Xi and Putin Bind China and Russia’s Economies Further, Despite War in Ukraine

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and China’s top leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday declared a lasting economic partnership and vowed to bring more Russian energy to China and more Chinese companies to Russia as the two leaders sought to isolate their countries. from the West. sanctions and other consequences of the war in Ukraine.

The economic promises, trumpeted by leaders on the second day of Xi’s state visit to Moscow, were a sign that China would continue to do business as normal with Russia and that Moscow and Beijing were in circles, economically at least. , against any punitive measure from the United States or Europe.

When the two leaders met on Tuesday, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited kyiv in a show of support that further highlighted the geopolitical fault lines created by Russia’s invasion.

It was a significant change for Japan, which has drawn a clear line on the war and joined other G7 nations in imposing sanctions on Russia and providing billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine.

Economically beleaguered and isolated on the world stage, Russia has leaned heavily on China to make up for lost business since its economy split abruptly from the West. Putin’s economic outreach this week was a clear sign that Beijing was gaining influence over Russia, even as it provided aid to its neighbor, said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“That’s a statement to Russia that, ‘You know, relax; we are with you,’” Gabuev said of Xi’s trip. “But it’s also a statement to the West and to the global south that China is a country that won’t be dictated to, that the West is trying to say: ‘Putin is a bad boy; don’t touch him on the playground ‘he ain’t running china”.

Although Ukraine’s Western allies have warned that Beijing may provide Moscow with weapons for its invasion, neither Putin nor Xi made any reference to military assistance, focusing instead on economic cooperation.

The Chinese government had described Mr. Xi’s trip as a peace mission, after Beijing last month published a comprehensive framework for a political solution to the war. But noncommittal comments from the two leaders on Tuesday suggested there had been no breakthrough.

Instead, the joint statement issued by Xi and Putin suggested that Western powers were an obstacle to peace by forming security blocs.

“Russia reaffirmed its commitment to restart peace talks as soon as possible, and China expressed its approval,” the minister said. extract from joint statement which was issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China. “The solution to the Ukraine crisis must respect the reasonable security concerns of all countries and avoid the formation of confrontational blocs that add fuel to the flames.”

The White House strongly rebutted the joint statement, accusing China of parroting Russian propaganda and saying that Beijing could do much more if it really wanted to broker peace.

“If China wants to play a constructive role in this conflict, then it should pressure Russia to withdraw troops from Ukraine,” John F. Kirby, a US national security spokesman, told reporters.

By contrast, US officials praised Japan’s prime minister. In his unusual and unannounced trip to Kiev, Mr. Kishida announced $470 million in aid for energy and other sectors, and $30 million in aid for non-lethal equipment to Ukraine through a NATO trust fund. At a press conference, he called Russia’s actions “an aggression that shakes the foundations of the international order.”

The war has propelled Japan toward a more active foreign and military policy, a significant change given its constitution limits participation in military action and longstanding public resistance to backing down from an official stance of pacifism. But since the invasion began, Japan has moved to double its budget for military spending over the next five years. The increase brings spending to about 2 percent of annual economic output, aligning Japan with NATO members.

His more assertive stance reflects both the war and growing concerns about North Korean aggression and China’s might in the Pacific. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman responded to Mr. Kishida’s visit by saying that Japan should “help calm the situation rather than the other way around”.

Since the war began, China has expressed sympathy for Putin’s grievances against the United States and NATO, while arguing that Beijing believes in respecting the sovereignty of all countries. China has not sent weapons to Russia for use in the war, although it has sold technology such as drones that could have military use.

In their meeting, Mr Xi indicated that it could also provide Putin with an economic lifeline, although it would also benefit China by expanding its access to Russian resources, energy and markets. And while Xi called the talks “frank, friendly and rich in results” and Putin called them “successful,” it was not clear that the Russian leader had achieved everything he sought. .

The agreements included two broad declarations on strategic and economic cooperation, and smaller articles on working together in sectors such as forestry, soybeans, television and industry in Russia’s Far East, according to a list published by the Kremlin. Some agreements were incremental updates to decisions made before the summit, such as one on a nuclear power plant Russia is building in China.

Putin bragged that a new pipeline to send natural gas to China via Mongolia would be ready by 2030, but Xi did not confirm that such an agreement was in place.

The subtext of the meeting, analysts said, was Russia’s growing reliance on China over the past 13 months. Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin have remained closely aligned during that time, but not always with the public enthusiasm the Chinese leader once displayed.

Last year, weeks before Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine, he and Xi issued a joint declaration that was combative, even boastful. The leaders declared that their countries had a friendship “without limits”.

This year, the statement was more measured.

“The parties note that Russia-China relations, while not constituting a Cold War-like political-military alliance, are superior to this type of interstate cooperation,” it said.

These relations “do not constitute a bloc, do not have a confrontational character and are not directed against third countries,” although the countries did accuse the United States of “undermining” global security.

And in contrast to last year’s summit, where Xi signed off Putin’s opposition to any NATO expansion, and Putin backed China’s opposition to US military alliances in Asia, their joint appearance Tuesday gave the appearance of two leaders. who have entrenched themselves to focus on economic survival.

That invasion has depleted the Russian economy and the Kremlin’s coffers. In China, Xi is focused on repairing the economy, worn down by three years of pandemic restrictions. And while Xi may be reluctant to sell military weapons to Russia and risk US sanctions, he seemed willing to support Putin in other ways.

Analysts say Xi may not have an interest in ending the conflict in Ukraine, but he does want to make sure Putin stays in power.

“China is agnostic about where the front lines are in Ukraine,” said Gabuev, a fellow at Carnegie. “What matters to them is that he does not lose this war to the extent that this regime collapses and a pro-Western government is installed in Russia.”

Mr Gabuev said Russia and China’s insistence that Ukraine was at the top of their joint agendas was a “fig leaf” for China’s growing influence in the Beijing-Moscow relationship. He added that Mr. Xi sought to wire China’s growing influence to the White House.

“The view of Russia as a junior partner, deeper in China’s pocket, with no other option than China, is hugely beneficial if China believes it is in a long-term confrontation with the United States,” he said.

Divisions between the United States and its allies and Russia and China in front of them only seemed more entrenched on Tuesday. The Pentagon announced that the dozens of M1 Abrams tanks it is sending to Ukraine were scheduled to arrive before the fall, faster than expected, and perhaps in time to reinforce Ukraine after an expected counterattack.

valerie hopkins reported from Moscow, and chris buckley from Taipei, Taiwan. The report was contributed by ben dooley, hiroko masuike and hiroko tabuchi from Tokyo; Anton Troyanovsky of Berlin; Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia; kim victoria from Seoul; anushka patil from New York; and John Ismay and pedro baker from washington