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Thc Sino-Soviet-US Triangle: Moscow's Tougher Tactics Toward China

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The Sino-Sotiet-US Triangle; Moscow's Tougher Tacticsint


Kremlin's cancellation of First Deputy Premier Ivan Arkhipov's visit to Beijing in May of this year may prove toatershed in Sino-Soviett ia now apparent thai the decision licnifiedstiffening of Soviet policy toward China. The Soviets have:

Become mote critical of Beijing's policies both in public and in private.

Taken military and diplomatic steps to reaffirm tupiiori for their altiea on China's border.

their efforts to advance the Sino-Soviet dialogue. Moscow's shift probably was precipitaied by eacalatinci in; -and by Soviet displeasure at the warm reception that President Reagan received during his visit to China in late April. But it is fueled by more fundamental concents over China's decision to strengthen security tics wilb the United States while standing fast on its policy toward the

The Soviets arc frustrated with the continuing deterioration of their position in the uiangularSoviet- US rcUuonship. aad tbey apparently have growing doubts Ihat Sino-Soviet relations can be strengthened by conciliatory gestures toward Beijing at this time. We believe Moscow willtougher policy toward China over the near term, not make gesture to give new impetus to the dialogue. Nonetheless, the Soviets value the recent expansion of economic, political, and cultural contactsjinn and will continue to watch closely for signs of favorable trends in Chinese policy

China anticipatederiod of greater Sino-Soviet friction would result from iu decisions over the past year to solidify relations with (be United Stales and Japan on an anti-Soviet basis. For the near term. Beijing see:illing to sacrifice some of the secondary benelili it derived fiom improved Sino-Soviet contacts to foster and oroiecl more important security and economic interests with the West



The Sino-Soiicl-US Triangle; Moscow's Tougher Tactics Toward China '

The Kremlin's decision In early Mar tiiit yearFiril Deputy Premier Ivaneijing baa dealt the Sino-Soviet relationshipsignificant setback since the current aeriestalk* began inrkhipovbeen the moit senior Soviet official to vimIS ycart, and the Sovieu bid intended to uiethere to (We ftcah impetus to theirwilb the

t Oidicaie 'hat tbe Sov<eu made it clear thai tbeir decisioo to postpone hit (rip ai theoment was rilaicd by Soto-Vietnamese tensions and by President Reagan's successful visit to China less than Iwo weeks before Arkhipov was scheduled to arrive. Theor their part, have offered us only transparent excuses for their abrupt move andhave yet Io give the Chinese'any idea when tbe visit might be rescheduled

tn tbe absence of convincing Soviet comment, lhc decision initially seemed best explained by China's increased military pressure oo tbe Vietnamese botdct and unusual Chinese naval activity tn Uie South China Sea. China's faatshest military measures against Vietnam9 had begun in February and hadifb point io April durincReagan's visit. Beijing's action* were designed to punish Hanoi, sho* common cause wiih Ibe United Stale* and Thailand, and demonstrate that China would not be intimidated by Soviet support forand the buildup of Soviet facilities iter e. Ii would have been extremely embarrassing for (be USSR hadbeen seen as punishing Vietnam while ihe most senior-isilor to China9 was in Beijing

Moscow probably calculated a* well lhat lhc success of the President's visit io Beijing wouldhadow on the relatively modest resulu anticipated from Arkhipov'* visit. Tlte visit wai designed to discuss ways of increasing trade aod lo work oat terms for limited Soviet assistance in the refurbishment of

Soviet-built factories in China. There was no especta-(ion on Moscow's part of substantial gains, however, because the Chinese remained setong-termriented tsward the West andhave ihe advanced technology and hard currency Ihe Chinese seek.

