Russia, China Claim United Front Against NATO Expansion

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have called on the West to “abandon the ideologized approaches of the Cold War” as the two leaders showed their deepening “no limits” relationship amid a standoff between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.

Xi and Putin, who was in Beijing on February 4 for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, met before the start of the festivities.

The joint statement, which noted the “friendship between the two states has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation,” came as Russia has amassed an estimated 100,000-plus troops near its border with Ukraine and is demanding European security guarantees, including a pledge that Kyiv will never be admitted into NATO.

With the crisis showing no signs of abating, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed in a call on February 4 that Western allies must deliver a “clear and consistent” message to Russia on the repercussions of any further invasion of Ukraine.

Johnson and Scholz also agreed on the importance of dialogue with Moscow and said they would seek to use all diplomatic channels available to bring an end to the current tensions.

“The prime minister and Chancellor Scholz underlined the need for allies to deliver a clear and consistent message to Russia, including on the repercussions of a further Russian invasion of Ukraine,” a British statement said.

They also agreed to continue working together and with other international partners on a comprehensive package of sanctions, and Johnson stressed that those sanctions should be “ready to come into force immediately in the event of further Russian incursion into Ukraine,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone on February 4 with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to discuss the Russian military buildup and steps “to encourage Russia to pursue diplomacy over war and ensure security and stability.”

Blinken reaffirmed the U.S. and its allies’ willingness to “impose swift and severe consequences on Russia if it chooses to escalate,” a State Department statement said.

Putin’s trip to China marks his first in-person meeting with Xi since 2019 and comes as the two countries increasingly align their foreign policies.

China’s relations with the West have also been increasingly tense over Beijing’s human rights record, particularly the treatment of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang Province, its expansionist stance in the South China Sea, and its actions in Hong Kong.

Putin told Xi that Russia has prepared a new deal to supply China with 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas from its Far East as the turmoil over Ukraine threatens to derail the controversial Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline, which is expected to start seeing Russian gas supplies flow directly to Germany in the near future.

Flurry Of Diplomacy

As a flurry of diplomacy over the Ukraine crisis continues, the European Union warned Russia that it has put together a “robust and comprehensive” set of sanctions against Moscow if Russia invades Ukraine.

“We have prepared a robust and comprehensive package of financial and economic sanctions,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on February 4 in an interview with the Handeslblatt and Les Echos newspapers, adding that these included “capping access to foreign capital” and “export controls, especially on technical goods.”

Von der Leyen said the pipeline was also part of the sanctions package. Whether the pipeline can go into operation depends “on Russia’s behavior,” she said.

“People close to Putin and oligarchs could, of course, be hit sensitively,” von der Leyen added.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron, who on February 3 spoke by phone with both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, announced he will travel to Russia on February 7 and to Ukraine on February 8.

Macron will discuss the Ukraine situation with the two leaders, the Elysee Palace said in a statement on February 4.

Zelenskiy on February 3 hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who offered to mediate in Kyiv’s standoff with Moscow.

Erdogan said Turkey was “prepared to undertake its part in order to end the crisis between two friendly nations that are its neighbors in the Black Sea.”

Erdogan is the latest leader of a NATO country to visit Kyiv amid heightened diplomacy to ease tensions over Russia’s military buildup near its border with Ukraine.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused Moscow on February 3 of amassing some 30,000 combat troops and modern weapons in Belarus ahead of planned joint military drills later this month. Stoltenberg called Russia’s deployment the biggest to Belarus since the end of the Cold War

Stoltenberg’s announcement came after Washington said it would send thousands of troops to Europe to bolster NATO allies amid a continued standoff prompted by the massive Russian troop buildup.

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