MOSCOW – President Joe Biden may have his coalition of democracies, but as a video summit on Wednesday highlighted, Russia and China still have each other.
President Xi Jinping of China, facing a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics this year from Biden and others, received a public commitment from Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would participate in the Beijing Olympics. attended – the first national leader to do so.
Putin, facing the threat of breaking Western sanctions if Russian forces attack Ukraine, heard Xi suggest that Russia and China work together to “more effectively protect the interests of Ukraine”. security of both sides”.
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Wednesday’s videoconference between Xi and Putin – the 37th time the two have met since 2013, according to Mr. Xi – was both a show of solidarity between two autocrats struggling with pressure from China. The West, both as an expression of mutually beneficial cooperation, is getting closer and closer. that their two countries built.
“We strongly support each other on issues related to each other’s core interests and upholding the dignity of each country,” Xi told Putin, according to state media reports. China’s country.
There are still many conflicts between Russia and China, old rivals that share a land border spanning more than 2,600 miles, over things like history and logging in Siberia. But on trade, security and geopolitics, they increasingly align and form a bloc that seeks to usurp US influence as both countries’ conflicts with the US deepen.
The two countries have no formal alliance. However, Mr. Xi told Putin that “in terms of proximity and effectiveness, the relationship transcends an alliance,” Kremlin official Yuri Ushakov, who told reporters in Moscow of the following meeting. when the meeting is over.
The two leaders discussed creating an “independent financial infrastructure”, Ushakov said, to reduce their dependence on Western banks and their vulnerability to illegal actions. sanctions from the West. And they have pushed for a possible trilateral summit with India, a testament to their broader geopolitical ambitions; Mr. Putin traveled to New Delhi last week to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“A new model of cooperation has been formed between our countries – one based on such basic principles as non-interference in internal affairs and respect for each other’s interests,” Putin told him. Episodes in the television commentary.
In an iconic bit of theatrical art, both men spoke with both Chinese and Russian flags in the frame behind them – unlike Putin’s video conference with Biden last week, when Putin only spoke next to the Russian flag.
Analysts say that a key element in the Russia-China relationship is the personal relationship between Putin and Xi, both men in their late 60s who have consolidated control over Putin. with the political system of their country. Xi called Putin an “old friend,” while the Russian president called his Chinese counterpart both a “best friend” and a “respectable friend.”
But Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin arrived at Wednesday’s meeting with very different short-term priorities. For Mr. Xi, the summit is an opportunity to address growing criticism of China’s actions to crush the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, threaten Taiwan and crack down on political parties. Muslim minorities in western China, and on a range of less prominent issues. to rotate.
He hopes to demonstrate that China is not diplomatically isolated, especially on the eve of the Winter Olympics, to demonstrate China’s global standing, not its deterioration in relations. this with much of the world.
“I hope that we will finally meet face-to-face in Beijing next February,” Putin told Xi, speaking ahead of the Games in his televised opening remarks. “We have unwittingly supported each other on issues of international sports cooperation, including our disapproval of attempts to politicize sport or the Olympic movement.”
For Putin, the negotiations come at a time when he is under great threat over the West’s ability to influence Western influence in Ukraine. Karen Donfried, US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, was in Moscow on Wednesday for talks on Ukraine. Russian officials presented her with a proposal describing how Putin had previously asked the West to withdraw military support from Ukraine and rule out expanding the NATO alliance to Ukraine or other countries in the region. .
Western officials have expressed concern over Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s border and worry that Russia could threaten an invasion even if it makes diplomatic demands. China’s public record of the meeting makes no mention of Ukraine and NATO, but appears to hint at Russia’s security concerns about them.
“China and Russia should take more joint actions to more effectively protect the security interests of both sides,” Xi told Putin, the China account said.
The leaders’ united front at the meeting appeared to be intended as a counterweight to the “Summit for Democracy” Biden hosted last week, seen by many as an attempt to build a bulwark against authoritarian governments such as those in Russia and China.
“Some international forces under the guise of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ are interfering in the internal affairs of China and Russia,” Xi said, according to the Chinese report. whether it is democratic or not and how democracy can be better implemented can only be judged by the people of that country itself.”
Cheng Xiaohe, a professor at Renmin University’s School of International Studies in Beijing, said the relationship between the two countries provided an opportunity for their leaders to show “mutual support and common confrontation”. ” for the United States. This is especially true at a time of economic uncertainty and growing international tensions.
“Both China and Russia are under equal pressure from the United States,” he said. “So the two countries must support each other in diplomacy.”
The leaders of Russia and China meet or talk regularly – although almost only since the beginning of the pandemic. What was unusual about Wednesday’s meeting was China’s attempt to telegraph its message in advance.
“Close strategic coordination” between the two countries is essential in today’s volatile world, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said this week.
The two countries have deepened an already suspicious relationship in recent decades, culminating in a 1969 border dispute in Khabarovsk.
When Russia faced sanctions after its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, Putin turned to China to soften the blow and boost cross-border trade from energy to timber.
That same year, Russian public opinion about China greatly improved; 70% of Russians now have a positive attitude towards the country, according to the independent Levada Center pollster – much better than their views on the United States, the European Union or Ukraine.
The militaries of both countries have also held joint exercises and even operations, including in the air and, for the first time in October, naval patrols in the Pacific. They also promised to explore space together.
Ahead of Wednesday’s call, Dmitri Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space program, said a proposed Russia-China moon station “would be based on the principles of equal partnership, transparency and consensus in decision-making process” – on the contrary, he said on the terms that the United States had laid out in their project for a lunar station.
However, there are limits to this united front.
For example, China has never recognized its annexation of Crimea, nor has Russia sided with China over its vast territorial claims in the South China Sea. They have also failed to tie themselves to a formal treaty alliance, wanting to maintain the ability to act independently and flexibly.
“I don’t think they’re at a point where Beijing would approve of a risky move in Ukraine, nor would Russia be eager to take sides,” said Sergei Radchenko, a professor of international relations at the university. China if China decides to invade Taiwan. Cardiff University. who has written extensively about relationships.
“I imagine they would show a degree of benevolent neutrality towards the other.”
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