Southern California

International Review
Volume 7, Number 1 • Spring 2017
Southern California International Review

SarahBelle Selig

Reid Thom
Samuel Miller
Anna Lipscomb

The Southern California International Review (SCIR) is a bi-annual print
and online journal of interdisciplinary scholarship in the field of interna-
tional studies generously funded by the School of International Relations
at the University of Southern California (USC). In particular, SCIR would
like to thank the Robert L. Friedheim Fund and the USC SIR Alumni Fund.
Founded in 2011, the journal seeks to foster and enhance discussion between
theoretical and policy-oriented research regarding significant global issues.
SCIR is managed completely by students and also provides undergraduates
with valuable experience in the fields of editing and graphic design.

Copyright © 2017 Southern California International Review.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form without the express written consent of the Southern California International

Views expressed in this journal are solely those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily
represent those of the editorial board, faculty advisors, or the University of Southern California.

ISSN: 1545-2611
This edition of the SCIR is dedicated to news outlets around the
world that strive to preserve veracity
in an age of extensive media accessibility.

1. Duterte and Trump as Catalysts for Hard Decisions in Australian Foreign 10
Michael Coyne

2. ISIS: The Next Maoist Insurgency? 22
Sophie Pu

3. The Road to Great Power Status: 34
Continuity and Change in Sino-Russian Relations
Maria Belen Wu

4. Understanding Contemporary Arctic Politics 56
Nehmat Bedar
Editor’s Note:

Dear Reader,

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you the thirteenth edition of the Southern
California International Review (SCIR). This semester’s issue continues our mission of
providing a platform for undergraduate scholars of international affairs to deliver their work
to a larger, global audience.

We were incredibly fortunate to have over sixty articles to select from for this issue. Our editors
spent staunch hours poring over submissions from all across the country and throughout
the world. Of the many impressive submissions, the following four were outstanding for
their original and unique ideas. As you read this journal, you will understand why.

In the creation of this issue, the SCIR is extremely appreciative of the support of the University
of Southern California’s School of International Relations. Director Wayne Sandholtz,
Associate Director Linda Cole, and the rest of the faculty and staff give us the guidance we
need to steadily grow. I also extend our thanks to Ms. Robin Friedheim for her generous
scholarship that provides the foundation upon which our endeavor thrives.

As our leaders attempt to maneuver the complex international political system, it is
imperative that diligent balancing and risk management are prioritized. This theme
resonates throughout the articles in this edition. The first article addresses two heads of state
and highlights the unique risks and benefits associated with close political alliances. The
next article compares strategies of ISIS to insurgency techniques used by former Chinese
revolutionary Mao Zedong, and identifies possible countermeasures. The third article
investigates China and Russia’s quest for great power status and its potential consequences.
In the final article, the Artic region is analyzed for its diplomatic and cooperative capacities.
Throughout these artices, a single impression prevails: the ever-adapting political system
necessitates increasingly careful diplomatic leadership.

I would like to thank you, the reader, since without you, we are nothing. Remember, this
journal is just one part of a much larger dialogue. I invite you to read on, and I hope that it
fosters discoveries of your own.

Please read, ponder, explore and enjoy.

Warm regards,
SarahBelle Selig
Duterte and Trump as Catalysts for Hard Decisions in
Australian Foreign Policy
Michael Coyne

President Rodrigo Duterte’s disruption of the Philippines’ long-standing strategic relations
with the United States, combined with President Donald Trump’s publicly expressed skepticism
towards traditional alliances, suggests that Australia may soon be one of the United States’ few
remaining strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Moreover, the Trump administration’s
emphasis on a more muscular foreign policy vis-à-vis China, especially regarding the South
China Sea, suggests that Australia may face increased demands from its alliance with the
United States. This increase in alliance scope could incite retaliation from Beijing. This article
outlines the foreign policy landscape Australia is likely to face and presents a methodology by
which Australia could evaluate the benefits it receives from the U.S. alliance. This article rec-
ommends a sustained alliance between Australia and the United States but highlights potential
disconnect between the Australian government and the Australian people as a concern to be
monitored moving forward.

In Australia’s Defence, Towards a New Century, Peter J. Dean writes that “Austra-
lia’s ability to ‘thread the needle’ between its close economic partnership with China and
its security partnership with the United States will become even more difficult to man-
age in the future.”1 The rise of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, coupled with Donald
Trump’s new administration in the U.S. may upset Australia’s delicate balancing act in the
near future. Australia will likely face increased security demands from its alliance with the
U.S., as a result of both the Trump administration’s focus on burden-sharing, and Duterte’s
rejection of security ties with Washington. The U.S. alliance may ultimately force Australia
to take a position on the South China Sea dispute, consequentially cooling relations with
China. This paper argues that Australia derives too many benefits from a close partner-
ship with the U.S. to abandon the alliance, and that the most favorable policy for Australia
involves enduring a potentially more costly alliance with the U.S.

1  Peter J. Dean, “ANZUS: The ‘Alliance’ and its Future in Asia,” In Australia’s Defence, Towards a New Era? ed. Peter J. Dean et
al. (Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Publishing, 2014), ebook.

Michael Coyne is a junior in Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School
of Foreign Service studying International Political Economy with a certificate in
Australian and New Zealand Studies.
Duterte and Trump at Catalysts for Hard Choices 11
Recent Developments in the Philippines
Since winning the Philippines’ presidential election in May 2016, Rodrigo
Duterte has begun dismantling his country’s relationship with the U.S.. On September 13,
2016, Bloomberg reported that Duterte called for an end to the Philippines’ participation
in joint naval patrols through the South China Sea with the U.S. which have been con-
ducted since early 2016.2 In November 2016, Malcolm Davis of the Australian Strategic
Policy Institute (ASPI) wrote that “Duterte also suggested reviewing the 2014 Enhanced
Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which allows the U.S. regular access to five
Philippines bases under the 2011 Manila Declaration.”3 Traditional security ties to the
U.S. are clearly at risk under a Duterte administration.
Cooler relations between the Philippines and the U.S. have been accompanied
by a rapid increase in engagement between Manila and Beijing. Aileen Baviera writes that
closeness with China is an enduring foreign policy theme for Duterte; shortly after his
election, Duterte explained, “We have this pact with the West, but I want everybody to
know that we will be charting a course of our own...It will not be dependent on America.”4
This rhetoric has been backed up by increased economic cooperation with China. Baviera
writes that Chinese coast guard vessels allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the
contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea shortly after Duterte’s election.5 In
October 2016, The Economist reported that China was considering repealing its ban on
fruit imports from the Philippines.6 In the short run at least, strengthening its relationship
with China offers tangible rewards to the Philippines.
Most concerning for the U.S. is the fact that Duterte has introduced the possibil-
ity of a security partnership with China. In September 2016, Bloomberg reported that top
Philippines security personnel, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, had begun
exploring the possibility of new arms imports from Russia and China.7 Such a partnership,
if it comes to fruition, could drive a significant wedge between the Philippines and the
However, American security personnel have been unresponsive to this radical
shift in Filipino foreign policy. In October 2016, The Economist reported that “American
officials - Admiral Harry Harris, commander in the Pacific, down - insist that all is dandy,”
and emphasized ongoing U.S.-Philippines cooperation in response to terrorist activity on

2  Norman P. Aquino and Andrew Calonzo, “Duterte Seeks Arms From China, Ends Joint Patrols With U.S.,” Bloomberg News,
September 13, 2016, accessed November 20, 2016.
3  Malcom Davis, “Duterte: A bull in a China shop,” The Strategist (blog), Australian Strategic Policy Institute, November 2,
4  Aileen Baviera, “President Duterte’s Foreign Policy Challenges,” Contemporary Southeast Asia 38(2) (2016): 206.
5  Ibid, 205.
6  “Duterte's pivot; Banyan,” The Economist, October 22, 2016, accessed November 27, 2016, ProQuest (ID 1830787060).
7  Aquino and Calonzo, “Duterte Seeks Arms From China.”

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
12 Michael Coyne

the island of Mindanao as evidence of the enduring strength of the relationship.8 Political
rhetoric aside, military figures in both countries appear eager to maintain the status quo
of U.S. -Philippines cooperation.

Recent Developments in the United States
Despite the apparent desire to ensure continued cooperation between the U.S.
and Philippines, the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency suggests that the
current status quo of non-action towards Duterte’s Philippines may be overturned. Schake
wrote that “Trump supporters…are genuinely questioning…whether the United States
bears too much of the cost and responsibility of preserving the international order.”9 The
Trump campaign’s stance on foreign policy has been erratic, but the Trump presidency
will likely be accompanied by a crackdown on real or perceived free-riding within the U.S.’
President Trump’s campaign explicitly suggested reevaluation of many traditional
U.S. alliances. A November 18, 2016 article in the New York Times cites “growing jitters
among American allies that Mr. Trump could back away from security commitments that
have defined international relations for decades,” even longstanding pacts such as NATO.10
With this in mind, it seems unlikely that the U.S.’ current leniency towards Duterte will
endure in the future. Euan Graham of the Lowy Institute has euphemistically written, “It is
unclear how committed [President Trump] will be to the maritime defence of Asian allies
that he sees as ingrates. The Duterte-Trump dynamic will be one to watch.”11 If not even
NATO is sacrosanct in President Trump’s eyes, it seems likely that the new administration
will have little patience for Duterte; Australia should prepare for U.S.-Philippines secu-
rity cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to rapidly come to an end, or at least be completely
reevaluated by the White House.
However, President Trump’s aversion to alliances has not been accompanied by
wholesale opposition to international engagement. A November 9, 2016 article in The
Guardian notes that “[President Trump’s] advisers have flagged the incoming administra-
tion’s desire to expand the U.S. navy from 274 ships to 350 and to deploy more extensively
in the region to counter China’s growing assertiveness.”12 These announced goals have
8  “Duterte's pivot; Banyan,” The Economist.
9  Kori Schake, “Republican Foreign Policy After Trump,” Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 58:5 (2016), 37, DOI:
10  Dan Bilefsky, “NATO Chief ‘Absolutely Confident’ Donald Trump Will Maintain U.S. Role,” New York Times, November 18,
2016, accessed December 1, 2016.
11  Euan Graham, “The Risks and Ramifications of Trump’s Impulsive Adventurism,” Commentary (blog), Lowy Institute for
International Policy, November 9, 2016.
12  Katharine Murphy and Gareth Hutchens, “Australian PM Turnbull says Trump will project 'enhanced military power' in
Asia Pacific,” The Guardian, November 9, 2016, accessed November 27, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
Duterte and Trump at Catalysts for Hard Choices 13

not gone unnoticed in Beijing; on November 25, 2016, Reuters reported that the Chinese
National Institute for South China Sea Studies anticipates that the U.S. will continue to
pursue "regional hegemony” in the South China Sea under the new administration.13
While alliance restructuring may very well be a feature of Trump’s foreign policy, Australia
should not interpret President Trump’s actions as synonymous with isolationism; there
appears to be ample evidence that the U.S. will continue to challenge China in the Indo-
Pacific region. Therefore, it would be inadvisable for Australian policymakers and security
experts to anticipate a diminished American regional presence in the years ahead.
Australia should prepare for a future in which a U.S. with less patience for al-
liances seeks to maintain its regional security presence. This new posture may cause the
U.S. alliance to become more costly for Australia; Graham has written that “Canberra
should brace for requests to spend more, do more, and perhaps to host more U.S. forces
[under the Trump administration]."14 President Trump’s U.S. will want to remain relevant
in the Indo-Pacific, yet also may end relations with uncertain partners such as the Philip-
pines, leading to more demands from the Australian alliance.

Potential Consequences for Australia
This new dynamic within the alliance may force Australia to undertake new
security-related initiatives, particularly in the South China Sea. Medcalf writes that “while
Australia has supported American naval patrols in the South China Sea, it has not actively
joined in these patrols, preferring to accompany rhetoric on the importance of a rules-
based international order with occasional overflight operations.”15 However, Medcalf also
writes that “with no rules-based solution to the South China Sea tensions in sight, the
limits of a mostly declaratory policy approach…have been made plain.”16 Peter Jennings,
the head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, has recently stated that “Trump will
probably have higher expectations of us…we too, like the Americans, should be undertak-
ing freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.”17 Within a more demand-
ing alliance, Australia will likely have to commit to concrete naval action with regards to
the South China Sea dispute, such as joint naval patrols with the U.S., especially in light of
probable reduced cooperation between the U.S. and the Philippines on the issue.

13  “Trump will pursue 'regional hegemony' in South China Sea: Chinese academics,” Reuters, November 25, 2016, accessed
December 1, 2016.
14  Graham, “The Risks and Ramifications of Trump’s Impulsive Adventurism.”
15  Rory Medcalf, “Rules, Balance, and Lifelines: An Australian Perspective on the South China Sea,” Asia Policy 21 (2016):
16  Medcalf, “Rules, Balance, and Lifelines,” 11.
17  Sabra Lane, “Donald Trump likely to ask Australia to send ship to South China Sea: ex-Defence official Peter Jennings,”
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, November 17, 2016, accessed December 1, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
14 Michael Coyne

However, such actions will likely strain Sino-Australian relations. Bloomberg has
reported that a Chinese think tank recently labeled the U.S.’ freedom of navigation patrols
as threats to China’s sovereignty.18 If Australia cooperates in such missions, it could draw
significant disapproval from Beijing.
The risks of aggravating China are significant for Australia because of the sheer
magnitude of the Sino-Australian trade relationship. An October 2016 report on the
Australian-American alliance from the University of Sydney’s U.S. Studies Centre states
that “a third of Australian exports go to China, a higher percentage than any other G20
country,” and notes significant gains for Australia from Chinese involvement in infrastruc-
ture investment, tourism, and education.19 Australia’s extensive trade with China makes
it dangerously vulnerable to potential Chinese economic reprisals. In The China Choice,
Hugh White writes that “the close connections between business and government in
China make it easy for China to apply commercial leverage for diplomatic ends…Canber-
ra, like so many other capitals, knows that to protect its immense trading interests, China’s
key concerns must be respected.”20 If Australia participates in actions deemed undesirable
by China, such as naval patrols in the South China Sea, it could face serious consequences.
It is apparent that Australia is soon to face a complicated policy issue. On the one
hand, it will have to address increased requests for security cooperation from President
Trump’s U.S., which will only be exacerbated by the end of security cooperation between
the U.S. and the Philippines. However, Australia must also bear in mind that complying
with such requests may jeopardize the benefits it derives from trade with China.

