Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have commenced talks in Moscow, amid concerns over Putin's deepening international isolation due to Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
The talks with Xi give Putin a rare opportunity to show that Russia is not completely walled off from the rest of the world, despite being targeted by an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. The meeting also comes in the wake of a Chinese proposal for a political settlement in Ukraine that echoes Russian talking points.
Russia's growing reliance on China has increased since Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, which has led to concerns that China might provide lethal weapons to Russia.
Despite these concerns, the two countries have touted their "no-limits friendship" and rebuffed what they see as Washington's attempts to isolate them and hold back their development.
During their talks, Putin and Xi are expected to discuss a Chinese proposal for a peace plan in Ukraine, which blames the West for the unprovoked invasion and calls for a cease-fire and peace talks.
Putin has welcomed the proposal, stating that Russia is "always open to negotiations.” "We will certainly discuss all these issues, including your initiatives which we treat with respect, of course,” he added.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has voiced skepticism over the proposal, warning it could be a "stalling tactic" to help Russia on the ground in Ukraine.
"The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms," Blinken told reporters at the State Department.
Xi and Putin's meeting has also raised concerns within the U.S., with the White House remaining concerned that China might provide lethal weapons to Russia. The timing of Xi's visit to Russia, just as Putin faces increasing international isolation, has led some to suggest that Beijing is providing Moscow with "diplomatic cover" to commit further crimes.
Despite these concerns, Putin and Xi have called each other "dear friend" and touted their "strategic partnership". Putin has even claimed that the two countries are upholding "international fairness and justice" and promoting "the common prosperity and development" of their countries. As the world watches, it remains to be seen how these talks will impact the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the international relations between Russia, China, and the West.
By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com
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President Putin has already said he will study the peace proposal while the United States dismissed it out of hand as favouring Russia by echoing Russian talking points even before studying it exactly as it did with President Putin’s security proposals before the flare up in Ukraine. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has voiced skepticism over the proposal, warning it could be a "stalling tactic" to help Russia on the ground in Ukraine.
It is obvious that the United States isn’t interested in a peaceful settlement in Ukraine because it is waging a war on Russia aimed at weakening it and also weakening the Chinese-Russian strategic alliance as well as slowing down the transformation of the Word Order from a unipolar system led by the United States into a multipolar one ushered in by China and Russia.
And while China is a huge market for Russia with trade between them growing from $11.0 bn in 2013 to $190 bn in 2022, China is far more dependent on Russia for its energy, food materials, precious metals, technology and weapons among many other things.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert