SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday thanked Chinese leader Xi Jinping for his “balanced” approach to the Ukraine crisis and blasted Washington’s “ugly” policies at the meeting. entails a major setback for Moscow on the battlefield.
Speaking at the start of talks with Xi in Uzbekistan, Putin said he was open to discussing China’s unspecified “concerns” about Ukraine.
“We appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends regarding the Ukraine crisis,” Putin said as he faced Xi across a long table.
“We understand your question and your concerns on this matter, and we will certainly provide a detailed explanation of our position on this matter in today’s meeting, although we’ve talked about it before,” he added.
Putin’s rare mention of China’s worries comes as Beijing worries about the impact of volatile oil prices and economic uncertainty caused by the nearly seven-month war in Ukraine.
The two met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization consisting of eight countries including India, Pakistan and four former Soviet states in Central Asia. The security alliance was created as a counterweight to American influence.
A Chinese government statement released after the meeting did not specifically mention Ukraine, but said Xi had promised “strong support” for Russia’s “core interests”. Although the statement did not give details, Beijing used “core interests” to describe issues such as national sovereignty and the ruling Communist Party’s claim to Taiwan under which it is willing to ready for war.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price called Putin’s apparent admission “astonishing”, but said China’s concerns were not surprising given that it exercised its words to avoid criticized the Russian invasion.
“It’s somewhat curious that President Putin would be the one to admit that and admit it publicly,” Price said in Washington, DC.
Speaking after the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the assessments of the international situation by Moscow and Beijing “completely coincide. We don’t have any differences.”
He added that both countries “will continue to coordinate our actions, including at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.”
Foreign Minister Lavrov described the talks as “excellent”, saying they were “very business-like and concrete, involving the discussion of tasks for different ministries and agencies.”
The Biden administration describes the Putin-Xi talks as part of a partnership that worries Washington.
“We’ve made clear our concerns about the depth of China’s alignment and the relationship with Russia,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. -Pierre said, adding that Thursday’s meeting “is an example of that alignment.”
Xi’s government, which says it has “unlimited” friendship with Moscow before the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, has refused to criticize Russia’s military actions. Beijing and India are buying more Russian oil and gas, which helps Moscow offset Western sanctions for the invasion.
Observers say Russia is likely to become increasingly dependent on China as a market for its oil and gas as the West sets price limits on Russian energy sources and potentially cuts them off. completely reduce their imports.
In an effort to strengthen its alliance with China, Moscow has strongly supported Beijing amid tensions with the US following the recent visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“We condemn the provocative actions of the US and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait,” Putin told Xi.
Along with Russia’s assault on Ukraine, the summit is taking place against a backdrop of hostility between Armenia and Azerbaijan not far from Uzbekistan, as well as tensions in China’s relations with Washington, Europe, Japan and India. Due to disputes over technology, security and territory. .
Speaking at the start of his face-to-face talks with Xi, Putin blasted the US and its allies’ efforts to dominate global affairs.
“The recent efforts to create a unipolar world have taken on a completely ugly shape. They are completely unacceptable to the vast majority of countries in the world,” he said in his opening remarks.
“The parallelism of Moscow and Beijing plays an important role in ensuring global and regional stability,” Putin said. “We stand together for the creation of a just, democratic and multipolar world based on international law and the central role of the United Nations, not the rules that a few people try to enforce. them to others without explaining what they are.”
Xi was more careful when he said that “in the face of changes in the world, times and history, China is willing to work with Russia to demonstrate the responsibility of a great country, playing the leading role and bringing stability into a world of difficulty and connection. . “
The meeting comes after Russia was forced to withdraw its forces from large swathes of northeastern Ukraine last week amid a swift Ukrainian counterattack. Ukraine regaining control of several Russian-occupied cities and villages is Moscow’s biggest setback since its forces had to retreat from areas near the capital early in the war.
The SCO summit in the ancient city of Samarkand is part of Xi’s first overseas trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic two and a half years ago, underscoring Beijing’s desire to assert itself as a regional power.
Putin also met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose country is on track to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Raisi said Moscow and Tehran are finalizing a major treaty that brings their relations to a “strategic level”.
He and Putin both criticized the US at the start of the meeting. Raisi accused the US of violating its obligations under Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. “They are masters of their word – they give and then take back whenever they want,” Putin told US officials.
The Russian leader has also met with Central Asian leaders and plans to have a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.
There is no indication as to whether Modi will meet Xi. Relations between India and China have become strained due to clashes between the countries’ troops from a border dispute involving a remote area in the Himalayas.
Putin is also scheduled to have face-to-face meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan. Turkey and Azerbaijan have the status of “dialogue partners” with the SCO.
Earlier this week, Azerbaijan and Armenia engaged in a cross-border shelling that killed 176 soldiers on both sides, the most serious conflict in nearly two years between the decades-long rivals. The fighting has put Moscow, which has managed to maintain close ties with both countries, in a precarious position.
Putin’s meeting with Erdogan will be closely watched for their statements on Ukraine and a July agreement brokered by Turkey and the UN to clear the way for exports of grain and agricultural products. Others were stranded in the Black Sea ports of Ukraine after the invasion.
The Chinese leader is pushing for a “Global Security Initiative” announced in April after the US, Japan, Australia and India formed the Quartet in response to a more assertive foreign policy. of Beijing. Mr. Xi gave some details, but US officials complained it echoed Russian arguments in support of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
The area is part of China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to expand trade by building ports, railways and other infrastructure on an arc of goods. dozens of countries from the South Pacific through Asia to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
On Thursday, Xi met with Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov and said Beijing supported “early operation” of a railway line linking China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, China’s foreign ministry said.
China’s economic incursion into Central Asia has caused insecurity in Russia, which sees the region as its sphere of influence.
Mr. Xi visited Kazakhstan on Wednesday en route to Uzbekistan. Pope Francis was in Kazakhstan, but they did not meet.