Month: March 2023
In order to avoid, or at least postpone, what appears to be an inevitable defeat in Ukraine, Russia desperately needs China’s help. In the long-term, Moscow is unlikely to be able to continue fighting the war on its own against a country that is firmly backed by the entire Western civilization. But will Beijing really risk jeopardizing its relations with the West by assisting the Kremlin?
Even before China’s President Xi Jinping visited Moscow on March 20, it became obvious that the Chinese leader aims to portray himself as a “peacemaker”. A recent China’s brokering of the Iran-Saudi Arabia agreement on normalization of relations has clearly shown that Beijing has capacity to play the role of a mediator in the global arena. But in Ukraine, the United States and its European allies do not seem willing to allow Russia and China to freeze the conflict.
From the Western perspective, any potential ceasefire deal that the People’s Republic advocates would legitimize Russia’s gains in Ukraine. That is why the Western powers, under the current circumstances, firmly oppose any of Kyiv’s negotiations with Moscow. In the coming months, after Ukraine gets more tanks, jets and artillery ammunition, the Eastern European country is expected to launch a large-scale offensive against the Russian forces, which means that Kyiv will have a strategic initiative and will be in a position to dictate all the terms and conditions regarding potential negotiations.
But even then, despite defeats on the battlefield, the Russian leadership will be willing to negotiate. Moscow, unwilling to “fight until the end”, seems ready to sign any ceasefire, or even a peace deal that will allow the Russian leaders to save face. The problem for the Kremlin, however, is that nobody in the West will sign any agreements with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. After the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Putin over the alleged overseeing the abduction of Ukrainian children, in the eyes of the West the Russian leader has stopped being a legitimate partner for negotiations. He will now be treated as a suspected war criminal, despite the fact that the United States itself does not recognize the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court.
Putin will, therefore, seek to strengthen his relations with Xi, in order to show that he is not isolated, and that the ICC arrest warrant is nothing but a dead letter. But since there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, Russia risks becoming China’s junior partner, even though there is no guarantee that Beijing will firmly support Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. Instead, for the time being, the People’s Republic will likely continue balancing its current ties with the West, with its cooperation with the Kremlin.
Given that China’s major trade partners are the United States and the European Union, at this point Beijing is unlikely to be ready to cross their red lines and start arming Russia. The People’s Republic will likely seek to strengthen economic ties with the Russian Federation, and help the Kremlin create an illusion that the ICC arrest warrant is “null and void”. Also, the fact that a Chinese humanitarian affairs official recently visited the Russian-controlled Donbass suggests that Beijing will continue pursuing its “pro-Russian neutrality” policy.
But does such an approach suit Russia?
Politically – yes, since everything about Vladimir Putin is a PR stunt, and all he needs right now is to present himself as a leader who is not isolated, and who is apparently not worried about the ICC arrest warrant. Militarily – no, given that Putin and his oligarchs have, over the past 20 years, deindustrialized the Russian economy (including the military-industrial complex) to such an extent that the country is forced to import weapons from Iran, since it cannot produce them on its own. The West will continue supplying Ukraine with weapons as long as it takes, while Russia – even if it manages to repel the Ukrainian offensive this spring and summer – will soon start facing a serious weapon shortage.
Therefore, if Beijing, be it publicly or secretly, does not start supplying Russia with drones, artillery ammunition, and various kinds of weapons, in the long-term the Russian forces in Ukraine could find themselves in a hopeless situation. As a result, Russia could suffer a defeat that will undoubtedly lead to a large-scale destabilization of the country, and potentially even to overthrow of Vladimir Putin. Would such an outcome suit China?
On the one hand, if Beijing’s strategic goal is to establish control over parts of energy-rich Siberia, then a potential breakup of the Russian Federation would be in China’s best interests. On the other hand, if the People’s Republic does not have such plans, then Russia’s defeat in Ukraine could represent a big threat for Beijing, especially if pro-Western and anti-Chinese forces come to power in a post-Putin Russia.
Therefore, sooner or later, one way or another, China will be forced to “choose a side” in the war between Russia and the Western-backed Ukraine.
Beijing’s position of a “pro-Russian neutrality” without concrete help for the Russian military, will almost certainly lead to Russia’s defeat in the Eastern European country. Such a Chinese approach will be interpreted as the People’s Republic’s tacit support for the West against Russia.
The ball is now in Chinea’s court.
