The relationship between Washington and Moscow is already near the breaking point, and early this morning, risked spinning entirely out of control, when a pair of Russian jets first harassed and thenMore
I am glad to seize this opportunity to address the friendly Chinese people in one of the largest and most authoritative world media in advance of the state visit of President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping to Russia. This landmark event reaffirms the special nature of the Russia-China partnership, which has always been built on mutual trust, respect for each other’s sovereignty and interests.
We have high expectations for the upcoming talks. We have no doubt that they will give a new powerful impetus to our bilateral cooperation in its entirety. This is also a great opportunity for me to meet with my good old friend with whom we enjoy the warmest relationship.
I made acquaintance with Comrade Xi Jinping in March 2010 when he visited Moscow as head of a high-level Chinese delegation. Our first meeting was held in a very business-like and at the same time sincere and friendly atmosphere. I really like this style of communication. I know that people in China attach great importance to friendship and personal relationships. It is no coincidence that Confucius the Sage said: ”Is it not a joy to have friends coming from afar!“ In Russia we share this value and hold real friends for brothers. Our two peoples have very much in common here.
Three years later, about the same days in March, we met again in the capital of Russia. It was Xi Jinping’s first state visit to our country after his election as President of the People’s Republic of China. The summit set the tone and dynamics of Russia-China relations for many years to come, became clear evidence of the special nature of relations between Russia and China, and outlined the trajectory for their accelerated and sustainable development.
Since then, a decade has passed, which is but a fleeting moment in the history of our countries sharing a centuries-old tradition of good neighbourliness and cooperation. During this time, the world has seen many changes, often not for the better. Yet the main thing has remained unchanged: I am talking of the firm friendship between Russia and China, which is consistently growing stronger for the benefit and in the interest of our countries and peoples. The progress made in the development of bilateral ties is impressive. The Russia-China relations have reached the highest level in their history and are gaining even more strength; they surpass Cold War-time military-political alliances in their quality, with no one to constantly order and no one to constantly obey, without limitations or taboos. We have reached an unprecedented level of trust in our political dialogue, our strategic cooperation has become truly comprehensive in nature and is standing on the brink of a new era. President Xi Jinping and I have met about 40 times and have always found time and opportunity to talk in a variety of official formats as well as at no‑tie events.
Our priorities include trade and economic partnership. In 2022, our bilateral trade, which had already been considerable by the time, doubled to reach USD 185 billion. This is a new record. What is more, we have every reason to believe that the USD 200 billion target, which was set by President Xi Jinping and myself, will be exceeded as early as this year instead of 2024. It is noteworthy that the share of settlements in national currencies in our mutual trade is growing, further strengthening the sovereignty of our relations.
Long-term joint plans and programs are being successfully implemented. It will be no exaggeration to say that the Power of Siberia Russian-Chinese gas pipeline has become the ”deal of the century“ for its scale. The supplies of Russian oil and coal have increased significantly. Our specialists are involved in building new nuclear power units in China, while Chinese companies actively engage in LNG projects; our industrial and agricultural cooperation is growing stronger. Together we explore outer space and develop new technologies.
Russia and China are powers with ancient and unique traditions and an enormous cultural heritage. Now that all pandemic-related restrictions on mutual contacts have been lifted, it is important that we increase humanitarian and tourist exchanges as soon as possible, thereby strengthening the social basis of the Russian-Chinese partnership. Interstate thematic years have a special role to play in this context. For example, the 2022/2023 biennium is dedicated to cooperation in the field of physical culture and sports, which is very popular among our citizens.
Unlike some countries claiming hegemony and bringing discord to the global harmony, Russia and China are literally and figuratively building bridges. Last year our border regions were connected by two new bridge crossings over the Amur river, which has been a ”river of friendship“ since time immemorial. Amidst the ”waves and winds“ that sweep the planet, we closely cooperate in international affairs and effectively coordinate our foreign policy positions, counter common threats, and respond to current challenges, standing shoulder to shoulder as a ”rock amid a fast flowing stream.“ We actively promote democratic multilateral structures such as the SCO and BRICS, which become more and more authoritative and influential and attract new partners and friends. The work aimed at coordinating the development of the Eurasian Economic Union with the One Belt, One Road Initiative also goes in this vein.
Our countries, together with like-minded actors, have consistently advocated the shaping of a more just multipolar world order based on international law rather than certain ”rules“ serving the needs of the ”golden billion.“ Russia and China have consistently worked to create an equitable, open and inclusive regional and global security system that is not directed against third countries. In this regard, we note the constructive role of China’s Global Security Initiative, which is in line with the Russian approaches in this area.
We can feel the geopolitical landscape in the outside world change dramatically. Sticking more stubbornly than ever to its obsolete dogmata and vanishing dominance, the ”Collective West“ is gambling on the fates of entire states and peoples. The US’s policy of simultaneously deterring Russia and China, as well as all those who do not bend to the American dictation, is getting ever more fierce and aggressive. The international security and cooperation architecture is being dismantled. Russia has been labelled an ”immediate threat“ and China a ”strategic competitor.“
We appreciate the well-balanced stance on the events in Ukraine adopted by the PRC, as well as its understanding of their historical background and root causes. We welcome China’s readiness to make a meaningful contribution to the settlement of the crisis. Like our friends in China, we advocate for the strict compliance with the UN Charter, respect for the norms of international law, including humanitarian law. We are committed to the principle of the indivisibility of security, which is being grossly violated by the NATO bloc. We are deeply concerned over the irresponsible and outright dangerous actions that jeopardize nuclear security. We reject illegitimate unilateral sanctions, which must be lifted.
Russia is open to the political and diplomatic resolution of the Ukraine crisis. It was not Russia who broke off the peace talks back in April 2022. The future of the peace process depends solely on the will to engage in a meaningful discussion taking into account current geopolitical realities. Unfortunately, the ultimatum nature of requirements placed on Russia shows that their authors are detached from these realities and lack interest in finding a solution to the situation.
The crisis in Ukraine, which was provoked and is being diligently fuelled by the West, is the most striking, yet not the only, manifestation of its desire to retain its international dominance and preserve the unipolar world order. It is crystal clear that NATO is striving for a global reach of activities and seeking to penetrate the Asia-Pacific. It obvious that there are forces persistently working to split the common Eurasian space into a network of ”exclusive clubs“ and military blocs that would serve to contain our countries’ development and harm their interests. This won’t work.
In fact, today, the Russia-China relations serve as the cornerstone of regional and global stability, driving the economic growth and securing the positive agenda in international affairs. They provide an example of harmonious and constructive cooperation between major powers.
I am convinced that our friendship and partnership based on the strategic choice of the peoples of the two countries will further grow and gain strength for the well-being and prosperity of Russia and China. This visit of the President of the PRC to Russia will undoubtedly contribute to that.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday agreed to strengthen bilateral ties based on principles of good-neighborliness, friendship and win-win cooperation, as well as to deepen the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.
Describing Xi’s state visit to Russia as “a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace,” experts have said that strengthening China-Russia relations will promote regional peace and stability while contributing to balancing the global strategic landscape.
On Tuesday afternoon local time, Xi held talks with Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow. They had sincere, friendly and fruitful talks on the bilateral ties and major regional and international issues of mutual interest, and reached new, important common understandings in many fields.
Noting that China and Russia are each other’s biggest neighbor, Xi said that consolidating and developing long-term good-neighborly relations with Russia is consistent with historical logic and a strategic choice of China, which will not be changed by any turn of events.