A Framework for Australia to Evaluate its Options
Australia would do well to should evaluate the current and potential benefits
from a continued alliance with the U.S. In his 2005 essay “Permanent Friends? Historical
Reflections on the Australian-American Alliance”, Peter Edwards lists the guarantee of
security, access to U.S. policymakers, access to U.S. intelligence resources, access to U.S.
scientific research and development materials, and the economic benefits of special access
to the U.S. as the foundational “assets” of the alliance.21 In order to maintain support for
the alliance, Edwards asserts that Australia must ensure “that as many as possible of those

18  “U.S. Naval Patrols Threaten Sovereignty, Chinese Think Tank Warns,” Bloomberg News, November 24, 2016, accessed
November 26, 2016.
19  Richard Fontaine, “Against complacency: Risks and opportunities for the Australia-US alliance,” United States Studies
Centre at the University of Sydney, October 2016, 7.
20  Hugh White, The China Choice: Why we Should Share Power, (Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2013), 42.
21  Peter Edwards, Permanent Friends? Historical Reflections on the Australian-American Alliance, (Double Bay, Australia:
Longueville Media, 2005), 2-3.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
Duterte and Trump at Catalysts for Hard Choices 15

five assets are delivering a positive return at any given time.”22 When the Australian-Amer-
ican alliance is evaluated according to Edwards’ framework, it becomes clear that Australia
cannot afford to forgo its benefits.
Future Security Benefits
On the security front, Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper describes “the criti-
cal role of the United States in ensuring stability in the Indo-Pacific region. The levels of
security and stability we seek in the Indo-Pacific would not be achievable without the
United States.”23 Turnbull himself has remained committed to this vision in the wake of
President Trump’s election. Turnbull, quoted in a November 9, 2016 Guardian article,
believes “[President Trump] is committed to a strong United States…that will continue to
be the foundation for peace and stability as it has been for many, many years.”24
Future Access to United States Policy Makers
The future of Australian access to U.S. policy makers - the second alliance asset in
Edwards’ framework - is slightly more ambiguous, although there is cause for optimism.
Cooperation among the leaders of Australia and the U.S. has reached new highs in recent
years. Peter J. Dean has highlighted the 2013 appointment of an Australian to the position
of Deputy Commanding General (Operations) within the U.S. Army Pacific, as well as
the 2012 appointment of an Australian Naval officer to a commanding position in United
States-administered naval exercises as examples of this cooperation.25 More recently, the
2016 Defence White Paper highlighted the new Australian-based United States Force Pos-
ture Initiatives related to security cooperation as a product of the Australia-United States
Ministerial Meeting (AUSMIN) system.26 While these past successes for Australia do not
guarantee access to key policymakers within the Trump administration, it is worth noting
that, as Graham has pointed out, “Trump’s advisers love Australia.”27 Australian access
to the U.S., through channels such as AUSMIN, does not appear jeopardized by the new
Future Intelligence Cooperation
Intelligence cooperation - the third asset in Edwards’ framework - is a very
significant component of the modern alliance. Dean has written that when it comes to in-
telligence cooperation with the U.S. in the context of the Five Eyes arrangement, “Australia
is an immense beneficiary of this relationship and it simply can’t undertake such extensive
22  Edwards, Permanent Friends?, 3.
23  Department of Defence (Australia), Defence White Paper 2016 (Canberra, 2016), 123.
24  Murphy and Hutchens, “Australian PM Turnbull.”
25  Dean, “ANZUS: The ‘Alliance’ and its Future in Asia.”
26  Defence White Paper 2016, 123.
27  Graham, “The Risks and Ramifications of Trump’s Impulsive Adventurism.”

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
16 Michael Coyne

intelligence operations on its own.”28 According to the 2016 Defence White Paper, “The
[Australian] Government is committed to ensuring that Australia can address the growing
cyber threat including through enhanced cooperation with the United States.” The paper
also lists planned cooperation on space-based intelligence systems.29 The intelligence
aspect of the alliance will continue to bear fruit for Australia long into the future.
Future Access to Research and Development
Access to the products of American scientific research and development, particu-
larly in the military context, is the fourth major asset in Edwards’ framework. The 2016
Defence White Paper notes that “60 per cent of our acquisition spending is on equipment
from the United States. The cost to Australia of developing these high-end capabilities
would be beyond Australia’s capacity without the alliance.”30 The paper also describes a
continued Australian focus on “capabilities that maintain high levels of interoperability
with the United States,” especially with regards to aircraft, submarines, and electronic
warfare initiatives.31 Australia has benefitted and will continue to benefit militarily from
special access to American research and development.
Future Economic Relations Between Australia and the United States
The fifth asset in Edwards’ framework – the benefits for Australia of continued
economic access to the U.S. – is the most controversial. Some observers, such as Weiss,
Thurbon, and Mathews, have called the 2005 Australia-United States Free Trade Agree-
ment (AUSFTA) “extraordinarily lopsided” and full of “unprecedented concessions made
by Australia.”32
While the economic dimensions of the alliance have been criticized, Australia
does benefit from its economic relations with the U.S. Dean notes that “the United States
and Japan are Australia’s number two and three [trade] partners and their combined
economic weight in terms of trade outweighs that of China. In terms of direct foreign
investment in Australia, the U.S. spends ten times (and Japan five times) more than the
Chinese.”33 The AUSFTA has contributed to this trend. Additionally, Tidwell argues that
subsequent arrangements between the U.S. and Australia, such as the E3 visa program for
Australian nationals, owe their existence to the success of the free trade deal.
The election of Donald Trump admittedly complicates this dynamic as President
Trump has notably challenged international free trade agreements - Schake has written
28  Dean, “ANZUS: The ‘Alliance’ and its Future in Asia.”
29  Defence White Paper 2016, 88-89.
30  Defence White Paper 2016, 122.
31  Ibid, 122.
32  Linda Weiss, Elizabeth Thurbon, and John Mathews, How to Kill A Country: Australia’s Devastating Trade Deal with the
United States, (Crow’s Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2004), 4.
33  Dean, “ANZUS: The ‘Alliance’ and its Future in Asia.”

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
Duterte and Trump at Catalysts for Hard Choices 17

that “under Donald Trump, American foreign policy could become indistinguishable
from the zero-sum, coercive mercantilism of Russia and China.”34 However, it is worth
pointing out that President Trump has only criticized a select few trade arrangements on
the campaign trail; on June 28, 2016, the New York Times reported that President Trump
“attacked Mrs. Clinton on her past support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It remains to
be seen if AUSFTA will face similar criticisms.
However, even if President Trump’s antipathy towards international free trade
affects the U.S.’ antipodean economic arrangements, Australia can still benefit from the
American alliance. Edward’s framework stresses the importance of economic relations to
the alliance as a whole; however, Edwards also writes that “Australia’s alliance managers…
must be able to assure their stakeholders that a temporary downturn in performance in
any one area [of the alliance] will be more than compensated by positive results from the
other four.”35 While AUSFTA may come under fire by President Trump, it is not unlikely
that Australia could leverage the American alliance’s other assets in order to offset losses
with gains. For example, Medcalf writes that “Australian policy on the South China Sea
consistently calls for restraint on all sides,” and avoidance of conflict escalation.36 If Aus-
tralia leverages its access to policymakers within the U.S. alliance correctly, it could act as
an influential voice of reason for the Trump administration in the Indo-Pacific.
Moreover, the degree to which Australia is vulnerable to Chinese economic re-
taliation is uncertain. The University of Sydney’s U.S. Studies Centre has noted that “much
of the discussion about China’s possible economic coercion has been abstract…Canberra
requires a better understanding of how its own exports of critical commodities and other
goods to China might represent a source of countervailing pressure if necessary.”37 While
the threat of economic retribution from China should be taken seriously, Australian
policymakers must not allow their judgement to become clouded to the point where the
benefits of the U.S. alliance are called in to question.
If Australia is asked to patrol the South China Sea with the U.S., it should strong-
ly consider doing so despite the risk of cooler relations with China. Failing to do so could
jeopardize a partnership that has provided a diverse array of benefits to Australia. This line
of thinking is vindicated by an analysis of the alliance through the framework outlined by
Edwards in 2005.

34  Schake, “Republican Foreign Policy After Trump,” 34.
35 Edwards, Permanent Friends?, 3.
36  Medcalf, “Rules, Balance, and Lifelines,” 11.
37  Fontaine, “Against complacency,” 9.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
18 Michael Coyne

Public Opinion Surveys as a Source of Concern
While the benefits Australia derives from the U.S. alliance are clear and likely
to continue, an enduring U.S. alliance is not the only scenario for Australia’s future, as is
demonstrated by contemporary Australian domestic politics and public opinion surveys.
Management of the attitudes described in this section may be crucial in order for Austra-
lia to ensure a sustainable future for its alliance with the U.S.
Recent research illustrates some potentially risky trends in public perception
of the American alliance. The June 2016 Survey on America’s Role in the Asia Pacific,
conducted by the Asian Research Network within the U.S. Studies Centre at the University
of Sydney, “suggests that Australians are significantly more likely to nominate China as
the most influential country in Asia, even more so than Chinese respondents (69 percent
versus 56 percent) 69 percent of Australian respondents judge that China has replaced or
will replace the United States as the world’s leading superpower.”38 Furthermore, a 2016
report from the University of Sydney’s USSC notes that while the U.S. alliance is a popular
concept in Australia, “support falls off when the public is queried about concrete policy
choices, such as…pushing China from militarized sea features…Such sentiments illustrate
the widening gap between national security elites and the broader public on questions
related to the alliance.”39 The Australian public may not see trade-offs stemming from a
Trump-prompted choice on China in the same way that Australian policymakers will.
A significant disconnect between the Australian government and the Australian
public could lead to a scenario in which the U.S. alliance is genuinely called into question.
On November 15, 2016, Australian Senator Penny Wong, the opposition Labor Party’s
spokeswoman on foreign affairs, argued that after President Trump’s election, “defining
an independent foreign policy within an alliance framework is now a more complex task.
It is one for which we need to consider a broader range of scenarios than was previously
within contemplation.”40 It is conceivable that Australia’s opposition parties could draw
significant public support with a more pro-China message, considering the Australian
public’s view of China in comparison to the U.S. In such a scenario, American requests
for Australia to participate in military operations criticized by China could lead to a
significant reevaluation of the American alliance. While this paper argues that Australia
will likely choose to preserve the many benefits of the U.S. alliance in the face of possible
Chinese coercion, it is not certain.

38  Simon Jackman et al, “The Asian Research Network: Survey on America’s Role in the Asia-Pacific,” United States Studies
Centre at the University of Sydney, June 2016, 34-35.
39  Fontaine, “Against complacency,” 10-11.
40  Penny Wong, “Trump's election is a turning point for Australian foreign policy,” The Sydney Morning Herald, November 15,
2016, accessed December 11, 2016.

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Duterte and Trump at Catalysts for Hard Choices 19

Conclusion: Hard Choices, but a (Relatively) Clear Path
Australia will face a slate of complex foreign policy choices in the years to come.
The Trump administration’s calls for greater alliance burden-sharing, coupled with
Duterte’s movement of the Philippines away from the U.S. and towards China, will cause
Canberra to face increased demands to cooperate with the U.S. on security matters, such
as naval patrols in the contested South China Sea. Complying with such demands would
admittedly put Australia at risk of retaliatory action from China. However, the benefits
Australia derives from the Australian-American alliance – security, access to American
policymakers, access to intelligence data, and access to the fruits of American research
and development – are simply too beneficial to forego.
A deteriorating trade relationship with President Trump’s U.S. is a possibility,
though unlikely just as the potential magnitude of Chinese economic retaliation is pres-
ently only understood as an abstract concept. Australian policymakers should be mindful
of the international economic issues the country could face in the future, but they should
not allow speculation to obscure long-term strategic vision. That being said, policy mak-
ers should also be cognizant aware of the attitudes the Australian people hold towards
the alliance with the U.S. Adroit management of public perception of the alliance will
be essential; greater publicity of the benefits of the alliance, such as the possible role of
Australia as a moderating force in the Indo-Pacific, could go a long way towards achieving
this end. Australia’s uncertain future can be navigated successfully if Australia critically
evaluates its international standing and relationships. If Australian policy makers conduct
these analyses and allow them to inform policy, ANZUS is likely to endure.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
20 Michael Coyne

Works Cited
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Bilefsky, Dan. “NATO Chief ‘Absolutely Confident’ Donald Trump Will Maintain U.S.
Role.” New York Times, November 18, 2016. Accessed December 1, 2016.
Corasaniti, Nick, Alexander Burns, and Binyamin Appelbaum. “Donald Trump Vows to
Rip Up Trade Deals and Confront China.” New York Times, June 28, 2016. Accessed
December 12, 2016.
Davis, Malcom. “Duterte: A bull in a China shop.” The Strategist (blog). Australian Strategic
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a New Era? Edited by Peter J. Dean et al. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing,
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Department of Defence (Australia). Defence White Paper 2016. Canberra, 2016.
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Edwards, Peter. Permanent Friends? Historical Reflections on the Australian-American
Alliance. Double Bay, Australia: Longueville Media, 2005.
Fontaine, Richard. “Against complacency: Risks and opportunities for the Australia-US
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Graham, Euan. “The Risks and Ramifications of Trump’s Impulsive Adventurism.” Com-
mentary (blog). Lowy Institute for International Policy, November 9, 2016. Jackman,
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Pacific.” United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, June 2016.
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Defence official Peter Jennings.” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, November 17,
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na Sea.” Asia Policy 21 (2016): 6-13.
Murphy, Katharine and Gareth Hutchens. “Australian PM Turnbull says Trump will project
'enhanced military power' in Asia Pacific.” The Guardian, November 9, 2016. Accessed
November 27, 2016.

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Schake, Kori. “Republican Foreign Policy After Trump.” Survival: Global Politics and Stra-
egy, 58:5 (2016), 33-52.
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Morning Herald, November 15, 2016. Accessed December 11, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
ISIS: The Next Maoist Insurgency?
Sophie Pu

Since the events of September 11, 2001, Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist or-
ganizations have been prominent in the minds of the American people. This, in conjunction
with the numerous attacks on Western nations in the subsequent years, has contributed to a
rapidly growing paranoia of the Middle East and Islam. This paper analyzes the behaviors and
activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) through a Maoist scope in an effort to
deconstruct the insurgency processes of the terrorist group. The analysis shows that the process
employed by ISIS bears striking resemblance to the theories propagated by Mao Zedong in
his own writings. These similarities follow the three-part process of Mao’s conceptions of in-
surgency: the strategic defensive stage, the equilibrium stage, and the strategic offensive stage.
Evidence shows that ISIS has achieved varying degrees of progress in each stage, but that the
group has at least established themselves in all three.
By analyzing ISIS' processes through a Maoist scope, weaknesses in its regime are
revealed. Moreover, this analysis may prove helpful in proposing policies to eradicate the threat
that ISIS poses to Western civilizations.

Although Western audiences have only recently become acquainted with ISIS, the
group has existed under various names since the early 1990s.1 ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq
and Syria, is a jihadist group that gained international attention when it captured large
swathes of territory across the Middle East, namely in Syria and Iraq. Since then, the West
has been consumed with finding a way to combat the group. Under Draconian foreign poli-
cies, the West has struggled to combat terrorist attacks from ISIS. Moreover, many citizens
in Western countries lack an understanding of the nature of ISIS and its history, contribut-
ing to the growing trend of Islamophobia. An investigation of classic insurgency and coun-
terinsurgency theories, namely Maoist revolutionary theory, may prove useful in educating
the West about the motives and processes of ISIS and developing better policies to combat
the organization.
This essay suggests that although ISIS employs strategies that resemble the stag-
es of a Maoist revolution, it deviates from the theoretical goals detailed in Maoist theory.

