The San Juan Daily Star
In meeting with China’s top diplomat, Putin aims to shore op Beijing’s support
By Anton Troianovski
President Vladimir Putin of Russia met with Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, at the Kremlin on Wednesday, working to keep China in Russia’s corner amid a flurry of diplomacy across Europe by Beijing.
Putin told Wang that he was looking forward to welcoming “my friend” Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, to Russia soon, but indicated that the meeting had yet to be confirmed. Wang responded that deepening the relationship with Russia remained a priority for China.
“Our relations have never been directed against third countries,” Wang told Putin, according to a Russian translation of his remarks. “Our relations have withstood pressure from the international community and are developing very stably.”
Putin is looking to shore up alliances as the Ukraine war approaches its anniversary and the early stages of Russia’s new offensive to swallow up territory appear to be sputtering. As Putin and Wang met, President Joe Biden was gathering with NATO members from the alliance’s eastern flank in Warsaw, Poland, in a display of unity.
Wang arrived in Moscow this week after a tour of Western Europe, where he sought to convince European leaders that Beijing is not supporting Putin’s war and wants to encourage a peaceful exit from the fighting.
“Currently, the international situation is certainly grim and complex,” Wang told Putin, according to brief footage from the meeting that was shared by the Chinese news media. “But Chinese-Russian relations have withstood the test of international turbulence, and are mature and durable — as steadfast as Mount Tai,” he said, referring to a famed Chinese mountain.
On Tuesday, Wang met with Nikolai Patrushev, Putin’s top security adviser. The Chinese government statement on the meeting said the two had “exchanged views” on Ukraine.
U.S. officials have warned that China could seek to support Russia with weapons. But there was no mention of Ukraine or weapons in the seven-minute, televised portion of Wang’s meeting with Putin on Wednesday, where Patrushev and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov joined Putin around a white, oval table.
In his opening remarks, Putin highlighted the economic aspect of the China-Russia relationship, predicting that the countries’ annual trade volume could reach $200 billion as early as this year, compared with $185 billion last year.
“Everything is moving forward, developing, we are reaching new frontiers,” Putin said. “And above all, we are talking, of course, about economic issues.”
Throughout his visit to Europe and Russia, Wang’s public comments have reflected China’s fraught efforts to maintain Beijing’s close strategic alignment with Moscow.
“On the Ukraine issue, China has always stood on the side of peace and dialogue, and has always insisted on pressing for peace and negotiation,” Wang said in a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday, when they were both in Munich for an annual security conference, according to China’s official summary of the meeting.
“We don’t want to see the Ukraine crisis perpetuate and expand,” Wang said.
But even in that meeting, Wang’s published comments did not use the words war or invasion to describe the fighting in Ukraine. And while in Moscow, Wang may be even more reluctant to expose any deep differences between China and Russia.