In a clash with the US over Ukraine, Putin has a lifeline from China

BEIJING — As the United States scrambles to exert maximum pressure on Russia over fears of an invasion of Ukraine, Russian leader Vladim...


BEIJING — As the United States scrambles to exert maximum pressure on Russia over fears of an invasion of Ukraine, Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin has found relief in his closest partner. powerful on the world stage, China.

China has expressed support for Mr. Putin’s grievances against the United States and NATO, joined Russia in an attempt to blocking action on Ukraine at the United Nations Security Council, and dismissed American warnings that an invasion would create “global security and economic riskswhich could also consume China.

On Friday, Mr Putin will meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing ahead of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics that President Biden and other leaders have highlighted. sworn to boycott.

Although details of any potential deal between the two countries were not disclosed, the meeting itself – Xi’s first in person with a world leader in almost two years – should be a new public demonstration of geopolitical friendship between the two powers.

A Chinese pledge of economic and political support for Mr Putin could undermine Mr Biden’s strategy to ostracize the Russian leader for his military buildup on Ukraine’s borders. It could also punctuate a tectonic shift in the US-China rivalry that could ripple from Europe to the Pacific.

“If there’s a war on Ukraine and the Chinese and the Russians openly align, the world we find ourselves in suddenly looks very, very different,” said Evan S. Medeiros, a professor at the Georgetown University who served on the National Security Council during Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

“China will be on the eastern front of what looks like a long-term global competition,” he added.

Chinese leaders have been watching the Russia-US confrontation over Ukraine closely, with reports in Chinese state media highlighting divisions among NATO allies and criticizing the United States, sometimes with joy.

Leaders saw the confrontation as a test of American influence and resolve that could distract Mr Biden from his administration’s focus on China as the preeminent strategic rival of the 21st century. This includes growing US support for Taiwan, the island democracy that China claims as part of its territory.

“Concretely, China benefits on two fronts,” said Alexander Gabuev, an expert on Russia’s relations with China at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “First, a major security crisis in Europe will suck a lot of the oxygen the Biden team needs to address China. Second, Russia will move even closer to China — on Beijing’s terms.

In Washington, administration officials said they were concerned that at the summit meeting in Beijing, Mr. Xi would offer Mr. Putin assurances of Chinese support if the United States imposed heavy economic sanctions on the country. Russia, as the administration did. threatened to do.

When the United States imposed similar sanctions in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Mr Putin also turned to China as an alternative source of investment and trade, downplaying the impact, at least somewhat. That year, China went ahead and signed a $400 billion gas deal with Russia, although Chinese officials negotiated favorable prices for their companies since Mr Putin was at an impasse.

Maria Snegovaya, a visiting scholar at George Washington University who co-authored a Atlantic Council Document on US sanctions against Russia, said the events of 2014 brought Russia closer to China.

She predicted that China would again help ease the impact of sanctions, noting that the country is now a big buyer of arms, fish and frameworkand in 2020 it was the largest importer Russian crude oil and natural gas.

“It gives Russia more flexibility in case the West sanctions some of the Russian exports,” she said.

While China has often held difficult negotiations with Russia in the past, economic ties between the two countries have soured since Russia first invaded Ukraine.

China announced last month that trade with Russia had reached nearly $147 billion, up from $68 billion in 2015, a year after it annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russian Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov said the two countries could soon reach an agreement for a second gas pipeline like the one called Power of Siberia, which started running in 2019.

Beyond any economic advantage, the two countries have found common cause in trying to weaken American power and influence. Officials and state media from both countries have echoed the other’s attacks on the United States in recent weeks, reflecting an increasingly jaded view of American intentions.

China has joined Russia in accusing the United States of fomenting public protests that have swept across Kazakhstan. Sergei Naryshkin, the director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service and a fellow hawk of Mr. Putin while both serving in the Soviet KGB, said last month that the United States planned to “aggressively and maliciously intervene” in the Beijing Olympics.

Global Times, a nationalist Communist Party newspaper, picked up on the comments to declare that the plot had been foiled. “The failed attack campaign on the Winter Olympics shows the incompetence of the US government,” one headline read.

Mr. Xi has met Mr. Putin 37 times as leaders of their country, more than any other head of state. When they last met, a virtual summit in decemberMr. Xi called him his “old friend” and the two pledged to build an international political and financial system not dominated by the United States and the dollar.

Chinese officials see Russia’s drive to push back against NATO as a parallel to their own efforts to prevent the United States from forging alliances and partnerships in Asia to counter China.

Although there are many differences in the geopolitical situations of Ukraine and Taiwan, Mr. Putin’s position use of historical myths and sheer military power to justify seizing Ukraine resonates among hawks in Beijing. Mr. Xi also intensified his warnings that Taiwan must never seek independence from a united China under Communist Party rule.

“There is a close connection between the two flashpoints,” said Artyom Lukin, a professor of international studies at the Far Eastern Federal University in Russia.

One notable difference is that although the United States has categorically stated that it will not send troops to defend Ukraine, it has maintained “strategic ambiguity” over Taiwan for decades and has not said if he would come to the armed defense of the island. This ambiguity helped serve as a deterrent against a Chinese invasion.

China’s diplomatic and rhetorical support is not a blank check for Russia’s designs.

If the United States targets Russia with new sanctions, China could take measured steps to help its neighbor. As they did in 2014, Chinese banks and companies should calculate whether they might end up being penalized for doing business with targeted Russian entities. Such sanctions would jeopardize their trade in the United States and elsewhere.

China has also never acknowledged Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and although the two countries are carrying out joint military operations, China is highly unlikely to explicitly support military intervention.

Just a few weeks ago, China celebrated the 30th anniversary of an independent Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The two nations enjoy strong trade ties, including in the defense industry. Although Chinese officials have made it clear that the United States should respond to Russia’s request “reasonable safety concerns” in Europe, they also stressed the need for a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian conflict.

“Beijing is in the awkward position of seeing one sovereign country invade another sovereign country,” said Derek Grossman, Asian security analyst at the RAND Corporation. “It goes against non-interference, which China, at least on paper, has steadfastly defended.”

Memories of the last Beijing Olympics, the 2008 Summer Games, also linger. During the opening ceremony, news spread that Russian troops had entered Georgia, another former Soviet republic bristling with Russian interference.

“The attitude of the Chinese government is still relatively cautious,” said Cheng Xiaohe, a professor of international studies at Renmin University in Beijing, “but it mainly shows a cautious attitude based on sympathy and support for Russia.” .

Steven Lee Myers reported from Beijing and Edward Wong from Washington. Claire Crazy and Rick Gladstone contributed to research and reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: In a clash with the US over Ukraine, Putin has a lifeline from China
In a clash with the US over Ukraine, Putin has a lifeline from China
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