(CNSNews.com) – On a day when the West sought to rally support at the U.N. for a unified stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago, President Vladimir Putin hosted China’s top diplomat at the Kremlin on Wednesday, and hailed “new levels of co-operation” between the two permanent members of the Security Council.
Putin and Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party’s top foreign relations official, both referred to the current crisis in global affairs, although the word “Ukraine” was not mentioned in their public remarks released by the Kremlin.
“International relations are complicated at present, and the situation hardly improved after the collapse of the bipolar system,” Putin said, alluding to the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Quite on the contrary, tensions spiraled.”
“In this regard, Russian-Chinese cooperation in the international arena, as we have repeatedly stressed, is very important for stabilizing the international situation.”
Putin confirmed that Russia expects Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit soon.
Wang called the international situation “extremely complex and volatile,” and said that, in the midst of it, relations between Russia and China “have withstood the pressure exerted by the international community.”
He said the bilateral partnership was not “directed against” third parties but was also not “subject to pressure from third parties.”
“We have gained quite an extensive experience precisely because we are supportive of multipolarity and democratization of international relations, which is fully in line with the spirit of the times and history and meets the interests of most countries as well.”
The U.S., echoed by NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, this week warned that China is considering providing “lethal” aid to Russia for its war in Ukraine, although the administration says it has not yet seen such transactions take place.
“We have not yet seen the PRC [People’s Republic of China] provide Russia with lethal aid, but we don’t believe they’ve taken it off the table either,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday.
“We are watching very closely to determine if the PRC does actually decide to take that step to provide lethal aid.”
‘Veneer of neutrality’
Up to now, Chinese support for Moscow’s campaign has been diplomatic, economic and rhetorical. It has not condemned the invasion and consistently echoes the Kremlin’s narrative of the conflict – that the West is the real aggressor and Russia is defending itself from the threat posed by NATO and defending Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine from abusive treatment by the government in Kyiv.
Price described the rhetorical support as Beijing “spewing propaganda that serve to amplify the lies, the distortions, the mistruths, the half-truths in some cases that are emanating from Moscow.”
Although the Kremlin transcript of the Wang-Putin remarks did not mention Ukraine, Wang did discuss in a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Beijing’s plans to release a position paper on “seeking a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.”
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed that Ukraine “featured prominently” in the Lavrov-Wang talks, but disputed some reporting suggesting China was proposing a “peace plan.”
“The Chinese partners briefed us on their views on the root causes of the Ukrainian crisis, as well as approaches to its political settlement,” she said.
Price said Beijing was trying to have it both ways – disguise itself in a “veneer of neutrality, even as it deepens its engagement with Russia in key ways – politically, diplomatically, economically, and potentially in the security realm as well.”
On the timing of Wang’s visit, Price said the choice to visit Moscow on the eve of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion “is further evidence that the PRC continues to align itself with Moscow, even as Moscow wages this brutal war.”
While in Moscow Wang also met with Nikolay Patrushev, the head of Russia’s National Security Council. The Chinese foreign ministry said the two had expressed readiness to “resist all forms of unilateral bullying, promote democratization of international relations, and a multi-polar world.”
“In the context of the campaign by the collective West to contain Russia and China, the further deepening of Russian-Chinese coordination and interaction in the international arena carries particular importance,” Patrushev told his Chinese guest. Wang described bilateral relations as “solid as a rock.”
China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday reiterated the CCP’s position on what it calls “the Ukraine crisis,” and NATO’s role.
“It is a known fact that NATO countries including the U.S. are the biggest source of weaponry for the battlefield in Ukraine, yet they keep claiming that China may be supplying weapons to Russia,” said spokesman Wang Wenbin.
“While claiming itself to be a regional defensive alliance, NATO has ignored others’ security concerns, and constantly sought to reach beyond its traditional defense zone and scope, and stoke division and tension,” he said. “What role has NATO played in the Ukraine crisis? The rest of the world surely has its answer.”
Wang Wenbin was responding to a question about Stoltenberg raising concern about potential Chinese military support for Russia.
“We have seen some signs that they may be planning for that,” the NATO chief told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
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