Chinese leader Xi Jinping will visit Moscow on Monday for a three-day visit. The summit meeting is particularly important to fellow Russian Vladimir Putin.
Whether it is a coincidence that the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin over the kidnapping of Ukrainian children three days before his state visit remains to be seen. But experts believe that this will not have a strong impact on the meeting between the Russian and Chinese leaders.
First of all, because neither Russia nor China recognizes the ICC. As a result, neither country will extradite Putin to The Hague. At most, Xi would feel somewhat uncomfortable today with a war crimes suspect on his side. Someone previously called a “personal friend”.
But Xi is doing his colleague a huge favor by accepting the invitation sent by Putin in December. First of all, the Chinese president’s visit to Moscow is of great symbolic importance to the Kremlin. Putin can show internally that he still has valuable allies.
It is true that Russia is seen as the junior partner in the “unlimited friendship” that Xi and Putin proclaimed to each other, a few weeks before Moscow sent its troops to Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The Chinese economy is almost ten times superior to the Russian economy, and China is also outperforming Russia is increasingly militarized. But Xi is still willing to travel to Moscow. And this is good for Putin’s image.
Russian elites doubt that Putin alone can withstand mounting Western Ukrainian pressure and hope that Xi will help him.
This is confirmed by political scientist Abbas Galgamov, a former Kremlin lyricist. This visit is very important for Putin. Russian elites doubt that he can single-handedly withstand mounting Ukrainian and Western pressure, and hope that Xi will help him.
The only question is what helped Putin. In the rhetoric, China has long been offering Russia all the support it could want. Although it recognizes the autonomy of Ukraine (including Crimea), Beijing blames NATO for the large-scale bloodshed in the former Soviet country. And while China says it is neutral in armed conflict, it notes that Xi has so far only discussed the matter with Putin, not Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
What Putin especially hopes is that Xi will promise to supply him with weapons. Both sides in Ukraine are facing growing shortages, and Russia has already had to compete with Iran and North Korea for drones and missiles.
Guns and drones
US-British news site Politico reported last week that China is secretly supplying rifles, body armor and drone parts to Russia (although Beijing denies this). But that’s a small beer compared to what Russia’s armed forces really need: missiles and artillery.
The West fears that Xi will eventually handle the matter, and Putin pledges heavy weapons. Although this will not happen openly, because China wants to avoid imposing sanctions on the country. The Chinese economy creaks and creaks and the European and American markets with hundreds of millions of consumers are more important to Beijing than the Russian economy with “only” 145 million people.
It cannot be that he openly rejects Putin. Xi does not want Putin to fall.
However, China is not waiting for Russia’s shameful defeat in Ukraine. It will only lead to turmoil at the border, and like Putin, Xi is not waiting for a neighboring country looking for democracy. Moreover, they both have a deep hatred for the monopoly of the United States. Putin is unlikely to stop talking about it with Xi in Moscow.
All things considered, Xi’s visit to Putin is almost impossible to fail. “Because Xi will have to at least promise something to Putin,” says Galgamov. It cannot be that he openly rejects Putin. Xi does not want Putin to fall.”
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