Since his first state visit to Russia 10 years ago, Xi said, China and Russia have enjoyed mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual benefit. Relations between the two countries have grown from strength to strength, showing the features of being more comprehensive, more practical, and more strategic, he added.
No matter how the international landscape may change, China will stay committed to advancing China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era, Xi said.
In the eyes of Amadou Diop, a Senegalese expert on China, Xi’s state visit to Russia is “of great importance,” which will inject strong positive energy into the complex international situation.
“China and Russia are working more closely with developing countries to promote multilateralism and common prosperity, and to respect and protect the interests of developing countries,” said Diop.
Xi’s visit once again testifies to the importance of Russia-China relations and reaffirms that Russia and China will continue to practice true multilateralism, promote the construction of a multipolar world, enhance global governance, and contribute to world development, said Sergei Lukonin, head of the Department of Chinese Politics and Economics at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
During the talks with Putin, Xi pointed out that as permanent members of the UN Security Council and major countries in the world, China and Russia have natural responsibilities to make joint efforts to steer and promote global governance in a direction that meets the expectations of the international community and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
He called on both sides to enhance communication and coordination on international affairs, especially in the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS and other multilateral frameworks, practice true multilateralism, oppose hegemonism and power politics, contribute to global post-COVID economic recovery, advance the trend toward a multi-polar world, and promote the reform and improvement of the global governance system.
For his part, Putin congratulated China on helping to successfully bring about historic outcomes from the talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing, adding that it has fully demonstrated China’s important status and positive influence as a major country in the world.
Russia appreciates China for consistently upholding an objective and impartial position on international affairs, supports the Global Security Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative China has put forward and stands ready to further enhance international coordination with China, Putin said.
For the developing world, said Abdoul Karim Drame, a Malian political columnist and expert on geopolitics, the strengthening of China-Russia relations is expected to promote the developing of a multipolar world, which will allow African countries to better assert their sovereignty by benefiting from more balanced international relations that respect each nation’s political and economic choices.
“I believe Xi’s visit to Russia will inject strong positive energy into international relations and make new contributions to building a community with a shared future for mankind,” he said.
Palestinian political analyst Omar Helmy Al-Ghoul believes that a reasonable international order should uphold multilateralism and treat every country and nation in an equal manner, rather than be dominated by some small circle of countries.
Meanwhile, Xi and Putin stressed on Tuesday that the Ukraine crisis should be solved through dialogues.
In the Joint Statement of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era, the two sides oppose the practice by any country or group of countries to seek advantages in the military, political and other areas to the detriment of the legitimate security interests of other countries.
The Russian side reaffirms its commitment to the resumption of peace talks as soon as possible, which China appreciates. The Russian side welcomes China’s willingness to play a positive role for the political and diplomatic settlement of the Ukraine crisis and welcomes the constructive proposals set forth in China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis.
The two sides point out that to settle the Ukraine crisis, the security concerns of all countries must be respected, bloc confrontation should be prevented and fanning the flames avoided.
The two sides also stress that responsible dialogue is the best way for appropriate solutions. To this end, the international community should provide support to the relevant constructive efforts.
China and Russia call for stopping all moves that lead to tensions and the protraction of fighting to prevent the crisis from getting worse or even out of control. They oppose any unilateral sanctions unauthorized by the UN Security Council.
China has launched a “very important initiative” to find a political solution to the Ukraine crisis, and international society should recognize China for its role as a country working for global peace and stability, said Mohammad Reza Manafi, editor-in-chief for the Asia-Pacific news desk of Iran’s official news agency IRNA.
“China has convinced the rest of the world that it believes that world peace and friendship will benefit all people everywhere, and that war and hostility will never serve humanity,” Manafi said.
In the span of only about a week, Vladimir Putin was issued an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for ongoing war crimes, while Donald Trump looks set to be indicted on felony charges in a Manhattan courtroom. These twin developments seem to signal the beginning of the end of impunity for the world’s two most destructive, authoritarian leaders in a generation, the Hitler and Mussolini of our day, as the democratic world responds to this new breed of violent fascism.
Their crimes are numerous, and extensively documented, and perhaps finally the law will confront these two autocrats with a fondness for unleashing political violence, and terror.
Indeed, Putin launched a brutal war of aggression in the heart of Europe, starting the largest and bloodiest conflict since the Second World War. Trump attempted to defy America’s voters, and keep himself in office with lies, pressure, political violence, and ultimately a siege of the U.S. Capitol, unsuccessfully attacking American democracy from within.
For years, they’ve been intimate partners, bound together in their mutual loathing for Western democratic values, and their violent lust for absolute power. Putin played Trump’s political benefactor, interfering in the 2016 election on his behalf, and enabling his rise to power. In office, Trump returned the favor by weakening America on the global stage, and groveling before Putin in public, siding with him over his own intelligence agencies. He nearly destroyed NATO, and savaged America’s traditional alliances, even as he offered rhetorical and political support to his patron in the Kremlin.
These two men represent humanity’s darkest impulses, toward violent domination, autocracy, political extremism, war crimes, hatred, and genocide. Their poisonous partnership is the nexus of modern global fascism, and right-wing radicalism, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now, the two aging tyrants are finally facing at least the prospect of justice for their crimes, as one prosecutes a cataclysmic failed war in Ukraine, while the other attempts to finish off the ailing democracy he once led, with a third run at the presidency. It’s a moment of hope, and peril.
An element of genocide
“What the nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take, if necessary by kidnapping their children and raising them here with us.”
That’s SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler speaking at an infamous secret address in Posen in October, 1943, where he discusses the Third Reich’s policies of ethnic annihilation. The abduction of children en masse is a classic feature of genocide, as articulated by the 20th century’s great genocidaire innovator, Himmler, in a Nazi policy now being widely replicated by Putin in Ukraine.
Indeed, Putin was issued an arrest warrant last week for his role in the abduction of tens of thousands of Ukraine’s children, treated as spoils of war by his regime, and forcibly resettled in Russia at gunpoint. However, this is merely one element of the Kremlin’s larger policy of national and cultural extermination, amid the raining bombs and bullets, as Putin attempts to erase Ukraine from the map.
The Russian dictator has declared the “historical unity” of Russia and Ukraine, arguing that Ukraine as such does not exist, as he goes about trying to annihilate Ukrainians physically, politically, culturally, linguistically, and nationally. He’s razed their cities, slaughtered their civilians, stolen their children, and annexed their territory, using his nuclear weapons to guarantee freedom of action, in what amounts to the gravest threat to global peace and stability since Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht began to devour Europe.
But the Russian military has been utterly unable to stanch fierce resistance, consolidate territorial gains, nor defeat Ukraine’s forces on the battlefield, leading to a protracted bloodbath, as the Western world arms Ukraine to fight back. As the Biden administration leads a coalition of countries to defy Russian aggression, by arming Ukraine to the teeth, Putin’s campaign is in serious jeopardy.
He has failed to subdue or absorb Ukraine, instead embroiling Russia in a strategic nightmare, producing a catastrophic waste of human life, losing hundreds of thousands of his soldiers to casualties, while inflicting mass terror on Ukraine’s towns and cities. After a long delay, the West is now speeding main battle tanks, air defense systems, and long range missile systems into Ukraine, as the war reaches a critical turning point, amid expected Ukrainian counteroffensives.
