Vladimir Putin met with China’s top diplomat in Moscow today and declared ‘other countries will not influence our relations’ as he doubles down on forging ties with Beijing amid the West’s condemnation of his war in Ukraine.
In a clear sign of his desire to cosy up to the eastern superpower, Putin warmly greeted Wang Yi at the Kremlin today before the pair sat down to talk business face-to-face, mere feet from one another.
It was a stark contrast to Putin’s treatment of other world leaders which has seen the likes of French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban forced to sit at the opposite end of the room, separated by a humungous table.
Even some of the Kremlin’s top insiders, including loyal foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, hapless defence minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukraine war architect Valery Gerasimov are subjected to extreme social distancing – yet Wang was allowed direct contact with the Russian despot.
China and Russia in recent months have promised to strengthen what they called a ‘no limits friendship’, with Putin in December inviting his Chinese counterpart for a presidential visit to the Russian capital.
The Russian despot smiled as he shook hands with Wang Yi inside the Kremlin today during their impromptu meeting – proudly showcasing his deepening ties with China amid his barbaric invasion of Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Foreign Minister Vang Yi meet on February 22, 2023. Putin sat directly across from Xi – a departure from his usual treatment of foreign leaders and delegates who are typically separated from Putin by a humungous table
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Moscow, Russia February 7, 2022
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) meet at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 15 February 2022
Vladimir Putin meets General Valery Gerasimov, far left, and Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu in winter 2022, but refuses to sit anywhere near them
MOSCOW, RUSSIA FEBRUARY 1, 2022: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R) hold a meeting at the Moscow Kremlin
Putin told Wang, the Chinese Communist Party’s most senior foreign policy official, that he looked forward to President Xi Jinping visiting him in Moscow.
The Russian President said ties between Russia and Beijing are important to ‘stabilise the international situation’ amid crippling Western sanctions against Moscow in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago.
The pair insisted that relations between Russia and China could not be influenced by other countries in a two-fingered salute to the West and Ukrainians.
Wang meanwhile told Putin told that Beijing will play a constructive role in reaching a political settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, the TASS news agency reported.
‘The Chinese side will, as in the past, firmly adhere to an objective and impartial position and play a constructive role in the political settlement of the crisis,’ TASS quoted him as saying.
Relations between Russia and the West are at their lowest point since the Cold War, and ties between China and the US are also under serious strain.
Moscow suspended its participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with Washington this week and the US expressed concern in recent days that China could provide arms and ammunition to Russia.
Earlier today, Wang met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and parroted the same lines about how China remains ‘committed’ to ‘preserving’ its ties with Russia ‘no matter how the international situation changes’.
Speaking at the start of their talks, Lavrov noted that ‘our ties have continued to develop dynamically, and despite high turbulence in the global arena we have shown the readiness to speak in defence of each other’s interests.’
Wang responded in kind, underlining Beijing’s focus on deepening ties with Russia – a relationship it says has ‘no limits’.
A grinning Vladimir Putin today met with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Moscow as the pair vowed ‘other countries will not influence our relations’ in a jibe at the United States
Ukrainian service members ride tanks as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the frontline town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Tuesday
‘I am ready to exchange views with you, my dear friend, on issues of mutual interest, and I look forward to reaching new agreements,’ Wang told Lavrov through an interpreter.
‘No matter how the international situation changes, China has been and remains committed, together with Russia, to make efforts to preserve the positive trend in the development of relations between major powers,’ Wang said.
Wang said he would work to ‘strengthen and deepen’ relations between Moscow and Beijing. He provided no specific details on what agreements might be reached during his visit.
But the series of meetings were closely watched for signs that Beijing might offer stronger support to the Kremlin for its war in Ukraine.
China has pointedly refused to criticize the invasion of Ukraine – echoing Moscow’s claim that the US and NATO are to blame for provoking the Kremlin while blasting the punishing sanctions imposed on Russia. Russia, in turn, has staunchly supported China amid tensions with the US over Taiwan.
The two nations have held a series of military drills that showcased their increasingly close defence ties.
