Russian President Vladimir Putin warmly welcomed Chinese leader Xi Jinping to the Kremlin on Monday, sending a powerful message to Western leaders that their efforts to isolate Moscow over the fighting in Ukraine have fallen short.
Xi’s trip, his first abroad since his re-election earlier this month, showed off Beijing’s new diplomatic swagger and gave a political lift to Putin just days after an international arrest warrant was issued for the Kremlin leader on war crime charges related to Ukraine.
The two major powers have described Xi’s three-day trip as an opportunity to deepen their “no-limits friendship.” China looks to Russia as a source of oil and gas for its energy-hungry economy, and as a partner in standing up to what both see as U.S. aggression, domination of global affairs and unfair punishment for their human rights records.
Joint military drills
The two countries, among the five U.N. Security Council’s permanent members, also have held joint military drills and U.S. officials have picked up indications China is considering supplying Russia with weapons for its fight in Ukraine but have seen no evidence they’ve actually done so.
They smiled and shook hands before sitting down and making brief statements at the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, calling each other “dear friend” and exchanging compliments. Putin congratulated Xi on his re-election and voiced hope for building even stronger ties.
“China has made a colossal leap ahead in its development in recent years,” Putin said, adding that “it’s causing genuine interest all around the world, and we even feel a bit envious,” as Xi smiled.
He welcomed China’s proposals for a political settlement in Ukraine and noted Russia is open for talks.
“We will discuss all those issues, including your initiative that we highly respect,” Putin said. “Our cooperation in the international arena undoubtedly helps strengthen the basic principles of the global order and multipolarity.”
Moscow and Beijing share a cause: Both countries have accused Washington of trying to isolate them and hold back their development as they challenge it for regional and global leadership.
In an increasingly multipolar world, the U.S. and its allies have been unable to build a broad front against Putin. While 141 countries condemned Moscow in a United Nations vote marking the first anniversary of Russian troops rolling into Ukraine, several members of the G-20 — including India, China and South Africa — abstained. As well, many African nations have refrained from openly criticising Russia.
“We hope that the strategic partnership between China and Russia will on the one hand uphold international fairness and justice, and on the other hand promote the common prosperity and development of our countries,” Xi said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that over dinner, Putin will likely offer Xi a “detailed explanation” of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. Broader talks involving both countries’ officials on a range of subjects are scheduled Tuesday, he added.
For Putin, Xi’s presence is a prestigious, diplomatic boost to show partnership in the face of Western efforts to isolate Russia over Ukraine.
In an article published in the Chinese People’s Daily newspaper, Putin described Xi’s visit as a “landmark event” that “reaffirms the special nature of the Russia-China partnership.”
Putin also specifically said the meeting sent a message to Washington that the two countries aren’t prepared to accept attempts to weaken them.
“The U.S. policy of simultaneously deterring Russia and China, as well as all those who do not bend to the American diktat, is getting ever fiercer and more aggressive,” he wrote.