What Xi and Putin want to get out of their joint meeting

Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Moscow next week for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin – his first visit to Russia since Kremlin forces invaded Ukraine.

Visit 20.-22. in March, also Xi’s first foreign trip since winning a third presidential term, is seen in the West as a sign of Beijing’s support for Moscow in its troubled war against Kiev.

There has been much speculation about the nature of the trip, with Western officials warning that it could be a sign that China is considering giving Russia military aid in the fight.

But China, which tries to present itself as a neutral arbiter of the conflict, has denied such claims, although it has refused to condemn the attack.

Whatever the outcome, the meeting is sure to strengthen ties between the two leaders, who have met 39 times before — including more than a year ago in Beijing at the opening of the Olympics on February 4, 2022. In that meeting, which took place shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine, the two declared “no boundaries’ of the partnership.

Here are the things that Putin and Xi are looking to take away from their joint meeting and the one-curve-ball point leading up to it:

Putin wants weapons

After launching an invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Putin had a limited group of friends whose size matters when it comes to Moscow’s ability to import and deliver critical weapons and munitions in battle.

So far, China has refrained from providing such lethal aid, choosing instead to support Russia by increasing trade and increasing joint war games.

But Western officials have recently begun to warn that Beijing could soon move to provide Moscow with military aid – with next week’s meeting possibly the ideal place for both to make such an announcement.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s comments also recently drew accusations of hypocrisy against the United States in warning China against supplying arms to Russia, and pointed to the Biden administration supplying arms to Taiwan.

“It’s something we’re going to be watching,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday, referring to potential cracks in the arms deal between the two countries. “Obviously, Russia has its own interests in trying to get other countries into this conflict if it can, but our position is the same regardless of whether they clash.”

The prospect is troubling for U.S. officials, because while Chinese weapons are unlikely to deliver a decisive victory for Putin, they could drag out the conflict and drain American weapons, aid resources and public goodwill to help Ukraine fight.

Xi wants to build his reputation as a peacemaker

After announcing a Chinese-brokered deal to restore diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran earlier this week, Xi is now turning his attention to the war between Ukraine and Russia.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Xi’s visit is partly to promote “peace” and discuss important regional and international issues.

Xi’s government has already released a so-called “peace plan” for Ukraine, a 12-point agenda for a “political solution to the crisis in Ukraine” that has gone largely unnoticed in the West.

Chinese diplomat Qin Gang told his Ukrainian counterpart by phone on Thursday that Beijing hopes “all sides will remain calm, rational and restrained and resume peace talks as soon as possible,” according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement. .

But the US and NATO are wary of China’s bid to mediate, as Beijing has yet to condemn Russia for war or even outwardly call the conflict one, deferring to Russia’s insistence that it is a “special military operation”.

China has continued to draw Western skepticism, repeatedly siding with Russia and blocking international action against Moscow over the war.

Both want a new world order

One likely outcome of the Xi-Putin meeting will be a public commitment to the partnership between the two, which is vital for them to resist what they see as unfair Western interference in their affairs.

Xi’s visit to Russia — and China’s support for it — is meant as a challenge to the United States and its allies, which have tried to squeeze Moscow’s economy with crippling sanctions.

The relationship is symbiotic, as Russia, in turn, offers China more weight on the international stage and support in its own aggressive moves, especially in the South China Sea.

“As the world moves into 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 extend far beyond bilateral dimensions,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a press release. announcement of Xi’s visit.

Ryan Hass, a senior fellow at the Washington, DC-based Brookings think tank, said securing Russia as China’s partner is a “basic condition” for Xi’s vision of national rejuvenation.

“China sees the United States as the main obstacle to its rise,” Hass writes.

“Xi is also likely to see the benefit of Russia diverting America’s strategic attention away from China. Beijing and Moscow cannot cope alone with the US and its partners. They would both rather stand together to deal with external pressure than face it alone,” he added.

Shaking things up – Xi meets an international refugee

The Xi-Putin meeting was announced hours before The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president on charges of war crimes related to the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

The arrest warrant — one of the first charges brought against Putin for war crimes in Ukraine — means Xi will now meet the international fugitive on Monday.

Typically, such an order carries with it an important element of public shaming — a signal to other countries that they need to think carefully about what they do with the person under investigation, according to experts in international law.

– From now on, the President of Russia has the status of an official suspect of an international crime – the illegal deportation and residential placement of Ukrainian children, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin wrote on Facebook.

“This means that outside of Russia, Putin should be arrested and brought to justice. And world leaders will think three times before shaking hands or sitting at the negotiating table with him. The world has received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and allies will be brought to justice.

There is little chance that Putin will be caught by an international court, and it is also unlikely that the order will have much of an impact on the meeting or Beijing’s position vis-à-vis Moscow. But legal action could put pressure on the two countries on the world stage.

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