All a display of harmony, cordiality and understanding. And in the face of the common enemy, the United States, close ranks. The expected meeting this Friday in Beijing between the presidents of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and China, Xi Jinping, with the crisis around Ukraine in the background, has been a display of unity —“unprecedented”, according to the Russian leader ; “unbreakable”, the Chinese president has said – between the two informal allies, in a message aimed above all at Washington. Both have condemned the “destabilizing” influence of military alliances in Europe and Asia and have opposed a further expansion of NATO, arguing that the expansion of military blocs cannot occur at the expense of others.
Criticism of the United States has been the constant of the meeting, Xi Jinping’s first in person with a foreign leader in two years and which was held just hours before the two presidents attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. in Beijing.
Both Russia and China, which have grown closer over the past eight years as their respective ties with Washington have deteriorated, expressed support for one another on foreign policy. In the joint statement issued after the meeting, both promised to increase cooperation in the face of what they consider “foreign interference”, “color revolutions” (a reference to popular uprisings that both countries consider backed by external forces) and regional challenges. .
The relationship between China and Russia “has great significance to maintain stability and strategic security in the world,” says Beijing’s version of what was discussed at the meeting.
Without mentioning the United States, they denounced that “certain countries” try to impose their “democratic standards” on other nations, a criticism that China, in particular, has repeated on several occasions since the White House held a summit on democracy last fall.
Some of the harshest language in the 5,000-word statement was directed at military alliances in which the United States participates. The parties demand that NATO renounce any expansion and demand that it “abandon the ideological perspective of the Cold War”. In Asia, they also reject the creation of “closed blocs” in Asia Pacific, where the creation of Aukus, the new security alliance formed by Washington, London and Canberra, was announced last year. “We remain very vigilant towards the negative impact of the US Indo-Pacific strategy on peace and stability in this region,” the document states.
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Both nations expressed concern about the “advancement of US plans to develop a global missile defense and deploy its elements in various regions of the world, combined with increased non-nuclear, high-precision weapons capabilities to thwart attacks and other attacks.” strategic objectives”.
The two countries highlighted their common position also on other key geopolitical issues for one or the other. Russia declared its support for China on one of the most important issues for Beijing: the existence of “one China”, of which Taiwan is an inalienable part of the national territory. The Chinese government, for its part, supports Moscow’s proposals for the “formation of legally binding long-term security guarantees” in Europe.
The good harmony has not been limited to statements about foreign policy. As officials from both governments had already advanced in previous statements, the leaders have signed fifteen agreements in various sectors. Among them, a pact for the expansion of Russian gas supply to China, which will expand the one reached in 2014 by a value of 400,000 million dollars (about 350,000 million euros at the current exchange rate) and which transports that fuel to the Asian giant through of the Power of Siberia 1 gas pipeline, which came into operation in 2019. Memoranda were also signed to make geolocation systems compatible and to increase investments in green development.
“We are working to make true multilateralism a reality,” Xi said, according to the version released by the Kremlin of the two leaders’ statements.
The meeting was taking place against the backdrop of tension over Ukraine, where the West fears Russia may launch an invasion after amassing more than 100,000 troops on the border. It was precisely another Russian military operation in Ukraine —the annexation of Crimea in 2014— that precipitated the start of the current stage of friendship between Moscow and Beijing, after decades of mistrust: the signing of the great gas supply agreement then opened new sources of income for Moscow, which allowed it to mitigate the effect of international sanctions and the loss of European markets. And it sent the message that Russia was not isolated diplomatically.
Now, a much more powerful China than eight years ago, and with greater global weight than its ally, has also sided with Moscow. In a phone conversation last week with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi endorsed Russia’s position on Ukraine and Eastern Europe, where Moscow is calling for NATO to stop expanding. Wang then opined that “Russia’s reasonable security concerns must be taken into account”, criticized the “Cold War mentality”, in a veiled allusion to Washington, and ruled that “regional security cannot be guaranteed by expanding a military bloc”, referring to the Atlantic Alliance.
Putin arrived in Beijing on Friday to attend the opening ceremony of the Games, where the United States and eight of its allies have chosen not to send top officials, in a diplomatic boycott. Among the leaders who have attended are also the presidents of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, and of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, as well as the Saudi crown prince, Mohamed Bin Salmán, and the Egyptian head of state, Abdelfatá al Sisi.
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