Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to move forward on closer political and economic ties in the Kremlin following a historic visit amid the war in Ukraine.
Since Russia formalized the war with Ukraine with the invasion last February 24, 2022, the US hegemony that prevailed since the fall of the Berlin Wall has collapsed, and the seeds were planted for a new axis to form in the Asian continent.
Immediately after the advance against Kyiv, the West launched a battery of sanctions that forced Russia to ally itself politically and commercially with China, an alliance sealed this Tuesday with the visit of the Chinese communist dictator Xi Jinping to Moscow.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met in the Kremlin this morning for the first time since 2019 when the world was very different from today.
The pandemic had not happened, Donald Trump ruled the United States, Beijing was in the midst of a trade war with Washington, and Russia was far outside China’s sphere of influence.
Today, everything has changed. Russia is in the midst of a proxy war with NATO, the White House has one of the weakest presidents in US history, and China has forged an alliance with Moscow not seen since before the 1970s with the Soviet Union.
At the meeting, the two leaders promoted the ties between the countries and agreed on the shared strategic vision between China and Russia.
In addition, the meeting is seen as China’s informal support for Russia in its war against Ukraine and the West, something that has not happened so far.
The visit also comes just days after the International Criminal Court in The Hague accused the Russian president of committing war crimes in Ukraine and issued a warrant for his arrest, which prevents Putin from traveling to any of the 123 countries that adhere to the Rome Statute.
On arrival at Vnukovo airport near Moscow, the Chinese leader was greeted by Dmitry Chernyshenko, one of Russia’s ten deputy prime ministers, and a Russian military band, without Vladimir Putin himself.
In an official statement issued after Xi landed on Monday, the Chinese leader said that “in the face of a turbulent and changing world, China is willing to continue to work with Russia to safeguard the international order firmly.”
Talks between the two leaders lasted four and a half hours on Monday, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti; more formal meetings are expected to occur on Tuesday.
On the visit, the two leaders signed a series of documents to promote “strategic cooperation” after what Putin described as “successful and constructive” talks, which showed China was now Russia’s most important economic partner.
“I am convinced that our multifaceted cooperation will continue to develop for the good of the peoples of our countries,” Putin remarked.
He added that Russia, China, and Mongolia had completed all agreements to launch the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, which will send Russian gas to China, allowing gas exports going via Nord Stream to Europe to be replaced with gas and oil exports to Beijing.
The Power of Siberia 2 pipeline would deliver 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from Russia to China via Mongolia.
“You can see the early harvest of our cooperation, and further cooperation is being advanced,” Xi told Putin after signing the papers.
“In recent years, China has made a colossal leap forward,” Putin said, praising Xi.
“All over the world, this evokes interest and, unfortunately, even envy.” Xi called Putin his “dear friend” and repeatedly praised his Russian counterpart, saying the country’s development had “significantly improved.”
Both leaders stressed that “responsible dialogue” is the best way to resolve the conflict in Ukraine.
Moreover, Putin once again affirmed to Xi that he is “always open to the negotiation process,” despite his repeated refusal to engage with Kyiv on a withdrawal from Ukrainian lands.
“The two sides exchanged in-depth views on the Ukraine issue,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported later in the day, describing the leaders’ meeting as “deep and sincere.”
According to Xi’s remarks to Putin, Beijing has an “unbiased position” on the conflict in Ukraine and supports peace.
Next, after the two leaders discussed Beijing’s proposal for a ceasefire in Ukraine, Putin said China’s peace proposal could be used as a basis for talks.
“We closely study your proposals on the settlement of the acute crisis in Ukraine,” Putin told Xi.
“Of course, we will have an opportunity to discuss this issue. We know that they are based on the principles of justice and commitment to the fundamental points of international law,” the Russian leader added.
They have also warned against any steps that could push the Ukrainian conflict into an “uncontrollable phase.”
Both agreed that there could be no winners in a nuclear war.
China has described the trip as one of “friendship, cooperation, and peace” amid a push by Beijing to frame itself as a critical advocate for the resolution of the Ukraine conflict.
However, Xi’s trip is seen in the West as a ringing endorsement of the Russian leader in the face of widespread international condemnation of his war.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the visit showed China’s intention to provide “diplomatic cover” for alleged Russian atrocities in Ukraine.
Blinken said at a press conference at the US State Department on the release of the Human Rights Report 2022:
“For President Xi to travel to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin suggests that China does not feel a responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for atrocities in Ukraine, and rather than condemn them, would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue committing these serious crimes.”
Western leaders have expressed skepticism about China’s potential role as a peacemaker and its supposed neutrality.
Following the announcement of Xi’s trip to Moscow, the White House expressed concern about potential Chinese proposals that would be “one-sided and reflect only the Russian perspective.”
A ceasefire proposal, which China has repeatedly called for, could simply provide a way for Russia to regroup before launching a retaliation, said John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council.
On Monday, after Xi arrived in Moscow, Blinken said the “elements” of China’s peace proposal for the war aligned with efforts Washington would support, such as “ensuring nuclear security, resolving the humanitarian crisis, protecting civilians.”
He also said that any call for a ceasefire “that does not include the removal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory would effectively support the ratification of the Russian conquest,” as it would “allow President Putin to rest and refit his troops, and then restart the war at a more advantageous time for Russia.”
“The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its terms,” Blinken continued.
On the other hand, since last month, the United States and its allies have warned that China is considering sending lethal aid to Russia for its war effort, which Beijing has denied.
“If China moves to supply weapons to Russia openly, it will, in effect, be participating in the conflict on the side of the aggressor,” said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.
As Kyiv watches developments in Moscow closely with Xi’s official visit, it reiterated Monday that any peace plan must begin with a Russian exit from its territory.
“We expect Beijing to use its influence on Moscow to end the aggressive war against Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told CNN.
“Restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be at the center of every diplomatic effort,” he said.
“We are ready to engage in closer dialogue with China to restore peace in Ukraine under the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and the latest UN General Assembly resolution on this issue.”
Ukrainian, Chinese, and US officials refused last week to confirm a possible virtual meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Xi Jinping, following a Wall Street Journal report that the two countries planned to talk for the first time after Xi’s then-possible trip to Moscow.
It was unclear if and when exactly Xi would speak with Zelensky.
“We are waiting for confirmation,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
“That would be an important step. They have things to say to each other,” she added.
However, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Kyiv while Xi was in Moscow shows the West’s and its allies’ determination to back Ukraine.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered Iran and the Persian Gulf Arab states to hold a joint summit in Beijing this year, as revealed by The Wall Street Journal.
With information from Derecha Diario