WASHINGTON (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week underscored China’s push for a bigger role on the world stage. But they also revealed the perils of global diplomacy: Hours after Friday’s trip was announced, an international arrest warrant was issued for Putin on war crimes charges, taking at least some of the wind out of the sails of China’s big reveal.
The development zone — which followed a deal between China to restore diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran and Ukraine’s announcement of what it called a “peace plan” — came as the Biden administration is warily watching Beijing’s moves to bolster itself. in international affairs.
US officials had no immediate public comment on the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for Putin in The Hague, but privately expressed satisfaction that the international body agreed with Washington’s assessment that Russia has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
The Biden administration believes China’s desire to be seen as a broker for peace between Russia and Ukraine may be viewed more critically now that Putin has been formally charged with war crimes, according to two U.S. officials. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the administration hopes the warrants will help mobilize hitherto neutral countries to join the conflict.
A look at the Xi-Putin meeting and how the order may affect it.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE XI CASE WITH PUTIN:
The visit to Russia is Xi’s first trip abroad since being elected to an unprecedented third term as China’s president. It comes as Beijing and Moscow have deepened ties in steps that began shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the two leaders meeting in Beijing at last year’s Winter Olympics, where they declared a “no borders” partnership.
Since then, China has repeatedly sided with Russia in blocking international action against Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine, and US officials say it is considering supplying Russia with weapons to support the war. But it has also tried to position itself in a more neutral role, offering a plan for peace that has been largely ignored.
At the meeting in Moscow, the two sides are likely to recommit to their partnership, which both see as crucial to countering the undue and undeserved influence of the United States and its Western allies.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE ICC WARRANT GRANTED FOR PUTIN?
The order issued by the International Criminal Court to Putin and one of his aides is unlikely to have a major impact on the meeting or China’s position vis-à-vis Russia in the near future. Neither China nor Russia – nor the US or Ukraine – have ratified the ICC Treaty. The United States, starting with the Clinton administration, has refused to join the court, fearing that its broad mandate could lead to prosecution of American forces or officials.
This means that none of the four countries formally recognize the court’s jurisdiction or are bound by its rulings, although Ukraine has agreed to allow some ICC criminal investigations on its territory and the United States has cooperated with the ICC investigation.
Moreover, it is highly unlikely that Putin would travel to a country bound by obligations to the ICC. If he did, it is doubtful that this country would actually arrest him. There is a precedent where previously accused persons, notably former Sudanese President Omar Bashir, have visited ICC members without being arrested.
However, the taint of the arrest warrant may well work against China and Russia in the court of public opinion, and Putin’s international standing could take a hit unless the charges are dropped or he is acquitted.
VIEW FROM WASHINGTON:
While U.S. officials are wary of directly discussing the ICC’s rulings, they have not held back word of Xi’s planned visit to Moscow. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called Beijing’s push for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine a “ratification of Russia’s conquest” and warned that the Russians could use the ceasefire to regroup their positions “so they can launch attacks against Ukraine at a time of their choosing.”
“We do not believe this is a step towards a just and lasting peace,” he said. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan this week urged Xi to also speak with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the Ukrainian leader has also expressed interest in talks with Xi.
THE VIEW FROM KIVI:
Before the ICC authorization was announced, Ukrainian analysts warned of falling into a possible trap ahead of the Xi-Putin meeting. “We need to realize that such peace talks are a trap for Ukraine and its diplomatic corps,” said Yuri Poita, who heads the Asia division of the Kyiv-based New Geopolitics Research Network.
“Under such conditions, these peace talks will not lead to peace,” said Nataliia Butyrska, a Ukrainian analyst of East Asian politics. He said the visit does not reflect China’s desire for peace, but rather its desire to play an important role in post-conflict settlement.
“China does not make a clear distinction between who is the aggressor and who is the victim. And when the country starts its peacekeeping operations or at least tries to help the parties, not distinguishing it affects objectivity,” Butyrska said. “From my point of view, China is trying to freeze the conflict.”
THE VIEW FROM MOSCOW:
Although China is not offering military aid to Russia, as the United States and its allies fear, Moscow sees Xi’s visit as a strong signal of Chinese support challenging Western efforts to isolate Russia and deal crippling blows to its economy.
Kremlin spokesman Yuri Ushakov said Putin and Xi have “very friendly and trusting personal ties” and praised Beijing’s peace plan. “We greatly appreciate the restrained and balanced stance of the Chinese leadership on this issue,” Ushakov said.
Observers say that while China is positioning itself as a mediator, its refusal to condemn Russia’s actions leaves no doubt where Beijing’s sympathies lie.
“China’s peace plan is a fig leaf to counter Western criticism of supporting Russia,” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It creates the illusion that China has a peace plan, both sides in the war accepted it and were willing to explore the possibilities, and then a hostile West killed it.”
THE VIEW FROM BEIJING:
Chinese officials have boasted of their new clout on the international stage as their country’s foreign policy has become increasingly assertive under Xi.
In announcing Xin’s visit, China’s foreign ministry said Beijing’s ties to Moscow are a major global force. “As the world enters a new era of turmoil and change, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and an important force, the importance and influence of China-Russia relations goes far beyond bilateral dimensions,” it said.
It called the visit “a trip of friendship that will further deepen mutual trust and understanding between China and Russia, and strengthen the political foundation and public opinion foundation for the friendship between the two peoples for generations.”
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Washington and Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv contributed to this report.