Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised China’s “balanced position” on Ukraine warAlthough he admitted that Beijing had “questions and concerns” about the invasion, in what appeared to be a veiled acknowledgment of their divergent views about the protracted military offensive.
Putin made the remarks while meeting Chinese leader Xi Jinping in person for the first time since the invasion at a regional summit in Uzbekistan, days later. Russia has suffered a series of major military setbacks in Ukraine. Russian forces are retreating en masse, having lost more territory in a week than they have captured in five months.
China has so far refused to condemn Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine Intensifying economic aid to its neighborboosting bilateral trade to record levels is a boon for Russian business amid Western sanctions.
We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends on the Ukrainian crisis. “We understand your questions and concerns in this regard,” Putin said in an opening speech to the meeting. “During today’s meeting, of course, we will explain in detail our position on this issue, although we have talked about this before.”
China will “work with Russia to provide strong mutual support on issues related to each other’s core interests” and “play a leading role in injecting stability and positive energy into a world of change and turmoil,” Xi said, according to a reading from the meeting provided. by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Xi also expressed appreciation “for Russia’s adherence to the one-China principle, and stressed that Taiwan is part of China.”
The two authoritarian leaders have emerged as close partners in recent years, spurred by a growing conflict with the West and a strong personal relationship.
China has provided tacit support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine, while Moscow has backed Beijing and criticized Washington over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August. Beijing responded to its flight with unprecedented military maneuvers around the democratic, autonomous island, which it claims to be its territory.
The White House sought to downplay the meeting between Putin and Xi on Thursday, saying that Beijing had not yet violated Western sanctions against Moscow and had not provided direct material assistance to Russia.
“Our message to China, I think, has been consistent: This is not the time for any kind of business as usual with Mr. Putin, given what he has done inside Ukraine. This is not the time to isolate from the rest of the international community, which has largely condemned what he is doing in Ukraine and not only condemned him, but stepped up to help Ukrainians defend themselves and their territorial integrity,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told CNN.
Kirby said Putin was “under a lot of pressure and tension. In Ukraine, his military is not doing well, and I think it’s certainly the duty of the Kremlin to want to get close to Beijing in terms of what’s going on there.”
In their meeting on Thursday, Putin condemned the United States for what he described as “provocations” in the Taiwan Strait, and criticized what he claimed were attempts to “create a unipolar world.” These attempts, he said, “have recently taken an ugly shape and are totally unacceptable to most countries on the planet.”
The two are holding talks on the sidelines of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group focused on regional security that also includes India, Pakistan and four countries in Central Asia.
In a symbolic display of strength and unity, the Russian and Chinese navies conducted joint patrols and exercises in the Pacific just hours before their leaders met, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
At the start of the meeting on Thursday, Putin stressed the deepening of economic ties between China and Russia, noting that bilateral trade exceeded $140 billion last year. “I am convinced that by the end of the year we will reach new highs, and in the near future, as agreed, we will increase our annual commercial turnover to $200 billion or more,” he said.
The last time Putin met Xi was during a visit to the Chinese capital for the Winter Olympics in February this year. At that meeting, the two leaders laid out a framework for the “No Borders” partnership, and released a 5,000-word document expressing their common opposition to the “further enlargement of NATO.”
For Xi, meanwhile, Thursday’s meeting comes as part of his first trip outside China’s borders in more than two years, and just weeks before he seeks to secure a normative third term at a major political meeting in Beijing — a move that will solidify his position as the most powerful Leader of China for decades.
China has increasingly turned inward since the beginning of the epidemic, and continues to maintain a strict anti-coronavirus policy that limits overseas travel.
Xi’s trip to Central Asia is a return to the world stage and provides him with an opportunity to show that despite rising tensions with the West, China still has friends and partners and is ready to reassert its global influence.
before reaching the top, Xi visited KazakhstanIn 2013, he unveiled the pioneering Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure project stretching from East Asia to Europe.
In a meeting with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Wednesday, Xi said China is willing to partner with Kazakhstan to “remain a leader in Belt and Road cooperation.”
Chinese state media reported that Xi also told Tokayev that “China will always support Kazakhstan in maintaining its national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Chinese leader traveled to Uzbekistan on Wednesday evening and met with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. He also met with the presidents of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on Thursday.