China Might Not Have Russia's Back on Ukraine After All

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U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 65th Field Artillery Brigade, fire their High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during a joint live-fire exercise with the Kuwait Land Forces, Jan. 8, 2019, near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Bill Boecker)
U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 65th Field Artillery Brigade, fire their High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during a joint live-fire exercise with the Kuwait Land Forces, Jan. 8, 2019, near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Bill Boecker)

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Putin May Not Have China's Support

Earlier this week, as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepared to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, it looked as though he was hoping to receive more support from the Chinese government than he has over the last six months. Since the outbreak of the war, China has refused to take sides in the conflict and reportedly denied a request from the Kremlin to provide military support.

Since then, China has doubled down on its potential plans to invade Taiwan, and Putin's efforts to pull together a coalition of countries hostile to the West – including Iran and North Korea – seemed to indicate he was working toward getting China on board, too.

On Thursday, however, the Russian president conceded that the Chinese president has concerns about the war in Ukraine.

What Putin Said

During the first meeting between the two leaders since the war broke out in February, the Russian president referred to President Xi as a "comrade" and "dear friend." The discussion took place in Samarkand, a city in Uzbekistan, and gave the two leaders an opportunity to discuss the war in Ukraine and, inevitably, Russia's significant losses in Kherson.

"We understand your questions and concern about this. During today's meeting, we will, of course, explain our position; we will explain in detail our position on this issue, although we have talked about this before," Putin said.

Russia's TASS news agency reported that Vladimir Putin expressed his gratitude to the Chinese Communist Party for their "balanced position" on the war in Ukraine, a sign that, perhaps, Russia wants to ensure that China at least remains neutral – likely a massive disappointment for a floundering Russian president losing yet more troops, tanks, and weapons on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine.

Putin stressed his belief in the partnership and friendship between the two countries, and while he may not have received the support he wanted from China on the Ukraine issue, he alluded to a world where the West can no longer be trusted.

"The world is undergoing many changes right now; the only constant is the friendship and mutual trust between Russia and China," Putin said.

Following the talks, during which Putin sat at the opposite end of a horseshoe-shaped table, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov painted a picture of a positive and fruitful discussion.

"Our assessments of the international situation coincide completely … there are no discrepancies at all," Lavrov said. "We will continue to coordinate our actions including at the forthcoming U.N. General Assembly."

Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments' approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

This article originally appeared on 19fortyfive.com.

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