Analysis: Putin needs Xi Jinping’s help more than ever after Ukraine setbacks

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The summit, in which the pair spoke about their ever-increasing ties and raided against NATO expansion, was held three weeks before Putin ordered his tanks into Ukraine. Although it is not known whether the topic of war came up during their conversation, one thing is now clear: seven months have passed since the invasion. Anything went other than planned.

Putin has had perhaps his worst week since the early days of the war, when his troops were sent to Kyiv and forced to retreat.

Ukraine’s re-occupation in recent days The more than 3,000 square kilometers (more than 1,100 sq mi) of territory in the country’s northeast – Russia has occupied in all its operations since April – is another humiliating loss for Putin, who has seen his invasion faltering. Have seen and their friends list on the global stage goes down.
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There is growing criticism of Putin even among his supporters in Russia, and he clearly could do with a victory. Fortunately for Putin, an opportunity presents itself on Thursday, when he holds his first one-on-one meeting with Xi since the offensive began on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan.

Much has been made of relations between Russia and China, which have only strengthened since the start of the war. Experts say Putin’s count on Beijing will be higher than ever after its failures on the battlefield.


“Russia relies on China to show the world that their strong bond is a symbol of failed international isolation, despite severe Western sanctions,” said Velina Tchakarova, director of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy in Vienna.

At a time when the West’s resolve against Russia appears to be hardening, and as more nations join NATO and aid Ukraine, the war continues, backing the world’s most powerful anti-Western nation. That would naturally be of great value to Putin.

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“China’s support helps Moscow disseminate Russian narratives, such as blaming EU sanctions for the food crisis, blaming NATO for the start of the war. This creates a common denominator: America’s leadership. The positive case for discontent with the West and closer ties with China, Tchakarova said.

Russia has spoken of China’s support in recent days. Last week, China’s top lawmaker Li Zhanshu met with the chairman of Russia’s State Duma and other Russian lawmakers in Moscow.

According to the Duma, Li said that “China understands and supports Russia on issues that represent its vital interests, in particular on the situation in Ukraine … we see that the United States and its NATO allies are expanding their presence near Russian borders, seriously endangering national security and the lives of Russian citizens.”

However, these quotes did not exist in Chinese readout The meeting, which raises questions about how China is prepared to formally support Russia, as its invasion of Ukraine shows no signs of ending.

“Obviously China doesn’t want Russia to fall apart and in an ideal world it would have Putin’s steady leadership over anything else,” said Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese studies at King’s College London.

However, he added that “Ukraine will be an unwanted problem that Beijing would love to see away. Of course, China doesn’t trust NATO and the West, but that doesn’t mean it’s Russia’s best friend. China is ultimately selfish.” , and this instability does not help China in any way.”

Putin's Kharkiv disaster is his biggest challenge to date.  This has left him with few options

Looking at China’s support of Russia to date through the prism of selfishness may give some indication of where Beijing’s thinking is – especially at a key political meeting in Beijing next month where Xi’s handling of a third term is widely expected. Hopefully in power, cementing his role as China’s most powerful leader in decades.

Despite the war, trade between the two countries increased in the first six months of 2022. China only last week The Russians agreed to introduce payments for Russian gas in yuan and rubles instead of dollars, around the many restrictions imposed on energy exports.

Along with blaming NATO and the West for the war, this economic support is in China’s interest. Experts say that is unlikely to be in China’s interest, however, as it will provide the military aid that Russia needs as its war goes on.

Ukrainian gains, international sanctions, export controls and strategic errors from Moscow over the weekend have made it clear that Russia may have a military supply problem. Last week, a US official told CNN that Putin was in the process of buying millions of rockets and artillery shells. from North Korea.

Joseph Dempsey, a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told CNN, “This does not mean that supply is necessarily close to exhaustion, but may cross the line in contingency stocks for widespread and/or future conflict.” ” “Even if the conflict ends today, it may take years to fill back what has been lost in Ukraine.”

China's top lawmaker Li Zanshu arrived in the Russian city of Vladivostok to attend the Seventh Eastern Economic Forum, becoming the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit the country since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The more China’s money is welcome in Moscow, the longer the war drags on, the more Russia is lacking. Export controls make it harder to import weapons as well as to manufacture them. And for the kind of gear Russia needs, there are a limited number of sources. If China isn’t going to help, Russia’s options become even smaller.

Russia’s potential frustration, Dempsey says, risks creating another complication.

“Certainly there is a widespread concern about arms supplies to Russia that an increasingly desperate Russia might be willing to give in return, especially in the case of Iran and North Korea – the latter’s UN-wide arms embargo. remaining under.”

So what can Putin expect to announce after meeting Xi? There is no doubt that there will be further commitments to economic ties, and China is unlikely to abruptly reduce its rhetoric on the West.

But the reality for Putin is that this is all Xi can do to counter the actions of the West against Russia. And after a week of heavy losses on the battlefield, it should worry the man who once believed that his war would be over in a matter of days.

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