The Problem With the ‘Contest with Autocrats’

Imagining that the U.S. is facing a unified authoritarian camp will end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as our policies drive them together to create one.

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Russia and China have renewed their treaty of friendship, and their respective leaders claimed that the relationship was stronger than ever:

Beijing and Moscow have moved to consolidate ties by renewing a 20-year-old friendship treaty, weeks after the Russian and US leaders met in what was seen as part of efforts by Washington to drive a wedge between them.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met by video link on Monday for a second time in a month, agreeing to extend the Treaty of Good Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation.

Putin said that Sino-Russian relations had reached an “unprecedented height.” Some of this may be exaggeration for effect, but it does reflect the extent to which Russia and China have drawn closer together since the turn of the century. It is worth noting that US relations with both states have deteriorated significantly during the same period, and US policies have contributed to bringing the two authoritarian powers together. When they signed their friendship treaty twenty years ago, Russia was still open to working with the US and western Europe, and China had not yet become Washington’s bête noire. While the US wasted the last twenty years setting the Middle East on fire, it also managed to antagonize the two major powers of Eurasia at the same time. You could hardly ask for greater strategic incompetence.

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Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.