In rebuke to US, Putin to attend Beijing Winter Games
MOSCOW - Russia announced it had won Chinese support for its demand of new security guarantees from the United States after a warm 90-minute video conference on Wednesday between President Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.
Putin also said he would be attending the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics and meet Xi in person, underscoring deepening the Sino-Russia cooperation after Britain, Canada and Australia joined a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Games.
The meeting was marked contrast to when President Joe Biden spoke to Putin in a similar video conference eight days earlier and threatened tough sanctions on Russia in case of new military aggression against Ukraine.
Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said that Putin spelled out his concerns about a NATO threat to Russia and that Xi supported the demand for written security guarantees.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry last week published its demands, including that NATO would not expand eastward and would not station weapons in Ukraine that could threaten Russia. NATO has repeatedly ruled out a Russian veto over which countries can join the alliance.
Putin told Xi he expected negotiations with the United States on security guarantees to begin immediately, according to Ushakov.
Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders, the second in a year, has NATO leaders alarmed that Putin may be planning a major attack. The United States has threatened sanctions that could see Russia’s financial system isolated and its economy hit in the event of Russian military escalation.
It was against a background of these threats that Putin extolled the “deep historical traditions of friendship and mutual understanding between the Russian and Chinese people,” saying relations between Moscow and Beijing were closer than they had ever been and they were “constantly in contact.”
Referring to his attendance of the Games, he added that “we have always supported each other on issues of international sports cooperation, including in rejecting any attempts to politicize sports and the Olympic movement,” Putin said. “I have no doubt that the upcoming Winter Olympic Games will be held on the highest level. China knows how to do it.”
Xi, for his part, praised Putin for supporting China’s core interests and standing against efforts by outsiders to “to drive a wedge between our countries.”
Calling Putin his “dear old friend,” Xi said he was looking forward to welcoming Putin to Beijing in February and said he hoped the two countries would “face the future hand in hand” and welcome “a new chapter” in China-Russia relations in the post-pandemic period, Chinese state television reported.
The video meeting signaled to Washington that Russia could rely on its strong relations with China should the West impose tough new financial and economic sanctions in the event of an attack on Ukraine.
Putin and Xi discussed the need for independent infrastructure to ensure continuing financial transactions and trade between Russia and China, according to Ushakov - an apparent response to Washington’s threat that if Russia attacks, new sanctions would isolate Russia financially.
They also took a dig at Biden’s recently concluded democracy summit that Russia and China were not invited to. Ushakov quoted Xi as saying that the negative impact of the summit was obvious, and that it created new global divisions.
He added that Putin “stressed together with Xi Jinping that all this is highly counterproductive, especially amid today’s challenging international situation.”
Xi said China and Russia relations had “withstood various trials and demonstrated new vitality” despite global turbulence, according to Chinese state television.
He said the two countries had shouldered the responsibilities of major powers and showed the world “the correct meaning of democracy and human rights” as guardians of “multilateralism, fairness and justice on the international stage,” Chinese state television reported.
During the meeting, Xi also hailed his party’s recent passage of a historical resolution that paves the way for him to take on an unprecedented third term. “Our goal is ambitious and simple . . . to let all Chinese people live a good life.” Russia last year passed a constitutional amendment that also gave Putin additional terms as president.
Moscow and Beijing have been working together for some years to counter what they see as Washington’s global dominance. Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council Resolution on Monday to treat climate change as a global threat that could lead to conflict. China abstained and India also voted against the motion co-sponsored by Ireland and Niger.
“A new model of cooperation has been formed between our countries, based, among other things, on the basis of noninterference in internal affairs and respect for each other’s interests,” Putin said in opening remarks before the two leaders held a closed meeting.
He said the Sino-Russian “responsible joint approach to solving urgent world problems has become a significant factor in stability in international relations.”
This past year has seen increasing military cooperation between China and Russia, with a joint military exercise, Zapad-Interaction, in northwest China in August and the two navies participating in naval exercises in the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea) in October, followed by their first joint naval patrol.
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Kuo reported from Taipei.