Russia and China are becoming closer and closer. They are forming an alliance that aims to weaken the influence of the US in the Middle East and in Europe.

The recent military exercises known as “Vostok 2018” mark an important division between the pro-Russian East, and a West where Washington seems to be struggling to maintain its influence.

The military exercises, carried out last September in Siberia and Eastern Russia, were the most impressive since the end of the Cold War, employing over 300,000 troops, 35,000 tanks and a thousand aircraft. But the real novelty was the participation, for the first time, of over 3,000 Chinese troops. This was a show of strength that certainly attracted NATO’s attention.

China – the economic giant nowadays back to being a privileged partner of Moscow – and Russia, are at this moment, united by their difficult relations with the West, especially with the United States. In fact, while China is the subject of a commercial war unleashed by Washington, Russia is suffering from sanctions from the United States and Europe. This situation has actually pushed the two countries into each other’s arms.

It should be noted that China and Russia are not natural allies, considering the historical misunderstandings and subtractions of portions of territory suffered by Beijing. It was Vladimir Putin who reconciled the two countries and built a new relationship with China, perhaps not one of friendship, but of strategic cooperation, based on the common hostility towards the United States and its policies of military and economic supremacy. In particular, this has come through the imposition of a greater laissez-faire attitude between the two.

The Vostok 2018 military exercises represent, to all intents and purposes, a manifestation of strength and a decisive turning point in response to the Pentagon’s threats. Historically, Russia’s relations with NATO and the European Union have been difficult, and Russia has often sought the support of its Chinese neighbor. Although the interests of the two giants are often divergent, on the economic front they were able to find an understanding, as demonstrated by the existing commercial relations and by the enthusiasm shown by Russia for China’s New Silk Road Initiative.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had declared that the project “marks the beginning of a new phase of cooperation in Eurasia” and, despite the still ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, China has recently become closer to the Kiev government, willing to invest $7 billion in infrastructure in the country related to the implementation of the ambitious project, by virtue of the fact that Ukraine will be a crucial stage in Beijing’s route to Europe.

Could this see the beginning of an “economic” war on a global scale? In the last two years there is no doubt that the Trump administration has been uncompromising with those countries that represent a threat to the US’s international supremacy. In an attempt to protect the nationalistic interests of the US – whose hegemony seems to have faded over the last few years due to the emergence of new global powers – Trump has adopted an extremely aggressive policy, including threats and sanctions, which has, however, resulted in bringing the two Asian giants, Russia and China, dangerously close together.

Specifically, Beijing has seen an increase in trade tariffs imposed by the US in order to protect American trade, in addition to the prospect of the progressive abandonment of Chinese economic territory by American multinationals. On its side, Moscow is dealing with the heavy sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States, which have been its main promoters.

Given these premises, it was therefore an obvious step for China and Russia to strengthen their relations to seek greater economic cooperation. This collaboration was sealed by the summit meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which took place in Vladivostok on September 12th.

It is no secret, in fact, that the Chinese see US trade policy as an explicit attempt to curb China’s ambition of establishing itself as a great industrial and technological power, capable of competing on equal terms with the United States.

The tariffs are the natural prologue through which the latent frictions between these two great economic systems are being manifested. In fact, we cannot forget Washington’s strong trade deficit with Beijing. It is a situation that certainly aggravates the US’s fears of the rise of a new economic superpower that, thanks to the mega-project of the New Silk Road, could permanently recalibrate the international equilibrium further east.

More than a commercial war, it is right to speak of an “economic war” in all areas. Not to mention that Russia has long been China’s largest oil supplier and a strategic energy source for the future of a billion-and-a-half Chinese people.

These make one fear that a durable bond between the two actors could compromise the leadership of the United States and NATO in the world.