Image: Sky News
Michael Novakhov retweeted: Interesting article by Twitter follower Sam Ray here. So true! Putin, I always thought, was a loose cannon, even his early KGB superiors didn’t trust him due to his impulsive behavior and risky approach to intelligence operations. #Putin #KGB open.substack.com/pub/samray/p/t…
Michael Novakhov retweeted:
Interesting article by Twitter follower Sam Ray here. So true! Putin, I always thought, was a loose cannon, even his early KGB superiors didn’t trust him due to his impulsive behavior and risky approach to intelligence operations. #Putin #KGB
STORY: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping sought to cement their nations’ “no limits” partnership in a lengthy meeting in Moscow on Tuesday.
The two leaders discussed plans to ramp up Russian energy exports to China, hopes that Chinese firms would replace western businesses in Russia, and the Chinese leader’s proposed peace plan for the war in Ukraine.
Putin said Russia was satisfying what he called “the growing Chinese energy demands.” Xi thanked Putin for the invitation to Russia and said, “the cooperation in trade, investment, energy, culture, humanitarian and inter-regional areas is developing.”
Russian media reported the two men spoke for more than four hours on Monday and enjoyed a state dinner at the Kremlin, warmly praising each other as a “dear friend.” Xi’s visit is a boost to Putin as he struggles to make ground in the year-long invasion of Ukraine.
While China has sought to cast itself as a potential peace-maker in the conflict, Beijing’s proposed cease-fire has so far been largely dismissed in the West as a ploy to buy Putin time.
Ukrainian and Western officials fear a ceasefire would merely freeze the front lines, handing Russia an advantage following a series of setbacks since it launched its invasion in February last year.
In contrast with the face-to-face meetings in Moscow, Xi may only speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy by telephone, if at all.
But in a surprise visit pointedly coinciding with Xi’s Moscow talks, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday to deliver a message of solidarity and support for Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Xi’s visit, which comes after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin for alleged war crimes.
“That President Xi is traveling to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine, and instead of even condemning them, it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those very crimes.”
China has refrained from condemning Russia or referring to Moscow’s intervention in its neighbor as an “invasion”. It has also criticized Western sanctions on Russia.
Foreign policy analysts said while Putin would be looking for strong support from Xi over Ukraine, they doubted his Moscow visit would result in any direct military backing.
Washington has said in recent weeks it fears China might arm Russia, a plan Beijing has denied.
Published: 15:52 GMT, 21 March 2023 | Updated: 17:06 GMT, 21 March 2023
Xi Jinping claimed China and Russia were reaping an ‘early harvest of cooperation’ today, as Vladimir Putin pulled out all the stops to welcome his Chinese counterpart to the Kremlin for the second day of formal talks.
Xi entered the Kremlin on a red carpet and was greeted by a military band, senior Russian officials, and Putin himself, as the two allies continued to cultivate an image to the world that seeks to counteract Western power.
The grand welcome followed last night’s cozy goodbye where, in a rare break in stern Moscow protocol, Putin waved Xi off as he drove back to his hotel.
The Kremlin today said the two leaders would discuss proposals put forward by China to end more than a year of fighting in Ukraine, and that the talks were likely to end with Xi and Putin signing a raft of agreements.
The Chinese leader’s Moscow visit has been viewed as a particular boost for Putin, who is under Western sanctions and subject to an International Criminal Court warrant over accusations of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children. While the West has remained united in its support of Ukraine, Putin and Russia have been left with the likes of China, North Korea, Belarus, and Iran for support.
But Xi appeared to welcome Putin’s advances, promising to continue strengthening coordination between the Kremlin and Beijing.
In a rare break in stern protocol, Putin waved Xi off as he drove back to his Moscow hotel last night
Xi entered the Kremlin on a red carpet and was greeted by a military band, senior Russian officials, and Putin himself
‘The early harvest of (our) cooperation can be seen, and further cooperation is being advanced,’ Xi told Putin, according to Hong Kong cable television today.
Putin also called today’s talks ‘meaningful and frank’ and said that Russia, which has been largely cut out of European markets because of sanctions, would be able to meet China’s ‘growing demand’ for energy.
Putin told Xi that Moscow was ready to help Chinese businesses replace Western firms that have left Russia over the Ukraine conflict.
‘I propose strengthening our coordination and cooperation,’ Xi said between two rounds of talks in the Kremlin in footage shown on Russian state television.
Putin said he was ‘convinced that our multi-level mutually beneficial cooperation will strengthen further’.
Neither leader made any mention of the conflict in Ukraine, although the Kremlin said they would today discuss China’s proposal to stop the fighting.
