Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to fly to Moscow next week for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his first visit to Russia since Kremlin forces invaded Ukraine.
Xi’s March 20-22 visit, Xi’s first overseas trip since winning a third term as president, is seen in the West as a show of Beijing’s support for Moscow in its stalled war against Kiev.
Much speculation has been made about the nature of the trip, with Western officials warning that it could indicate that China is considering providing military assistance to Russia for the fight.
But China, which is trying to present itself as a neutral arbiter in the conflict, has denied such allegations, even as it refused to condemn the invasion.
Whatever the outcome, the meeting is sure to intensify ties between the two leaders who have already met 39 times before – including more than a year ago in Beijing on February 4, 2022, the opening of the Olympic Games. At that meeting, which took place shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine, the two announced a “borderless” partnership.
Here are the things Putin and Xi seek to gain from their joint meeting, and one curve ahead of it:
Putin wants weapons
After launching an offensive into Ukraine a year ago, Putin has found himself with a limited group of friends, a sizeable size when it comes to Moscow’s ability to import and resupply the combat-critical weapons and munitions.
China has so far held back such lethal aid, choosing instead to support Russia through enhanced trade and additional joint maneuvers.
But Western officials have recently begun to warn that Beijing may soon move to give Moscow military assistance — with next week’s meeting an ideal potential venue for the two to make such a declaration.
The alarms were also raised by the comments of Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Gang, who recently accused the United States of hypocrisy in warning China against supplying weapons to Russia, pointing to the Biden administration’s supply of weapons to Taiwan.
“It’s something we’ll be watching,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday, referring to any flicker of an arms deal between the two countries. “Russia clearly has its own interests in trying to drag other countries into this conflict if it can, but our position is the same whether they come together or not.”
This prospect is troubling to US officials because Chinese weapons, while not seen as capable of winning a decisive victory for Putin, could lead to conflict and drain US arms, aid resources and general goodwill toward helping Ukraine fight back.
Xi wants to cultivate his reputation as a peacemaker
After a Chinese-brokered deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume diplomatic ties was announced earlier this week, Xi is now turning his eye to the Ukraine-Russia war.
Without mentioning the embattled country, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Xi’s visit is partly aimed at promoting “peace,” with talks on major regional and international issues.
Xi’s government has already released its so-called “peace plan” for Ukraine, a 12-point agenda for a “political solution to the Ukrainian crisis,” which has been largely ignored in the West.
In a phone call Thursday, senior Chinese diplomat Chen Gang told his Ukrainian counterpart that Beijing hopes “all parties will remain calm, rational and restrained, and resume peace talks as soon as possible,” according to a statement from China’s foreign ministry. .
But the US and NATO remain wary of pushing China to mediate because Beijing has yet to condemn Russia for the war, or even ostensibly call the conflict that way, instead deferring to Russia’s insistence that it is a “special military operation”.
Adding to Western suspicions, China has repeatedly sided with Russia and obstructed international action against Moscow over the war.
Both want a new world order
One possible outcome of the Xi-Putin meeting is a public recommitment to the partnership of the two, seen as vital for them to counter what they see as unfair interference from the West in their affairs.
Xi’s visit to Russia — and the Chinese support that comes with it — is meant to be a challenge to the United States and its allies, who have sought to squeeze Moscow’s economy with heavy sanctions.
The relationship is symbiotic, as Russia, in turn, gives China more weight on the international stage and supports its aggressive maneuvers, especially in the South China Sea.
“As the world enters a new period of turbulence and change, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and as an important power, the significance and influence of Sino-Russian relations transcend the bilateral scope,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Announcing Xi’s visit.
Securing Russia as a partner for China is “fundamental” to Xi’s vision of national renewal, said Ryan Haass, a Washington, D.C.-based senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.
“China views the United States as the main obstacle to its rise,” Haas writes.
Xi will also likely see the benefit of Russia diverting America’s strategic focus away from China. Neither Beijing nor Moscow can deal with the United States and its partners alone; Both would rather stand together to deal with external pressure than face it alone.”
Shake things up – Xi is preparing to meet with an international fugitive
The Xi Putin meeting was announced hours before the meeting The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president over allegations of war crimes related to the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.
The arrest warrant — one of the first charges against Putin of war crimes in Ukraine — means the Chinese president will now meet an international fugitive who comes on Monday.
Such an order usually brings an important element of public shaming — a signal to other countries to look carefully at their dealings with an individual under investigation, according to international law experts.
“From now on, the Russian president has official status as a suspect in an international crime – deportation and illegal displacement of Ukrainian children,” Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andrei Kostin wrote on Facebook.
This means that Putin must be arrested and brought to court outside of Russia. World leaders will think three times before shaking hands with him or sitting with him at the negotiating table. The world has received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and allies will be brought to justice.
There is little chance that Putin could be placed in the custody of an international court, and the memorandum is also unlikely to significantly affect the meeting or Beijing’s attitude toward Moscow. But the legal move could put pressure on the two countries on the world stage.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. all rights are save. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
“Lifelong food lover. Avid beeraholic. Zombie fanatic. Passionate travel practitioner.”