China and Russia Swap South China Sea Claims For Crimea

The American leadership came to power after Russia illegally occupied the territory of a sovereign nation in Crimea, then launched a proxy war in eastern Ukraine, promising to improve relations with Moscow.

Russian and Chinese interests in the South China Sea are diverging, but when they oppose US interference, they are moving closer and then further apart. China and Russia are testing cohesion in a region where they have diverged in recent years because of the conflict in Ukraine and China's territorial claims. If the tests take place on the Ukrainian-Russian border and in the Taiwan Strait, they do so for the same reason.

Russian authorities have proposed that China build infrastructure to link the BRI with Russia's North Sea route, while China seeks and gains recognition of the nearby Arctic state. Russian arms supplies to Vietnam, which pose a direct threat to China's territorial claims in the South China Sea. It also provides an opportunity for China and Russia to further coordinate their military cooperation in Asia.

The struggle for full control of the Sea of Azov would fall to Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, which is backed by its revanchist arguments. In that case, freedom of navigation could take place between China and Russia, which are the only parties to have clearly delineated the issues involved.

The majority of Russian experts consider China's expansionary claims to be quite absurd, and Russia's right to the Kerch Strait is clearly defined, having been rejected by international tribunals. Some Russian legal experts, however, would argue that the Chinese claims are a fact and that the majority disagree.

China has refused to compromise on support for Russia's annexation of Crimea, and China's Foreign Ministry has indicated that it does not support Belarus's interference in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia in the South China Sea, while Belarus has sided with Russia in maintaining Ukraine's sovereignty - a step it wants to reverse. "Minsk strongly supports Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and the right to self-determination of its territory, "the statement said.

Russia has also agreed to transfer some of its most advanced defense technologies to China to increase its defense capabilities in the South China Sea and other regions of the world. A friendly relationship with Russia will rid China of strategic threats from the North, and allow it to focus on advancing its strategic interests in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. China, while it appears to be aiming to claim a higher degree of sovereignty and territorial integrity over its own territory, is at least partially responsible for confirming its claims. China has no official position on this: the Chinese map, represented by the so-called "nine-dash line," which includes China's claims to the East and West China Seas, as well as parts of South Korea and Taiwan.

"As Beijing consolidates its influence in the South China Sea, one obvious goal is to gain control over much of the SCS, as well as the rest of Asia. This is not to be a long-running international spectacle, but a new chapter in China's long history of territorial disputes."

From a Russian perspective, tensions began to flare in March when it seized a Russian fishing boat - flying the Russian flag - near the Crimean city of Kerch. China and Ukraine have agreed to cooperate under international law, which Ukraine led in its protest against Russia's actions on Sunday. Ukraine invoked its right to self-defense under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), accusing Moscow of interfering with its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the South China Sea.

If China succeeds in controlling much of the SCS, it could restrict Russia's freedom of navigation and prevent Russia from further developing its military ties with ASEAN. Just as China has remained ambiguous on the Crimea issue, Russia is reluctant to take sides in China's maritime disputes. When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was against internationalizing the dispute, China took it as a gesture of support. This is seen as a diplomatic coup by China, as Russia was the only major power to back Beijing.