Moscow Loses Ground

Although tactical considerations contributed io tbe Soviet decision lo pui offisit, ihecause of the stiffening Soviet policy is Moscow's growing pessimism aboul Beijing's current strategy loward Ihe Uniied States and the USSR. The Chinese have been moving with renewed determinalion lo retain the United Stalestrategic counterweight to ibe USSR and io purchase defensive weapon sysiems from (he former. At (he same time, ihey have made no secret of (he fact lhat talk* with lhc Soviets will not lessen basic differences between the USSR and tbe PRC

While ibe Soviet-American dialogue has gonelo worse over Ibe post year. Ihere ha* beenexchange of visits betweenand Beijing. Tbe leitmotif of these viiii* (seechronology) has been China's interest intechnology and weapon sysiems. TheIo believe that lhc Chinese used these visiisa close dialoeue with the United Stales oncounter Soviei strategy in East Asia andto identify the Soviet threat to China as onearea* in which US and Chineseconverge. Soviet officials

pressed concern about US arms sales to Chin* and Sine-US military cooperation, and publichas renewed attacks on alleged US effortscrraie an ami-Soviet alliance in the Far Easl

Triangular Relations: The View From Moscorr

triangular relationship between ihe USSR. China, and the United Statu has loomed large In Soviei diplomacy since the establishment of the PRCt has presented Moscow wilh both dangers and opportunities andhanging set of

The Stalin Era. Moscow proved tolumsy proetilioner of triangular diplomacy even when the salad daft of tht Slno-Sovlet alliance gaveosition of potential advantage. The Soviets treated Ihe Chinese as second-class partners In thethat preceded the Korean war. which galvanized ihe West against Soviet policy, and iheir assistance lo Beijing during the conflict failed to match the heavy Chinese sacrifices

Diplomacy. Under Khrushchev. Moscow was the pivot of the triangle in this period as Khrushchev ottempi-ed io repair ties lo Ihe Wesl while seeking to preserve ond strengthen Moscow's alliance wiih Beijing. But Khrushchev was forcedefend his effort to move toward ami control and summit diplomacy with the Wesl front rear-guard attach by an Increasingly assertive Beijing berti on challenging Moscow'sfaith. The Slno-US leg of the triangle remained moribund, as Washington underestimated Slno-Sovlet frictions and spurned contacts with

The Kissinger Era. Triangular diplomacy came into Its own of lee Ihe Nixon White House simultaneouslyhannel lo Beijing while negotiatingand conventional arms control arrangements with ihe USSR, whose own relations with Beijing wereow point. Following the armed clashes on the Ussurloscow was faced for Ihe first time wiih Ihe prospect of being "oddgman out"and quickened ihe pace and scope of Us bargaining wiih both ihe Chinese and iht Americans. Soviet-US

relations advanced while the Chinese brushed off Soviet overtures. The weight of Soviet diplomacy coniinued to be directed at Washington when Mao's death6 brought no change In Sino-Soviet relations, despite the cooling of US-Soviet ties in ihe last half of the decade

Emerging Sino-fJS Cooperation. Moscow'sover ihe entl^Soviet thrustlno-US rapprochement escalated following Zblgniew Bntiin-skl's visit lo Beijinghina's moves to strengthen political and economic lies with Europe end Japan, and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistanrseslnskl's talks with ihe Chinese raised lhc specler In Moscow of joint strategic cooperation against the USSR. By the, with ihe collapse of Ihe SALT II negotiations. Beijing'sof Sino-Soviet talks, and tht Imposiilon of sanctions following marital law In Poland, the Soviets found themselves in their worst position in the triangular relationship for two decades

Disappointed Expectation. Moscow's hopes forground were revived7 by frictions in the Slno-US relationship over Taiwan ond Increased receptivity in Beijing lo expanded contacts with the USSR. Rapidly expanding eeor onuc and cultural lies with ihe Chinese bolstered M' room's conviction lhal the momentum was in itsfavo despite the continuing deterioration in relations with .Washington. But ihe Stalemate In the SinoSoviei dialogue that has set In since last fall, and the expansion ofSino-VS military ties since Secretory Weinberger's visit, have again undermined Moscow's position in the triangle end evidenilyeassessment In ihe Kremlin of diplomatic strategy and tatties. At this moment. Moscow appears to see tittle prospeci for diplomatic steps that would'n^vfiee Us position in the triangular relationship

probably is concerned alto aboui lhcprogress (hai has occultedariety of hi livedo sensitive mallets between ihe United States and ihe PRC. such as US removal of discriminatory

restriction) on technology transfers io China and VVajbineion's signs of willingnessonclude acooperation agreement with Beijing. For iu pan. China has moderated iu opposition lo US policy o'er

