After being accused of war crimes by an international tribunal, Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow. The timing of this meeting, which occurs just days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin, is delicate for Xi Jinping. The warrant was issued due to the alleged deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia during the war.
Despite neither Russia nor China being members of the ICC, the arrest warrant has drawn attention to the meeting between the two leaders. Russia intends to use Xi’s visit as evidence of having a powerful ally that is ready to support it against the West, which Russia accuses of trying to isolate and defeat it. Meanwhile, the US has cautioned China against providing weapons to Moscow as Russia struggles in Ukraine, putting Beijing in a difficult position.
The situation presents China with a difficult choice – it can either risk Russia’s humiliation by doing nothing, or it can risk further deterioration of its relationship with the US and other Western countries by coming to Russia’s aid. Putin expressed confidence in Xi’s upcoming visit and their “no limits” strategic partnership in an article for a Chinese newspaper. He also thanked China for its support and willingness to mediate in the Ukrainian conflict, recognizing their impartial understanding of the situation and welcoming their constructive role in resolving the crisis.
In February, China published a 12-point paper calling for dialogue and a settlement in Ukraine, which Ukraine welcomed. However, the paper lacked concrete proposals for ending the year-long war, and Ukraine insisted that any settlement would require Russia to withdraw from all the territory it has seized, including the Crimean Peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
The US was doubtful about China’s involvement as it did not condemn Russia’s invasion. John Kirby, a White House spokesperson, expressed his disapproval on Fox News, stating that if Putin and Xi called for a ceasefire, it would only legitimize Russia’s current territorial gains. Kirby also cautioned that such a move would provide Putin with more time to reorganize and prepare for future offensives.