An Unfinished Bridge, and Partnership, Between Russia and China
Then something strange happens: The bridge abruptly stops, hanging in the air high above the river just short of the Russian shore at Nizhneleninskoye, a remote frontier settlement nearly 4,000 miles from Moscow.
The gap between the bridge and the riverbank — left by Russia’s failure to build its own, much shorter share of the project — exposes the reality behind the pledges of an ever closer Russian-Chinese partnership made when President Vladimir V. Putin
met in Beijing last month with China
’s president and Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping
. It was their 15th meeting.
United by a shared distaste for Western models of democracy, wariness of American power and eagerness to find new sources of growth, Russia
and China have never been closer, at least at the leadership level. With each meeting, leaders produce numerous agreements for joint projects and pledges to support a Russian “pivot to Asia,” an eastward shift in economic and political focus championed by Mr. Putin since his relations with the West soured over Ukraine in 2014.
The unfinished rail bridge across the Amur River, however, offers a more realistic picture of the chasm separating what the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, recently described as the “truly inexhaustible potential” of Moscow’s “strategic partnership” with Beijing and the reality of unfulfilled promises and thwarted hopes.
The only sign of construction in Nizhneleninskoye on a recent afternoon was a group of border guards from Russia’s Federal Security Service, digging with their bare hands and a shovel near a security fence.
Once completed, the bridge would slash the cost of transporting iron ore mined in Russia to China, cutting the journey to a big Chinese steel mill to just 145 miles, from 646. The only sign of construction in Nizhneleninskoye on a recent afternoon was a group of border guards from Russia’s Federal Security Service, digging with their bare hands and a shovel near a security fence. Read more…