1  Bobby Ghosh, “ISIS: A Short History,” The Atlantic, August 14, 2014, accessed Jul 2, 2016.

Sophie pu is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying
International Relations with a minor in Modern Middle Eastern Studies.
ISIS: The Next Maoist Insurgency? 23

Through an examination of its revolutionary process, it is revealed that ISIS heavily relies
on the support of the people and is built on an infrastructure of hatred and dissatisfaction.
This conclusion sheds light on the effects of heavy-handed policies employed by the West,
and suggests alternative, more unified policies that have proven to be more effective in the
fight against ISIS.
In his text, On Guerrilla Warfare and On Protracted War, Mao establishes three
stages in which an insurgency must engage and complete to successfully overthrow its op-
The First Stage
The first stage Mao defines is the strategic defensive stage. This stage outlines
the importance of party expansion into the local towns of an occupation; the group must
establish itself among the local people as kind and helpful individuals in order to gener-
ate popular support. For example, party members may take on key roles in society so as
to obtain swaying power, and other members may recruit and generate support for the
movement. In doing so, the group creates a sense of dissent and unrest among the local
peoples against its opponents, such that it becomes easier for the opponent to be internally
overthrown and for the group to secure a safe base in which to operate with local support
and resources. However, while acknowledging the importance of a good rapport with
locals, Mao also emphasizes the need to eliminate local opponents.
The Second Stage
The second stage is the equilibrium stage. This stage may only occur if the first
stage was successful; that is, only when the insurgency has sufficient popular support.
Throughout this stage, the party launches small-scale violence, expanding action into
guerrilla warfare. This includes increased recruitment and training, hit-and-run tactics,
petty warfare, and mobile military tactics. In doing so, Mao suggests that the group is able
to dominate a small local area to set up a revolutionary administration; this proves to the
local people that not only was the group capable of defeating the opponent, but also that it
could provide a preferable alternative.2
The Third Stage
Finally, the third and allegedly fastest stage is the strategic offensive stage. This
culminates after an extended period of the first two stages, in which the insurgent group
is finally able to fight its opponents in traditional military terms with aspects of guerrilla

2  Mao Zedong, On Protracted War, accessed July 2, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
24 Sophie Pu

History of ISIS
ISIS began as a “fervent fantasy” of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an ardent jihadist
from Jordan.3 Now, under the reign of a new leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS has initi-
ated a reign of terror, with strikes and attacks across the world. Between 2014 and 2016,
ISIS instigated 90 attacks on 21 countries, killing approximately 1,400 civilians and mili-
tary personnel.4 Although the West remains divided on the group’s intentions and charac-
teristics, it is generally agreed upon that ISIS and its followers are devoted to a particular
tradition of Islam, and that the group labels anyone who deviates from this interpretation,
including other Muslims, as an apostate. ISIS uses this rationale as justification for violent
executions and brutal schemes. Furthermore, while al-Qaeda is “flexible, operating as a
geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells, the Islamic State, by contrast, requires
territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it.”5 This group infrastruc-
ture is reminiscent of the structure employed by communist insurgents in China.

ISIS' Strategies and Varying Degrees of Success
In accordance with Mao’s insurgent philosophy, ISIS’ “first priority is to win the
trust and cooperation of civilians, who are an essential source of information, labor, and
other material resources that are necessary for territorial expansion and state-building”
whenever geographic expansion occurs.6 This takes the form of handing out free or heavily
subsidized food and fighting crime. For example, upon occupying Aleppo in 2013, ISIS dis-
tributed a pamphlet outlining the services it would provide to citizens.7 Syrians heavily rely
on bread as their primary means of sustenance, so when ISIS took over the bread supplies
in a few major cities, it distributed flour and supplies to families and bakeries at reduced
prices. This act combated the poor harvests, high inflation, and economic contraction in
Syria, and painted the Islamic State as a “Robin Hood” of sorts, mitigating the effects of
poor governing by officials.8
However, this policy of help with no return did not last long. After a few months,
ISIS began demanding that citizens pay zakat, and, in return, ISIS would create social in-
frastructures such as a justice system, offer protection, and provide services that are vital to
a budding society, such as electricity and health care.9 Under ISIS’ social contract, citizens
were “compliant with two main obligations: exclusive allegiance to ISIS and material sup-

3  Ghosh, “ISIS: A Short History.”
4  “ISIS Goes Global,” CNN, accessed Jul 2, 2016.
5  Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic, March 2015, accessed Jul 2, 2016.
6  Mara Revkin, “Isis’ Social Contract,” Foreign Affairs, July 10, 2016, accessed Jul 2, 2016.
7  Jose Ciro Martinez and Brent Eng, “Islamic State Works to Win Hearts, Minds with Bread”, Al-Monitor, July 29, 2014, ac-
cessed Jul 2, 2016.
8 Ibid.
9  Revkin, “Isis’ Social Contract.”

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
ISIS: The Next Maoist Insurgency? 25

port for governance and jihad through either tax payments or military service.”10 Despite
ISIS’s terror and coercion, it provided citizens with a governance that - if only narrowly
- was preferable to a Syrian dictatorship, sectarian Iraqi governance, or rule by the heavily
corrupt, rival militant group, the Free Syrian Army.11 Twitter polls have shown that in Iraq,
“72 percent of respondents said they supported the Islamic State over the Shia militias in
the battle of Fallujah; 84 percent said that the Iranian occupation posed a greater threat than
the Islamic State.”12
In spite of the initial success of its regime to accrue support, there seems to be
festering resentment in ISIS’ occupied cities. For example, in Dier ez-Zor, Syria, there is
growing starvation and unemployment in the face of the lavish lifestyles led by ISIS fight-
ers.13 Moreover, ISIS fighters themselves seem to be losing faith in the campaign, an aspect
unaccounted for in Mao’s writings. In March 2016 alone, data showed that “hundreds of
ISIS fighters reportedly defected from Raqqa and Aleppo…[and] a high percentage of them
are Syrian.”14 Defection occurs for numerous reasons: a desire to escape a weakening ISIS,
disgust with ISIS’ corruption, realization that ISIS has become as authoritarian and violent
as the regimes it promised to overthrow, decreasing ISIS salaries, and redirection of efforts
from overthrowing the Syrian regime to other regimes; as a result, soldiers who wanted to
fight for the Syrian civilians are left feeling deceived and frustrated.15 Furthermore, it seems
that many of the deserters joined ISIS out of fear for their families and their own wellbeing;
ISIS recruited many imprisoned criminals who knew it was a choice between recruitment
and death.16
It remains undetermined as to whether or not ISIS has achieved the first step of
insurgency outlined by Mao. While it began in the same vein, it seems that the vices of
corruption and greed have muddled the campaign for public support. Although its reign is
certainly one of terror and fear, ISIS appears to have completed the first stage of Mao’s revo-
lutionary war with relative success. Local support was not only given, but given in promise
of preference to its goals over any other regime, Iraqi or Syrian. However, its acquisition of
support from the citizens seems to be in decline, in conjunction with internal conflicts and
defection that greatly weaken ISIS’ regime. Thus, it may be concluded that although it had
garnered public support with its policies and social contracts in the past, corruption and
internal contradictions have seriously diminished much of its support from outside and

10  Revkin, “Isis’ Social Contract.”.
11 Ibid.
12  Marc Lynch, “Sectarianism and the Campaign to Retake Fallujah,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, accessed Jul
2, 2016.
13  Revkin, “Isis’ Social Contract.”
14  Mara Revkin, Ahmad Mhidi, “Quitting Isis,” Foreign Affairs, June 17, 2016, accessed Jul 2, 2016.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
26 Sophie Pu

While it is unlikely that Mao could have foreseen his theory being applicable to
a group of violent terrorists, it seems that ISIS has developed a modern rendition of Mao’s
guerrilla warfare techniques. ISIS’ preeminent warfare tactics, or the tactics employed be-
fore instigating traditional war, are divided into more conventional guerrilla tactics and
modern renditions of such strategies.
Traditional guerrilla tactics, unsurprisingly, take place in the Middle East, where
there might be two armies — ISIS and a nation’s army — fighting one another. As illustrated
in Mao’s texts, “the guerrilla warfare will be successful, and if it is well conducted the enemy
may be able to retain only about one-third of his occupied territory, with the remaining
two-thirds in [the insurgents’] hands.”17 ISIS’ guerrilla tactics have proved successful thus
far, namely in its efforts in Baghdad. The Iraqi soldiers’ efforts to combat it have proved
insufficient, as Brigadier General Nasir al-Fartousi, Commander of the Interior Ministry
Rapid Intervention Division notes, “They are professionals in guerrilla warfare, contrary to
our forces which follow an old fighting style.”18 “Guerrilla warfare is the great timeserver of
military strategy. Guerrilla operations are the muck, the quicksand in which military ma-
chinery bogs down in futility.”19 Consistent with Mao’s texts, guerilla tactics have allowed
ISIS to maintain its strongholds in its regions of occupation. However, more relevant to the
Western war against terror is the discussion of ISIS terrorist attacks across the world.
By not engaging in traditional war, ISIS’ small, localized attacks across the
globe seem to represent a modernized interpretation of Mao’s guerrilla warfare. Through
individual localized shootings in unexpected locations, ISIS manages to initiate surprise
attacks on countries that have larger, better-resourced armies. In this way, ISIS actually
has the upper hand, because by purposefully evading large scale attacks (its largest attack
left 224 dead in Egypt in October 2015), it creates widespread fear and attention for its
movement, without using as much manpower or as many resources as would be required
to create such terror through a conventional war.20

17  Mao Zedong, On Protracted War.
18  Michael Gregory, “Iraqi commanders: We're outmatched by ISIS guerrilla warfare,” Business Insider, June 23, 2015, accessed
Jul 2, 2016.
19  Edward L., Katzenbach, and Gene Z, Hanrahan, "The Revolutionary Strategy of Mao Tse-Tung,” Political Science Quarterly
70, no. 3 (1955): p. 329.
20  Karen Yourdish, Derek Watkins, Tom Giratikano and Jasmine C. Lee, “How Many People Have Been Killed
in ISIS Attacks Around the World,” New York Times, accessed Jul 2, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
ISIS: The Next Maoist Insurgency? 27

Western Responses to ISIS
In spite of many successful campaigns in the Middle East, ISIS’ ‘hit-and-run’ tactic
against the West has led to increased Western involvement on the warfront. As such, the
Islamic State has been forced into war before establishing the footholds that Mao suggested
in the second stage. While certainly it seems that ISIS was en route to following the second
stage, it incited Western involvement that forced it to engage in traditional warfare. At this
rate, it seems that the war between the West and ISIS is a war of resources and management
of the spread of fear, rather than the guerrilla warfare originally outlined in Mao’s texts.
In spite of this, it must be acknowledged that ISIS saw initial success in its tactics. Unfor-
tunately for them, Western powers are much better equipped than the imperial Japanese
forces of Mao’s time.
In the final stage of insurgency, Mao writes that the insurgents are finally ready
to conduct war after years of guerrilla warfare and establishing themselves among the lo-
cals. Thus far, ISIS has engaged in war with the West, however, not necessarily on its own
terms. Following the November 2015 Paris attacks, France and the U.S. launched airstrikes
in Syria, 50 American Special Operations troops have been deployed in Iraq and Syria, the
British have strengthened intelligence cooperation with counterparts across Europe, and
multiple European countries have tightened their borders to protect against malicious ISIS
fighters.21, 22, 23 Therefore, it is unsurprising that ISIS seems to be losing this battle.
However, military statistics are not entirely representative of the state of foreign af-
fairs in regards to Islamic terrorism. The ideological and psychological threat posed by ISIS
to the West is even more dangerous than its physical forces. Terrorism is not an existential
threat because it does not threaten the existence of the state. However, the way the West
reacts to terrorism will have far greater consequences for the existence of ISIS. So far, the
responses of the U.S. and the West have been distinctly draconian; for example the shut-
ting of European borders and the Turkish agreement with the EU to send Syrian refugees
in Europe back to Turkey.24 These measures are threatening to the politics of the West, as
they violate international laws and fundamentally contradict the image of the West as moral
and democratic. Furthermore, as a result of the power disparity between the U.S. and ISIS,
terrorist activities are difficult to halt completely as Western citizens can be corrupted into
participating in domestic terrorism. The prolonged, low-level nature of terrorism can have
a corrosive effect on international politics, the political nature of the affected states, and

21  David Nakamura and Karen DeYoung, “France Launches Fierce Assault on ISIS Targets in Syria,” The Washington Post, Nov.
15, 2015, accessed July 2, 2016.
22  Theresa May, “Home Secretary on the Brussels Terror Attacks,” Speech to U.K. Parliament, London, England, March, 23,
23  Ian Traynor, “Is the Schengen Dream of Europe without Borders becoming a Thing of the Past?” The Guardian, Jan. 5, 2016,
accessed July 2, 2016.
24  Jennifer Rankin, “EU Strikes Deal with Turkey to Send Back Refugees,” The Guardian, Mar. 18, 2016, accessed July 2, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
28 Sophie Pu

people’s sense of security.
It appears that the third stage of revolutionary war described by Maoist theory has
begun, although it is not necessarily on ISIS’ terms. Nonetheless, ISIS poses a threat to the
West in a theological and ideological sense. It may be understood that while ISIS certainly
employed many of the Maoist methods, corruption, internal conflict, and the differences in
circumstances have thwarted it. The fight between the Chinese and Japanese in the Chinese
countryside is a very different fight from that of ISIS and the Middle Eastern nations and
the West. Although the Islamic State began all three stages, it nonetheless experienced some
failures at each point, leaving the ultimate result rather different from the victory Mao de-
As such, it would be prudent to discuss the ways in which the West might combat
ISIS’ terrorism and violence. In observing the failures of ISIS to complete each step, weak-
nesses are revealed in its regime that may be exploited. First, through its failures to complete
stage one of Mao’s revolutionary process, it becomes evident that its support within the
Middle East, although still present, is waning. Furthermore, ISIS heavily relies on social
media to spread extremist messages; the United States has been spending money to pro-
vide “seed funding and other support to NGOs and media startups focused on counter-
ing violent extremist messaging.”25 Recently, companies such as Twitter and online hacker
groups such as Anonymous and CtrlSec have begun aggressively shutting down Twitter
accounts that support extremist action; in less than a year, Twitter has pulled down more
than 125,000 Twitter accounts promoting terrorist activities.26
These anti-ISIS policies have largely mitigated the growth of the Islamic State. Al-
though Western governments have used a plethora of methods to combat ISIS, it seems that
putting efforts towards decreasing the group’s popular support is very effective. According
to the Pentagon, ISIS recruited an average of 2,000 foreign fighters a month in 2015; how-
ever, that figure dropped to 200 by May 2016,“which means ISIS can’t replace battlefield
losses as quickly.”27 Therefore, these techniques of waging war against the Islamist State are
proving relatively effective, and efforts to reduce the support for the group have internally
disrupted much of the group’s synergy and harmony.
While more aggressive maneuvers such as engaging in conventional warfare and
destroying ISIS’ holds of oil and banks have depleted ISIS’ resources and caused internal
conflict, such efforts may encourage not only retaliation but also more anti-Western senti-
ment. Anti-Western sentiments may be the most powerful weapon that ISIS possesses. As
long as ISIS may regale those feeling oppressed by the West with tales of exploitation, xeno-
phobia and ignorance, so will ISIS and other Islamic terrorist movements survive. Although

25  Ian Bremmer, “4 Reasons the War Against ISIS Is Working—and 1 Reason It’s Not,” Time, May 5, 2016, accessed Jul 2, 2016.
26 Ibid.
27 Ibid.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
ISIS: The Next Maoist Insurgency? 29

exorbitant policies of blanket prosecution and banning Muslims from Western states may
reassure the masses, it is by no means an effective or long-term solution because such poli-
cies cultivate the alienation of a minority based on the actions of a few.
Jordon provides a successful example of using open policies to effectively protect
against ISIS. Although Jordan may appear primed for trouble, as ISIS has attacked almost
all of its neighbors, the total number of deaths by ISIS in the country is five. In addition
to strong military defenses, lengthy experience in fighting terrorists, and a country uni-
fied against ISIS, Jordan’s greatest moves in its defense against an ISIS invasion is the open
political space it has adopted. While regimes in Syria and Libya created alienation and re-
sentment through violence and force against political rivals during Arab Springs that is
now exploited by ISIS, Jordan decided to take a more peaceful approach.28 Even as a non-
democratic country, Jordan maintains pleasant relations with the Muslims in the country
and many of its other political groups, allowing citizens to openly air their frustrations and
demands. In maintaining solidarity and peaceful responses to ISIS violence, Jordan bar-
ricades itself under a sense of justice and professionalism.29
This nation-wide behavior bears a shocking contrast to the behaviors of political
figures in the West. For example, U.S. President Donald Trump stated that the terrorism sit-
uation in the U.S. was “going to get worse and worse because [the United States] are lax and
[…] foolish — [the U.S.] can't allow these people [Muslims] to come into [the] country.”30
Reports of Islamophobic-driven hate-crimes have amassed at an alarming rate since his
election. Furthermore, between 2014-15, England and Wales saw a little over 50,000 report-
ed similar incidences of violent, discriminatory behavior.31 The growing Islamophobia in
the West perpetuates alienation of minorities, and instead of decreasing popular support for
extremist movements, it may drive more people towards resentment and militant activity.

