Wed, 25 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump would focus in a second term on getting Russian President Vladimir Putin to side with him in his confrontation with China, a former adviser said.

Fiona Hill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and formerly the top Russia and Europe adviser on Trump's National Security Council, also suggested that this goal was behind the president's push earlier this year to invite Putin to the next meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations.

"Trump is really wanting to have Putin join forces [on China]," Hill said in an hour-long discussion on October 27 with Stanford University adjunct professor and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer.

"So beyond all the various pleasantries and 'please come visit'...and perhaps next phase of arms control, it will be about China," she said.

But Hill said Putin would be "kind of nervous" about a request to team up against its larger neighbor to the east. "The Russians really don't want that."

Trump has taken on China since coming to power in 2017, launching a trade war against Beijing the following year and ratcheting up tensions this year with a ban on some Chinese technology companies.

The Trump administration has accused China of unfair trade practices, including industrial espionage, forced technology transfers, and subsidies to state-owned enterprises. It has also accused Chinese technology companies of spying for the Chinese government.

The Trump administration has been pushing allies and friendly nations to join the United States in banning 5G Chinese technology.

As tensions with China spiked in the summer, Trump announced he would like to invite Putin to the next meeting of the G7 world leaders despite opposition from other leaders.

The G7 consists of the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Canada. The group used to include Russia as the G8, but the country was expelled in 2014 following the annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Fear Of China

Hill said Russia is "very fearful" about China's rapid rise and does not want to appear to be in a geopolitical struggle with the country.

She said the United States has done Russia "a great favor" by pushing China and Russia closer together than they otherwise would be.

Washington has angered both Moscow and Beijing by punishing them economically with sanctions and bans.

However, Russia still has a "great deal of anxiety" over the sanctity of its border with China.

Moscow and Beijing signed border agreements in the 1990s and early 2000s following clashes decades earlier during the Soviet period.

But recent clashes between Beijing and Delhi over their shared border in the Himalayas may have unsettled the Kremlin, she said.

"If you are sitting in Moscow and you see this happening, you might wonder and worry about China's perspective on what seems to be resolved territorial disputes change over time," she said.

Chinese nationalists still see swaths of land north of the Amur as historically Chinese and she said it's "not beyond the realm of possibility" that Beijing would replicate Russia's actions in Crimea.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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