BEIJING (AP) — The United States says Russia has asked China to provide military assistance for its war in Ukraine, and China has responded in the affirmative. Moscow and Beijing have denied the allegation, with a Chinese spokesperson calling it “disinformation”.
Still, the claims have generated speculation about how far Beijing would be willing to go to support its “most important strategic partner”, as China’s foreign minister recently described Russia.
WHAT DID THE US SAY?
Following initial reports that Russia had requested military aid from China, unnamed US officials said Washington had determined that China had sent a signal to Russia: Beijing would be prepared to provide both military support for campaign in Ukraine and financial support to help avoid the impact of harsh Western sanctions.
At a meeting in Rome on Monday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi against such support, even as the Kremlin denied asking for military equipment.
The United States is wary of China’s intentions as President Xi Jinping’s government has refused to criticize the Russian invasion, even as it seeks to distance itself from the Kremlin war by calling for dialogue and reiterating its position that the territory of a nation must be respected.
WHAT CAN CHINA OFFER?
On the contrary, smaller objects such as bullets and meals are more likely than fighter jets and tanks, experts said.
China “probably wants to avoid high-profile or expensive arms sales to Russia in the midst of a conflict that would expose Beijing to international sanctions,” said Drew Thompson, a former US Department of Defense official currently at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.
Beijing would be more willing to provide spare parts, consumables, ammunition and dual-use items that do not violate sanctions and may fall below the threshold for international retaliation, Thompson said.
For example, Russian helicopters likely use their flares to counter short-range man-portable missiles like the Stinger. China could eventually sell some of its flares to Russia, if they are compatible with Russian systems, Thompson said. China could also share surveillance and intelligence, he said.
Given Washington’s warnings, any Chinese aid would likely involve “very basic things” like ration packs for soldiers, said Sam Roggeveen, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute in Australia.
He added that Russia would find it virtually impossible to integrate Chinese weaponry into its armed forces on such short notice.
WILL CHINA DO IT?
While it’s not impossible, Chinese and non-Chinese experts say there are several factors against it. For starters, it might look bad.
“China will be very careful to do its best to prevent its aid and other assistance from being used on Ukrainian battlefields,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing.
He added that China “has no reason to provide any assistance to Russia’s operation in Ukraine.”
Roggeveen acknowledged that there was no “obvious advantage” for China in helping Moscow, adding that a weakened Russia could work to China’s strategic and economic advantage.
Chinese officials have also said throughout the crisis that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries must be respected – although critics say its refusal to criticize Russia’s invasion is in fundamental contradiction to this. position.
“Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has by nature become an invasion, and China will never provide weapons to help one country attack another sovereign country and that is not in accordance with international law,” he said. Li Xin, director of the Institute of European and Asian Studies. Studied at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.
China also doesn’t want to see the conflict escalate or be dragged into a co-belligerent, so any Chinese support “would be measured and carefully calibrated,” Thompson said.
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