The nuances of the Islamist extremist movement may be examined and revealed
by analyzing ISIS within a Maoist scope of a revolutionary war. Although ISIS’ strategies
bear a striking resemblance to the stages of a Maoist insurgency, it fell short at each stage as
a result of the very nature of its movement; violence is not only expensive and depletes its
resources, but ultimately alienates the large majority of people. The dependency of ISIS on
material resources and popular support shows that Western behaviors of Islamophobia and
Draconian foreign policies are extremely insufficient. This analysis has shown that in order

28  Aaron Magid, “Isis Meets Its Match?,” Foreign Affairs, February 17, 2016, accessed Jul 2, 2016.
29 Ibid.
30  Donald Trump, “Interview on Fox and Friends,” Interview on Fox and Friends by Fox News, 2016.
31  Aisha Gani, “Targeting of London Muslims Triples after Paris Attacks,” The Guardian, Dec. 4, 2015, accessed July 2, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
30 Sophie Pu

to properly combat ISIS, the method adopted by the West should avoid marginalization and
instead create a unified front, wherein minorities feel safe and are not driven into the arms
of extremists. The degree to which terrorism poses as an existential threat is dependent
on governments’ responses to terrorism. Governments may choose to promote solidarity,
or they may continue to develop policies that promote marginalization and violate inter-
national law; this choice will largely influence to the degree of success of ISIS’ movement.
States may prove to be bigger threats to themselves than the threat they face from organiza-
tions like ISIS.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
ISIS: The Next Maoist Insurgency? 31

Works Cited
Bremmer, Ian. “4 Reasons the War Against ISIS Is Working—and 1 Reason It’s Not.” Time,
May 5, 2016. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Gani, Aisha. “Targeting of London Muslims Triples after Paris Attacks.” The Guardian, De-
cember 4, 2015. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Ghosh, Bobby. “ISIS: A Short History.” The Atlantic, August 14, 2014. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Gregory, Michael. “Iraqi commanders: We're outmatched by ISIS guerrilla warfare.” Busi-
ness Insider, June 23, 2015. Accessed July 2, 2016.
“ISIS Goes Global,” CNN. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Katzenbach, Edward L., and Gene Z. Hanrahan. “The Revolutionary Strategy of Mao Tse-
Tung.” Political Science Quarterly 70, no. 3 (1955): 329.
Lynch, Marc. “Sectarianism and the Campaign to Retake Fallujah.” Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, June 17, 2016. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Magid, Aaron. “Isis Meets Its Match?” Foreign Affairs, February 17, 2016. Accessed July 2,
Mao, Zedong. On Protracted War. Peking: Foreign Languages Press. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Martinez, Jose Ciro, and Brent Eng. “Islamic State Works to Win Hearts, Minds with Bread.”
Al-Monitor, July 29, 2014. Accessed July 2, 2016.
May, Theresa. “Home Secretary on the Brussels Terror Attacks.” Speech to U.K. Parliament,
London, England, March 23, 2016.
Nakamura, David, and Karen DeYoung. “France Launches Fierce Assault on ISIS Targets in
Syria.” The Washington Post, November 15, 2015. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Rankin, Jennifer. “EU Strikes Deal with Turkey to Send Back Refugees.” The Guardian,
March 18, 2016. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Revkin, Mara. “Isis’ Social Contract.” Foreign Affairs, July 10, 2016. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Revkin, Mara, and Ahmad Mhidi. “Quitting Isis.” Foreign Affairs, May 1, 2016. Accessed
July 2, 2016.
Traynor, Ian. “Is the Schengen Dream of Europe without Borders becoming a Thing of the
Past?” The Guardian, Jan. 5, 2016. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Trump, Donald. “Interview on Fox and Friends.” Interview on Fox and Friends by Fox
News, 2016.
Wood, Graeme. “What ISIS Really Wants.” The Atlantic, March 2015. Accessed July 2, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
32 Sophie Pu

Yourdish, Karen, Derek Watkins, Tom Giratikano, and Jasmine C. Lee. “How Many People
Have Been Killed in ISIS Attacks Around the World.” New York Times. Accessed July
2, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
ISIS: The Next Maoist Insurgency? 33

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
The Road to Great Power Status
Continuity and Change in Sino-Russian Relations
Maria Belen Wu

This paper aims to examine the continuities and changes in Sino-Russian relations with spe-
cial focus on the post-Cold War period and the Putin era. Through analysis of energy security
and economic development, influence in Central Asia, and military and territorial ambitions,
it becomes evident that the key feature of post-Cold War Sino-Russian relations is their shared
pursuit for great power status. This pursuit generates opportunities for both cooperation and
competition in different spheres. Finally, this paper explores the future of relations between
Russia and China, concluding that the coming years will mark a crucial defining period, with
heightened uncertainties and abounding opportunities for seeking great power status.

China and Russia are two of the largest countries in the world. Historically, they
have also been the most powerful nations in their respective regions of the world. In mod-
ern times, due to their close proximity, China and Russia have alternately cooperated and
competed on issues regarding territory, security, ideology, and economic development.
Thus, Sino-Russian relations exhibit relevant continuities and changes as both
countries and the world undergo significant sociopolitical and economic transforma-
tions. On the one hand, geopolitics has been a constant focal point of both Russian and
Chinese foreign policy, reflected in their numerous border disputes, cooperation in energy
security, and competition for regional dominance. Despite recurrent frictions, China and
Russia have never waged large-scale war against each other. More recently, Sino-Russian
relations have been characterized by frequent changes in power dynamics. This shifting of
relative power was visible in the waning of China’s Qing dynasty against a strengthening
Tsarist Russia; the heated, but nonviolent rivalry during the Cold War period; and finally
the weakening of the Russian Federation against a rising People’s Republic of China.
This paper aims to examine the continuities and changes in Sino-Russian rela-
tions with special focus on the post-Cold War period and the Putin era. Through analysis
of energy security and economic development, influence in Central Asia, and military
and territorial ambitions, it becomes evident that the key feature of post-Cold War Sino-

Maria Belen Wu is a junior BA/MA candidate at Johns Hopkins University study-
ing International Studies and Economics.
The Road to Great Power Status 35

Russian relations is their shared pursuit for great power status. This pursuit generates op-
portunities for both cooperation and competition in different spheres. Finally, this paper
explores the future of relations between Russia and China, concluding that the coming
years will mark a crucial defining period, with heightened uncertainties and abounding
opportunities for seeking great power status.

From Imperial to Communist Ties
Early Sino-Russian relations were characterized by three key issues: border
disputes, the Mongols, and trade. This period witnessed the gradual shift of power from
China in the late seventeenth century to the Russian Empire by the end of the Qing dy-
nasty in 1911. From the 17th century until the early 1900s, a series of border demarcations
and revisions occurred. Negotiations began with The Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689, the
first ever treaty between the two countries. The period ended with the Russo-Mongolian
Agreement of 1912. Throughout this period, Russia gradually weakened China’s spheres
of influence in Manchuria and Mongolia while a combination of domestic dissent and
foreign encroachment led to the downfall of the Qing dynasty.
Russia emerged from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil
War (1917-22) as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). At around the same
time, the newly established Republic of China (ROC) saw the rise of the Chinese Na-
tionalist Party, also known as the Kuomintang (KMT) party and the development of the
Chinese Communist Party (CCP). A CCP-KMT rivalry for national leadership ensued
combined with intermittent Soviet Soviet intervention. The eventual victory of the CCP in
the late 1940s led to a power struggle between the CCP and the USSR for the future face of
communism during the Cold War.
The victory of the CCP represented a tumultuous period for Sino-Soviet rela-
tions. Before the CCP defeated the KMT, Stalin and the USSR made the decision of back-
ing the older and more established KMT instead of supporting the newer and more feeble
CCP. Stalin recognized the choice might lead to the creation of a KMT bourgeois national
leadership, but also expected them to win. Even though the CCP was ideologically more
compatible with the USSR, the USSR believed Mao and his party were less likely to suc-
ceed and unseasoned in the complex matters of national leadership and defense. Ulti-
mately, Stalin’s choice to support the KMT and adopt a united front with the CCP led to a
series of policy blunders that set an undertone of distrust and hostility for future relations
between Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong.
After the CCP’s victory against the KMT in the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950)
and the subsequent proclamation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the
USSR faced a new set of issues in how to engage with the CCP. On the one hand, China

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
36 Maria Belen Wu

was now a de facto Soviet ally in the communist bloc and the Cold War: it was in the
interest of the USSR to foster Chinese communist support. On the other hand, the PRC
achieved victory largely independent from Soviet military assistance and counsel, raising
questions about the feasibility of incorporating China as a satellite state in the Soviet-led
bloc. In addition, China’s large size and economic potential made it a likely rival to the
USSR as the leader of the international communist movement. Despite frictions, Soviet
leadership sought cooperation with the PRC in the first years of bilateral relations.
The USSR became more vulnerable to turmoil in its internal and external empire
under Nikita Khrushchev, as demonstrated by the outbreak of the Polish and Hungarian
uprisings in 1956. During this time, China was increasingly perceived as a potential threat
to Soviet primacy in the communist bloc. This was indicative of the broader Cold War
power struggle that was beginning to form between China and the USSR, which eventual-
ly led to the Sino-Soviet split in 1960. The USSR grew increasingly alarmed by Mao’s bold
policy choices, such as the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962), which the Soviets interpreted
as a challenge to Soviet ideological prominence. In addition, “China’s quest for control of
Taiwan and the offshore islands, its brutal repressions in Tibet, and its campaign to force
adjustments on the Sino-Indian border escalated global tensions at a time when Khrush-
chev was emphasizing peaceful coexistence.”1 Meanwhile, Chinese disillusionment with
Soviet policy became evident. The USSR intentionally and repeatedly took neutral stances
on issues concerning Chinese interests, directing economic aid mainly to nationalist
regimes in Third World countries while decreasing aid to China. To the Chinese, this was
reminiscent of Stalin’s choice of the nationalist KMT over the CCP and served to revive
bitterness and aggravated Sino-Soviet relations.
Tensions continued to escalate throughout the 1960s with a revival of Sino-Rus-
sian border conflicts. Political scientists Donaldson and Nogee write, “the Chinese cited
nine ‘unequal treaties’ that had been forced on China by the tsars, and they laid claim to
580,000 square miles of Soviet territory in the Far East.”2 By 1969, the Sino-Soviet border
conflict had become highly militarized, with a large concentration of tactical nuclear-
armed missile sites on both sides. Armed clashes occurred at the eastern frontier along
the Ussuri River, and there was talk of preemptive nuclear strikes. In the cooling of their
relationship, both China and USSR were incentivized to seek stronger relations with the
U.S. Thus, the Sino-Soviet split engendered a key shift in the balance of power, possibly
promoting Sino-American rapprochement and détente between the U.S. and the USSR.
The death of Mao in 1976 and the rise of Deng Xiaoping contributed to the even-
tual thaw in Sino-Soviet relations. Deng’s detachment from Maoist policies and Marxist-

1  Robert H. Donaldson, Joseph L. Nogee, and Vidya Nadkarni, The Foreign Policy of Russia: Changing Systems, Enduring Inter-
ests (New York: Routledge, 2014), 88.
2  Ibid., 89.

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The Road to Great Power Status 37

Leninist ideology opened the possibility of normalizing relations. In 1979, Deng proposed
the removal of three obstacles imposed by the USSR as conditions to improve ties between
the two countries, namely the Soviet army at the Sino-Soviet border and in Mongolia,
Soviet support for the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, and the Soviet occupation of
Afghanistan. In 1982, Brezhnev offered diplomatic reconciliation with China, and Deng
Sino-Soviet rapprochement accelerated in the Gorbachev years. In 1988, Gor-
bachev decided to withdraw the USSR from the costly war in Afghanistan, via a phased
withdrawal of troops concluding in 1989. In the same year, Gorbachev encouraged Viet-
nam to withdraw its remaining troops from Cambodia. Donaldson and Nogee state, “with
two of China’s three conditions for a normalization in relations thus realized, Gorbachev
traveled to Beijing in May 1989 for the first Sino-Soviet summit in twenty years.”3 There,
he addressed the USSR’s decision to fulfill the last condition for normalization by uni-
laterally reducing Soviet garrisons at the Sino-Soviet border and in Mongolia, proposing
demilitarization of the entire border and the resolution of the contentious border-de-
marcation matter. This was concluded in the 1991 Sino-Soviet Border Agreement, which
stated both parties’ intentions for peaceful border demarcation through the center of the
main channel of any river.
The timing of Gorbachev’s trip to China contributed to the warming of relations
between the two states. In 1989, the Chinese government brutally repressed protests in
Tiananmen Square and subsequently received harsh penalties from the U.S. for its human
rights violations. These penalties included “the suspension of military cooperation and
arms sales and the postponement of loans from international financial institutions.”4 As a
result, China’s relationship with the U.S. cooled; this created an opportunity for a Sino-So-
viet reconciliation that would lay the groundwork for a strong post-Cold War relationship.
Post-Cold War and the Putin Era
Sino-Soviet rapprochement gained momentum as the dissolution of the USSR
became imminent in 1991, making progress in economic and military cooperation. Don-
aldson and Nogee note that, “Russia and China signed a new trade agreement, and the
chief of staff of the CIS armed forces concluded an agreement to sell twenty-four SU-27
fighter planes to China.”5 In 1992, Boris Yeltsin paid his first official visit to China as the
President of the Russian Federation, concluding many agreements, amongst them a mu-
tual promise not to enter military-political alliances directed against each other. Further-
more, a bilateral summit held in Beijing in 1996 between Jiang Zemin and Yeltsin resulted

3  Donaldson and Nogee, Foreign Policy of Russia, 102.
4  Deborah Welch Larson and Alexei Shevchenko, “Status Seekers,” International Security 34, no. 4 (2010): 77.
5  Donaldson and Nogee, Foreign Policy of Russia, 286.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
38 Maria Belen Wu
in the development of a Sino-Russian “strategic partnership.” In 1997, Yeltsin and Jiang
signed the Joint Declaration on a Multipolar World and the Establishment of a New World
Order, affirming China and Russia’s commitment to respect sovereignty and territorial
integrity, mutual nonaggression, and noninterference in each other’s internal affairs.
"Post-Cold War Sino-Russian relations entered a new stage defined by China and
Russia’s shared central foreign policy goal of restoring their respective great power status.
On the one hand, the Yeltsin years were marked by Russia’s failed attempts at assimila-
tion into the traditional Western power bloc. On the other hand, after experiencing the
“century of humiliation” marred by domestic weakness and foreign encroachment, China
sought to once again expand its regional hegemony and gain more respect from the rest
of the international system. Donaldson and Nogee conclude, “the Chinese have long
perceived their country as progressing toward great power status, a goal based on China’s
size, culture, and history as the Middle Kingdom of Asia.”6 Therefore, China endeavored
to translate its remarkable post 1980’s economic growth into increased political leverage in
the Asia-Pacific region. China and Russia’s joint pursuit of great power status has led to a
strong geopolitical alliance occasionally impeded by power disputes, making the delicate
balance between competition and cooperation a key feature of post-Cold War Sino-Rus-
sian relations.
Since Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in 2000, Russia’s pursuit for great power sta-
tus has become more assertive than ever. Inheriting a Russia in deep crisis from the Yeltsin
years of economic and political mismanagement, Putin promised not only to repair the
damage done to Russia domestically, but also to fight aggressively for Russian interests
abroad. In one of his speeches, Putin explicitly argued:

Protection of the interests of Russians outside the country is a high priority. … It must
be made clear to everyone that it’s unwise and disadvantageous to oppress Russians. It
is the task of foreign policy to work to enhance Russia’s prestige. … Russia was a great
world power for centuries, and it still is one. It has and will continue to have zones of
legitimate interests both within and beyond the former USSR. So we must not relax our
vigilance; we must not allow our opinions to be ignored. Russia should not be ashamed
of its interests. That does not befit us.7

In order to deliver on his promise, Putin needed China’s support.
In 2001, the Sino-Russian strategic partnership was formalized with the Treaty
on Good Neighborly Friendship and Cooperation, which called for both countries to

6  Donaldson and Nogee, Foreign Policy of Russia, 93.
7  “Vladimir Putin Speaks About the Most Important Issues. –From His Speech in the State Duma on Aug. 16,” Rossiiskaya
Gazeta, August 17, 1999 (The Current Digest of the Russian Press 51, no. 33 [1999]), 6.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
The Road to Great Power Status 39

cease nuclear threats and commit to the “no first strike” principle, as well as the mutual
recognition of territorial integrity and noninterference. The agreement also sought to
strengthen the United Nations as the main platform to resolve international disputes. In
addition to reinforcing the desire to overcome past Sino-Russian hostilities, this treaty
also united the two countries’ interests in counteracting the perceived excesses of U.S.
unilateralism. Thus, in the subsequent years, Russia and China saw increasing levels of
partnership in the relevant areas of energy security and economic development, influence
in Central Asia, and territorial and military ambitions. Nevertheless, these cooperation
efforts have also been accompanied by some disputes and competition of varying levels in
each respective area.