But Putin has several cards left to play. He was meeting today with his most important international partner, Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a warm three-day summit at the Kremlin in Moscow, where he was received with endless pomp and circumstance. Amid the touted diplomatic friendship, there’s still no sign the Chinese intend to deliver weapons or matériel to Moscow; instead, Xi’s providing crucial political and economic support, or what Secretary of State Antony Blinken called “diplomatic cover” for Putin’s war crimes.
However, Putin has other well-placed allies.
His ideological partners in the United States are beginning to reassert themselves in Washington, as Donald Trump and his lesser protege, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, enter the presidential race by declaring they would end American assistance to Ukraine, effectively handing it over to Putin.
The Trump case
Thus, Donald Trump’s possible criminal indictment is reverberating from Washington to New York to Moscow to Kyiv. If the expected indictment does go through, it’s likely to carry inherently unpredictable effects into the budding presidential race, particularly within the Republican Party.
Presumably, it could either strengthen or weaken Trump’s chances in the upcoming primaries, and lead to far-reaching political consequences in the United States of America. Certainly, the Kremlin will be paying extraordinarily close attention, at a moment that could be pivotal for its war effort in Kyiv, and much else.
An indictment could potentially spell the beginning of the end of Trump’s long stranglehold over the Republican Party, offering an opening to DeSantis and others eager to move on from his poisonous leadership, or it could strengthen his grip. After all, he’s survived numerous crises that would’ve permanently ended the careers of most politicians several times over.
And yet, he’s never been arrested, or tried.
It’s something he’s been afraid of his entire life, apparently, leading him to burnish his links with prosecutors in New York. But he has no way to prevent the prosecutors now pursuing him.
This could be the beginning of a ferocious power struggle in the GOP, and see the morphing of Trumpism from a mainstream political movement into a violent right-wing insurgency, to the extent it already isn’t one.
It’s impossible to predict, especially with an uncertain future outcome in court. It could presage a further cascade of criminal charges, with at least four extremely serious criminal investigations currently pending, for hoarding classified documents and instigating a failed coup d’etat, among other inquiries, whereas a failure could doom efforts to hold Trump accountable.
In any case, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s destinies remain intertwined, as ever, as both men face the first real consequences from their long and ruthless political careers. Suddenly, Putin faces limitations on his movements, and a barrier to travel in the 123 nations that have signed the Rome Statute (China, U.S., and Russia have not signed those accords).
Trump, for his part, faces the real prospect of being fingerprinted, possibly even handcuffed, and of course incarcerated, however unlikely that might be. Still, it’s something that is reportedly giving him great anxiety, although he apparently craves a “perp-walk” to enrage and galvanize his followers, telling associates it would be a fun experience, according to the New York Times.
Certainly, these legal developments are historic, carrying grave implications for American democracy, but also geopolitically. It’s a moment that’s fraught with tension, and truly unprecedented, as a former American president again seeking the presidency faces the prospect of arrest, and trial.
For a country that’s been traumatized, and battered, by Trump and his minions, it’s been a long time coming. It’s a moment of anxiety and high hope, that finally justice will hold this sociopathic criminal accountable for his wrongdoing, and protect American democracy from a would-be dictator.
But with House Republicans already trying to obstruct justice, and interfere with the prosecution that hasn’t even begun, there are also dark possibilities to contemplate. The United States would be deeply destabilized by a failed prosecution, leaving Trump more powerful, his radicalized party more united around him.
In other words, there are real risks to indicting the Republican frontrunner, and a former American president. However, the risks of not indicting Trump are clear: a lawless nation without recourse to justice, or the rule of law, and the death of our democracy. It’s the kind of country Trump wishes America to be, where the strong cull the weak, and powerful men get away with murder.
If we want to avoid living in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, this is the price. It’s the price of democracy, and freedom from tyranny. Of course, Trump is already wielding his supporters like a cudgel, and he will do everything in his power to obstruct justice, and destabilize the country.
It won’t be easy, but democracy never is.
Views expressed are the author’s own
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has initiated criminal charges against Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Ahmad Khan, as well as judges of the International Criminal Court Tomoko Akane, Rosario Salvatore Aitala and Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godinez, the Russian embassy in Sri Lanka said in a statement.
“On February 22, 2023, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Ahmad Khan, acting as part of a criminal investigation, submitted applications to Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court for warrants of arrest in relation to citizens of the Russian Federation,” it added.
The statement reads further as follows;
“Based on this application, the above-named judges of the International Criminal Court issued illegal arrest warrants in relation to the President of the Russian Federation and the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights. This criminal prosecution is illegal by definition because there are no grounds for bringing criminal charges.
“According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons of December 14, 1973, heads of state enjoy total immunity and cannot be subjected to the jurisdiction of a foreign state.
“Actions by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court contain elements of offences as per Part 2, Article 299, Part 1, Article 30, and Part 2, Article 360 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, including knowingly ascribing criminal responsibility to an innocent person, combined with unlawfully accusing a person of committing a grave or especially grave crime, as well as preparing an assault against a representative of a foreign state benefitting from international protection with a view to complicating international relations.
“Actions by the judges of the International Criminal Court contain elements of offences as per Part 2, Article 301, Part 1, Article 30, and Part 2, Article 360 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, including knowingly illegal detention, as well as preparing an assault against a representative of a foreign state benefitting from international protection with a view to complicating international relations.”
A signed article by Chinese President Xi Jinping titled “Forging Ahead to Open a New Chapter of China-Russia Friendship, Cooperation and Common Development” was published Monday on Russia’s newspaper Russian Gazette and the website of RIA Novosti news agency ahead of his state visit to Russia.
Following is an English version of the full text of the article:
Forging Ahead to Open a New Chapter of China-Russia Friendship, Cooperation and Common Development
President of the People’s Republic of China
At the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, I will soon pay a state visit to the Russian Federation. Russia was the first country I visited after I was elected President 10 years ago. Over the past decade, I have made eight visits to Russia. I came each time with high expectations and returned with fruitful results, opening a new chapter for China-Russia relations together with President Putin.
China and Russia are each other’s biggest neighbor and comprehensive strategic partner of coordination. We are both major countries in the world and permanent members of the UN Security Council. Both countries uphold an independent foreign policy and see our relationship as a high priority in our diplomacy.
There is a clear historical logic and strong internal driving force for the growth of China-Russia relations. Over the past 10 years, we have come a long way in our wide-ranging cooperation and made significant strides into the new era.
— High-level interactions have played a key strategic role in leading China-Russia relations. We have established a whole set of mechanisms for high-level interactions and multi-faceted cooperation which provide important systemic and institutional safeguards for the growth of the bilateral ties. Over the years, I have maintained a close working relationship with President Putin. We have met 40 times on bilateral and international occasions. Together we have drawn the blueprint for the bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields, and have had timely communication on major international and regional issues of mutual interest, providing firm stewardship for the sustained, sound and stable growth of China-Russia relations.
— Our two sides have cemented political mutual trust and fostered a new model of major-country relations. Guided by a vision of lasting friendship and win-win cooperation, China and Russia are committed to no-alliance, no-confrontation and not targeting any third party in developing our ties. We firmly support each other in following a development path suited to our respective national realities and support each other’s development and rejuvenation. The bilateral relationship has grown more mature and resilient. It is brimming with new dynamism and vitality, setting a fine example for developing a new model of major-country relations featuring mutual trust, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.
— Our two sides have put in place an all-round and multi-tiered cooperation framework. Thanks to the joint efforts of both sides, China-Russia trade exceeded 190 billion U.S. dollars last year, up by 116 percent from ten years ago. China has been Russia’s largest trading partner for 13 years running. We have seen steady increase in our two-way investment. Our cooperation on major projects in such fields as energy, aviation, space and connectivity is moving forward steadily. Our collaboration in scientific and technological innovation, cross-border e-commerce and other emerging areas is showing a strong momentum. Our cooperation at the sub-national level is also booming. All this has brought tangible benefits to both the Chinese and the Russian peoples and provided unceasing driving force for our respective development and rejuvenation.
— Our two sides have acted on the vision of lasting friendship and steadily strengthened our traditional friendship. On the occasion of commemorating the 20th anniversary of the China-Russia Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, President Putin and I announced the extension of the Treaty and added new dimensions to it. Our two sides have held eight “theme years” at the national level and continued to write new chapters for China-Russia friendship and cooperation. Our two peoples have stood by and rooted for each other in the fight against COVID, which once again proves that “a friend in need is a friend indeed.”
— Our two sides have had close coordination on the international stage and fulfilled our responsibilities as major countries. China and Russia are firmly committed to safeguarding the UN-centered international system, the international order underpinned by international law, and the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We have stayed in close communication and coordination in the UN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS, the G20 and other multilateral mechanisms, and worked together for a multi-polar world and greater democracy in international relations. We have been active in practicing true multilateralism, promoting the common values of humanity, and championing the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind.
Looking back on the extraordinary journey of China-Russia relations over the past 70 years and more, we feel strongly that our relationship has not reached easily where it is today, and that our friendship is growing steadily and must be cherished by us all. China and Russia have found a right path of state-to-state interactions. This is essential for the relationship to stand the test of changing international circumstances, a lesson borne out by both history and reality.
My upcoming visit to Russia will be a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace. I look forward to working with President Putin to jointly adopt a new vision, a new blueprint and new measures for the growth of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the years to come.
To this end, our two sides need to enhance coordination and planning. As we focus on our respective cause of development and rejuvenation, we should get creative in our thinking, create new opportunities and inject new impetus. It is important that we increase mutual trust and bring out the potential of bilateral cooperation to keep China-Russia relations at a high level.
Our two sides need to raise both the quality and quantity of investment and economic cooperation and step up policy coordination to create favorable conditions for the high-quality development of our investment cooperation. We need to boost two-way trade, foster more convergence of interests and areas of cooperation, and promote the complementary and synchronized development of traditional trade and emerging areas of cooperation. We need to make sustained efforts to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union, so as to provide more institutional support for bilateral and regional cooperation.
Our two sides need to step up people-to-people and cultural exchanges and ensure the success of China-Russia Years of Sports Exchange. We should make good use of the sub-national cooperation mechanisms to facilitate more interactions between sister provinces/states and cities. We should encourage personnel exchanges and push for the resumption of tourism cooperation. We should make available better summer camps, jointly-run schools and other programs to steadily enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples, especially between the youth.
The world today is going through profound changes unseen in a century. The historical trend of peace, development and win-win cooperation is unstoppable. The prevailing trends of world multi-polarity, economic globalization and greater democracy in international relations are irreversible. On the other hand, our world is confronted with complex and intertwined traditional and non-traditional security challenges, damaging acts of hegemony, domination and bullying, and long and tortuous global economic recovery. Countries around the world are deeply concerned and eager to find a cooperative way out of the crisis.
In March 2013, when speaking at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, I observed that countries are linked with and dependent on one another at a level never seen before, and that mankind, living in the same global village, have increasingly emerged as a community with a shared future in which everyone’s interests are closely entwined. Since then, I have proposed the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative on different occasions. All these have enriched our vision for a community with a shared future for mankind and provided practical pathways toward it. They are part of China’s response to the changes of the world, of our times, and of the historic trajectory.
Through these ten years, the common values of humanity — peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom — have taken deeper roots in the heart of the people. An open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world with lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity has become the shared aspiration of more and more countries. The international community has recognized that no country is superior to others, no model of governance is universal, and no single country should dictate the international order. The common interest of all humankind is in a world that is united and peaceful, rather than divided and volatile.
Since last year, there has been an all-round escalation of the Ukraine crisis. China has all along upheld an objective and impartial position based on the merits of the issue, and actively promoted peace talks. I have put forth several proposals, i.e., observing the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, respect of the legitimate security concerns of all countries, supporting all efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis, and ensuring the stability of global industrial and supply chains. They have become China’s fundamental principles for addressing the Ukraine crisis.
Not long ago, we released China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis, which takes into account the legitimate concerns of all parties and reflects the broadest common understanding of the international community on the crisis. It has been constructive in mitigating the spillovers of the crisis and facilitating its political settlement. There is no simple solution to a complex issue. We believe that as long as all parties embrace the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and pursue equal-footed, rational and results-oriented dialogue and consultation, they will find a reasonable way to resolve the crisis as well as a broad path toward a world of lasting peace and common security.
To run the world’s affairs well, one must first and foremost run its own affairs well. The Chinese people, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, are striving in unity to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through the Chinese path to modernization. Chinese modernization is characterized by the following features: it is the modernization of a huge population, the modernization of common prosperity for all, the modernization of material and cultural-ethical advancement, the modernization of harmony between humanity and nature, and the modernization of peaceful development. These distinctive Chinese features are the crystallization of our practices and explorations over the years, and reflect our profound understanding of international experience. Going forward, we will steadfastly advance the cause of Chinese modernization, strive to realize high-quality development, and expand high-standard opening up. I believe that this will bring new development opportunities to Russia and all countries in the world.
Just as every new year starts with spring, every success starts with actions. We have every reason to expect that China and Russia, as fellow travelers on the journey of development and rejuvenation, will make new and greater contributions to human advancement.
It is evening in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, one of NATO’s easternmost members. I am waiting at the edge of Izvor Park in the city center to meet with a young friend who has fled Ukraine. In the backdrop of the park is the Palace of the Parliament, the brutalist architectural crown jewel of the Ceaușescu era, and the heaviest building on earth.
When my friend Pyotr arrives, we sit for beers and share our recent stories; it is late March 2022, just one month since Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine began. I have been maneuvering a bureaucratic maze as I try to gain entry into the Russian Federation and the separatist republics of the Donbas; I am awaiting a call back from consulates in Romania and Moldova. Pyotr has just arrived from Kiev by train. A number of his comrades in communist, socialist, and union organizations around Ukraine have been detained.
Recently, the Kononovich brothers, notable Ukrainian communists, had been arrested and disappeared (following their imprisonment, they are now under house arrest). Over a few days of conversation, I learn more from Pyotr than I could ever put into writing; he says to me at one point: “if there is one thing to understand, it is that sovereignty in Ukraine and Eastern Europe has been stolen by the West not through any military invasion or political party, but through the infiltration of Ukrainian civil society by Western interests, NGOs, and right-wing nationalists. Everyone in Ukraine knows that Washington directs this process, whether they support it or not.”
After a week in Bucharest, I head for the consulate in neighboring Moldova, where I have just spent nearly a month reporting on the refugee influx from Ukraine. I have been advised that it is my only option for obtaining a visa to Russia. The divide between pro-Western and pro-Russian civilians is palpable where the Moldovan government is led by Maia Sandu, a graduate of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and former staffer for the World Bank.