Amid the backdrop of the meetings between the two leaders, Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu declared there were ‘fewer and fewer steps’ to a nuclear collision between Moscow and the West.
‘Another step has been taken, and there are fewer and fewer left,’ Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters in remarks cited by domestic agencies.
Asked whether this meant that the world was closer to a nuclear collision, he replied: ‘It was not by chance that I told you about steps. There are fewer and fewer’.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also said Moscow would be ‘forced to react’ if Britain gives Ukraine military supplies, including armour piercing ammunition which contain depleted uranium.
‘The United Kingdom … announced not only the supply of tanks to Ukraine, but also shells with depleted uranium. If this happens, Russia will be forced to react,’ Putin told reporters after talks at the Kremlin with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend an official welcome ceremony at The Grand Kremlin Palace
At the second day of meetings, Putin told Xi that Moscow was ready to help Chinese businesses replace Western firms that have left Russia over the Ukraine conflict
The Russian and Chinese presidents were expected to discuss in detail the Ukraine crisis later today
A large focus of today’s meetings focused on the proposed Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, which would ship Russian gas to China.
The planned pipeline would deliver 50 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year from Russia to China, via Mongolia. Moscow put forward the idea many years ago, but it has gained urgency as Russia turns to China to replace Europe as its major gas customer.
‘I am convinced that our multi-faceted cooperation will continue to develop for the good of the peoples of our countries,’ Putin said in televised comments to Xi, adding that Russia is a ‘strategic supplier’ of oil, gas and coal to China.
Xi said China and Russia should work more closely to push forward greater ‘practical cooperation’.
Russia’s Gazprom already supplies gas to China through the Power of Siberia pipeline under a 30-year, $400 billion (£328 billion) deal launched at the end of 2019. That pipeline spans some 3,000 km (1,865 miles).
Russia’s gas exports to China are still a small fraction of the record 177 bcm it delivered to Europe in 2018-19. Since the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, volumes to Europe have shrunk, reaching about 62 bcm in 2022.
Putin said on Tuesday Russia would deliver at least 98 bcm of gas to China by 2030.
The Russian and Chinese presidents were expected to discuss in detail the Ukraine crisis later today after Putin provided some ‘clarifications’ of Moscow’s position to Xi in a first round of talks on Monday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping arrive to attend a signing ceremony following their talks at The Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow
Chinese President Xi Jinping is on a three-day visit where they will discuss improving joint partnership and developing key areas of Russian-Chinese economic cooperation
Xi also met with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin earlier where he hailed Russia and China as ‘great neighbouring powers’.
Beijing and Moscow’s trade ties have boomed since Russia’s Ukraine campaign, linking the nations more closely and raising worries in Western capital over how far the ties will go.
Xi, who said he had invited Putin to visit China this year, said China’s government would ‘continue to prioritise the all-round strategic partnership between China and Russia’.
‘We are great neighbouring powers,’ he was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying during a meeting with Mishustin.
But while Russian leaders looked to cozy-up to their super-power neighbour, Xi was not averse to their ‘no-limits friendship’.
Xi, who said he had invited Putin to visit China this year, said China’s government would ‘continue to prioritise the all-round strategic partnership’ with Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a welcome ceremony before Russia-China talks
In a rare move, Putin escorted Xi to his car after the talks last night, and the two were seen smiling together
Today’s talks in the Kremlin followed four-and-a-half hour discussions yesterday where Xi and Putin called each other ‘dear friend’
Xi’s trip coincides with a surprise visit to Kyiv by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who visited Bucha, a town where Russian forces were accused of committing atrocities during their occupation last year.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry described the trip as ‘historic’ and called it ‘a sign of solidarity and strong cooperation between (Ukraine and Japan)’.
Today’s talks in the Kremlin followed four-and-a-half hour discussions yesterday where Xi and Putin called each other ‘dear friend’.
In a rare move, Putin escorted Xi to his car after the talks, and the two were seen smiling together.
During that meeting, the Russian leader said he was open to talks on Ukraine and praised Beijing’s 12-point position paper on the conflict, which includes a call for dialogue and respect for all countries’ territorial sovereignty.
Xi and Putin are also expected to discuss boosting economic cooperation as Russia boosts energy exports to China after being mostly shut out of European markets.
Ahead of the talks, Russian gas giant Gazprom said that supplies through the Power of Siberia pipeline to China had reached a daily record on Monday.