Energy Security and Economic Development
Energy security has come to play a central role in Russia and China’s foreign
policies in the new millennium. From a Chinese perspective, the country’s unprecedented
rate of economic growth and modernization in the 2000s positioned China as a poten-
tial rival and strategic competitor with the U.S., triggering American responses to gain
leverage over China. Russia’s vast reserves of oil and gas are key to the country’s economic
development and integration in the neoliberal world order. The country accomplishes this
through promotion of trade ties and incentivizing foreign investment. In relationship to
each other, China’s growing demand for energy to fuel its economic boom complemented
Russia’s emergence as a world leader in energy production.
Oil and gas cooperation was one of the main agents behind Sino-Russian rap-
prochement in the 1990s. Beginning in 1996, an agreement was signed on energy coop-
eration, followed by the 1999 approval of the construction of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific
Ocean pipeline (EPSO) from Angarsk in Western Siberia to the industrial center of Daq-
ing in China. In 2001, Moscow and Beijing reached a basic agreement on the scope of the
ESPO project, which would cost approximately $3 billion and be completed by 2005. In
2003, a deal was struck between the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC) and
Russia’s Yukos regarding the actual construction and operation of the pipeline, concluding
that each party would fund and operate the section within its national borders. However,
this agreement fell through when Putin cracked down on Yukos and its owner Mikhail
Khodorkovsky – one of the oligarchs who had risen to prominence in the Yeltsin period –
and raised concerns about how the joint ownership would affect Russian national security
and sovereignty. Such concerns led Putin to block China’s attempts to purchase Slavneft in
2002, establish control over energy transport routes from Central Asia at China’s expense,
and encourage the state-owned Gazprom to seize control of ongoing projects near Chi-
nese territory.
The Angarsk-Daqing pipeline was swiftly replaced with a new Japanese proposal

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
40 Maria Belen Wu

to construct the ESPO pipeline wholly on Russian territory, reaching the Kozmino Bay on
the Sea of Japan. Despite the much higher costs of this route, unlike China, Japan was will-
ing to provide all of the funding for construction. Meanwhile, Russia would operate the
pipeline through the state-owned transport monopoly Transneft, retaining the privilege
to allocate oil to different destinations and giving Russia much greater strategic flexibility.
As compensation for abandoning the Daqing pipeline, Russia made promises in 2004 to
construct a separate natural gas pipeline to China, and implied the possibility of building a
spur route from the Angarsk-Kozmino pipeline to Daqing. However, neither promise was
fulfilled until more recently.
Other frustrated energy plans included the Kovykta gas pipeline, meant to
stretch from the Kovykta gas field in Central Siberia to China, and then under the Yellow
Sea to South Korea. Discussions of the pipeline had begun in 2000, but were halted tem-
porarily due to internal disagreements among shareholders. They resumed in 2002. This
project was a joint venture undertaken by a coalition of Russian, Chinese, South Korean,
and British firms, and would have supplied China with 20 billion cubic meters of gas and
South Korea with an additional 10 billion. Just as in the case of the Daqing oil pipeline, the
initiative was thwarted by Russian concerns on sovereignty and jurisdiction in cooperat-
ing with foreign corporations, particularly with the British firm BP, which had recently
concluded a merger with Russia’s TNK and acquired significant stakes in the Kovykta gas
field. Despite BP’s offer to sell 11 percent of its shares, the Russian Ministry of Natural
Resources was determined to revoke BP’s gas license, masking its unease about foreign
presence in the Russian energy sector with accusations of breaches in BP’s license terms,
ultimately killing the Kovykta gas export initiative.8
In 2006, Gazprom made yet another proposition to CNPC, namely the Altai
gas pipeline starting the Altai Republic in Western Siberia and ending in the Chinese
province of Xinjiang. However, the leaders of the Altai Republic expressed fears that the
project would signify a Chinese expansion into Altai, and were angered by the placement
of the pipeline through sacred burial sites and shrines in the region.9 Moreover, Gazprom
and CNPC failed to reach a pricing deal for the gas that would be provided to China, as
Gazprom refused to accept CNPC’s offer at below-benchmark prices. Consequently, this
project was stalled indefinitely.
Facing continuous failures of Sino-Russian energy ventures, China began to
look elsewhere for oil and gas supplies, particularly in Central Asia. China had already
made incursions into Central Asian oil as early as 1997, with successful negotiations on
the Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline running from the Kazakh Caspian shore to Xinjiang,

8  Keun-Wook Paik, Sino-Russian Oil and Gas Cooperation: The Reality and Implications (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2012), 351-2.
9  Ibid., 360.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
The Road to Great Power Status 41

completed later in 2009. In 2003, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Kazakhstan to sign
an agreement on the Central-Asian gas pipeline, which would begin in Turkmenistan,
continue in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and finally end in China. Construction began
in 2007, and the pipeline was inaugurated in 2009.10 These ventures largely diminished
Chinese energy dependence on Russia, an issue that would have great repercussions for
the Russian economy in the following years.
Finance played a key role in sustaining Sino-Russian energy relations despite the
largely frustrated energy cooperation between China and Russia in the first part of the
2000s. Beijing designed a cooperation scheme whereby Moscow would be granted gener-
ous credit lines at below-market interest rates, while allowing Beijing to buttress Chinese
energy security in the long run. In 2005, China launched its first “loan-for-oil” scheme
with Rosneft, lending $6 billion to finance the firm’s purchase of Yuganskneftegaz secured
against deliveries to China of 345 million barrels of oil over a span of six years. This loan
not only provided a lifeline to Rosneft, but also laid the ground for a successful Rosneft
initial public offering in 2006, in which China acquired a small amount of shares.11
Accompanying energy exports, Russian arms exports – albeit much less signifi-
cant in value – occupy a close second place in their relevance to Sino-Russian economic
ties. Military technology comprises one of the few industries in which Russia competes
competitively with the rest of the world. This is due to the Russian military-industrial
complex inherited from the Cold War. Adding to this is Russia’s willingness to export
arms to countries that the West considers “rogue states” and hence are prevented from
receiving weapons sales from those countries. In this light, “China, which the U.S. views as
a strategic competitor, and which was cut off from U.S. and EU weapons deliveries follow-
ing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, is the supreme example of Moscow’s mercantile
approach to weapons sales.”12 Simultaneously, arms sales to China made significant con-
tributions towards supporting the Russian defense industry, particularly during the eco-
nomic crisis of the 1990s. In fact, even when the Russian government increased military
spending in the 2000s, weapons industries preferred to sell to the Chinese, since the funds
from government purchases were easily lost to corruption. By 1999, Chinese purchases
of Russian arms reached $2 billion per year, and reached a high of $3.3 billion in 2005.13
Sales dropped dramatically in the following years, a reflection of Russia’s increasing fear
of China’s military capabilities and resentment at Chinese reengineering and reselling of
Russian technology to low-income countries. However, in 2016, “Moscow has [sic] quietly
resumed sales of advanced arms technology to Beijing in a move that signals geopolitics

10  Michael Hart, “Central Asia’s Oil and Gas Now Flows to the East,” The Diplomat, August 18, 2016.
11 Paik, Sino-Russian Oil and Gas Cooperation, 348-9.
12 Mankoff, Russian Foreign Policy, 200.
13  Ibid., 201.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
42 Maria Belen Wu

and economics are trumping concerns about Chinese cloning of Russian weapons.”14
Overall, bilateral trade between China and Russia boomed before the 2008 crisis,
increasing from $5.5 billion in 1999 to $58 billion in 2008.15 The increase in trade resulted
in significant economic integration between the two countries. While in the 1990s Sino-
Russian trade followed a core-periphery pattern of commodities in exchange for manufac-
tures, by the early 2000s the range of Russian exports to China saw a drastic improvement
in diversification into high-value-added goods. Such trade integration has proven vital for
the economies in the Russian Far East, which are much more interlinked with China than
with western Russia.
It can be interpreted from the above that Russia and China stood at similar levels
of economic interdependence in the initial years of the 21st century. On the one hand,
Russia enjoyed a high position in bargaining and leverage over China in its provision of
energy and military exports, thanks to the soaring energy prices that gave Putin ample
room for negotiations. However, China represented a crucial source of foreign income in
both trade and finance for Russia, with its enormous energy demands propping energy
prices up in the first place. The 2000-2008 period of Sino-Russian economic ties also
reflect Russia’s heightened security and sovereignty concerns under Putin’s first term as
a key issue that frustrated many economic ventures. However, the global financial crisis
of 2008 dramatically transformed the dynamics of Russia and China’s economic relation-
ship, creating a heavy Russian dependency on the Chinese economy. This transformation
shaped today’s asymmetrical Sino-Russian economic relationship, with the odds skewed
undoubtedly in China’s favor.
The 2008 crisis made Russia much more cooperative in its energy partnership
with China, resulting in numerous deals during Medvedev’s presidency and Putin’s second
term. This was due to the fact that “Russia’s state-owned energy companies were among
the most significant victims of the crisis, which left them heavily indebted as global energy
prices plunged.”16 While other advanced economies suffered heavy losses and greatly
reduced imports, China stayed afloat due to its thick cushion of foreign exchange reserves
and its relatively closed capital account. In fact, Chinese GDP grew at an impressive aver-
age 9.4% per annum while the rest of the world entered the Great Recession of 2008-2009,
including Russia, whose GDP contracted by 7.8% in 2009. Thus, China’s continued energy
demands suddenly became one of Russia’s only economic lifelines. In 2008, Russia finally
acted on its promise to build the Angarsk-Daqing spur from the ESPO pipeline, offering
below-market prices for the oil it would provide through the pipeline. In exchange, China
extended a series of loans-for-oil worth $25 billion in total to both Rosneft and Transneft
14  Charles Clover, “Russia resumes advanced weapons sales to China,” Financial Times, November 13, 2016.
15 Mankoff, Russian Foreign Policy, 195.
16  Ibid., 199.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
The Road to Great Power Status 43

to fund the construction of the spur. The Daqing spur was completed in 2010, and Russia
has since provided scheduled oil shipments to China, committing to the export of 300
million tons of crude oil between 2011 and 2030.17
The advent of the “shale revolution” led by the U.S. in the latter part of the 2000s
generated another threat to the Russian energy sector, as energy supplies became more
abundant and threatened a drop in prices after their mild post-recession recovery. Under
such pressure, Russia sought again to secure a long-term deal with China, reviving talks
on the Altai pipeline that had been put on indefinite hold due to disagreements on gas
prices. In 2013, Gazprom and CNPC agreed to instead pursue a more eastern route, giving
rise to the Sila Sibiri (“Power of Siberia” or “Siberian Might”) pipeline to transport natural
gas from Vladivostok in Eastern Siberia to East Asian nations, including China, Japan and
South Korea. In 2014, Gazprom and CNPC reached an agreement entailing a $400 billion
Chinese credit line in exchange for an annual delivery of 38 million cubic meters of natu-
ral gas to China for a period of 30 years.18 Gas prices continued to be the most contentious
topic in the negotiations. However, according to journalist Zachary Keck, “Gazprom has
[sic] become more desperate to ink a deal with China as the Ukraine crisis threatens to
imperil its economic ties with Western Europe.”19 Despite domestic discontent, Russia was
forced to accept China’s terms and begin construction. Currently, the Sila Sibiri pipeline
is expected to launch operations in 2019. Thus, a combination of lower energy prices,
China’s other existing energy partners, and Western sanctions on Russia eliminated any
remnants of Russian leverage over China.
More grim news arrived for the Russian energy sector with the sharp drop in oil
prices in 2015, a direct consequence of oversupply from OPEC countries, increased shale
production, Chinese economic slowdown, and a decreased demand for commodities. As
a result, Chinese firms have been reluctant to invest in new Russian energy deals, totaling
a meager $560 million in FDI in 2015, less than 0.5 percent of China’s total outbound FDI
that year. In addition, bilateral trade plummeted 28.6 percent from $95.3 billion in 2014
to $63.6 billion in 2015, accounting for just 1.5 percent of China’s international trade.20 In
contrast, China remained Russia’s number one trade partner by and large, the source of 17
percent of imports and destination for 8.7 percent of exports, revealing Russia’s continued
dependence on China regardless of the latter’s economic slowdown.
Despite the plunge in trade and investment, China has been pursuing an inter-
esting strategy on the sidelines to keep the Sino-Russian partnership alive. Researcher

17 Paik, Sino-Russian Oil and Gas Cooperation, 349.
18  Konstantin Simonov, “Friendship with the Dragon,” Vedomosti, March 20, 2014 (The Current Digest of the Russian Press 66,
no. 21 [2014]), 7.
19  Zachary Keck, “China and Russia Sign Massive Natural Gas Deal,” The Diplomat, May 21, 2014.
20  Alexander Gabuev, “China’s Pivot to Putin’s Friends,” Foreign Policy, June 25, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
44 Maria Belen Wu

Alexander Gabuev suggests, “Timchenko and a small set of elites from Putin’s inner
circle have been the recipients of a series of multibillion-dollar sweetheart deals from
Beijing designed to keep Putin’s clique both happy and looking east.”21 As the head of the
Russian-Chinese Business Council, an important oligarch, and one of Putin’s close friends,
Timchenko welds considerable power in influencing Russia’s decision to continue seeking
cooperation with China. So far, deals between China and Russia brokered by Timchenko
and other oligarchs have included sales of Russian energy company shares to China and
long-term loans at very favorable interest rates from the Export-Import Bank of China
and the China Development Bank (CDB).
Meanwhile, China’s Xi Jinping has developed close personal ties with Putin,
which has resulted in a Russian pivot to Asia marked by renewed economic cooperation.
This is in stark contrast with the cooling between Russia and the West after the annexation
of Crimea. Europe has been more focused on regional problems including the unresolved
Eurozone crisis, the ongoing migrant crisis, and the latest events of Brexit and the rise of
right-wing populism. During a state visit to China in 2016, Putin and Xi reached several
deals involving the sale of stakes in Russian energy projects to Chinese firms, an oil supply
contract, and joint investments in petrochemical projects in Russia.22
Sino-Russian economic relations in the Putin and Medvedev years have seen a
clear transition. In the years leading up to 2008, the states held relatively equal status as
trade and investment partners, with Russia reserving the right to renegotiate or disband
energy and military deals in the interest of its own perceived national security and sover-
eignty. After the 2008 global financial crisis, Russia became more willing to cooperate and
accept terms put forward by the Chinese, even if unfavorable or infringing upon Putin’s
conception of territorial sovereignty. Russia’s economic dependency on China was exacer-
bated again with the Western sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea,
the drop in oil prices in 2015, and Europe’s regional preoccupations, which has kept Putin
looking eastward for support.