Just as in Ukraine, there is a push in Moldova by pro-West factions to limit public use of the Russian language, despite Russian being the native tongue of hundreds of thousands of Moldovans. One man I speak to there, who is the head of a Ukrainian diaspora NGO, and a former candidate for vice mayor of Chișinău, the capital city, happily informs me that Ukrainians are European, while Russians have “Mongol blood.”
At last, the visa materializes. I leave Moldova and travel to Russia, and then I make my way through Russia to Rostov-on-Don, the last stop on Russian Federation turf before the border with the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics (DPR/LPR). There, in the Donbas, a region that became a mining powerhouse in the USSR, war has been raging for eight years. I am questioned for hours at every border crossing, even in Saint Petersburg, because of my U.S. passport and my tattoos (of which I have many). I am never violated or intimidated, just thoroughly questioned and checked. Mostly, it seems to me, the border officials are looking for swastikas, or evidence of Ukrainian nationalist affiliations, the markers of an individual likely to be hostile to Russia’s advances.
My final crossing into DPR happens in the evening. I emerge from a forest into the capital city of Donetsk. I arrived ready to accept any reality that I witnessed. What I saw was a people who had been through hell, and had adjusted to it, all the while unwavering in their commitment to what they see as a fight for self-determination against the reach of the United States and its vassals, especially NATO.
I see Russian, Soviet, and DPR flags everywhere, along with large signs and billboards: “To Victory,” “We Take Care of Our Own,” “We are Russia.” Victory Day, the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany by Soviet forces on May 9, 1945, perhaps still the most significant day on the Russian calendar, is fast approaching.
I am brought by an official escort to the Central Hotel, about 300 meters from an enormous statue of Lenin that overlooks the main square of Donetsk. There is no active plumbing in the city for about 20-22 hours each day, and no hot water at all; Ukrainian armed forces had blown out the water supply. For the first time in my life, I can hear live artillery going off in relative proximity.
The next morning, I walk to the “fancy” hotel in town, where journalists congregate to have coffee and use fast Wi-Fi (that hotel has since been leveled by Ukrainian munitions; a friend of mine was injured in the attack). I strike up a conversation with a Moscow-based Canadian journalist, who sees on a Donetsk Telegram feed that the Sokol market in the Kirovsky District of Donetsk has just been hit by shelling and that there are fatalities. We rush to a cab and head there.
When we pull up to the marketplace, smoke is everywhere, and many stalls have been burned to a crisp. Shelling continues nearby, close enough to shake the earth beneath our feet. We are brought to a member of the neighborhood safety commission, Gennady Andreevich, who walks us through the wreckage, down side alleys into the food market. An old woman’s body is lying on the ground in a pool of blood. “She came to buy vegetables,” he tells us. “There was also a local teacher who came to buy supplies for his mechanics class; his body was not left in recognizable condition. They never target military positions, you know? Always the markets, where the people go to socialize, to work, to get the things they need to live… or the residential buildings. See? Over there? That is where our neighborhood office is. They hit that last month. My colleague was killed.” He points to a large concrete building.
He is steely, but not without emotion. “There is absolutely no military reason to strike places like this,” he tells us. “They do it to strike fear in our hearts, but it does not work.” This is just my first day, and I am already seeing that the things we’ve been hearing about Donbas are anything but the common NATO refrain of “Kremlin fabrications.”
The following night, a residential building behind a school is hit, and we discover an elderly couple arranging some of the wreckage at the entrance to their building. The woman, who will only give her first name, Elena, is eager to speak with a Western reporter. She tells us that their block has been hit almost weekly for eight years, as they live on the outskirts, near the front. Most of the younger people have abandoned the area, she says, but she has had to stay to care for her bedridden father. “He served as a miner in the Ukrainian army in the USSR. He received many distinguished medals,” she tells us. “They attack us, simply because we did not want to follow a government that betrayed our heritage. We in the Donbas did not support Euromaidan. We are Ukrainian, but we are Russian.” I ask if the Minsk accords, which previously negotiated ceasefires between the separatists and Ukraine, had helped at all. “When Minsk was signed, the shelling here on the edge of the city only got worse.” We pass through their apartment, where their grandchildren left just that morning. She credits an Eastern Orthodox icon painting of Mary for protecting them.
“What would you have to say to anyone reading or watching this in the West?” I ask her.
“I want to repeat to America and to Europe: You send weapons to Ukraine. Ukraine kills… I’m not sure who they consider us to be now, but we are Ukrainian. We all have Ukrainian passports. You aggravate and escalate the situation even more. You should sit at the negotiation table, and not try to solve this by sending more arms.”
I spend some of April, all of May, and some of June in the Donbas. I tour front-line cities, alone and with military transports; I meet with people everywhere: there is Alexei Aybu in Lugansk, a member of “Borotba,” (Struggle), a Ukrainian communist party, who fled Odessa after he barely survived the May 2014 Ukrainian nationalist massacre of more than 40 of his comrades in the trade union building. There is “Aurora,” a Donetsk-based Marxist women’s collective comprised of a mix of locals from the Donbas and refugees from western Ukraine, who have especially harsh words for Western “socialists” who are largely backing their attackers in Kiev.
In Mariupol, we see destruction on an inhuman level. Over and over, the locals there tell us that the Ukrainian Azov battalion, who at the time of my visit are still in the Azovstal bunker, has occupied the city for years with an iron fist; they tell us that when the Russians came nearer, Azov laid waste to the city, not allowing civilians any safe escape corridors, and threatening them with death should they attempt to flee.
Everywhere this narrative is repeated, as is the theme of Kiev as an occupier, and Moscow as the liberator. We see the huge influx of reconstruction and humanitarian aid brought in from Russia, while all Western organizations seem to have abandoned Donbas. I tour the peripheral districts at length; everywhere is another memorial for the dead, a list of names, and stuffed animals to remember the children. It is estimated that between 2014-2022, 15,000 people lost their lives in the Donbas, the vast majority in these extremely poor residential areas, forgotten casualties in a war hidden from the view of the West, who seem to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin awoke one morning in February and decided he wanted some of Ukraine.
On May 9 (the aforementioned Victory Day of the Soviets over Germany in World War II), I join a caravan of reporters (I’m the only U.S. journalist in sight) to Mellitopol, a city in the Zaporozhye region, next to Mariupol. Mellitopol had also been occupied by Kiev-friendly forces until February 2022, but the city was abandoned by Ukraine without a fight. We have come to witness the festivities for Victory Day; for seven years of what the locals we spoke with there called “occupation” by the Kiev regime, any celebrations of the Soviet victory in World War II have been made illegal, so this will be the first one. Most of us assume that given the instability of the political climate, the curfews, and the closeness of the ongoing battles, it will be a fairly subdued affair.
Instead, at least 10,000 people take the streets, in a procession led by a column of Red Army veterans, many of whom fought in the World War II Battle of Stalingrad. The jubilation is contagious; tears stream down the eyes of people of all ages, including both those who lived through World War II, and those who have only lived through this one. It is an experience unlike any other.
A woman sees me capturing footage of the procession, and beckons me over. She says, “You tell them over there, we are Russian, and we have always been Russian. We defeated fascism then, and we will do it again.”
I asked many people there if they had criticisms of the Russian government, or of Putin’s decisions. There is one refrain that I heard, over and over, maybe best articulated by Svetlana Valkovich, of the aforementioned “Aurora” group: “Putin, yes, made many mistakes. Most of all, he waited far too long to come to help us here in Donbas. We begged Russia to come for years, but at least they have come now.”
