by Chris Miller and Joshua Walker, War on the Rocks
Washington’s two recent big summits occurred as if they were in two different worlds. First, President Donald Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, where the two leaders’ conversation focused on trade and North Korea. Then, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Moscow, where he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov traded allegations over the chemical weapons attack in Syria. The two summits were linked by concern about hotspots like Syria and North Korea, yet not by a unified strategy. But so long as it fails to see Russia in an Asian context, Washington will struggle to develop a coherent approach.
America’s friends and allies in Asia, by contrast, realize that U.S. policy toward Russia and Europe and the Middle East shapes Chinese diplomacy. Since annexing Crimea in 2014 and launching a confrontation with the West, Russia has tacked toward China to avoid complete diplomatic isolation. This has strengthened Beijing’s hand in Asia, for example, by reducing Moscow’s ability to adopt positions which contradict China’s priorities.