What does Putin expect from Xi?

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin met China’s Xi Jinping on Wednesday, presenting a united front against what the two autocratic leaders see as American hegemony.

Putin also sees China as a lifeline at a time of weakness: Russian forces have suffered significant losses on the battlefield in Ukraine, and as Western sanctions continue to damage the Russian economy , Beijing has emerged as a major buyer of Russian Products.

However, Mr. Xi has expressed caution in his public statements and even avoided mentioning Ukraine. China released a statement saying the two countries would support each other on issues “related to their core interests”.

Mr. Putin – who is also seeking to close a deal on a key pipeline that could allow Moscow to export more Siberian natural gas to China – may have entered the meeting looking for something important. more important than an ongoing statement of support, analysts said.

Temur Umarov, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who studies Russia, China and Central Asia, said he expected China to try to assist its neighbour, but the meeting was not important to Beijing.

“On the contrary,” Mr. Umarov said before the meeting, “for Vladimir Putin, this is the most important thing he is doing in Uzbekistan.”

Analysts say the Ukraine issue is a dilemma for Beijing. Providing more help to Russia, either economically or militarily, risks facing Western sanctions and crippling the Chinese economy.

“I don’t think Xi Jinping is ready to show much support for Vladimir Putin,” Umarov said. “But for Russia, it is very important to show that it has friends, is not isolated, and that it is still welcome in some parts of the world.”

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