Dr. Matthew Rhodes, Professor of National Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies gave an overview of relations between the West (NATO, EU, USA) and the East (Russia, China).
With regards to Russia, Dr. Rhodes looked at NATO enlargement and identified it as a possible contributor to conflict, even though the enlargement was initiated by these states and not NATO itself. While there is absolutely no common ground and hence no room for negotiation with regard to the Ukraine conflict, Russia and the West at least share mutual interests in Afghanistan. Russia’s foreign policy aims that the country is again recognized as a (regional) super power even though its power in terms of GDP, population or defense spending do not support this.
The US decision to rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific-region in 2012 is mainly due to China, which is surrounded by “a ring of conflict”. The country, which annually increases its annual defense budget by 15-17%, is testing its power (and its limits). Both NATO and the EU have limited roles in the region and the focus remains on the US, Dr. Rhodes argued.
While there are limiting factors to cooperation between China and Russia, the Ukraine crisis has certainly brought the two countries closer together and lead to an increase in trade relations and energy cooperation.