrating more acts of aggression.
Would Putin join Xi if China were to invade some neighbor? That is not clear, but it is highly likely that the Russian leader will help China. "Russia could conduct shows of force to stretch U.S. and allied surveillance," Rebecca Grant of defense consultant IRIS Independent Research told Gatestone. "Posturing military moves by Russia could also make U.S. leadership balk." She points out there could be, for instance, Russian bomber flights or even nuclear weapons exercises.
Russia could also help China by trying to grab even more of the Kuril Islands chain from Japan or moving against a NATO member, such as one of the three Baltic republics, engulfing the Eurasian landmass in conflict, from one end to the other.