Influence in Central Asia
Post-Cold War Sino-Russian relations hinge on Russia and China’s joint efforts
at balancing against U.S. hegemony in the international system as a means of reclaiming
their respective great power status. A crucial component of this objective comprises Rus-
sia and China’s attempts to influence other regions, as it is in both nations’ interests to cre-
ate an alternative status quo to the one proposed by the West. In this context, Central Asia
stands out as a key area that has witnessed both Sino-Russian cooperation and competi-
tion for influence, illustrating China and Russia’s common goals but differing interests and

21  Gabuev, “China’s Pivot."
22  Denis Dyomkin, “Russia Secures Energy Deals, Talks Security with China as Putin Visits,” Fortune, June 25, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
The Road to Great Power Status 45

approaches. Author Jeffrey Mankoff believes, “Russia is trying to hold onto the vestiges of
its empire, while China is rapidly expanding its sphere of influence through investment
and other forms of soft power in Russia’s backyard.”23
Sino-Russian joint influence in Central Asia began with the creation of the
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) by a treaty signed in Shanghai in 1996
between the Shanghai Five: Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
This treaty called for signatory nations to reduce military troops and foster confidence-
building measures along their mutual borders. The agreement was motivated primarily
by a shared concern about Islamic extremism, as Kabul had just fallen to the Taliban and
Taliban-inspired movements were active throughout Central Asia and the Caucasus. In
2001, the Shanghai Five plus Uzbekistan signed the Declaration of the Shanghai Coopera-
tion Organization. According to Mankoff, the SCO was created as a political, military,
and economic organization that aimed to “construct a new democratic, just, and rational
international order.”24 This implied that the SCO was designed with the mission to limit
and challenge American power in the region, and became a great source of worry for the
U.S. Mankoff expresses, “[The SCO] opposed a U.S. military presence in Central Asia,
overtly rejected the U.S. democratization agenda as unwarranted interference in coun-
tries’ internal affairs, aspired to a larger regional security role, and actively reached out to
In this way, the U.S. perceived the SCO as an almost authoritarian rival to NATO.
However, much to American relief – and Russian disappointment – the SCO remained
limited in the scope of its military and security alliance, as it did not possess troops of
its own, a general staff, or any other unified command structures. SCO members had
complete authority over their own security policies, and could join other blocs or alliances
without prior consultation with other member states. In fact, the Central Asian members
of the SCO also belong to NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, and have maintained
strong ties with the U.S.
The main focus of security cooperation in the SCO has been on Islamic extrem-
ism and terrorism, an important threat faced by all member states from groups including
the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and China’s East Turkestan Islamic
Movement. There has been wide cooperation in intelligence sharing and joint law enforce-
ment activities in the interest of curbing terrorism, such as the Shanghai Convention on
Terrorism, Extremism, and Separatism in 2001 and the establishment of the Regional
Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) in 2004. During the height of the war in Afghanistan
(2001-2014), the SCO hosted a major conference in Moscow in 2009 where member states

23  Mankoff, Russian Foreign Policy, 205.
24  Ibid., 203.
25  Ibid., 202-3.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
46 Maria Belen Wu

and Western powers pledged to cooperate in Afghanistan to reduce the threat of terrorism
and drug trafficking.
While the efforts to combat Islamic extremism have been fairly coordinated,
China and Russia differ drastically in their objectives for the SCO in the economic sphere.
China aims to use the SCO as a vehicle for promoting economic integration among mem-
ber states, leading eventually to a SCO customs union to the benefit of Chinese exporters.
Russia has put up barriers to Chinese attempts at fostering multilateral intra-SCO eco-
nomic ties. This is a conceivable strategy for Russia to limit Chinese dominance within the
SCO and Central Asia as a whole, as a shift of the organization’s focus towards economic-
oriented goals would undoubtedly render Russia secondary to China in influence over the
SCO. Consequently, disagreements on the SCO’s economic aims have stalled the develop-
ment of economic plans for the organization. Mankoff argues the SCO has morphed into
“a forum for Beijing and Moscow to keep an eye on each other” in their Central Asian
policies, which have branched off into initiatives led separately by China and Russia.26
As an alternative to the SCO, Russia shifted its attention to other organizations
in Central Asia in which it was the sole leader, namely the Collective Security Treaty Or-
ganization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC). The CSTO originated
from the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in 1992, and
was declared a military alliance in 2002 between Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The CSTO sought to resolve territorial, interethnic, and other
conflicts faced by the CIS, but was inefficient at conflict resolution, leading Medvedev to
pledge in 2008 to “build up the CSTO’s military component” and “intensify the coalition's
military development.”27 To this end, the Collective Rapid Reaction Force (CRRF) was
created, intended to repulse military aggression, conduct anti-terrorist operations, fight
transnational crime and drug trafficking, and provide aid in natural disasters. Neverthe-
less, the CRRF did not live up to its expectations, as it depends heavily on Russian military
contributions and has yet to intervene in any disputes.28
In 2014, with the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and the prospect of
U.S./NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, propositions for a merger between the CSTO
and the SCO were raised.29 A CSTO-SCO union would make sound foreign policy sense
for Russia’s deteriorating relations with the West, in addition to the increased need for an
integrated security strategy in Central Asia and the significant geographical overlap of
both organizations’ memberships. While the CSTO-SCO merger never came to pass, Rus-
26 Mankoff, Russian Foreign Policy, 205.
27  Vladimir Solovyov and Gennady Sysoyev, “Russia moves to create a military bloc,” Kommersant, February 4, 2009 (The Cur-
rent Digest of the Russian Press 61, no. 5 [2009]), 4.
28  Vladimir Mukhin, “CSTO still extremely ineffective,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 16, 2015 (The Current Digest of the
Russian Press, 67, no. 38 [2015]), 16.
29  Oleg Salimov, “SCO-CSTO Merger Raised at Dunshabe Conference,” The Central Asia-Caucusus Analyst, June 4, 2014.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
The Road to Great Power Status 47

sia’s inclination to abandon one of the only outlets in which it has exclusive leadership in
Central Asia largely reflects its disillusion with the CSTO and its willingness to once again
resort to joint leadership with China.
At the same time, Russia sought to deepen economic ties with Central Asian
nations through the EEC, free from China’s overwhelming influence. Similar to CSTO,
EEC also originated from the CIS framework, and its members include Russia, Belarus,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Since its inauguration in 2000, the organization
has implemented a number of economic policies seeking to create a unified Eurasian
market. The Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia was consolidated in 2010
and upgraded in 2012 to a Eurasian Economic Space, with free mobility of goods, services,
capital, and people. In 2014, EEC was dissolved in order to simultaneously launch the
Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Putin envisioned the EEU as an institution parallel to the European Union, one
which would serve “as an effective bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific
region.”30 However, the launch of the EEU in 2014 proved to be largely disappointing for
its member nations and raised concerns of Russian neocolonialism. In particular, the ab-
sence of Ukraine in the union due to its political crisis has signified the lack of a balancing
power to offset Russian dominance.31 Russian interests currently dominates the decision-
making process, as standards such as the external tariff for EEU members are based solely
on Russia’s pre-existing high trade tariffs. In addition, “the EEU’s increase in customs
duties on goods from China was painful for Kyrgyzstan as the country lost its ability to
re-export these goods, which had been an important source of income.”32
Furthermore, the EEU pales in its economic and geographical scope compared
to China’s “One Belt, One Road” economic initiative (OBOR), which is recognized as
“the largest program of economic diplomacy since the US-led Marshall Plan for postwar
reconstruction in Europe, covering dozens of countries with a total population of over 3
billion.”33 Unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the OBOR development framework
aims to integrate Eurasian economies. The strategy consists of two main components,
the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the Maritime Silk Road (MSR). The creation of
OBOR recognizes China as the paramount economic leader of the group, while Russia’s
inclusion – largely a courtesy to Moscow – is at the same level as the rest of the partici-
pant nations. According to journalist Cholpon Orozobekova, “OBOR is a global project
that will allow China to bypass Russia economically, politically, and geographically. This
30  Vladimir Putin, “A new integration project for Eurasia: a future in the making,” Izvestia, October 4, 2011 (The Current
Digest of the Russian Press 63, no. 40 [2011]), 4.
31  “Introducing the Eurasian Union: where three is a crowd,” The Economist, May 30, 2014.
32  Cholpon Orozobekova, “Can China’s Ambitious OBOR Mesh with Russian Plans in Eurasia?” The Diplomat, November 9,
33 Ibid.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
48 Maria Belen Wu

alternative route starting from Xinjiang will pass through Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and
Azerbaijan and across the Caspian into Turkey and the EU.”34 At the same time, OBOR
challenges U.S.-led economic initiatives in Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strategy, such as the
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement, thus catering to China’s pursuit of
great power status through economic primacy. But since the withdrawal of the U.S. from
the TPP, the future of that treaty is uncertain, while OBOR continues to function.
Although still in its initial stages, OBOR already has an estimated value of $1.4
trillion, largely due to China’s own contributions as well as investments by international
investors such as regional development banks and multinational corporations. OBOR pro-
vides ample evidence that China possesses not only more material resources than Russia
on absolute terms, but also more successful incursions into global economic governance.
Furthermore, OBOR is evidence that China is taking a more active role in creating a series
of China-led institutions that foster the collective interests of their members, similar to
pre-existing Western and regional institutions. In this light, OBOR represents a culmina-
tion of Chinese efforts to solidify cooperation between various organizations including the
Silk Road Fund and the China Development Bank.35
OBOR has placed a heavy focus on facilitating energy and infrastructure cooper-
ation between Central Asia and China. Chinese firms currently own a quarter of Kazakh-
stan’s oil production and account for over half of Turkmenistan’s gas exports through the
Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline and Central Asia-China gas pipeline. In addition, China
signed $15 billion in gas and uranium deals with Uzbekistan in 2013. In these countries,
China is also taking advantage of its expertise in high-speed rail construction. With more
than 12,000 miles of track laid, a significant portion of them in Central Asia, China has
more high-speed rail than the rest of the world combined.
Having seen the growing success of OBOR compared to a dwindling EEU and
Russia’s increasing status as a political and economic pariah in the West, Putin has ex-
pressed desires to merge the EEU with the SCO and the land-based SREB countries. Putin
calls this idea the “greater Eurasia” project.”36 After the relative failure of its own regional
leadership initiatives, Russia is seeking renewed partnership with China. However, China
appears uninterested in expanding its relationship with Russia.37
The limits of China’s partnership with Russia demonstrate that China still seeks
to maintain a balance between Moscow and Washington in order to avoid misconceptions

34  Cholpon Orozobekova, “Can China’s Ambitious OBOR Mesh with Russian Plans in Eurasia?” The Diplomat, November 9,
35  Yiping Huang, “Understanding China’s Belt & Road Initiative: Motivation, framework, and assessment,” China Economic
Review 40 (2016), 315.
36  Casey Michel, “Putin Proposes Another Greater Eurasia Project,” The Diplomat 21, August 2016.
37 Ibid.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
The Road to Great Power Status 49

about China’s desire for global hegemony. Nevertheless, China’s initiatives in Central Asia
have raised those fears: “Increased investment and economic cooperation between China
and Central Asia has recently been met with waves of Sinophobia.”38 China’s presence in
the region has prompted multiple terrorist attacks in recent years by anti-state militant
groups and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement in Xinjiang province.
China and Russia have made significant advances in their quest for influence in
Central Asia, beginning with their joint leadership in the SCO, but later branching out
to competing organizations, namely the Russia-led CSTO and EEU and the China-led
OBOR initiative. This divergence in the Chinese and Russian strategies reflects their dif-
fering interests in Central Asia. Russia sought to recover influence in its Cold War back-
yard, displaying a more traditional great power politics mindset in its treatment of Central
Asian nations as Russian satellites; meanwhile, China envisioned Central Asia as its new
economic playing field, and focused primarily on the exertion of soft power by fostering
common goals of economic integration and increased investment. Ultimately, China’s eco-
nomic dominance has displaced Russia’s historical influence in the region, which has led
Putin to seek a renewed partnership with China through organization merger proposals.
However, the Chinese response has been lukewarm, as Beijing prefers individual leader-
ship. Furthermore, China’s presence in the region is fraught with suspicions of hegemonic
ambitions in connection with China’s growing military and territorial assertiveness else-
Territorial and Military Ambitions
Since the end of the Cold War, Sino-Russian relations have been constructed
upon the shared values of sovereignty, nonintervention, and territoriality. Due to these
principles, Sino-Russian relations have focused primarily on economic cooperation, while
showcasing relatively little support or interference in each other’s territorial and military
ambitions. In addition, China’s “peaceful rise” policy adopted throughout the Hu admin-
istration committed China to maintain good relations with the U.S. at the expense of its
own territorial claims and its support for Russian military ambitions.
For instance, China’s ambivalent reaction to the war in Georgia in 2008 revealed
the limits of Beijing’s interest in closer ties with Russia, as it “gave only reluctant backing
to the invasion without accepting the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”39
During this period, China also remained largely acquiescent after its previous incursions
into the South China Sea, including the 1995 occupation of Mischief Reef, part of the
Philippine claim area in the Spratly Islands, and its military exercises and missile tests in
the Taiwan Strait in 1995-96. Thus, Putin’s first term and the Medvedev years saw rela-

38  Shawn Snow, “Central Asia’s Lukewarm Pivot to China,” The Diplomat, August 16, 2016.
39 Mankoff, Russian Foreign Policy, 192.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
50 Maria Belen Wu
tively little Sino-Soviet military cooperation.
The situation changed with the Russian annexation of Crimea in early 2014. In
theory, Russian incursions into Ukraine violate two of China’s most consistently held for-
eign policy tenets: noninterference in other states and separatism of any kind. Neverthe-
less, according to an article published by The Economist, “China abstained from voting on
the UN Security Council resolutions condemning Russia, while Chinese media have given
Russia strong support. China has quietly welcomed a new cold war in Europe that might
distract America from its declared ‘rebalancing’ towards Asia.”40 Furthermore, signs of
normalization arose when Xi Jinping and Chinese forces were present at a military parade
in Moscow’s Red Square in 2015.41 However, this movement toward normalization has
not entailed unconditional Chinese support for Russian military interventions, as was
the case with the Chinese response to Russian involvement in Syria. Uneasy with Russia’s
unilateral actions that jeopardize China and Russia’s traditional joint stance on seeking
multilateral solutions, China has intervened unilaterally in Syria in direct confrontation
with Russia’s interests by allegedly supply chemical weapons to the Syrian government.
Samuel Ramani from the Huffington Post explains, “This reveals China’s desire to bolster
its international status among anti-Western authoritarian regimes and potentially chal-
lenge Russia’s role as the leading normative counterweight to American hegemony in the
Middle East.”42
These are reflections of a visible shift in China’s grand strategy under the cur-
rent Xi administration, which has accelerated the Chinese quest for great power status by
heightening China’s direct confrontation with Western policies. Under this new paradigm,
China has not deliberately sought out cooperation with Russia, but has instead taken
advantage of the flexibility of the concept of noninterference to mold the most beneficial
strategy that bolsters China’s individual primacy in the developing world. This goal at
times coincides with the Russian position, but often poses a direct challenge to it. At the
same time, Xi’s rhetoric of a “Chinese dream,” which includes “strong armed forces,” has
been reflected in China’s revival of territorial ambitions and militarization in the South
China Sea. This has posed a difficult dilemma for Putin, as Russia has attempted to find
a delicate balance between expressing support for China’s position while ensuring it does
not undermine its traditional allies, India and Vietnam. In this interest, Russia has of-
ficially remained neutral in disputes. However, on the sidelines, Russia has been arming
Vietnam with submarines since 2009, and opposes involvement by third parties because,
according to Putin, this “‘will only hurt the resolution of these issues [and] is detrimental

40  “An uneasy friendship,” The Economist, May 9, 2015.
41  Geir Flikke. “Sino–Russian Relations Status Exchange or Imbalanced Relationship?” Problems of Post-Communism 63, no. 3
(2016), 168.
42  Samuel Ramani, “China’s Syria Agenda,” The Diplomat, September 22, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
The Road to Great Power Status 51

and counterproductive.’”43, 44
Despite these inconsistencies, Putin has recently been more noticeably leaning
towards China, even at the expense of its long-standing friends in the region. Russia has
supported China in its rejection of The Hague’s Arbitral Tribunal ruling against Beijing’s
claims on the South China Sea in July 2016, on the grounds that it was conducted without
China being present or China’s views being considered. In addition, in September 2016,
Russia and China held joint military exercises in the South China Sea, the first Sino-
Russian naval exercise to be held in the area. According to Putin, these exercises, “‘do
not impinge on anyone’s interests, but promote the security of both Russia and China.’”45
Despite Putin’s rhetoric, it is clear that Moscow is seeking to take Beijing’s side in exchange
for economic, political, and geopolitical support from China amid Western sanctions.
Overall, Sino-Russian interactions in the military arena have remained limited in scope
compared to the extensive economic ties and joint regional influence in Central Asia. This
has been contained by both nations’ principles of nonintervention, in addition to China’s
reluctance to extend the Sino-Russian partnership further than necessary. Xi’s China has
undertaken a more assertive position in reinforcing its individual goals to achieve great
power status, while Putin’s Russia has been largely forced to look eastward for Chinese
support after being shunned by the West. Once again, Chinese autonomy vis-à-vis Russian
dependency becomes clear in the military sphere.