Taiwan. Parallel US-Chinese interests In such viul arras aij: -aSioo US understanding aboul Alia. Ihe main element nf which remains the coniainmeni ol* Soviei power aad influence. Sino-Japanesebolo Ute USSR'i sense of bolt-lion in East Alii

Meanwhile, the Chinese appear to the Sovietsintransigent on tbe important issueitwo countries. The failure of Ihe two iidea toheadway on Ihese issues at the Moscow talks*C prompied

Soviet Foreign Minister tiromyko lo warn thethat il will be difficult for thees to make any further progress oo secondary matters so long asremain stalemated on the key Issues dividing hem Now thai the Chinese have demonstrated anew that ihey will ignore Soviet concerns aboul US arms sales to China and Sino-US military cooperation, the Soviets may perceive lhat Iheir tactic of publicly wooing tbe Chinese while standing firm in private on what Beijing has termed "obstacles" to improved retukm' hat been counterproductive II certainly has not helped Moscow to achieve its aim of reasserting itself in the triangular (etauonship Tbe Soviets may also believe that theii earlier eiprejuenis of inleresi in normal!tint. Sino-Sovieiiheir upbeat assesirncnu of Ihe prospects of doing so indirectly aided the Chinese in developing closer lios lo both the Uniied Slates and Japao.

iilcmcals alsorowing ii.iteptiou Ihn Chios is not prepared for anyIn Sino-Soviet relatioru.C

J has. over the pasi four man His, repeatedly expressed this view lo C-

J Other Soviet officials have indicated iha!forwarding documents to Beijing lo keep the Arkhipov visitia no hurry to advance Ihe diplomatic dialogue

Moscow, ai the (ame lime, has shown thai it is lesi concerned lhan at any limcsiooe2 aboul papering over mffercnoes wiih Beijing. Soviet parly chief Chernenko, according lo press accounts of hb meetings wllh Vietnamese and Laotian leaders in June, was sharply critical of China's "hostile moves" againil Vietnam, laos. and Kampuchea. This wu Cherncnko'i first direct criticism of Chir- se policy since beeorniag General Secretary last February and ihe sharpen high-level attack oa ihe Chinese since Bieihacv's Tashkent speech in? iniro-duccdaew period of restraint in publichoto cshibit onrod lira" in Vietnam opened ia Moscow in laic June,ew days before Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Qian arrived for talks with the Sovieu on international issues. Ihe Soviet media, since Qiaa'a departure, have accused tbe Chinese of stepping up Iheir ami-Soviet propaganda and have suggested lhai Beijing's "open-door" policy toward ibe West could compromise the PRCs "socialist orientation.'

Toughrt SoiUi Stance

Since ihe postponement of Arkhipov's visit, thehave toughened ibeir rhetoric oain their ceannscnuries about lhcof President Reagan's visit lo Beijing and then criticism of Beijing's actions on the Sioo-Vietnamese border. Several Soviet articles noted thai ihe Chinese leaden had acknowledged common interests with the United States, including the "containment" of ihe Soviet Union, and waiaed ihai ihe possible cipansion of Sino-US "military and intelligence con tact a" would arouseronceins- among Ihe PRCsOther commentaries have fully aired lhc rrtrim inaiions between ihe USSR and ihe PRC and put Beijing on notice ihai Chinese a'l'mnn in nilkwy ihe Soviels will not go unanswered

The Sovieu alio have taken Stepseaffirm their backing for third panics involved In the Sino-Soviet equation, most notably Indochina and Mongolia, in the face of warming Sino-US relations and Chinese peas ure on Vietnam. Following ihe March talks with lhc Chuteae. Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko met with the Mongolian Foreign Minister io reaffirm that any improvement io relations with Beijing would not be al Uie eapense of third countriesse Mongolians have made several attacks on Chinese politic, -moat notably. China's "aEgreation" in

The SovicU meanwhile hive reaffirmed (heir miliiary support for Hanoi and have taken sicps to further augment then- forces ai Cam Ranh Bay. In April, as Sino-Vietnamese clashes were beating up on Iheof President Reagan's villi lo China, Soviet aod Vietnamese lorccs participated in an tuipcecodenied joint amphibious exercise. There arc also indications thai the Soviets may have decided this spring to further expand their naval and naval air presence and relatediheir Cam Ranh Bay miliiary bas>