Xi’s three-day visit began a day after Putin travelled to Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, his first trip to territory captured from Kyiv since the start of the assault in February 2022.
China’s President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Russian Prime Minister in Moscow today
Xi and Putin are also expected to discuss boosting economic cooperation today as Russia boosts energy exports to China after being mostly shut out of European markets
Xi also met with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin earlier where he hailed Russia and China as ‘great neighbouring powers’
Beijing and Moscow’s trade ties have boomed since Russia’s Ukraine campaign, linking the nations more closely and raising worries in Western capital over how far the ties will go
China has sought to portray itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, but Washington has said Beijing’s moves could be a ‘stalling tactic’ to help Moscow.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Xi’s Moscow visit ‘suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the president accountable for the atrocities committed to Ukraine’.
‘And instead of even condemning, it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those great crimes,’ he added.
The United States has accused Beijing of mulling arms exports to Moscow, claims China has vociferously denied.
Zelensky has said he would welcome talks with Xi, though there has been no indication from Beijing of any such plans.
As part of Kishida’s visit to Kyiv, he is to offer ‘solidarity and support’ in a meeting with Zelensky.
Kishida is the last Group of Seven leader to visit Ukraine and has come under increasing pressure to make the trip, as Japan hosts the grouping’s summit this May.
Japan and China are close trading partners, but Tokyo has been increasingly worried about Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photo during an official welcome ceremony
President Xi Jinping arrives at the Grand Kremlin Palace for talks with Russian President Putin
China and Russia have often worked in lockstep at the UN Security Council, using their veto power as permanent council members to counter the West
Japan is part of the US-led security alliance known informally as the Quad, which also includes India and Australia, and positions itself as a bulwark against China’s military ambitions in Asia and the Pacific.
Moscow and Beijing have over the past years ramped up cooperation, both driven by a desire to counterbalance US global dominance.
While Beijing has called for an ‘impartial’ mediation in the conflict, Western countries have argued that China’s proposals are heavy on grand principles but light on practical solutions.
The United States said last week that China’s proposals would simply consolidate ‘Russian conquest’ and allow the Kremlin to prepare a fresh offensive.
China and Russia have often worked in lockstep at the UN Security Council, using their veto power as permanent council members to counter the West.
Russia’s assault on Ukraine has also deepened fears among Western powers that China could one day try to take control of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing sees as part of its territory.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had held a round of “meaningful and frank” talks with China’s President Xi Jinping, during which Putin offered to meet China’s “growing demands” in energy, while Xi called for increased “practical” cooperation between the two countries.
Putin hailed the mutual benefits of the cooperation of the two countries after holding a round of talks with his Chinese counterpart who is on a formal state visit through March 220-22. He described the talks as “a very meaningful and frank exchange of views on the prospects for the development of Russian-Chinese relations.”
He added: “I am convinced that our multifaceted, mutually advantageous cooperation will continue to strengthen and develop dynamically for the benefit of the peoples of our countries.”
Putin emphasized Russian readiness and eagerness to expand bilateral economic ties with China.
He highlighted that Russian-Chinese trade rose by 30 percent to reach a record high of $185 billion in 2022 despite the repercussions of the pandemic and the sanctions imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. Adding that it was expected for the trade volume between the two countries to surpass the milestone of $200 billion this year.
Putin said Russia stood ready ramp up deliveries of oil and gas to meet China’s growing demand for energy resources. “Russian business is able to meet China’s growing demand for energy carriers.”
Russian oil business took several hits as it was targeted by Western sanctions over Ukraine, including a price cap on its crude. State oil giant Rosneft reported an annual profit for 2022 down 7.9 percent from 2021.
Meanwhile, China – unperturbed by Western sanctions – is Russia’s largest oil buyer.
Putin also said Moscow was ready to help Chinese businesses in replacing the Western companies that left Russia over the Ukraine war.
Xi said he wanted to strengthen China’s cooperation and coordination with Russia, adding that “cooperation in the trade-and-economic, investment, energy, cultural, humanitarian, and inter-regional dimensions is developing,” TASS quoted him as saying.
He also called for working more closely to push for “practical cooperation.”
Putin said his talks with Xi were successful and constructive, and expressed his hope to remain in regular contact with his Chinese counterpart in the future.
Russian state media reported that Xi had an “informal one-on-one meeting” with Putin in the Kremlin on Monday, that lasted approximately 4.5 hours.
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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin arrive to attend a signing ceremony in Moscow on Tuesday. Photo: Kremlin Pool Photo via AP