Russia won China’s backing in its clash with the West over Ukraine as Beijing agreed with Moscow that the US-led NATO military alliance should not admit new members.
The demand to halt NATO expansion came after a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing, during which the Russian leader hailed the “dignified relations” of the two countries.
In a lengthy strategy document, Moscow and Beijing denounced what they called Washington’s destabilizing role in global security.
“The parties oppose further NATO enlargement and call on the North Atlantic Alliance to abandon Cold War-era ideological approaches,” the document reads, calling for respect for “the sovereignty, security and interests of other countries”.
The call echoed Russian demands at the center of weeks of intensive negotiations between Moscow and the West, under the shadow of a potential conflict.
Western capitals have accused Russia of mustering some 100,000 troops on the borders of pro-Western Ukraine in preparation for an invasion, and pledged to impose devastating sanctions on Moscow in the event of an attack.
Russia has denied any such plans.
The document released by Beijing and Moscow on Friday also lays out criticism of Washington’s “negative impact on peace and stability” in the Asia-Pacific region.
Russia and China also said they were “seriously concerned” about the AUKUS defense alliance, comprising Australia, the UK and the US.
Dmitry Babich, a political analyst at the Rossiya Segodnya news company, said the United States and NATO should change their policies toward Russia and China.
“Both countries face the same challenge, the same danger from the United States and other Western countries,” he said, calling the standoff over Ukraine a “very unfortunate development.”
“Russia didn’t want it, China didn’t want it. But as we know from history, a common threat, a real threat unites nations better than any formal alliance,” Babich told Al Jazeera.
“A United Front”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was the latest European leader to announce a visit to the region on Friday, saying he would visit Ukraine on February 14 and Russia the following day.
Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, said Putin and Xi tried to “convey a united front”.
“Both leaders have seen deteriorating relations with the United States and its allies in recent years,” Yu said. “And China has signaled that it will support Russia economically if the United States imposes crippling sanctions. “
But, she added, Beijing would not “necessarily…welcome any potential attack on Ukraine”, citing the Chinese government’s good relationship with Kyiv, an important trading partner who is also part of the initiative. “the Belt and the Road”.
“Wacky” False Flag Allegations
French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Moscow on Monday and Kiev on Tuesday for talks with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts.
Putin’s meeting with Xi – hours before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics – came after the United States said it had proof of a plan by Moscow to film a fake Ukrainian attack on the Russians to justify an attack on its neighbour.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the United States had “information that the Russians may want to fabricate a pretext for an invasion” but offered no evidence.
Russia, which has repeatedly denied any invasion plans, said the US claims were nonsense.
“The delusional nature of such fabrications – and there are more of them every day – is evident,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Washington’s claim follows visits by European leaders to bolster their support for Kyiv, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Friday hailed the shows of support, saying the efforts were preventing Russia from “further aggravating the security situation”.
“Our partners believe in Ukraine and that means Moscow’s bullying strategy is not working. Russia lost this round,” Kuleba said.
During Erdogan’s visit on Thursday, he and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an agreement expanding parts production in Ukraine for a Turkish combat drone whose sale to Kiev has angered Moscow.
Erdogan tried to position Turkey, which is a member of NATO, as a neutral mediator close to both Moscow and Kiev.
Following his trip, Erdogan accused the West of having “worsened” the crisis.
“Unfortunately, the West has so far made no contribution to solving this problem,” he said in comments published Friday by local media.
“They’re only making it worse,” Erdogan said, adding that US President Joe Biden “hasn’t yet been able to demonstrate a positive approach.”
Russia’s relations with the West were badly damaged in 2014 when it annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and threw its political weight behind armed separatists in the east of the country.
Nearly eight years of fighting between Kiev and pro-Moscow fighters has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people and seen the West and Russia trade give and take waves of sanctions.
In the latest diplomatic flare-up, Putin demanded guarantees that Ukraine will not join NATO and implicitly threatened the former Soviet state with a huge military buildup.
Russia also wants NATO and the United States to renounce the deployment of missile systems near Russian borders and withdraw NATO forces in Eastern Europe.
These tensions have been heightened by plans for joint military exercises between Russia and neighboring Belarus, where Washington says Moscow is preparing to send 30,000 troops.
Russia said on Friday that units of its S-400 missile systems – which it recently sold to Turkey despite protests from NATO – had been delivered to Belarus ahead of exercises which begin next week.