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China-Russia axis is dangerous for fossil fuel disarming America and the West

FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, gestures while speaking to Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Sept. 16, 2022. China said Friday, March 17, 2023, President Xi will visit Russia from Monday, March 20, to Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in an apparent show of support for Russian President Putin amid sharpening east-west tensions over the conflict in Ukraine. (Sergei Bobylev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

The relationship between China and Russia poses the greatest danger faced by America and the West since the Hitler-Stalin Pact in 1939 initiated WWII. If alarm bells are not ringing all across Washington, D.C. — they should be. China was already a global power based on its expanding economy, modernizing military and diplomatic reach, but the burgeoning relations with Moscow provide Beijing with renewed energy, literally and figuratively. What does that mean for the rest of the world?

The China-Russia symbiosis is easy to understand. Russia provides the oil, gas and raw materials at discount prices, while China trades their high technology and endless amounts of manufactured products. It’s a win-win.

Russia is fueling China’s technology-based economy and their military. Not to mention Russian agricultural production, which helps feed China’s 1.5 billion people. The relationship fulfills the long-term basic needs of the respective partners. It’s no wonder China’s President Xi Jinping gloats that “this hasn’t happened in 100 years.”

For the foreseeable future, China’s vast purchases of Russian natural resources perpetuates the war in Ukraine, making China wholly complicit in the ongoing death and destruction. Because of the China lifeline, Russian President Vladimir Putin can conceivably keep fighting until Western electorates lose patience and quit.

Since the Russians went on the warpath, the resulting global sanctions have so far not seriously wounded its economy and fossil fuel sales have buoyed it, thanks mostly to China — but also India, and to Europe itself!  Russia’s GDP only fell by 2 percent in 2022, well below predictions, thanks to fossil fuel sales keeping it afloat.

Conversely, America’s economy is struggling with high inflation, bank failures and experiencing a pressing need to mobilize its defense industries to keep up with its critical role in the war in Ukraine — producing ammunition, in particular. And given present climate change policies, there’s been no mobilization of a vast American fossil fuels capacity to push back on the current Russia and Saudi energy dominance.

Outside of America (add Canada, Western Europe and Australia), the rest of the world, including Eastern Europe, see Western democracies denuding themselves of the very fossil fuels that still-developing countries need to grow their economies and feed their people. These nations are committed to using fossil fuels and may only be giving lip service to climate change because they want friendly and financial relations with the West. At the same time, the West will not assist developing nations to harness their own fossil fuel capacities. This is true for institutions like the USAID, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, among others.

Developing nations like, India and Brazil are on the sidelines over the war in Ukraine largely because they see the West fossil fuel-energy disarming in the present while over-focusing on the risks of climate change for the future. These countries need oil, gas, coal and fossil fuel-derived fertilizers and petrochemicals to survive, no less prosper. Unfortunately for the West but fortunately for developing nations, these resources are readily available from Russia and the Middle East along with manufactures from China, thus marginalizing the U.S. and Europe.

America’s leadership is no longer the guiding North Star in the Global South as the investments, products and markets of China and the fossil fuels and related products of Russia and the Middle East begin to supersede the advantages of tying their futures to Europe and the United States.

Adding to the West’s dilemma, most of these countries have traditional populations and governance that are not ready for the kind of revolutionary social policies sweeping over the West. In the meantime, Putin lays claim to “protect traditional values” and such social policies have no traction in China.

The West faces a serious predicament. How to weigh the value of guarding against the potential long-term effects of climate change vs. the current phasing out of fossil fuels at the risk of geopolitical failure. Unfortunately, the West is not even actually considering its options — it is denouncing and repressing fossil fuel production, thus inadvertently strengthening the China-Russia axis. Iran is already in the China-Russia bag and Turkey is more and more leaning that way.

Recently, oil and gas giant Saudi Arabia has made stunning moves in the China-Russia direction, in some large part because fossil fuels are their lifeblood, now and into the future and they see America downgrading that life blood while at the same time seeking to cut back its presence in the Middle East.

Adding to the dilemma, China totally dominates the world in green energy raw materials, technology and production. In that regard, “going green” means greater U.S. energy dependence on China for the foreseeable future.

The fact is that fossil fuels are by far the indispensable component of all the worlds’ economies and the dominant weapon of war as militaries are built and run on fossil fuels. In fact, 85 percent of the world’s energy consumption comes from fossil fuels and we see China, ostensibly our main adversary, going full steam ahead on an “all-of-the-above” approach that focuses on oil, gas and coal plus renewables wind, solar and hydropower. They are actively engaged in nuclear power: 43 plants have been built, 13 are under construction and 45 are planned.

Recently, U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that while the Biden administration is pushing for net-zero “carbon” emissions by 2050, a policy with potentially enormous negative impact on the economy and military preparedness, the U.S. will still derive some 65 percent of its energy from fossil fuels as compared with some 79 percent today. But what will the geopolitical cost be for a 14 percent reduction?

A long-term China-Russia axis is dangerous for a fossil fuel disarming America and the West. France and the European Union recently urged Xi to hold back on supporting Russia, but that’s not enough to make us safer. Add a still developing, natural resource dependent Global South, going along, by energy necessity, with this fossil fuel-strong new world power structure, and the situation becomes even more precarious. Perhaps giving rise to some sort of civilizational shift or existential threat. The “alarm bells” only ring for those willing to listen. It’s high time the West re-evaluates its energy and climate change approach before it is too late.

Former Rep. Don Ritter (R-Pa.), Ph.D., served 14 years on the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce and Science and Technology Committees. After leaving Congress, he created and led the National Environmental Policy Institute. He was a National Academy of Sciences fellow in the USSR, speaks fluent Russian and was ranking member on the Congressional Helsinki Commission and founding co-chair of the Baltic States-Ukraine Caucus. He is a trustee of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and Museum and co-chairs its Capital Campaign.

Tags China Climate change Energy European Union oil and gas Russia Ukraine Xi Jinping

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