Russian President Vladimir Putin had visited China to boost the morale of his “dear friend” Xi Jinping at a time when the United States and its allies boycotted the Beijing Winter Olympics citing’s the communist country’s human rights record.
A joint statement released later reaffirmed their support for each other’s foreign policy – including Russia’s support for China over Taiwan.
A month later, Beijing has come to the defense of Putin when the same Western world has hit Russia with a barrage of sanctions after it launched a full-scale military operation against Ukraine.
The US and NATO countries have unequivocally condemned Russia’s action and have imposed unprecedented sanctions on its banking system, high-profile individuals, and most notably, on its defense industry.
Even as China has consistently called for “all parties” to relinquish violence, it has been very measured in its response to the events unfolding in Ukraine.
According to Chinese analysts, the sanctions are not as effective as the US believes, because Russia’s defense sector is self-sufficient and does not rely on Western technologies, state-run Global Times reported.
US imposes blocking sanctions on 22 Russian defence entities
Following Russia's operation in Ukraine# last Thursday, global reactions continue, with diplomatic pressure and international threats and sanctions against Russia on the risehttps://t.co/JxpU02yZRK pic.twitter.com/y4hCnN4ChM
— Mehr News Agency (@MehrnewsCom) March 2, 2022
The report further said that Russian equipment deployed in real combat might actually serve as high-quality marketing.
China’s decision to refrain from denouncing Russia in clear words demonstrates that it is treading carefully on this issue. Analysts in China have also speculated that the US will not impose sanctions on India under CAATSA because of its backing for the Indo-Pacific policy aimed at pinning down China.
The US State Department sanctions targeting 22 Russian firms that make combat aircraft, infantry fighting vehicles, electronic warfare systems, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles for Russia’s military were announced by the Biden administration earlier this week.
The White House said sanctions would “impose significant costs on Russian weapons development and manufacturing companies,” according to Defense News.
The warmer ties between Russia and China are based on their shared rivalry with the United States and its allies. Both states share close trade, diplomatic and military ties and are currently cooperating on an array of projects, especially a lunar base to come up soon.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV analyst, told the Global Times that the latest US sanctions will not be damaging to Russia. He explained that the Russian defense industry is self-sufficient, and the majority of its weapons do not utilize Western technologies.
He further contended that if the sanctions raise the cost of weapons and equipment, it will be due to inflation, and Russia will be able to overcome the financial sanctions it confronts.
The US Congressional Research Service had earlier stated that Russia is the world’s second-largest arms exporter behind the United States, with yearly sales of more than $13 billion.
According to reports, a US State Department source informed legislators that Russia will be unable to make new sales or provide maintenance to clients on current systems.
The export of weapons and military equipment is a major source of revenue for Russia, and while targeting this sector could hurt the country, Chinese analysts say it’s easier said than done.
However, no Chinese source has so far said if there are any plans to substitute Western military component support to Russia. The reason behind a silence on aiding the Russian defense industry could be the moral dilemma that China is faced with.
China said that “We will monitor the situation and call on all sides to exercise restraint, avoid escalation and ensure the safety of relevant nuclear facilities” after a fire broke out at a nuclear plant in Ukraine on March 4.
For its part, China has made sure to take a few measures aimed at signaling its opposition to violence. For example, China-based AIIB recently froze lending to Russia and Belarus over the Ukraine war. On the other hand, its state media has been relentlessly broadcasting Russian propaganda, unlike other countries.
India, Turkey, and Iran are the primary buyers of Russian armaments. India and Iran, with the exception of Turkey, a NATO member, are not under US influence, according to the analyst. “Since Iran was booted out of SWIFT, its military commerce with Russia must have been paid in other, non-US-controlled ways,” the analyst concluded.
Some observers have noted that the expulsion of more than a dozen Russian banks from the global SWIFT payment system could actually give leverage to its Chinese equivalent, Cross Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) although it lacks the capacity to entirely replace the SWIFT.
The majority of Russia’s weaponry is exported to five countries: Algeria, China, Egypt, India, and Vietnam. India has been traditionally using Russian armaments. It has recently acquired the S-400 aid defense system and signed a major deal with Moscow to co-produce AK-203 rifles in India.
Additionally, an Indo-Russia joint venture is already in place for the development of the BrahMos, considered the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile.
Notably, India and China were among the countries which abstained from voting on UN resolution against Russia over the Ukraine invasion.
States That Won’t Turn Against Russia
The UN General Assembly recently passed a resolution condemning Russia’s “aggression against Ukraine” and calling on Moscow to remove its forces and put an end to the war. The action was intended to isolate Russia diplomatically.
About 141 of the 193 UNGA members voted in favor of the resolution, while 35 countries abstained from voting, including India and China, and four countries – Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria that explicitly supported Russia’s position.
Even as India’s decision to abstain caused discomfort among its partners in the West that had urged it to take one side, China’s move was viewed as its covert support to Moscow. A US official later claimed that India had canceled a military deal with Russia.
However, another partner of the US in the Middle East, the UAE, also joined India and China in abstaining from the vote.
Belarus, which is the only ally of Moscow in the region, has been used as a launchpad for invading Russian troops. Russia amassed its troops and weapons at the Belarusian border with Ukraine days before the military operation was launched.
Further, NATO allies had previously accused Belarus of manufacturing a migrant crisis to Poland at Russia’s behest. It is only natural for Belarus, led by a Russian-backed dictator, to vote against the resolution.
The crisis in Ukraine is being blamed by North Korea as a result of “hegemonic policies” and “high-handedness” by the US and the West.
The country’s foreign ministry declared the West guilty of “abuse of power.” North Korea remains locked in a dispute with the United States and its allies and has been sanctioned by them for building nuclear-capable missiles.
Its disdain of the US makes it a natural supporter of Russia. Further, Russia has called on the UN to lift sanctions from Pyongyang.
While Eritrea has stayed relatively silent on the issue, as it does on most international issues, Syria has reportedly blamed the violence on the US-led NATO military alliance’s eastward expansion. It is noteworthy that Russia is an important ally of Bashar al Assad’s government and has turned the tide of the war in the government’s favor.
The world at present remains heavily polarized on the question of condemning Russia. On one hand, there are countries that remain opposed to its actions in Ukraine despite their own interests being at stake, on the other, there are those who support Russia by virtue of shared ideas or their dependence on Moscow and then there are those that can’t take sides.