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Putin and Jinping meet amidst Ukraine-Russia crisis developments

Could Beijing and Moscow potentially outweigh NATO?

by: Selma Arlbrandt

Just hours before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with, who he has referred to as his “old friend”, Vladimir Putin. This was the first time the Chinese leader met with a foreign counterpart face-to-face in nearly two years.

The two put on a united display, and in a joint statement, it was made clear that China supports Russia in its demand of NATO not expanding any further.

After the meeting, Putin described the Chinese-Russian relations as special. This meeting came after years of the two countries drawing closer together with military cooperation and trade at the heart of their partnership.

In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine. This upset many and harsh critique from leaders and organisations all over the world was directed at Moscow. Among these was NATO which condemned Russia’s actions, stating that it violated international law.

During these times, when facing isolation and international disapproval, Russia found an ally in China, which provided economic and diplomatic support, and since then, the interdependency between the two countries has only increased further.

China is currently Russia’s biggest trade partner with bilateral trade reaching new peaks.

During this meeting, additional deals were secured, and Russia will now be supplying China – the world’s biggest energy consumer – with a further 10 million cubic metres of gas annually. This will continue to reduce Moscow’s dependency on European energy customers.

However, with Russian troops being positioned along the border of Ukraine and many fearing military activities, one could potentially also wonder if this close cooperation of Putin and Jinping threatens to undermine European and American plans to implement strict sanctions against Moscow.

Image of Vladimir Putin. Photo courtesy of Dimitro Sevastopol via Pixabay

Maria Snegovaya, a visiting scholar at George Washington University is among those who believe that China would once again “soften the blow” of sanctions placed on Russia – just like they did in 2014. China has been a big buyer of many Russian goods including not just oil and gas but also weapons, fish, and timber.

As opposed to China, the United States is threatening to block high-tech exports, something which – according to analysts – took Putin by surprise. This move would seriously affect Russia’s ability to produce advanced industrial and military hardware.

Regardless, the two leaders seem to share a desire to weaken the United States’ influence in world politics. China, however, still has important business connections in both the US and in Ukraine and therefore has to tread lightly. Beijing has never officially recognised Russia “annexing” the Crimean Peninsula. Also, despite the fact that China and Russia are organising joint military operations and training, it is doubted that China will explicitly express its support for any further Russian involvement in Ukraine.


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