Putin, Xi Discuss Eurasian Regional Tensions Over Taiwan And Ukraine, Provide ‘Mutual Allied Support’

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By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a second recent virtual summit yesterday (Wednesday, December 15) amongst rising international concerns about tensions concerning Taiwan and, on Russia-Ukraine border.

Beijing has become alarmed at Washington’s sale of billions of dollars of military equipment to, and apparent support of Taiwanese independence, while Moscow has become concerned with a huge NATO military presence and military exercises taking place in Ukraine, close to the Russian border.

US President Joe Biden held a virtual summit with Putin last week, during which Putin stated that Moscow wanted legally binding guarantees that NATO would not base troops or military equipment in either Ukraine or Georgia. If not, an invasion of part or all of Ukraine could occur to push the Ukrainian front line against Russia further West and away from the Russian border. At its closest, Moscow is just over 400km from the Ukrainian border.

The two countries are effectively making demands for the United States, under the guise of NATO to cease military-backed influence in areas close to their borders.

Russia has been threatened with significant sanctions by the West should it continue its ‘aggression’ in Ukraine, including the disconnection of Russia from the global SWIFT payment network, a situation I discussed yesterday here. Were such an event to occur, Russia would almost certainly need Chinese assistance to ride out the economic problems this would bring, including the connection of its own SPFS payments system to the Chinese network.

At yesterday’s summit, Putin won support from Xi for his push to obtain binding security guarantees for Russia from the West, a Kremlin official said.

“A new model of cooperation has been formed between our countries, based among other things on such principles as not interfering in internal affairs [of each other], respect for each other’s interests, determination to turn the shared border into a belt of eternal peace and good neighbourliness,” Putin said. Xi said that the Russian president “strongly supported China’s efforts to protect key national interests and firmly opposed attempts to drive a wedge between our countries.”

Putin also called Xi his “dear friend” and said relations between the two countries had reached an “unprecedently high level”.

The two leaders’ video call lasted just over an hour, from 4:07 p.m. to 5:21 p.m. Beijing time, according to Chinese state media. Few other details on the call were available however dealing with additional sanctions on Russia in the event of an invasion of Ukraine will undoubtedly have been part of the remit. In return, China may have designs on lands in the Russian Far East to in return for protecting the Russian border to the West.

Xi and Putin last met in June this year, also via video link. Earlier in the year, the two leaders met via video as part of a ceremony for launching a nuclear power reactor project. Putin and Xi also spoke by phone in August following the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan as the U.S. withdrew troops.

Ahead of the virtual meeting, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the two leaders would discuss tensions in Europe and described the two countries as “allies.”

A disastrous situation for the United States and NATO would be if both Russia and China made advances towards Taiwan and Ukraine simultaneously. For China, such a move would be unlikely to happen before March, as the national Chinese New Year occurs in February and Beijing holds the Winter Olympics, which is a much-anticipated event for the billion plus that will be watching the events in China, and to measure their success in taking on global athletes. It is too important to be overshadowed by Taiwan. Russia though could probably launch an offensive in Ukraine at any time, although it too may prefer to wait given both US reluctance to be seen to give way to Moscow’s demands, and the time needed to prepare for contingency strategies in the wake of further sanctions.

I suspect then that for now, while the EU, US and NATO deliberate on what to do next, and with Russia and China working out sanctions contingencies, the Ukraine situation will fall silent for a while. But if NATO haven’t put anything on the table by March, this whole Taiwan/Ukraine issue could very rapidly resurface. Taking on Ukraine has been a step too far for Washington, and another miscalculation in the aftermath of the Afghanistan debacle. The Washington hawks won’t like it, but the US is now facing mutual, coordinated pushback in regions far from its own territory.

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