Following days of continued bombing and fighting in Ukraine, Russia, who had been suffering grievous losses in battle, is now allegedly requesting military aid from China, according to US officials. It suggests Russia does not have the ability to quickly replace the military equipment lost in less than three weeks of fighting in Ukraine.  Videos are now appearing of civilian trucks and vans loaded on railcars and being sent to Ukraine to replace what may be hundreds of trucks lost in ambushes, mud, and mechanical breakdowns due to poor maintenance.

In about three weeks of fighting, they had managed to lose over 1,262 destroyed vehicles, aircraft, and equipment, including tanks, armored fighting vehicles, rocket launchers, surface-to-air missile systems, and towed artillery, to name a few.

In light of these recent losses, US officials, in a statement to The Washington Post, reported that Russia is now looking to its Chinese allies to supply it with military equipment. Furthermore, Russia had allegedly also asked for economic support as the Kremlin became the subject of intense fiscal and economic sanctions, effectively becoming a pariah as numerous foreign companies pulled out of their country. However, the official in question did not state what specific type of weaponry the Kremlin had requested and did not say if China had responded favorably or not. A similar report published by the Financial Times also states that there were intelligence reports that point to Russia asking China for help and aid.

It can be remembered that China had been playing the game of politics during its ally’s invasion of Ukraine, where it abstained from voting during the United Nations General Assembly Emergency Meeting, where 141 nations voted in favor of “deploring” Russian aggression in Ukraine and demanded that it withdraw from Ukrainian soil. But at the same time, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Russia its strategic partner, saying that Moscow was “one of the most crucial bilateral relationships [for China] in the world” last March 7.

Official ceremony to welcome the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. With President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping (Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_President_of_Russia_arrived_in_China_on_a_state_visit._01.jpg
Official ceremony to welcome the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. With President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping (Kremlin.ruCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping had also met during the Beijing Winter Olympics, exchanging mutual support for their expansionist endeavors prior to the invasion of Ukraine.

“No matter how perilous the international landscape, we will maintain our strategic focus and promote the development of comprehensive China-Russia partnership in the new era,” Wang said. “No matter how sinister the international situation is, both China and Russia will maintain their strategic determination and continuously push forward the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the new era,” he continued.

In light of these new developments, Chinese Embassy Spokesperson Liu Pengyu stated that they had received no request and that he had personally had never heard such a request from Russia. Furthermore, he stated that the situation in Ukraine was “disconcerting” and that China only wants a peaceful settlement. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson also dismissed these rumors of Russia asking for weapons from China as mere disinformation from the United States.

In an apparent response to the allegations, Russian Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also weighed in on the matter, stating that Russia could stand alone and take major Ukrainian cities without the help of China.

“The defense ministry of the Russian Federation, while ensuring the maximum safety of the civilian population, does not exclude the possibility of taking major population centers under full control,” Peskov said. He further added that the ‘special military operation’ was going according to plan and that it would be completed in time.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who met with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Rome, stated that the US government was dealing with the Chinese government “directly and privately to Beijing.” While it was not specified what the two were going to discuss, the Ukraine issue and its diplomatic relations with Russia would certainly be discussed. Sullivan had wanted to warn China about helping the Russians obtain a loophole to the imposed sanctions.

“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” said Sullivan to CNN last Sunday. “We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world,” he continued.

China, posturing a neutral stance on the issue, is rumored not to be truly neutral as it had signed on a 5,000-word statement during the aforementioned meeting in Beijing with Russia stating that the two countries’ friendship “had no limits.” This is reportedly the closest the two countries have been since the Sino-Soviet split. China has been reportedly observing the Russian invasion and the world’s reaction to said campaign as it had been eyeing a reunification with Taiwan for years now, becoming more aggressive in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and Taiwan’s air identification zones in recent months.

“We believe that China, in fact, was aware before the invasion took place that Vladimir Putin was planning something,” said Sullivan to CNN. “They may not have understood the full extent of it because it’s very possible Putin lied to them the way he lied to Europeans and others,” he continued.

The Ukraine war puts China in the position of supporting a strategic ally(and potential rival) in Russia against its much more lucrative financial relationships with the U.S. and other Western powers(which are also rivals). China stands to benefit whether Russia succeeds in Ukraine or not.  If Russia fails while suffering crippling blows to its economy, prestige, and military power, those are all things that benefit China making it the more powerful partner in their relations.  If Russia succeeds in subduing Ukraine, while remaining an international pariah for decades to come, China reaps the rewards of trading with Russia while maintaining its financial relationships with Western countries by not being drawn directly into the conflict.  It could do so by giving reconstruction loans to a now Russia-controlled Ukraine as a humanitarian gesture.

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