Wang’s visit to Moscow came after it emerged that China’s President Xi Jinping is preparing to visit the city himself for a summit with Putin in the next couple of months, sources familiar with the plan said.
During the visit, Xi is expected to urge Putin not to use nuclear weapons and push the Kremlin towards having peace talks with Ukraine – nearly a year after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Preparations for the trip are at an early stage and the timing has not been finalised, the Wall Street Journal said, adding that Xi could visit in April or in early May, when Russia celebrates its Second World War victory over Hitler’s Germany.
Meanwhile, Putin announced yesterday that Russia was suspending its participation in a landmark nuclear arms treaty with the United States.
Putin also said Russia should stand ready to resume nuclear weapons tests if the US does so, a move that would end a global ban on such tests in place since the Cold War era.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Moscow’s decision as ‘really unfortunate and very irresponsible’.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and China’s Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi enter a hall during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday
‘We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does,’ he said while visiting Greece.
It was the second time in recent days the Ukraine war showed it could spread into perilous new terrain, after Blinken told China at the weekend that it would be a ‘serious problem’ if Beijing provided arms and ammunition to Russia.
Wang is expected to discuss Xi’s trip to Russia while he is in Moscow, sources familiar with the summit planning said.
The Chinese diplomat yesterday told one of Putin’s closest allies that Beijing’s relationship with Moscow was ‘rock solid’ and would withstand any test in a changing international situation.
China’s ‘no-limits’ partnership with Russia has come under scrutiny in the West after the United States said it was concerned that Beijing might be considering supplying weapons to Russia.
At a meeting in Moscow, Wang Yi told Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council, that he looked forward to discussions about security.
‘Chinese-Russian relations are mature in character: they are rock solid and will withstand any test in a changing international situation,’ Wang told ‘Comrade’ Patrushev through a Russian interpreter in remarks aired on state television.
A Ukrainian serviceman walks down an empty street as he patrols the area, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in the front-line city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 21
This aerial photograph shows destroyed residential buildings in the village of Bohorodychne, Donetsk region, on February 21
Wang said Russia and China should work out new joint steps to ensure the security of both countries, without elaborating.
Patrushev, who is close to Putin, told ‘Comrade’ Wang that Beijing was a top priority for Russian foreign policy and that the two countries must stick together against the West.
‘In the context of a campaign that is being waged by the collective West to contain both Russia and China, the further deepening of Russian-Chinese cooperation and interaction in the international arena is of particular importance,’ Patrushev said.
Xi has stood by Putin, resisting Western pressure to isolate Russia. Indeed, Chinese-Russian trade has soared since the invasion of Ukraine, and Russia has sold Asian powers including China greater volumes of oil.
Putin and Xi share a broad world view which sees the West as decadent and in decline just as China challenges US supremacy in everything from technology to espionage and military power.
Beijing has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion or atrocities against civilians in Ukraine while strongly criticizing Western economic sanctions on Moscow. At the end of last year, Russia and China held joint naval drills in the East China Sea.
The United States casts China and Russia as the two biggest nation-state threats to its security. China is viewed by Washington as the gravest long-term ‘strategic competitor’ and Russia as an ‘acute threat’.
‘I want to confirm our continued support for Beijing over the issues of Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong,’ Patrushev said.
Meanwhile, Putin yesterday suspended Moscow’s participation in the New START nuclear Treaty. The pact, signed in 2010 by the US and Russia, caps the number of long-range nuclear warheads the two sides can deploy and limits the use of missiles that can carry atomic weapons.
The despot claimed the West was plotting to achieve ‘limitless power’ and vowed to ‘systematically’ continue with the offensive in Ukraine during an explosive state of the union address in Russia’s parliament.
He told lawmakers he was addressing them ‘at a time which we all know is a difficult, watershed moment for our country, a time of cardinal, irreversible changes around the world, the most important historic events that will shape the future of our country and our people’.
He added: ‘The responsibility for fuelling the Ukrainian conflict, for its escalation, for the number of victims… lies completely with Western elites.’
Kyiv quickly hit back at the Russian leader, with presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak saying the speech demonstrated the ‘hopelessness of [Putin’s] position’ and that he was ‘in a completely different reality’.