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Strategic Ambiguity and the Deterrent Value of the Sino-Russian Partnership

  • Published
  • China Aerospace Studies Institute

            The ever deepening Sino-Russian partnership has attracted considerable attention, especially in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.   Although the partnership was outlined first in a 2001 20-year agreement and recently extended in 2021, its parameters remain opaque. In particular, it remains unclear whether Russia and China are developing an issue-specific alignment or a broader political-military alliance. This paper argues that the strategic ambiguity inherent in the Sino-Russian partnership contributes to its deterrent value, making an alliance unnecessary.  Much of the analysis of the impact of the Sino-Russian partnership on deterrence focuses on the military equipment Russia sells to the PRC which contribute to anti-access and area denial for U.S. and allied forces, such as the S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system.  This paper will focus instead on the communication strategies Russian and Chinese officials use to create ambiguity about the parameters of their strategic alignment, especially whether or not it constitutes an alliance.

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