The Future of Sino-Russian Relations
The outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election is bound to have significant
repercussions on Sino-Russian relations. President Donald Trump has made repeated al-
legations of unfair competition with China in international trade, and has pledged to raise
tariffs on Chinese imports to 45 percent, which would warrant a trade war between China
and the U.S. This could cause significant damage to the Chinese and American economies,
and would affect emerging market economies by proxy, Russia foremost among them.
Russia will also suffer tremendous losses from President Trump’s proposed energy policies
that exploit U.S. coal and shale to achieve energy independence, which at the same time
will lead to oversupply and further depression of energy prices. Although these proposed
economic policies must be submitted for congressional approval in order to be ratified,
they reflect Trump’s general intent to move the U.S. economy towards isolationism.
With regards to foreign policy, President Trump has emphasized America’s

43  Prashanth Parameswaran, “Vietnam Gets Fifth Submarine from Russia,” The Diplomat, February 10, 2016.
44  Oleg Mazurov, “Wave of militarization rising in South China Sea,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 5, 2016. (The Current
Digest of the Russian Press 68, no. 36 [2016]), 7.
45  Vladimir Mukhin, “Washington’s threats don’t stand in the way of Moscow-Beijing military alliance,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta,
September 7, 2016 (The Current Digest of the Russian Press 68, no. 36 [2016]), 8.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
52 Maria Belen Wu

retreat from its current role as the world’s policeman. The end of the U.S.’ “pivot to Asia”
would provide China with the opportunity to solidify its leadership in the Asia-Pacific
region, especially in the economic sphere, where it will be unrivaled once the TPP is
repealed. In addition, the lack of U.S. backing and intervention in Asia will turn the South
China Sea conflict in China’s favor, and may significantly lessen international condem-
nation of China’s international law and human rights violations in general. Despite his
previously stated emphasis on isolationism and nonintervention, in early December 2016,
President Trump broke decades of diplomatic protocol and U.S. recognition of the “One
China” policy by taking a phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. In response,
China flew a nuclear-capable bomber along the disputed nine-dash line around the South
China Sea, and made preparations to ship more surface-to-air missiles to its contested
islands, sending a clear warning sign to President Trump. Meanwhile, President Trump
tried to reconcile Chinese relations by nominating Iowa governor Terry Branstad as the
U.S. ambassador to China, who is a “longtime friend of the Chinese people” and “knows
Chinese president Xi Jinping personally.”46 A few days later, President Trump claimed “the
U.S. would not necessarily be bound by the One China policy,” depending on the outcome
of future trade negotiations.47 Thus, more than a month before his inauguration, President
Trump has already created an atmosphere of uncertainty and hostility in his dealings with
In contrast to China, Putin welcomed the Trump victory. Journalist Mikhail
Fishman believes, “Trump’s victory delivers clarity to Russia’s own political future. Putin is
now heaving a sigh of relief; help came – a deus ex machina – at a vital moment.”48 Presi-
dent Trump forged a remarkably close relationship with Putin throughout his campaign,
and both leaders are looking forward to a Russo-American rapprochement. Furthermore,
Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil and President Trump’s newly-appointed secretary
of state, is also a close friend to Putin. Secretary Tillerson will be faced with the decision
of whether to keep or remove the economic sanctions on Russia. Since he has criticized
the penalties for a slowdown on Exxon investments in Russia, it is likely that he will be
inclined to remove them. This will have large repercussions on the West’s attitude towards
Russia, and it will largely hinge upon Europe whether to follow suit to the U.S. or remain
firm in its condemnation of Russia. In addition, President Trump and Putin have dis-
cussed future U.S.-Russia collaboration in the fight against ISIS and Islamic extremism.
This calls into question whether the U.S. will make a 180-turn to support Assad, who has

46  Helen H. Wang, “What to Expect from Trump’s New China Ambassador,” Forbes, December 11, 2016.
47  Emily Rauhula, “Trump draws rebuke after saying US isn’t bound by One China policy,” The Washington Post, December 12,
48  Mikhail Fishman, “The US has sneezed and now Russia will catch a cold,” The Moscow Times, November 10, 2016 (The Cur-
rent Digest of the Russian Press 68, no. 45 [2016]), 6.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
The Road to Great Power Status 53

already called Trump a “natural ally” in the fight against terrorism.49 Overall, Trump’s
presidency seems to bode well for Russia in the political sphere.
In addition to President Trump, Putin may be gaining more allies in Europe, as
the top contenders in the current French presidential election, François Fillon and Marine
Le Pen, both propose Russia-friendly regimes. However, the gradual retreat into protec-
tionism fostered by right-wing populism in Europe would once again reinforce China’s
new leading role in the global economic sphere. Eduardo Porter of The New York Times
suggests, “in the face of a turn toward populist nationalism in other rich countries – like
Britain and France – China has emerged in the unlikely role of defender of globalized
In summary, recent developments in the international system, particularly the
election of Donald Trump, have reshuffled the cards in the game of great power status
pursuit, dealing Russia a favorable hand while increasing uncertainties for China. This
may push Beijing closer to Moscow in an attempt to rebalance against Trump’s reckless
policies, but will have to face a Russia strengthened by U.S. backing, which effectively
increases its political leverage over China. However, it is possible that President Trump’s
protectionist economic policies may cease to come to fruition. Even if they do, any po-
tential impact will be cushioned by China’s current domestic shift from an export-led to a
consumer-based economy. Therefore, China will likely continue to occupy the dominant
position in its economic ties with Russia, as well as their competition for influence in
Central Asia based largely on economic prowess.
Conclusion and Final Predictions
Sino-Russian relations currently face the greatest opportunities and challenges
in great power politics since the end of the Cold War, as the rise of U.S. isolationism and
European right-wing populism allow a change in power dynamics between Russia and
China in their shared quest for great power status. Yet, important continuities in geopoliti-
cal aims will prevail. In the realm of soft power and economic dominance, China has and
will maintain the upper hand in influencing Central Asia and the Global South at large.
Sino-Russian cooperation in energy security and economic development is likely to con-
tinue through increased trade and investment. In the political sphere, China and Russia’s
increasingly expansionist foreign policies may provide common grounds for cooperation.
However, this hinges largely upon the new American presidency, whose policies will in
turn determine whether China and Russia can steer their relationship towards an endur-
ing partnership, an uneasy friendship, or bitter enmity.

49  Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, “Syrian President Calls Donald Trump a ‘Natural Ally’ in Fight Against Terrorism,” New
York Times, November 16, 2016.
50  Eduardo Porter, “A Trade War Against China Might Be a Fight Trump Couldn’t Win,” New York Times, November 22, 2016.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
54 Maria Belen Wu

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Southern California International Review - Vol. 7 No. 1
Understanding Contemporary Arctic Politics
Nehmat Bedar
This paper investigates the claim that the Arctic region has become a new battleground for
Russia and the West, and fails to find evidence to support this claim. Instead, this paper dem-
onstrates how Arctic has developed into a forum through which mutually beneficial policies
can be developed. Three examples of successful cooperation between Russia and the West are
examined to demonstrate how peaceful diplomacy continues to function in the Arctic despite
external conflicts. The aforementioned examples include the development of the Arctic Coun-
cil, the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration, and the 2010 Russo-Norwegian Agreement on the Maritime
Boundary in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. This paper concludes that the nature of
new global issues such as climate change will continue to encourage communication and coop-
eration in the Arctic region.

The North is not a place for military confrontation or buildup… No consensus is pos-
sible without Canada and Russia working together, as difficult as that may be at times.

—Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion (September 29, 2016)1

Climate change and its implications for natural resource extraction, the liveli-
hoods of indigenous populations, the creation of new shipping and transportation routes,
and increased commercialization and tourism have introduced new strategic consider-
ations for the Arctic region. These new variables are salient among the eight states geo-
graphically situated within the Arctic Circle: Russia, Canada, the United States, Greenland
(owned by Denmark), Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland. Despite disagreements over
maritime boundaries, territory, and sovereign rights, the Arctic is not becoming a battle-
ground in a new Cold War between Russia and the West. Instead, the Arctic is a region
in which negotiation and diplomacy prevail over militaristic means to settle disputes and
1  Stephane Dion, “The Arctic Council at 20 years: More necessary than ever,” September 29, 2016.

nehmat bedar is a fourth-year at the University of British Colombia specializ-
ing in History with International Relations and Political Science.
Understanding Contemporary Arctic Politics 57

Three examples lend credence to the triumph of cooperation over confrontation
in the Arctic. First, the Arctic Council reflects institutionalization in the Arctic. Second,
the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration reaffirms a commitment among coastal Arctic states to
peaceful resolutions and the existing international legal regime. Third, the 2010 Russo-
Norwegian Agreement on the Maritime Boundary in the Barents Sea and the Arctic
Ocean shows a willingness to politically resolve disputes and reaffirms the commitments
made in the Ilulissat Declaration. These three examples are neither mutually exclusive nor
is one objectively more influential than the others in mitigating against the use of force in
the Arctic. Instead, they reinforce one another and pave the way for similar agreements.
Apart from the three aforementioned examples, various other instances disprove
the idea that there is an emerging Cold War in the Arctic. Despite pursuing aggressive
stances in other foreign policy regions, Russian leaders themselves have highlighted
cooperation in the Arctic in past speeches. In his speech in Murmansk in October 1987,
Mikhail Gorbachev spoke of a new era of international cooperation between Russia and
the West. Gorbachev put forth “an invitation to dialogue, … [and] to a normalization of
international relations.”2 He explained,
What everybody can be absolutely certain of is the Soviet Union's profound and certain
interest in preventing the North of the planet, its Polar and sub-Polar regions and all
Northern countries from ever again becoming an arena of war, and in forming there a
genuine zone of peace and fruitful cooperation.3

Gorbachev’s words reflected a shift in the Soviet foreign policy and the govern-
ment’s willingness to cooperate with the West. Nineteen years later, Vladimir Putin echoed
this sentiment in an Arctic Council meeting when he explained, “The Arctic must be
regarded as a space for an open and equitable dialogue...where there will be no place for
geopolitical games by military blocs, backstage deals, or struggle for spheres of influence.”4
It is important to note that these sentiments do not signify a lack of disagree-
ments between Russia and the West in other regions around the world. Most notably,
Russian and Western political leaders have clashed over events in Ukraine and Crimea.
Following the Russian ‘annexation’ of Crimea in 2014, Western countries—including
Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Canada, and the United States, all of which are also
Arctic countries—imposed sanctions on the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, while these

2  Mikhail Gorbachev, “Speech in Murmansk at the Ceremonial Meeting on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Order of
Lenin and the Gold Star to the City of Murmansk,” October 1, 1987. 1.
3  Ibid., 3-5.
4  Vladimir Putin, “Putin Says Arctic Should Remain Free Of Geopolitical Tensions,” Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty. August
31, 2016.

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countries disagreed deeply over the Ukraine crisis that began in 2013, they managed to
cooperate and sign the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness
and Response in the Arctic that same year. This particular instance exemplifies the ways
in which politicians and diplomats are able to distinguish between particular issue areas.
Disagreements in one issue area do not necessarily translate into tensions in another;
contention over one matter does not necessarily limit cooperation in other issue areas.
Due to the international implications of climate change, the Arctic has served as
a critical region in which Western countries and Russia can cooperate. Many cross-border
issues have necessitated a coordinated response, including but not limited to the commer-
cialization of the Arctic and increased transit through Arctic straits, changing characteris-
tics of fisheries, and reverberations of melting sea ice on the lifestyles of indigenous popu-
lations. The following examples analyze the existing frameworks that facilitate cooperation
and instances where states have actively shown their commitment to diplomacy.

The Arctic Council
During the Cold War, the Arctic was treated as a front line due to its location
directly between the United States and Soviet Union.5 During that time, militarization on
both the Russian and American sides of the Arctic occurred through deterrence mecha-
nisms. Radar stations were built across the Canadian North, as were underwater sensors
for detecting Soviet submarines.6 Radar and sensory systems were also constructed along
the Russian side. However, since the conclusion of the Bering Strait Treaty between the
Soviet Union and United States in 1990, the Arctic states have adopted a more conciliatory
and cooperative approach.7 The creation of the Arctic Council six years after the Barents
Sea Treaty helped to solidify and institutionalize cooperation regarding non-military mat-
ters. This cooperation has since intensified due to climate change and melting sea ice.
The Arctic Council serves as a “high level forum” for the eights Arctic states and
indigenous groups. Created in 1996, the Arctic Council has evolved into an intergovern-
mental organization with eight Senior Arctic Officials appointed from each member state.
In 2013, the members also agreed to form a permanent secretariat, which further solidi-
fied the institutional capacity of the Council.8 Membership of the Council is stratified
into three forms: member states who each hold an equal vote; six permanent participants
comprised of indigenous representative groups who do not have the power to vote but are
welcome to all discussions; and observer states whose membership is regulated by mem-

5  Michael Byers, “Cold Peace: Arctic Cooperation and Canadian Foreign Policy,” International Journal, vol. 65, no. 4, 2010. 899.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8  Andrea Charron, “Canada and the Arctic Council,” International Journal, vol. 67, no. 3, 2012. 774.