The Soviets appear to bave been al some pains lo demonstrate that whatever progress (bey might nukehe Chinese would not lessen Moscow'sto stand firm against Beijing's demands oo the Vietnam/Kampuchea Question. Mcciint* between Soviet and Indochincse leaders in June and July were apparently timed to coincide wilh ihe few positive steps that Moscow look at thatio Beijing one or two documents related to Arkhipov's visit, inviting Qian lo visit Moscow in early July, andeeting between Foreign Ministerand Wu at the United Nations thisget tbc Sino-Soviet dialogue back on tracl '

Moscow also has upped tbehe competition for influence in North Korea by warmly welcoming Kim Il-sonc on his first official visitoscowoviet leaders attempted to play oo Kim's fears of US and Japanese support for Soulh Korea and toChina's till toward the West to solidify Soviet-South Korean relations. Kirn, however, apparently remains committedolicy of si least nornjnat independence and gives no sign of siding openly with either nf nil Communist neighbors against the oiber.

Soviet Tactic*

The changing Soviet ilance on Chinese policies and the escalating polemics with tbe PRC suggest thathas decided to toughen Iu taetka inwithanother watershed in Ihe mercurial Sino-Soviet relationship. It it possible lhal Moscow helices that iu new tactics will demonstrate that tbe Soviei* cannot be pushed around and will ultimately evoke more flexibility in Dei) ini

While seeking to make Beijing tbink twice about Ibe price tt wiD have to pay for drawing closer toand Tokyo, the Soviets do not want to close (he door to better tabselations. Over the past two yean,(he Soviets haveeries ofwith Ihe PRC that they will Dot dismantle overnight, regardless of their deteriorating position in lhc Sino-Sovict-US triangle. Routine Sino-Sovietand exchanges, for example, have coniinued over tbc past few months, and all signs arc still "go" for Deputy Foreign Minister ILichcv's return lo Beijing in October for another round of coosullaliooi onissues. In fact, recent Soviet behavior makes it clear that Moscow recognizes that it cannot opt out of triangular diplomacy and has no intention ofabandoning its efforts toino-Soviet dialogue going. Ihe Soviets would, in any event, want to avoid breaking off al) contact with the Chinese because they reportedlyost-Dengin which leaders advocating better lies with the USSR couldore prominent role

China's Calculus

Beijing is unlikely to moderate its present course in the faceoucher Soviet stance. China hasourse lo protect its security and economic interests in the face of increasing Soviet-US competition in Asia by building closer tics with the United Slates and Japan. Chinese leaders have repeatedly cniphasued lhal they expect no gestures from Ibe "rigid"leadership that would cause Beijing to reassess its plan. On tbe contrary, they anticipate continued Soviet inUansigcnce, reinfmeinf China's interest in closer ties with the Wear

Chinese media continue lo give til for tat In sharp polemical exchange) with the USSRideof sensitive issues, including Soviet policy io Vietnam and Afghanistan. Soviet missile deployments In Europe, and relations among Communist parties. Also, an articleid-July issne of Uaowcag. an important Chinese policy journal, indicated thatrow expects in the months ahead to move forward even more vigorously In relations withhile lemaining firm in opposition to

Nevertheless, Ihc Chinese do not went Sino-Soviel tensions lo gel out of hand, and they continue to value the vice-ministerial talksseful diplomatic safety valve. Beijing has repot tedly totd Moscow that it would welcome Arkhipov when he has finished bisnd it readily agreedeeting bciween Foreign Ministers Gromyko and Wa at tbe United Nations tats fill

China also has attempted to sustain Sonet interest in tbe dialogue by hinting at poasibk Chinese flexibility over tbe bilateral bccdri dispute and economic

j ihat the Chinese leadership had changed lis view of (he Sino-Soviet border Issue and now aaw it onlyminorthat should not stand in the way of improved relations China signed its first border delineation agreement with Mongolia inan image of Chinese flexibility on sensitive border

Meanwhile. Foreign Fconomtc Minister Cher. Mubua signed agreements in June and July setting upjoin' economic committee* to ptomote trade and economic exchange* with Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia: Moscow has long soughtimilar Sino-Soviet commission, and ihe Issue was to have been diacuascd during Arkhipov's visit.

