Foreign policy experts say the U.S. and the West should be concerned over Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin as the two leaders kicked off their meeting on Monday.
“Any close alliance between Russia and China will increase challenges to U.S. interests,” Dakota Wood, senior research fellow in defense programs in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, told The Daily Signal in an emailed statement. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“Though Russia and China have historically been at odds with each other, both countries would benefit from dividing U.S. attention in their respective regions, pressuring America’s ability to defend its interests and causing U.S. allies and partners to question whether America is up to the challenge of remaining a dominant player in global affairs,” Wood said.
Xi arrived in Moscow on Monday and will depart on Wednesday.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry last month released a 12-point proposal about ending the war between Russia and Ukraine, according to The Washington Post. The two leaders discussed the proposal during the first day of the visit, Reuters reported.
“There was a very thorough exchange of views, a serious conversation in the informal part,” Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, said about Monday’s meeting.
While Peskov did not provide more detail, he did tell reporters that there would be a joint statement on Tuesday following more talks between Xi and Putin, Reuters also reported.
The two countries will also likely “sign a joint declaration on economic cooperation worth tens of billions of dollars, deepening trade in energy, agriculture and other fields” on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Xi is positioning China to be seen as the calm, rational actor able to reconcile warring parties, displacing the United States that until this point in time has been seen as the most substantial actor in this regard,” Wood said about Xi visiting Putin. “His recent success in reestablishing diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran was a major coup in comparison to U.S. efforts to shape the region.”
“Xi’s visit with Putin will imply China’s support of Russia, especially given that Xi has not explicitly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Wood added. “It will send a message to Ukraine that Putin has a supporter waiting in the wings, thus continued Ukrainian efforts to defeat Russian forces and eject them from the country, at ever-mounting costs, could be in vain.”
Michael Cunningham, a research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, echoed the sentiment that the U.S. and the West should be concerned.
“The U.S., and the West in general, should always be concerned when Xi and Putin meet. This is certainly true given Beijing’s tacit support of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but it also goes beyond that,” Cunningham told The Daily Signal.
“Both Beijing and Moscow despise the U.S.-led international order and the liberal norms, such as democracy and human rights, that underpin that order,” Cunningham said. “One can only assume that meetings between these two involve no shortage of scheming about how to accomplish this task.”
Ahead of his visit to Russia, Xi penned an article for the Kremlin-published Russian Gazette titled “Forging Ahead to Open a New Chapter of China-Russia Friendship, Cooperation and Common Development.”
“My upcoming visit to Russia will be a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace,” Xi said. “I look forward to working with President Putin to jointly adopt a new vision, a new blueprint and new measures for the growth of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the years to come.”
On Sunday, Putin similarly wrote an article for People’s Daily, which is the “Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
“The Russia-China relations have reached the highest level in their history and are gaining even more strength,” Putin wrote. “They surpass Cold War-time military-political alliances in their quality, with no one to constantly order and no one to constantly obey, without limitations or taboos.”
The International Criminal Court issued a warrant on March 17 for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arrest for war crimes, The Associated Press reported.
Brett Schaefer, the Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at The Heritage Foundation, said “there is substantial evidence that Russia has committed grave war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.”
“The U.S. should support efforts to hold Putin and other perpetrators to account,” Schaefer told The Daily Signal in an emailed statement. “However, cooperating with or supporting an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of Russian war crimes could give the impression that the U.S. recognizes and consents to the court’s jurisdiction, the negative consequences of which could include increasing the legal vulnerability of U.S. persons in the future and undermining the principle of state consent in international law.”
Therefore, while the U.S. and others should not be displeased with the ICC arrest warrant for Putin, it should retain its principled distance from the ICC and focus its efforts on supporting Ukrainian efforts to pursue justice.
Keith Krach, former undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment in the Trump administration, previously told The Daily Signal that he thinks Xi’s visit to Russia could be related to reports that China could be supplying Russia with lethal aid.
“I mean, who knows what goes on behind those closed-door discussions, but it’s truly about how do we build this alliance between China and Russia?” Krach said on an episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast.” “They share a real big border, and Putin needs so many different things from China, and not just weapons, but clearly money.”
“Xi’s getting bottom-basement prices on oil from Russia. It’s keeping these guys afloat,” Krach said. “So yeah, they’re collaborating, and for sure it’s about supporting whatever Xi decides to do with Taiwan.”
Should China decide to supply Russia with lethal aid to help in its war against Ukraine, Cunningham said that “in addition to heavily sanctioning all entities involved, the U.S. should spread the message of Xi’s hypocrisy loud and clear to the four corners of the Earth.”
“Beijing’s key message to the world is that the U.S. is fanning the flames of war by supplying Ukraine with arms while China is a responsible, neutral power that hasn’t provided arms to either party because it stands for peace,” Cunningham said. “Whereas this message comes across as ridiculous in the West, the nondemocratic and underdeveloped countries Beijing seeks to sway to its side in its competition for global influence are more susceptible to this narrative.”
“The U.S. should take any opportunity to expose Beijing’s lies and hypocrisy, just as it did with Beijing’s spy balloon,” Cunningham said.
Earlier this month, Xi won a third five-year term unanimously as the president of the People’s Republic of China. Members of the National People’s Congress voted 2,952 to 0 to reelect him, The Daily Signal reported.
Xi is now the longest-serving president since the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, CNN reported. He became president in 2013.
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