Days before the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2023, U.S. officials claimed that China was considering providing Russia with lethal weaponry to support its military campaign. China denied the accusations, and on the anniversary of the invasion instead put forth its 12-point peace plan to end the conflict. These events followed after tensions between Beijing and Washington flared during the Chinese spy balloon scandal that began in early February 2023.
Since the war’s inception, the U.S. has cautioned China not to support Russia. Following reports that Russia had asked China for military assistance in March 2022, Washington warned that countries providing “material, economic, financial [or] rhetorical” support to Russia would face “consequences.” The Biden administration also confronted China in January 2023 with “evidence that [suggested] some Chinese state-owned companies may be providing assistance” to the Russian military.
China has largely adhered to Western sanctions restricting business with Russia. Nonetheless, it has been essential to Russia’s economic resilience and its war campaign since February 2022. China substantially increased its coal, oil, and natural gas imports from Russia in 2022, for example, which alongside India’s increased imports, have helped the Kremlin negate some of the effects of declining energy sales to Europe. The underlying motive for increased Chinese and Indian purchases of Russian energy, however, remains the steep discounts they have been offered by Russia, which is desperate to replace its former customers in Europe.
China has also increased its technology exports to Russia for use by its defense industry after many Russian companies were denied access to technology from Europe and the U.S. because of the imposition of sanctions. According to the think tank Silverado Policy Accelerator, “Russia continues to have access to crucial dual-use technologies such as semiconductors, thanks in part to China and Hong Kong.” Additionally, China has helped Russia undermine Western economic sanctions by developing international payment systems outside of Western control and has advocated for building an “international alliance of businesses” comprising non-Western companies.
Beijing has also been essential in undermining Western efforts to portray Russia as an international pariah. China has repeatedly abstained from UN votes condemning the Russian invasion and voted against an April 2022 resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. Beijing also seems to have vacillated between calling the situation in Ukraine a conflict and calling out the breaking of UN rules regarding borders. In addition, China, alongside Russia, declined to endorse the G-20 communique that featured language critical of the war in Ukraine at the end of the meeting on March 2, 2023. Chinese state media has also been largely favorable or neutral to Russia since the invasion began.
Russian and Chinese forces have held several bilateral military exercises and patrols since February 2022. The last exercise took place in the East China Sea in December 2022, and the “main purpose of the exercise [was] to strengthen naval cooperation between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China and to maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” the Russian Ministry statement said. Meanwhile, both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met and posed for photos at the September 2022 Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. And in the coming months, Xi Jinping is expected to travel to Russia after top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi visited Moscow in February 2023.
While China has shown it is willing to assist Russia, it has been careful to avoid perceptions of overt support. China has cited the need to respect and safeguard “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” without denouncing Russia or calling for it to end the conflict. But after China’s top drone maker, Da Jiang Innovations (DJI), banned exports of its drones to Ukraine and Russia in April 2022, Russia has continued to freely operate DJI surveillance technology to target Ukrainian drone operators, demonstrating the limits of Chinese neutrality.
Alongside the suspected impending Chinese military supplies to Russia, that were referred to by the Biden administration, Beijing is clearly more invested in a Russian victory than a Ukrainian one, even if it won’t admit it publicly.
So why is China so invested in supporting Russia while refusing to do so openly? There is no doubt a calculus in Beijing that the greater and longer the West focuses on Ukraine, the fewer resources Western countries can afford to give to Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region. Prolonging the conflict would also weaken Russia, which in some Chinese nationalist circles is still viewed as a competitor and as having unjustly seized Chinese territory in the 19th century.
Still, there are clear benefits for China if the conflict ends sooner rather than later, and on Russian terms. Just weeks before the invasion in February 2022, Russia and China had signed their “no limits” partnership, while both Xi and Putin have called the other their “best friend.” Giving support to allies will help increase trust toward Beijing while also growing its leverage over a strained Russia.
China also desires a stable, friendly neighbor. A Russian defeat could lead to the country’s collapse, potentially destabilizing much of Eurasia. Russian leadership change, in case of a defeat, could also usher in a pro-Western Russian government on China’s doorstep, something Beijing is keen to avoid.
The war has in turn destabilized global energy and food markets and caused extreme instability in the global economy, at a time when China’s national economy is still fragile as it recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia is a vital economic partner to China, largely in the energy industry, but also owing to the Kremlin’s role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative to increase trade across Eurasia.
While Russia’s importance in this regard has diminished since the invasion, Moscow retains significant leverage among the former Soviet countries that form the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), as well as across the energy industries of Central Asia.
A Ukrainian military defeat would also have negative effects on the U.S.’ standing in global affairs by proving Western military assistance was unable to turn the tide of a major conflict. Contrastingly, a Ukrainian victory would solidify Western support for Taiwan, embolden Western-style democracy advocates around the world, and reverse perceptions in China of Western decline in global affairs.
But an open supply of lethal weaponry could destroy China’s economic relations with the West when China is still studying the effects of sanctions on a major economy like Russia. This has not prevented Beijing from pointing out the U.S.’ double standard in supplying the Taiwanese military with weapons, most recently in March 2023, when Foreign Minister Qin Gang asked “Why, while asking China not to provide arms to Russia, has the United States sold arms to Taiwan in violation of a  joint communique?”
While relations between the U.S. and China are increasingly tense, there is fear in Beijing that overt support for Russia could damage Beijing’s relations with the EU. The EU is now China’s largest export market, and China still hopes to drive a wedge between the EU and the U.S. and prevent the development of a joint trans-Atlantic policy toward China. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on March 5, 2023, said that China will not supply Russia with lethal military aid “suggesting that Berlin has received bilateral assurances from Beijing on the issue.” Together with Xi Jinping’s comments in November 2022 stressing the need to avoid the threat or use of nuclear weapons, China seeks to highlight its mediating position and prove it is a responsible actor in world affairs that promotes peace. The Chinese-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to re-establish official relations on March 10, 2023, was further evidence of this initiative.
Contrastingly, China views the U.S. as a rogue superpower, and sees “confrontation and conflict” with the U.S. as inevitable unless Washington changes course, according to Qin Gang. And while China continues to be suspicious of U.S. attempts to contain it, such policies have become increasingly acknowledged even in U.S. political circles in recent years.
Nonetheless, both lethal and non-lethal military aid to Russia from China will likely increase, funneled indirectly through willing third countries. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s arrival for a state visit to Beijing on February 28 caused alarm in the U.S. precisely because of this reason. Ultimately, China sees the Ukraine war as part of a wider conflict with the U.S.-led Western world. Aiding Russia is seen as a strategic decision for China, meaning its “pro-Russian neutrality” will continue to be cautiously tested in Beijing.
While China did not cause the Ukraine crisis, it seeks to navigate it effectively. The Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s allowed Beijing to rapidly expand its ties with the West, and the Ukraine crisis will help China benefit from its relationship with Russia amid global economic uncertainty. China will take the necessary steps to avoid spooking the EU, while recognizing that tension with Washington may be inescapable.
The relationship between Washington and Moscow is already near the breaking point, and early this morning, risked spinning entirely out of control, when a pair of Russian jets first harassed and then attacked an unarmed American MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone flying over the international waters of the Black Sea. The two Su-27 fighters dumped fuel on the drone, apparently trying to blind its sensors, before colliding with its propeller, bringing the $32 million piece of military hardware crashing down to the water below.
