The following editorial originally appeared in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune:
The three-day summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin is a testament to the increasingly tight ties between Beijing and Moscow. It shows just how hollow is Xi’s bid to be a peacemaker between Russia and Ukraine.
Xi’s visit is in effect China providing “diplomatic cover for Russia” to commit war crimes, Secretary of State Antony Blinken rightly said on Monday, adding that the summit “suggests China feels no responsibility to hold (Putin) accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine.”
The Russian atrocities following its invasion last year span several categories of crimes. Among the most heinous are the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian children, which are the basis of charges leveled by the International Criminal Court recently against Putin. While the court cannot try suspects in absentia, and while Russia does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction, the charges reflect the depravity of Putin’s actions.
The charges are “a step forward,” Melinda Haring, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, said. While it’s unlikely that it will have practical implications, Haring said that “symbolically it’s important” in Ukraine’s rightful quest to “redress grievances.”
Regarding the peace proposal proffered by Xi, Haring said that China is “playing a double game” of neutral posturing but won’t even identify Russia as the aggressor and won’t demand Russia withdraw the forces that illegally invaded a sovereign nation — positions that must be the base of any negotiation.
China and Russia are deepening a long-term partnership, if not yet a formal alliance, that is meant to be a counterbalance against the United States and the West, as well as like-minded Asian allies Japan and South Korea, plus Australia.
China “doesn’t want to disrupt that evolving relationship, which is very much to (its) benefit, in which Russia really is the junior partner,” Thomas Hanson, a former Foreign Service officer who is now chair of the Committee on Foreign Relations Minnesota and diplomat-in-residence at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said.
Xi, seeking to further burnish this image — particularly in developing nations where China presents itself as an alternative to Western-led leaders and protocols — may advance its cause while doing nothing to bring peace to Ukraine.
Even worse, China may still decide to directly arm Russia. If so, “it will extend the conflict indefinitely,” Haring said.
For years, Haring said, foreign policy analysts acknowledged that while both China and Russia are both authoritarian regimes, “their interests were different. It doesn’t look that way now.”
In response, countries united by their belief in democracy and common, codified international rules have to strengthen their common bonds.