Th* Most likely Scenario

A harsher lone in relations is likely in the coming months, as the Sovseis seek lo remind the Chinese lhal they are fairy prepared tot" Sino Soviet relations if Beijing avidlyap-prochemem wilh Washington lhal Mosco* has been unable lo achieve;

Polemical exchange* are likely io become moie frequent and heated

Diplomatic eichangea may be delayed further at Sino-Vietnamese border clashes continue and as

Sino-US exchanges on -capons and nuclearmove forwaid

Tlie Soviets cauMougber position at tbe October talks, making secondary exchangeson piogreai on political issues. It li possible but less likely that llichev could walk oat of Use talks if China raise* issue* tike Afghanistan, Indochina, or Soviet military force* in Mongolia.

The Soviets could introduce delays or small-scale cutbacks ia achedaied exchanges or trade, ostensibly for "tcchnscal" reasons,

Moacow may intensify iu complaints aboui Chinese aidhe Afghan insurgents.

Tbc Soviets could press (bear East European allieseaf car lo Chinese offers of increased trade or eichangea to signal Moscow's refusal to accept Chinese interference in its sphere of influence

The Soviets will probably intensify their propaganda campaign against China and Step up overt and covert actions to counter what they perceive as the growing threat of Sino-US military collusion in Asia. Possible step* include

Increased propaganda aimed al ibe ASEANdepicting Chinese "hegemonism" and"mditarism" in Use service of US "imperial ambitions" ia Ibe Pacific as the chief "threat" lo Asian scctjrily.

fc/foruore intensive antinuclcarheonjunction with leftist and pacifist panic* and groups in Japan. Australia, and New Zealand

Disinformation activities designed to lend credence io Soviet Charges

If ih* Soviets are genuinely concerned over the threat of Stao-US military collusion against (hem, (hey could btai at the possibility of more wtdc-rangingn addrtiocsal buildupeir anilitaty 'oree* in East Asia They abocouM

more military assistance to North Korea, hoping this would force the United Stales to in-mease its aidooth Korea, and thus highlight difference* between the United States and China over the Korean question.


Patrol morei -ihe straits off lhc coait of Jinan and/or intrude more frequently into Japanese airspace,

Harden Iheir facilities al Cam Ranh Bay and expand ihcrr naval and airstrike capabilities io ihe South China Sea.

Provide increased support for anti-US elements throughout Eastin Japan and thetbc aim of increasing procureS military withdrawal from ihe area

Alternative Scenarios

Wc do not expect lhal Moscow will simpl- withdrawfortress" posture but instead will actively try to alter one or another leg of the triangularin its favot

Carrots fee Beijing

The Soviets still act as if Ihey regard ihe Sino-Soviet-US rclalionship as fluid, and we cannot rule out the possibiliiyoviet move this fall to give new impetus to the Sino-Soviet dialogue:

The Soviets could make new economic offerings to the Chinese, pullingatherby theirof proposals involving: trade on favorable credit terms, offers of assistance in plant modernizationrial basisinimal number of Sovietnd theof assistance for China's nuclear energy program.

Moscow could announce the withdrawal of one or more of the Soviet divisions stationed in Mongolia to probe for Beijing's willingness lo redprocale by addressing Ulaanbaaiar's security concerns. The recent replacement of Mongolian party chiefhad publicly ali-ned himself with alridently anti-Chineseultimatelymovement on this issue.

Moscow could probe for flexibility on (he Sioo-Soviel border dispute (where talks havey offering to compensate China for Hessian Island 'w> Wi tbc Sovicu have occupied since*

Beating Beijing it Its Own Cane

Alternatively, though less likely, (he Soviets could movetrengthen the Soviet-US leg of the triangle while delaying any moves to conciliate the Chinese. Although the Soviets to date appear determined not lo let tensions with China force them into miking overtures to lhc United States or its Asian allies, growing frostra tion with Ibc Chinese could leadto conclude that unorthodox gestures areThe Soviets could attempt toialogue with the United Stales with new proposals for confi-dcrKe-hullding measures (CBMs) in (he PacificSoviet and US forces. It is extremely unlikely, however, that any such gesture would occur before Ibe November elections. The Soviets also could trychieve better relations with Japan by agreeingromyko visit lovisit that ibe Japanese have' sought for several years and would welcome at this time.


