China’s lethal aid could prove to be a “game-changer” for Russia in Ukraine, even in small quantities, a US-based expert has warned. Dr Jonathan Ward, founder of Washington-based think tank the Atlas Foundation, has said the West must confront them in both Europe and the South China Sea, while telling Western companies must urgently cut business ties with China before it is too late.
Dr Ward was speaking after Chinese President Xi Jinping confirmed plans to visit Russia next month for talks with his counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Separately, data released today suggested Chinese firms shipped roughly 1,000 assault rifles, drone parts and body armour to Russia in June 2022.
Dr Ward told Express.co.uk: “For both Moscow and Beijing, the China-Russia partnership is central to their strategies towards Europe and Asia respectively – this partnership allows them to confront the US and US Allies in each region simultaneously.”
As part of the China-Russia ‘no limits’ partnership declaration at the Beijing Olympics in 2022, Putin had pledged support for China’s claims to Taiwan, which Xi pledged support to Russia against NATO in Europe, Dr Ward pointed out.
He added: “We have not seen Russia-China relations so close since the early Cold War Sino-Soviet Alliance – but the democracies may still be able to split this relationship in the long-run.
“China’s economic, diplomatic, and ideological support for Russia has been robust since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 – what remains to be seen is whether China will increase its military support for Moscow to levels that have battlefield significance.
“Even smaller amounts of lethal aid to Moscow would be a game-changer, especially if this happens through major state-owned enterprises like Norinco.
“Lethal aid to Russia should cause America and European countries to fundamentally reduce their economic relations with Beijing.”
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Throughout the last year, ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the two superpowers had held regular military exercises, including joint nuclear-capable bomber flights and exercises by land and sea, consequently sending a strong signal to the West that the relationship is robust, Dr Ward pointed out.
He added: “The role of China’s state-owned enterprises in fusing the Russia-China relationship together is under-appreciated – US sanctions should target these Chinese state-owned companies that are still operating in the Russian market.
“Xi Jinping’s military buildup in the Pacific and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine mean that the United States and our Allies must now confront this axis in both regions, especially using economic power – we do not get to choose to confront one and not the other.
“US investors and business leaders who lost their businesses in Russia must prepare to change course in China – if this situation continues to escalate, many will wind up with risks that they can no longer handle.
“Now is the time for businesses and investors to revise their strategies and look for the exit in the China market.”
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Xi’s planned visit Moscow next week represents a significant boost for Putin, as well as underlining Beijing’s emboldened diplomatic ambitions.
The US said today it would oppose any effort by China at the meeting to propose a ceasefire in Ukraine as the “ratification of Russian conquest”.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby urged Xi to reach out to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to get his country’s perspective on the war and to avoid any “one-sided” proposals.
China has sought to project itself as neutral in the conflict, even while it has refused to condemn Moscow’s aggression.
Beijing has denounced Western sanctions against Moscow, and accused NATO and the United States of provoking Putin’s military action.