Ukraine has Russian President Vladimir Putin’s armed forces on the run and has recaptured land the size of the state of Maine in a matter of days. But a more serious setback is the public distancing of Russia by his so-called “no limits” partner, Chinese President Xi Jinping. It seems there are limits, and Xi articulated these before and after a meeting with Putin in Uzbekistan. Beijing is distancing itself from Moscow as its war against Ukraine falters.
Putin acknowledged that Xi raised “concerns” about his war against Ukraine. He added that the Kremlin would clarify its position on Ukraine, without explaining further. “We understand your questions and your concerns,” he said in remarks broadcast on Russian state television from the meeting, which took place at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan.
The day before the two met, Xi warned Putin against meddling in Kazakhstan. This was significant because the Kazakhs have been in Putin’s crosshairs since their leader openly criticized the war in Ukraine, then announced that Kazakh oil exports would be diverted to help Europe. Russians blocked the exports, then some hinted it may be invaded too.
Xi pledged to protect the country in a private meeting with leaders that was leaked. “We [China] will resolutely support Kazakhstan in the defense of its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. This was clearly a pre-emptive rebuke aimed at Putin’s imperialism designed to distance China from Russia as its invasion of Ukraine falters. [Continue reading…]