The Sano-Soviet relationship will undergo several litmus teals in the coming months;

The most important will be the amount of progress lhal ibc two sides make in getting an Arkhipov visit to Beijing back on their agenda.

The extern to which Foreign Ministers Gromyko and Wuialogue at tbe United Nations this September, rather than just talk past each other, willearer picture of where (he Sino-Soviet relationship is beaded and at what pace,

Another test wDl be progress the two sides make, if any, on contentious issues when Ilicbev goes to Beijing in October for rh* fifth round of talks on bilateral issues

A decision to proceed with (be Arkhipov visit within Ibe next month or so wouldositive sign,oviet desireet the dialogue with Beijing back on Uack as soon as circumstancesA Soviei decision to speed up the pace of (he

or theforwardingriving theetter Idea ofprojects thai Moacow kai ina respoasive chord ia Beying. even if theto be delayedew moreale for the (rip, however,thai ihe Sovieu are in no hurry io getlo where Ihey were before theSoviei moves toe delay publicly (ommixo

to lhc recentanv-

US tiea would mean thai (be Soviets have indeedew set of preconditions for continuing Uie Sino-Soviet dialogue and have noisit any time soon

The Gromyko-Wu meet log at (he United Nations (hisot likely to produce much, if anything, in Ibe way erf* substantrve results, but the atmospherics should reveal something about where Sino-Soviet relations arc beading. Upbeat assessment! of ihe value of tho talks, eccornpanlcd by an agreement lo meet again near year or perhaps even sooner, wouldosilive sign. Anything leas wrath! suggesthe iwo sides stilleriod of retrenchmcrv

On bilateral issues, the track record at Use first four rounds of talks and Ibe decision to have Ilichev (whom the Chinese viewaidliner) again head Ibe Soviet delegation does not augur well. The Sovieu could, however,reater willingness than (hey have at past sessions to bear tbe Chinese cut onIndochina, and lac Soviei forco stationed inare forlhcceniog Soviet attitude on discussing ai least ooe of these three -obstacles" tailed by Ihe Chinese wouldtrong indication that Moscow has decided to force the pace of political dialogue. On ibe other band, lhc Sovieu could signal Iheir continuing detejtru nation to play hardball by instructing Ilkhev to adopt aa even Stiffer posture on third <ountr> issues at ihe Octoberby instructing him lo walk out of any sessionwhich the Chinese tried lo bring up these issue-



Chronology of Developments ia (he Triangular RcUltonship,34

SeptemberDeputy Foreign Minbiei Kapiisa, in Beijing,econd diplomatic

channel for talks on "international issues."

US Secretary of Defense Weinberger, in Beijing, holds talks on arms sales and technology transfer. Two sides agree on an exchange of visits between President Reagan aod Chinese Premier Zltao Ziyang.

round of Sino-Soviet censuluttoeis held in Beijing achieves no new agreements.


Zhao Ziyang. in lhc United States, confirms Chiness interest in Irnproved ties and desire to oblain USo reiared technology.


Deputy Premier Wan Li attends Andropov funeral and holds talks with Soviet Fust Deputy Premierlevel Sino-Soviet discussions since Kosygia-Zbou meeting

Chinese sun shelling Vietnamese positions along the Sine-Vietnamese border, taking the initiative before the annual dry-season increase in Vietnamese mililary operalions in Kampuchea.


Fourth round of Sino-Soviet consultations held in Beijing breaks no new ground. i

USSR and Vietnam hold joint amphibious cicrcise in the Soulh China Sea. Sine-Vietnamese border fighting escalates lo highest levebresident Reagan visits China.

Maypostpone Arkhipov's visit lo Beijing.

JuneDefense Minister Zhang Aiping visits the Untied States for further talks

on defense cooperation.

Sovieu forward to Beijing documenu related to Arkhipov's rial,ale for Deputy Foreign Minister Qian's visit to Moscow in early July, andeeling between Foreign Ministers Gromyko aod Wu al ibe United Nations in September.

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