The person who can exert the greatest influence on Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is Chinese President Xi Jinping. He must not be allowed to escape that responsibility.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Xi have held talks via videoconference. It was the first time the two leaders have spoken since the start of the invasion.
Biden warned that China will pay a commensurate price if it supports Russia militarily or economically. The U.S. president is also believed to have talked about the possibility of China being subjected to the same severe economic sanctions as Russia.
Xi said nothing critical of Russia. He expressed opposition to U.S. and European sanctions against Russia, saying, “Sweeping and indiscriminate sanctions would only make the people suffer.” Xi was apparently trying to stop the United States from going so far as to impose sanctions on China.
However, the United States and Europe are showing unprecedented solidarity in response to Putin’s barbaric actions.
Xi should not take the warning of sanctions against China lightly.
Not to be overlooked were Xi’s remarks that “the U.S. and NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] should also have dialogue with Russia to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine.” Xi is essentially indicating that he has no intention of meeting with Putin himself to resolve the situation.
The Ukraine crisis is now at a crossroads. It is argued that Russia has not been able to achieve the swift victory it initially hoped for and is facing logistical problems.
Under these circumstances, it is clear that if China provides weapons, food for Russian soldiers and other supplies, the Russian military will regain momentum and its inhumane attacks on Ukraine will intensify.
Russia may assume it will receive generous financial and trade support from China so that Russia can cushion the blow of the sanctions.
If China withholds support for Russia, Moscow’s situation will worsen. At that point, the possibility of a truce and the withdrawal of Russian troops will finally become a reality. China has a grave responsibility.
Seeking to realign the U.S.-led international order, Xi has promised Putin “no limits” on the cooperation between China and Russia. It is unacceptable for Xi to act any longer like he is not an involved party, or for him to pretend to be neutral.
China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, which is responsible for world peace, and is a major power with the decisive power of a veto in the Security Council. If China shows no awareness in this regard and is essentially complicit in Russia’s invasion, it will lose its international credibility.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 20, 2022.