President Jiang Zemin of China arrived in the Russian capital Sunday for a state visit that is to culminate today in the signing of a treaty on friendship and cooperation. It will be the first such pact since 1950, when Moscow and Beijing allied themselves against the West.
Russian and Chinese officials have said in recent weeks that the treaty and a political declaration that accompanies it do not represent a military alliance and that the accord is not aimed at "any third country." Yet strengthening Russia's economic and political bonds with China will unavoidably be viewed as a response to the dominance of the United States and its European allies in post-Cold-War international affairs, a number of political analysts said.
Jiang's arrival Sunday followed two important events: the victory of China's effort to be named the host for the 2008 Olympic Games, and the successful test by the United States of a missile interceptor. That heralded the acceleration of the Bush administration's plans to go forward with a missile defense system, a step that Russia and China both oppose as destabilizing to the existing strategic balance.
The Olympic decision is being taken by China as an affirmation that other nations support its effort to continue to shed its communist past and to open its economy.
For both Jiang and for President Vladimir Putin of Russia, this meeting _ staged right before the summit meeting of major industrial nations in Genoa, Italy _ is important for both imagery and substance.
China is seeking to bind itself more closely to Russia as Putin is planting the country more firmly as a European power. And Putin, who is engaged in a critical opening dialogue with President Bush, is able to demonstrate to those who see Russia as a declining power that it stands as a crucial bridge to the rest of Asia, especially to China, which is regarded by Bush and his advisers as a major security challenge.
"Politically and diplomatically, the visit of the Chinese leader will add more weight and more importance to all aspects of collaboration between Russia and China," said Andrei A. Kokoshin, national security adviser to former President Boris Yeltsin. Kokoshin said that Putin's constructive approach to Beijing will be a useful reminder to the Bush administration that "it is a big mistake to treat China as an enemy and potential competitor and any attempt to isolate them would be very dangerous."
Russian and Chinese leaders say they are seeking an alliance of common interests for economic development, security in Central Asia and cooperation to control the inherent tensions that have plagued the Asian giants historically. This is in significant contrast to their Cold War alliance _ a strategic merger at a time of enormous ideological struggle after World War II. That struggle is over.
"For Russia and China this meeting means a lot," said Andrei Kozyrev, foreign minister under Yeltsin. "We have had a very troubled history."
In Soviet times, the 4,500-mile border with China was fortified with nuclear-tipped missiles and chemical weapons. Today that border has shrunk to 2,550 miles as independent Central Asian republics have opened their own relations with China. Soviet troops and weapons have withdrawn, and new border accords have stabilized the region.
Russia has become China's largest supplier of modern weapons at a time when its military buildup has raised concerns over whether China and the United States could be drawn into a conflict over Taiwan. The United States is Taiwan's largest supplier of military equipment.