Predictably, Russia’s Ministry of Defense offered a different account of what took place, saying the drone’s own maneuvers caused it to rapidly lose altitude and crash. In any event, it was the first documented physical clash between the armed forces of the United States and Russia resulting from the war in Ukraine, a perilous precedent that should give everyone some pause.
Apparently, these kinds of high-altitude confrontations between the U.S. and Russia are “not an uncommon occurrence,” according to John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman. Still, Kirby acknowledged this incident as “noteworthy because of how unsafe and unprofessional it was,” to say nothing of how the “reckless” attack further inflames an already tense atmosphere, and adds to the danger of a direct clash between the United States and Russia.
Notably, the U.S. and Russia had no communication during the incident, and thus no way to deescalate, or express intentions. Afterward, the Russian ambassador in Washington was summoned to receive formal American objections to the attack, which Ned Price at the State Department called a “brazen violation of international law.”
Certainly, incidents like these add to the grave risk of mistakes and miscalculations between the two nuclear powers, and the danger of unintended escalation, with all that entails. Relations between Moscow and Washington are already at an all-time low, amid Vladimir Putin’s catastrophically botched invasion of Ukraine, and Joe Biden’s arming of Kyiv, and it likely wouldn’t take much to send things spiraling further downward.
The danger of accidental escalation is real
The aerial run-in merely reinforced the sense that any errant spark could lead to serious and unintended consequences, a complete rupture in relations, and the possibility of armed conflict. The downed Reaper was unmanned; what if it had been a manned surveillance flight, and the U.S. incurred casualties as a result of Russian aggression?
Clearly, it would be a different story, and an incredibly dangerous one.
Still, the White House seemed keen not to allow the incident to devolve into a tit-for-tat cycle of mutual escalation, and apparently resisted calls to respond with military force. As New York Times reporter David Sanger said on CNN today, the White House wanted to respond “calmly,” and avoid the prospect of unintended escalation, particularly because the drone was unmanned.
Nonetheless, it’s clear, Sanger said, that the Russians have a mounting appetite to take on the Americans on the sidelines of the war in Ukraine, even as Russia struggles desperately on the battlefield. Russia’s recent offensives in Bakhmut and elsewhere have resulted in meager territorial advances, and at a staggering cost in human life, particularly the life of Russian conscripts and mercenaries, who have been engaged in suicidal assaults to inch forward against Ukraine’s fortified defenses.
After losing an estimated 200,000 casualties and counting in its disastrous campaign to subdue and absorb Ukraine, the Kremlin has increasingly characterized the war as an existential conflict between Russia and the United States. Incidents like the one today show the danger of that notion coming to fruition, in what would be an apocalyptic nuclear confrontation humanity would be unlikely to survive, should one begin.
A light in the darkness for Putin
Meanwhile, favorable developments amid early presidential posturing have given Vladimir Putin something to smile about, as presidential frontrunner Gov. Ron DeSantis went on Tucker Carlson’s show and argued that defending Ukraine was not in America’s vital national interest. He referred to Putin’s wanton aggression as a “territorial dispute,” and made it clear that if elected, American aid to Ukraine would quickly evaporate.
Clearly, the Florida governor is aligning himself with Donald Trump’s isolationist MAGA bent, even as he prepares to take on the former president for the Republican nomination in 2024, as Trump faces the prospect of criminal indictments.
DeSantis’s view stands in sharp contrast to many of the elected leaders of the Republican Party, and provoked a round of heated criticism from Marco Rubio, Lyndsey Graham, Liz Cheney, Mitch McConnell, and other leading lights in the GOP, who have argued that the United States should be doing even more for Ukraine, and certainly not less.
However, Ron DeSantis has always fashioned himself in Trump’s tainted image, as a combative culture warrior, and jingoistic “America First” nationalist, so his view on Ukraine should come as no surprise. Rather, it shows DeSantis’s strategy is to mimic Donald Trump and his ever evolving political positions, while keeping himself free of the toxic drama and criminal investigations that constantly engulf the former president.
In any case, it’s a major win for the Kremlin, and Vladimir Putin himself, who has been banking on a change in leadership in Washington to bail him out of his dismal war in Ukraine. If DeSantis, or god forbid, Trump were to retake the White House, and military and financial aid to Kyiv dried up, Putin’s path to victory would suddenly become far more clear, and plausible.
For his part, Vladimir Putin can be expected to do everything in his power to assist his allies in the MAGA wing of the Republican Party to achieve electoral victory in 2024, and Ron DeSantis is now on that short list. Presumably, the Kremlin will intervene vigorously in the next American election, by carrying out cyberattacks, hacking, and targeted propaganda to elevate a pro-Putin candidate, much like in 2016.
However, this time, America’s national security establishment has no excuse not to see it coming, and should be prepared to counter the Kremlin’s machinations forcefully, and from the outset. The Biden administration has every incentive to prevent Putin from sabotaging American democracy, and everything to lose should they fail.
Business is booming for arms makers, energy companies and camping equipment manufacturers — due to the war in Ukraine. Many American and European companies are benefiting from the crisis. Why is that? How is that?
The winner and losers are apparent. The losers are civilians in Ukraine and soldiers on both sides of the conflict. More clearly, the winners are weapons manufacturers like BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies and Rheinmetall, et al.
BAE offers howitzers like the M-777, which can fire 155-mm shells at targets 30 kilometers away. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon make infra-red guided Javelin missiles that have a range of 4 kilometers that are used to penetrate armoured vehicles. Raytheon also makes Stinger missiles. Rheinmetall has offered to provide 50 old Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine as well as 35 Marder infantry fighting vehicles.
Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk has been making regular surveillance flights over the Ukrainian border. “They profit from war, and they push for war, and they even hope to profit more from bloodshed, from destruction,” Yurii Sheliazhenko, the executive secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, told Democracy Now.
Indeed, the CEOs of military contractors have been quite public about how profitable they expect the war to be. “We see opportunities to further enhance the medium-term outlook as our customers address the elevated threat environment,” Charles Woodburn, CEO of BAE Systems, told investors.
“Security – as shown by the current conflict – is the bedrock of our life in peace and freedom. Rheinmetall has a special obligation here,” Armin Papperger, Rheinmetall CEO, told investors back a long time ago.
In fact, fully one month before the invasion, Gregory Hayes, CEO of Raytheon, told investors: “I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit from it.” He remains defiant about his comment when questioned by a reporter from the Harvard Business Review. “We don’t apologize for making these systems, making these weapons. The fact is, they are incredibly effective in deterring and dealing with the threat that the Ukrainians are seeing today,” he said.
These companies are openly backed by the U.S. government. The Pentagon issued a press release on April 13, 2022 about a meeting that Kathleen Hicks, the deputy secretary of defense, convened with leaders of eight weapons makers, namely BAE Systems, Boeing, General Dynamics, Huntington Ingalls, L3Harris, Raytheon Technologies, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
“The Biden Administration is working around the clock to fulfill Ukraine’s priority security assistance requests, drawing down weapons from U.S. stocks when they are available, purchasing directly from industry for rapid delivery to Ukraine, and facilitating the transfer of weapons from allies and partners when their systems better suit Ukraine’s needs,” said Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman.
President Biden has also been very candid about the role he expects of the weapons makers. “You’re making it possible for the Ukrainian people to defend themselves, without us having to risk getting into a third world war by sending in American soldiers fighting Russian soldiers,” Biden told workers at Javelin missile factory operated by Lockheed in Alabama earlier.
Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine is also expected to increase overall demand for weapons systems especially as Finland and Sweden have applied to become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) after decades of staying neutral. Not least Germany, which demilitarized in 1945 after the two World Wars, recently announced plans to increase military spending immediately by more than US$100 billion.
Weapons companies were already receiving a massive amount of money from the U.S. government – some US$768 billion in 2021 before the war in Ukraine began. The U.S. Congress approved a US$40 billion spending package for the Ukraine war with a big chunk going to arms companies.
In order to keep the money flowing, these weapons makers spent US$2.5 billion on lobbying over the last 20 years, according to numbers gathered by Brown University’s Costs of War Project. Indeed, the number of military lobbyists over the past five years has outnumbered the number of members of the U.S. Congress.
The same is true in the UK where BAE Systems has been the largest lobbyist in the UK during the past ten years, according to Transparency International. Indeed, BAE has held 30 meetings with government ministers in just the past two years.
For these companies, the war in Ukraine came at just the right time, say analysts. “When the Afghanistan war ended, when you had some of the CEOs of defense contractors lamenting the fact that the war ended and they were expecting a hit to their bottom line,” Dan Grazier, a senior defense policy fellow at the Project on Government Oversight in Washington DC, told Vice President. “When the Ukraine war started, there were people there almost eagerly anticipating it—you know, big, big profits.”
Others noted that the weapons companies have little interest in diplomatic solutions to put an end to the conflict. “There’s not very much money to be made in diplomacy, usually,” Erik Sperling, executive director of the anti-war group Just Foreign Policy, told Xinhua news service.
Since the war began, stock market speculators have rewarded shareholders of these companies. The shares of BAE Systems, the largest weapons manufacturer in Europe and the UK, had risen by 21 percent since the start of the invasion; Rheinmetall has seen its stock price surge 88 percent over the last three months. In the U.S., Northrop Grumman’s stocks are up by around 16 percent, while shares of Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest weapons manufacturer, and shares of Raytheon Technologies increased by 28 and 20 percent respectively in the first month of the invasion.
“The situation is delightful for Rheinmetall, they probably never even dreamed of something like this €100 billion fund,” Alexander Lurz, a disarmament expert at Greenpeace Germany, told the Irish Times. “Now they just have to wait for the orders to arrive.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian peace activists have been speaking out against the war, stating that they want Western governments to understand that escalating weapons supplies has devastating consequences.
“I feel that my country now is like a battlefield for all countries’ ambition: NATO parts and Russia parts. And two imperialistic countries want to divide my country,” Nina Potarska, coordinator for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Ukraine, told Democracy Now. “I just want to stress one very simple idea, that this is not movie. We are real people, and we die like real people. And real children cry because of the explosions everywhere. It’s not matter in Ukraine or in Afghanistan or in Syria: We all alive people, and we want to be in peace.”
And across the world, activists are taking this message to corporate headquarters.
For example, Lockheed Martin was the target of protests in earlier by the British group Block Lockheed, which blocked traffic from entering the company’s technology plant in the town of Ampthill in the UK. A spokesperson for the protesters said, “We are trying to draw people’s attention to the fact that war profiteers aren’t interested in peace… They make a lot of money out of constant war.”
In late March, 2022, five demonstrators were arrested for protesting on the roof of Raytheon Technologies’ building in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Protestors, including the FANG Collective and Resist and Abolish the Military Industrial Complex (RAM INC), held banners that read: “Raytheon profits from death in Palestine, Yemen, & Ukraine” and “End all wars, end all empires.”
In late April last year, peace activists across the globe – from Seoul to Sicily to Montréal – protested and brought petitions and banners to Lockheed Martin offices, demanding the company begin working on conversion to peaceful industries.
On May 10, 2022 a number of peace organizations in Germany held a protest at the headquarters of Rheinmetall in Düsseldorf, the largest weapons maker in Germany. “Capital feels well in times of war. We already know that from the past,” an activist from the Disarming Rheinmetall group told Die Tageszeitung.
And on May 17 last year, a University of California coalition called UC Divest protested outside the university Board of Regents meeting to demand the university divest from weapons manufacturers, chanting: “Hey hey, ho ho, corporate greed has got to go,” and “UC, UC, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side.”
by Roger McKenzie
News reports emerging from Germany and the United States claim that a pro-Ukrainian group was behind the blowing up of the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea in September 2022.
German daily newspaper Die Zeit, public broadcasters ARD and SWR, and the ARD political magazine Kontraste reported in March 2023 that investigators were able to reconstruct how the pipelines from Russia to Germany were sabotaged on September 26, 2022.
Citing several unnamed officials, the investigation by the news outlets revealed that five men and a woman used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland to carry out the attack.
The New York Times also reported that U.S. intelligence is suggesting a pro-Ukrainian group was behind the blasts.
The Times said that U.S. President Joe Biden and his top aides “did not authorize” the attack.
The New York Times typically behaves like a mouthpiece for the State Department. The Times was forced to issue an apology in 2004 over its misleading coverage about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It was essentially used by the State Department to parrot the lines that justified the illegal war carried out by the U.S. and its allies.
But here we are again—this time after a report by award-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, which accused the U.S. of ordering the bombing of Nord Stream pipelines under cover of a NATO exercise.
Hersh explained how the Norwegians helped U.S. divers set the remotely triggered explosives under the pipelines in June 2022.
Washington and its allies have denied the accusation made by Hersh. The New York Times, true to form, has chosen to parrot the lines given to it and hand-picked German outlets.
Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that he had read the news reports “with great interest” but warned against drawing quick conclusions on the issue.
“We need to clearly differentiate whether it was a Ukrainian group that acted on the orders of Ukraine or… without the government’s knowledge,” he told reporters.
This is so different from the insistence by the U.S. and its allies that Russia was responsible for blowing up the pipelines it earned money from by supplying vast quantities of energy to Europe.
The Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov rejected suggestions that the attack might have been ordered by Kyiv.
He told reporters: “It’s like a compliment for our special forces, but this is not our activity.”
Of course he denies it. He will already be aware that the U.S. was responsible for the explosion.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby declined to comment on the New York Times report, noting that investigations by Denmark, Germany, and Sweden are still ongoing.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the latest media reports as a coordinated manipulation intended to conceal the origins of the attack.
He said: “The masterminds of the terror attack clearly want to distract attention.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his officials have accused the U.S. of staging the blowing up of the pipelines, which they described as a “terror attack.”
Jan Oberg, the director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research said that once the reporting by Hersh is vindicated and the role of U.S. Navy forces proven, “Europeans will wake up and finally understand that they no longer share interests with the U.S.”
The Women-led peace organization CODEPINK issued a statement that “We need a real, public investigation into this crime against the environment!”
Not for the first time, national organizer for Black Alliance for Peace, Ajamu Baraka, got it right when he tweeted: “The arrogance of the white supremacist mind makes it impossible for it to understand how latest propaganda ploy with the misinformation campaign on the U.S. attack on Nord Stream pipelines is making the U.S. press a laughing stock around the world.”
“Since the U.S. claims it wants to crack down on misinformation campaigns, perhaps it should investigate the [Times’] misinformation campaign on the Nord Stream attack?”
Author Bio: This article was produced by Globetrotter. Roger McKenzie is the international editor of the Morning Star newspaper. Follow Roger on Twitter on @RogerAMck.