Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed China’s top diplomat at the Kremlin Wednesday, crowing that relations between the countries had reached “new frontiers” amid mounting concerns that Beijing could provide military support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, Wang told Putin that ties between Russia and China had withstood the pressure from a volatile international situation and that crises offered certain opportunities.
“We are ready to deepen our strategic partnership,” Wang said through an interpreter.
According to China’s most senior diplomat, the relationship between his government and Russia was not directed against any third party but equally would “not succumb to pressure from third parties” – a clear swipe at the US.
“Together we support multi-polarity and democratization in international relations,” Wang said, referring to their shared goal of countering the perceived US dominance in global affairs. “This fully meets the course of time and history; it also meets the interests of the majority of countries.”
Putin told his guest that he is awaiting a visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has stood by Russia throughout the war in Ukraine, resisting Western pressure to make Moscow a pariah.
“Everything is progressing, developing. We are reaching new frontiers,” he said.
Xi is expected to make a “peace speech” Friday, to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kyiv says there can be no talk of peace with Russian troops in Ukraine.
Wang earlier met Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, saying that he looked forward to reaching new agreements during his visit to Moscow.
Lavrov boasted that “our ties have continued to develop dynamically, and despite high turbulence in the global arena we have shown the readiness to speak in defense of each other’s interests.”
When Xi met Putin face to face just before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, they sealed a “no limits” partnership that sparked anxiety in the West.
China has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine — echoing Moscow’s claim that the US and NATO are to blame for provoking the Kremlin while blasting the punishing sanctions imposed on Russia. Russia, in turn, has steadfastly supported Beijing amid tensions with Washington over Taiwan.
China is Russia’s largest buyer of oil, one of the key sources of revenues for Moscow’s state coffers, which have been depleted by Western sanctions since the start of the war.
Chinese weapons would threaten a potential escalation of the Ukraine war into a global confrontation pitting Russia and China on the one side against Ukraine and the US-led NATO bloc.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday warned Wang of consequences should China provide weapons and ammunition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying that such an effort would be a “serious problem.”
Beijing has denied providing military support to Russia.
Asked about the issue of Chinese aid, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Beijing’s representatives have already addressed that.
“They have already answered this question, they have, in fact, strongly denied it. There is nothing to add here.”
China and Russia’s diplomatic love-fest came as President Biden, fresh off his surprise visit to Kyiv earlier this week, prepared to meet leaders of NATO’s eastern flank in Poland – highlighting geopolitical tensions ahead of the Feb. 24 first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Within Ukraine, schools took their classes online for the rest of the week for fear of an upsurge in missile attacks.
Russia is set to begin military exercises with China in South Africa on Friday and has sent a flagship frigate equipped with new-generation hypersonic cruise missiles. A Russian officer said Wednesday Russia would fire artillery, but not the missiles, whose speed makes them difficult to shoot down.
The joint drills follow Putin’s announcement Tuesday that Russia would suspend a key nuclear arms control treaty, accusing Washington of turning the war into a global conflict by arming Ukraine.
Russia’s foreign and defense ministries said later Moscow would continue abiding by the caps outlined in the New START pact on the number of nuclear warheads it could have deployed and the number of nuclear missile carriers.
With Post wires
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