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Understanding Contemporary Arctic Politics 59

ber state votes.9 Decisions are made through consensual voting procedures, thus agree-
ments must earn the vote of all eight member states. Each state holds veto power.
The Arctic Council’s mandate does not enable discussion of military or security matters.
Instead, discussion centers around environmental risks in the Arctic, codes around ship-
ping, and search and rescue activities.10 The Arctic Council’s issue areas can be separated
into two general categories: sustainable development in the Arctic and the protection and
study of the Arctic ecosystem.11 Although the Arctic Council cannot enforce agreements
or enact binding legislations among its members, its utility is derived from its ability to
foster communication in a setting in which each member state holds relatively equal
The six working groups of the Arctic Council include the Arctic Monitoring and
Assessment Program (AMAP); Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF); Emer-
gency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR); Protection of the Arctic Marine
Environment (PAME); Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) and the Sustainable
Development Working Group (SDWG). The six working groups of the Arctic Council
have successfully initiated information sharing and have produced extensive research,
such as AMAP’s analysis of Arctic pollution issues.12 Similarly, the Arctic Council devel-
oped rules of procedure and terms of reference for a sustainable development program in
the 1998 Iqaluit Declaration.13
The Arctic Council’s initiatives have resulted in the creation of two binding
intergovernmental agreements, nongovernmental arrangements between member states
and permanent participants, and the initiation of cooperative research.14 Although the
Arctic Council cannot enact binding legislation without consensual agreement, it has been
effective in facilitating bilateral and multilateral international treaties. Examples include
the 2011 Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in
the Arctic and the 2013 Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness
and Response in the Arctic, both of which were binding among all member states. Such
agreements strengthen cooperation and set precedents for future collective stewardship.
According to Arctic specialist Oran R. Young, the Arctic Council has become a place for
“articulating regional interests and for protecting regional actors from the side effects of
global processes.”15 The cooperation achieved in the Arctic Council was reaffirmed in the

9  Ibid., 767.
10  Byers, “Cold Peace,” 2010. 902, 909.
11  Charron, “Canada and the Arctic Council,” 2012. 765.
12  Evan T. Bloom, “Establishment of the Arctic Council,” The American Journal of International Law, vol. 93, no. 3, 1999. 713.
13  Ibid., 714.
14  Oran R. Young, “Governing the Arctic: From Cold War Theatre to Mosaic of Cooperation,” Global Governance, vol. 11, no.
1, 2005. 9.
15  Ibid., 12.

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60 Nehmat Bedar

2008 Ilulissat Declaration when the coastal Arctic states committed themselves to “con-
tribute actively to the work of the Arctic Council and other relevant international fora.”16
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion reaffirmed the centrality of
the Arctic Council in Arctic diplomacy in 2016. At a speech delivered to commemorate
the twentieth anniversary of the Arctic Council, Dion emphasized how cooperation in
the Arctic could be possible despite “profound disagreement” between Western countries
and Russia over the Ukraine crisis.17 According to Dion, “Responsible conviction means
engaging even when we disagree.”18 Although the Canadian and Russian governments
disagreed over the situation in Ukraine, this did not directly translate to disagreement in
the Arctic. Further, diplomacy in the Arctic holds the potential to encourage diplomacy
between Canada and Russia in other regions of the world, such as Ukraine or Syria. Dion
also emphasized that cooperation in the Arctic requires that a “crucial relationship …
must exist between Canada and Russia” because their populations account for over 75
percent of the North Arctic.19 The persistence of diplomacy between Canada and Russia
in the Arctic is unsurprising: the two countries share similar regional agendas and have
established research and information-sharing networks in the Arctic. Both governments
appear to recognize their vulnerability to changes in the Arctic as the two largest states
bordering the Arctic Ocean.

The Ilulissat Declaration
The Ilulissat Declaration was signed despite public conception of tension in the
Arctic at the time. Media exaggeration of the Canadian-Danish dispute over Hans Island
and State Duma member Artur Chilingarov’s planting of the Russian flag on the Arctic
seabed aroused public discussion over contending sovereignty claims in the Arctic.20 The
media called the situation “a race to the North Pole” and disseminated ideas about the
possibility of conflicts over resources, necessitating political efforts to ease public con-
cerns.21 As a result, the Ilulissat Declaration was adopted in May 2008 at the Arctic Ocean
Conference in Greenland. The Declaration was adopted by the five coastal Arctic states:
Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia, and the United States. It was non-binding and served
to reaffirm to the public the Arctic states’ commitments to peace that the Arctic is a realm
of peace and cooperation.

16  The Ilulissat Declaration, International Legal Materials, vol. 48, no. 2, 2009. 383.
17  Dion, “The Arctic Council at 20 years,” 2016.
18 Ibid.
19 Ibid.
20  Brooks B. Yeager, “The Ilulissat Declaration: Background and Implications for Arctic Governance,” Prepared for the Aspen
Dialogue and Commission on Arctic Climate Change, 2008. 1.
21 Ibid.

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Understanding Contemporary Arctic Politics 61

The most significant piece of the Declaration was a consensual conclusion that
the states “remain committed to [the existing] legal framework and to the orderly settle-
ment of any possible overlapping claims.”22 The existing legal framework holds the UN
Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) as its foundational text. It outlines prin-
ciples of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the twelve-nautical mile rule, and procedures
regarding transit passages.23 The legal framework also consists of international laws that
conceive offshore rights as a derivative of land rights.24 UNCLOS has been ratified by 162
states, including four of five Arctic coastal states (Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia).
Although the United States has not ratified UNCLOS, it treats it as international conven-
tion, meaning the U.S. recognizes its legitimacy for other states and the international law
for which it sets precedent.
UNCLOS is significant because it creates both rights and responsibilities for
Arctic states. Under this logic, the existence of such international laws does not mean that
friction between states is impossible. According to Donald R. Rothwell,
While the five Arctic littoral states do have certain readily identifiable rights under the
law of the sea, they also have obligations towards other states, including the other Arctic
states who have significant maritime interests in the region and to all other states who
may seek to exercise their own legitimate rights under the law of the sea in the Arctic.25

As UNCLOS creates both rights and responsibilities for these states, it acts as a
trade-off system. These laws allow states to exercise their rights, but ensure they must pos-
sess a valid reason for initiating a boundary or resource conflict.
The coastal Arctic states explicitly avoided creating new international laws for
their collective stewardship. According to the Declaration, the existing international legal
“provides a solid foundation for responsible management by the five coastal States and
other users of this Ocean through national implementation and application of relevant
provisions. [Signatories] therefore see no need to develop a new comprehensive interna-
tional legal regime to govern the Arctic Ocean.”26 The decision to engage with existing
legislation rather than create new laws or conventions implies that Arctic states are more
likely to use precedents from previous legal decisions than form new or unconventional
methods of resolution. By relying on older decisions to resolve existing disputes, the
signatories place value on previous instances of cooperation and diplomacy. This reliance
on diplomacy enables certainty among Arctic states and the wider global community, and
22  The Ilulissat Declaration, 2009. 383.
23  Donald R. Rothwell, “The Law of the Sea and Arctic Governance,” American Society of International Law, vol. 107, 2013. 273.
24  Michael Byers, International Law and the Arctic. Cambridge University Press, 2014. 28.
25  Rothwell, “The Law of the Sea and Arctic Governance,” 2013. 274.
26  The Ilulissat Declaration, 2009. 382.

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builds mutual trust between political actors as they create paths for partnership. Such trust
was reaffirmed in the Declaration itself:

The five coastal states currently cooperate closely in the Arctic Ocean with each other
and with other interested parties. … We will work to strengthen this cooperation, which
is based on mutual trust and transparency, inter alia, through timely exchange of data
and analyses.27

The implications of climate change have served as motivation for the Arctic states
to cooperate in scientific research and information sharing. The Arctic states are bound
together by a shared uncertainty of the effects climate change may have for each respective
state and their indigenous populations. The Declaration explicitly recognized the role of
climate change in altering the geo-strategic considerations for Arctic states. It states:

The Arctic Ocean stands at the threshold of significant changes. Climate change and
the melting of ice have a potential impact on vulnerable ecosystems, the livelihoods of
local inhabitants and indigenous communities, and the potential exploitation of natural

Since all Arctic states have a stake in natural resource exploitation and protect-
ing indigenous communities, there is common recognition that climate change will affect
each state’s interests. In order to most efficiently mitigate the effects of climate change, the
Arctic coastal states reaffirmed their commitment to work together through diplomatic
means and proceed without conflict in the Arctic. The Ilulissat Declaration, by binding
Arctic coastal states to commitments of diplomacy, set the stage for the 2010 Barents Sea

The Barents Sea Treaty
The conclusion of the 2010 Agreement on the Maritime Boundary in the Bar-
ents Sea and the Arctic Ocean between Russia and Norway evidences demonstrates the
triumph of legal solutions to Arctic dispute settlement over militaristic means. Russia,
vastly larger in both population and military stock, could have exerted coercive pressure
on Norway to achieve its goals in the Barents Sea. Russia could have exerted economic
pressures on Norwegian companies operating with Russia or imposed an embargo to force
Norway to alter its stance on the Barents Sea issue. Russia possessed the military capacity
to act coercively but chose, instead, to act through diplomatic channels and rely on the ex-
27  The Ilulissat Declaration, 2009. 382-383.
28  Ibid., 382.

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Understanding Contemporary Arctic Politics 63

isting international framework and legal precedents. According to Kriz and Chrastansky,
with regard to the Arctic, “Drawing up a mutual agreement as a means of reconciliation
has so far been a rule in these types of [maritime boundary] disputes.”29 The Barents Sea
boundary dispute was considered one of the most serious maritime boundary disputes.
Its peaceful, political resolution serves both to showcase the utility of international laws
for dispute resolution and sets important precedents for remaining boundary disputes
in the Arctic, namely the Beaufort Sea maritime boundary dispute between Canada and
the United States.30 The incumbent Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg remarked
after the negotiations:

The treaty will strengthen our neighborly relations with Russia and will enhance predict-
ability and stability in the area. It sends an important signal to the rest of the world—the
Arctic is a peaceful region where any issues that arise area resolved in accordance with
international law. It reflects the parties’ active role and responsibility as coastal states for
securing stability and strengthening cooperation in the Arctic Ocean.31

By 2010, the Barents Sea boundary dispute had stretched on for almost forty
years. The Barents Sea is a strategically significant area because of its abundant fish popu-
lations, and oil and natural gas reserves.32 Legal rights over the exploitation of natural
resources were the principal variable in both Norway and Russia’s claims in the Barents
Sea. The perpetuation of the dispute can be attributed to differing Norwegian and Russian
methods of creating a boundary. The Russian government preferred creating a meridian
line that would have been drawn along a sector line, or “a straight line from the border
point on the coastline up to the North Pole.33 Such a boundary would have granted Russia
a larger portion of the Sea. Norway wanted to draw an equidistant or median line that
would draw a boundary “along a line every point of which is equidistant from the coun-
tries’ baselines.”34
The 2010 Treaty drew a boundary according to the equidistance principle and
virtually divided the disputed sea into halves. The agreement enabled Russia to maintain
an EEZ in an area within 200 nautical miles of the Norwegian mainland and beyond 200

29  Zdenek Kriz and Filip Chrastansky, “Existing Conflicts in the Arctic and the Risk of Escalation: Rhetoric and Reality,”
Perspectives, vol. 20, no. 1, 2012. 123.
30  Ibid., 131.
31  Yearn Hong Choi, “The Barents Sea: Equal Division of the Disputed Sea between Russia and Norway,” The Journal of East
Asian Affairs, vol. 28, no. 2, 2014. 68-69.
32 Byers, International Law and the Arctic, 2014. 39.
33  Choi, “The Barents Sea,” 2014. 65.
34  Ibid., 65.

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64 Nehmat Bedar

nautical miles off the Russian coast and to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction over
that area.35 The exclusive economic zone enables a state to exercise exclusive rights over
the natural resources of the water column and seabed.36 This particular piece is important
because according to Article 76 of UNCLOS, a sovereign state may exercise jurisdiction in
an EEZ within 200 nautical miles of their continental territory but not past that delinea-
tion. Thus, the bilateral agreement enabled Russia to hold an EEZ in maritime territory
that would have otherwise not legally belonged to it.
The equidistance principle has become conventional in resolving maritime
boundary disputes. A study conducted by Legault and Hankey in 1993 found that of 134
bilateral delimitation agreements concluded between 1940 and 1993, 103 of these agree-
ments were based on some form of the equidistance principle.37 According to Yearn Hong
Choi, “The fact that 89 percent of the agreements between countries with opposite coasts
applied the equidistance principle shows how deeply imbedded a practice it is.”38 The
study also reflects the preference of states to utilize legal principles to conclude bilateral
agreements rather than to engage in confrontational or coercive activities. This sentiment
was also reflected in the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration, which helped pave the way for the
Barents Sea Treaty.
Successful agreement of the Barents Sea boundary can be attributed to a number
of forces. First, thawing of Cold War tensions after 1991 enabled greater cooperation be-
tween Russian and Norwegian diplomats. Since Norway is a member of NATO, geopoliti-
cal tensions were highly salient during the 1970s and 1980s. As Cold War tensions eased,
the Russian government became more flexible in its position to draw a boundary based on
the meridian principle. Second, Russia and Norway had collaborated for more than thirty
years on management of fisheries and joint stocks in the Barents Sea.39 Collaboration
in the area of fisheries and resource management eventually enabled cooperation in the
boundary resolution. Similarly, cooperative initiatives in the realm of nuclear safety and
nuclear disposal on the Hola Peninsula meant that the two states remained communica-
tive during the four decades of boundary dispute.40 Third, existing structures of economic
and ecological interdependence necessitated communication between the countries and
increased incentive for both governments to work together to negotiate a legal settlement.
The importance of mutual trust cannot be underestimated in the ability to resolve disputes
through peaceful and political methods. The existing networks of communication and

35  Ibid., 67.
36 Byers, International Law and the Arctic, 2014. 29.
37  Choi, “The Barents Sea,” 2014. 75.
38  Ibid., 75-76.
39  Helga Haftendorn, “Sort Solutions for Hard Problems,” International Journal, vol. 65, no. 4, 2010. 818.
40  Ibid., 819.

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Understanding Contemporary Arctic Politics 65

joint management between the states acted as methods of creating trust, even during the
Cold War. Mutual incentives and the willingness of Norway to work through established
networks and international frameworks eased Russian fears of NATO exploitation or ma-
nipulation. Decreased tension at the end of the Cold War established communication and
management channels, and a Norwegian commitment to settle the dispute through legal
means ultimately enabled the two countries to agree on boundary delineation.

A Feedback System
The Arctic Council, Ilulissat Declaration, and Barents Sea Treaty reflect a feed-
back system in which communication and cooperation strengthen over time and enable
more productive diplomacy between states. Successful endeavors in cooperative research
and search and rescue missions have increased Arctic states’ willingness to work together.
Each instance of cooperation increases the potential for future cooperation. Years of
successful information sharing and research in the Arctic Council encouraged the Arctic
coastal states to reaffirm their commitment to cooperation in certain issue areas in the
2008 Ilulissat Declaration. The precedents set by international law in successfully settling
maritime and boundary disputes before 2008 reflected how UNCLOS and other relevant
legislations could be invoked to settle bilateral disagreements. Two years following the
Ilulissat Declaration, Norway and Russia reinforced their commitments by using legal
precedents and the existing legal framework to settle a longtime dispute in the Barents
Sea. These examples verify that Arctic has been, and continues to be, a space for diplo-
matic resolution and cooperative governance.

The Arctic is not becoming a new arena for Cold War politics. In several issue areas,
Arctic states have reaffirmed their commitment to diplomacy and cooperation. This com-
mitment has resulted in the increased utility of the Arctic Council in recent years, which
has acted as a mechanism for information sharing and communication in reaction to the
implications of climate change. The uncertain nature of climate change incentivizes states
to work together. The Arctic Council has been the primary organization for facilitating
such communication, and its ability to foster cooperation resulted in the Ilulissat Declara-
tion of 2008. The Declaration explicitly addressed public concerns over the possibility of
conflict in the Arctic and asserted the shared commitment of these states to engage with
existing international law to settle disputes. The 2010 Barents Sea Treaty was a manifesta-
tion of the ideals communicated in the Ilulissat Declaration. The ability of Norway and
Russia to settle their long-time maritime boundary dispute reflected the continued role
of diplomacy and legal precedent in settling Arctic disputes and the shared commitment
of states to cooperation as stated in the Ilulissat Declaration. The three aforementioned

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66 Nehmat Bedar

examples demonstrate that the Arctic has been a strong diplomatic space since the end
of the Cold War despite conflict in other regions of the world. Furthermore, cooperation
within the Arctic context may influence policies in other regions over time. As climate
change continues to affect the Arctic ecosystem, entrenched communication networks will
enable Arctic states to coordinate the most effective response to protect their individual
and collective interests.

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Understanding Contemporary Arctic Politics 67

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