Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping on Tuesday praised the entry into a “new era” of their “special” relationship with the West, the Russian president cautiously supporting the Chinese plan to settle the conflict in Ukraine, while accusing Kiev of rejecting it. The Chinese initiative, which advocates peace talks, includes elements that can “serve as a basis for a peaceful settlement (of the conflict), when they are ready for it in the West and in Kiev”, launched Vladimir Putin. “However, we do not currently observe such a disposition on their side”, he added, alongside Xi Jinping who, for his part, stressed that Beijing was “for peace and dialogue ” in Ukraine.
The five key points of the summit between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping:
- Front against Washington
- new gas pipeline
- Priority to the economy
- A summit with great fanfare
“A new era”
In Kiev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he “invited” China to be part of the settlement of the conflict and “await its response”, adding “to receive signals, but nothing concrete”. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were speaking after a summit in the Kremlin which, in the absence of a breakthrough on Ukraine, aimed above all to demonstrate the solidity of relations between Russia and China, in the context of high tensions between these countries and Westerners. The Chinese president thus considered that relations between Beijing and Moscow were entering “a new era”, after signing a declaration with his Russian counterpart on “deepening the strategic partnership” between Russia and China.
The master of the Kremlin, who rolled out the red carpet for Xi Jinping for this state visit ending on Wednesday, hailed the “special nature of Russian-Chinese relations”.
In a joint statement with Cold War overtones, the two leaders also strongly attacked the West, accusing the United States of “undermining” international security to maintain its “military advantage”, and expressed their “concern” at the NATO’s growing presence in Asia. Another echo of the Cold War, Russia and China said that a nuclear war should “never” take place, in the declaration signed by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
The Russian president also threatened to “reply” if London supplies Ukraine with shells containing depleted uranium, as was mentioned by a British official. He was much warmer with his Chinese host, calling him “dear friend” and “comrade Xi”. The two leaders even toasted during a state dinner to the “prosperity” of the Russian and Chinese peoples.
“Russian-Chinese cooperation has truly unlimited possibilities and prospects,” exclaimed Vladimir Putin during this meal. Xi Jinping’s trip to Moscow is an important support for the Russian head of state who has been targeted since last week by an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Treated as an outcast by Westerners since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin can count on Beijing to break the isolation: Xi Jinping has thus invited him to visit China this year.
Japanese Prime Minister in Ukraine
Coincidence of the calendar? As Xi Jinping showed his support for Moscow, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday, where Volodymyr Zelensky hailed a “powerful defender of international order”. Fumio Kishida in particular went to the martyrdom city of Boutcha, near Kiev, where Russian soldiers are accused of having committed atrocities while they occupied it, and expressed his “indignation”.
Speaking to the press alongside the Japanese leader, Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he would participate by videoconference in the G7 summit scheduled for May in Hiroshima. Fumio Kishida was the only head of state or government in this group of seven of the most industrialized countries on the planet not to have made a trip to the Ukrainian capital since the start of the conflict in February 2022.
Faced with Chinese mediation on Ukraine, kyiv’s allies have generally expressed their skepticism. Washington even accuses the Chinese authorities of considering supplying arms to Russia, which they deny. On Monday, the head of the American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, said that the world must “not be fooled by any tactical decision by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the conflict (in Ukraine) according to its own terms”.
Beyond strategic considerations, the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping confirmed the strengthening of the economic partnership between their two countries, particularly in terms of hydrocarbons. The visit of the Chinese president to Russia comes at a time when the latter has massively reoriented its economy towards China, in the face of the heavy Western sanctions of which it is the target.
In this context, Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that he had reached an agreement with Xi Jinping on the gigantic Siberian Force 2 gas pipeline project, which will allow Russia to supply 50 billion cubic meters of additional gas per year. Earlier, the Russian head of state, anxious to find new outlets for hydrocarbons boycotted by Europe, had assured Xi Jinping that his country was “able to meet China’s growing demand for energy”. As a symbol, the Russian giant Gazprom announced on Tuesday that it had delivered a “record” quantity of gas the day before via the cross-border gas pipeline “Force de Siberie”.