N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
Will China supply arms to Russia? The US is increasingly concerned about China’s position in the war between Russia and by NATO supported Ukraine. ‘We have been concerned about that from day one of the war’, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after meeting with China’s top diplomate Wang Yi at the Munich Security conference.
If China decided to send arms, the war will undoubtedly escalate further. So far the Chinese have been reticent. But Blinken did not forget that a few weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President XI and President Putin formed ‘an alliance without borders’, as they called it. It seems to indicate that Russia had China’s full support for its war in Ukraine. Although in practice China was more careful. At the end of last December, the two presidents spoke again via Zoom. Putin than invited Xi for an official state visit to Moscow and expressed hope for greater military cooperation between the two countries. Xi’s answer was, that China was ready to ‘enhance cooperation with Russia’.
China benefits economically from the war. It purchases the Russian oil and gas that no longer flows to Europe more cheaply. Trade flows between the two countries have increased over the past year. China is not participating in Western sanctions. Washington has said since last week that Beijing is now also supplying technology to Russia that it can use for military purposes. And China conduct intensive military exercises with the Russians. Next step could be sending arms and ammunition to Russia.
To be clear, the Chinese weapons are not yet on their way. In fact, Beijing wants to put forward a plan this week that should lead to a peace agreement. In Munich Wang has also held talks with the German Chancellor, the French President and the Italian Foreign Minister. The message is, President Xi wants to give a peace speech on February 24, exactly one year after the Russian invasion. The Western expectations are none too hopefull.