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CFR: Putin-Xi Summit Strengthens Anti-American Partnership

26.03.2023
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According to T.Graham

As part of the Chinese leader's official state visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Xi Jinping highlighted their growing strategic interconnection, which aims to flip the US-led rules-based international order in favor of a multipolar world. The summit, saturated with symbolism and practically devoid of concrete content, nevertheless served the goals of both leaders.

Putin has been able to demonstrate that Russia has not been and cannot be isolated on the world stage as Western sanctions deepen relations with one of the world's two superpowers. By demonstrating new commercial ties and unveiling plans to expand them, Putin expressed confidence that Russia could remain resilient in the face of harsh Western restrictions.

Meanwhile, Xi's decision to make his first foreign visit to Moscow in his third term underscored his firm commitment to Russia and to Putin personally. He used the summit to highlight China's determination to advance its national interests against growing US economic and diplomatic pressure, stressing that China will not give up its strategic partner in the fight against US claims to world leadership. It was an important message to his increasingly nationalist domestic audience, as well as to the Global South, where the US-led liberal order is under pressure.

At the same time, Xi has subtly signaled that China is the dominant partner. Putin had no choice but to accept Xi's proposal that Russia use the yuan rather than the ruble in trade with the Global South to reduce the role of the US dollar in world trade. Xi also unexpectedly backed Putin for re-election in 2024, even though the Russian president has yet to announce his intention to run. And during the joint press at the end of the summit, Xi was far more reserved in describing bilateral relations than Putin, who was keen to lay out all the areas in which the two countries will strengthen cooperation in the coming years. This gave the clear impression that Russia needed China much more than China needed Russia.

What does the summit mean for Ukraine?

Nothing at the summit indicated that the underlying dynamic of the fighting was about to change. As expected, Beijing continued to provide Moscow with strong diplomatic support, echoing its claims of blaming the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for the conflict. However, despite Washington's concerns, Xi did not signal that China was ready to provide lethal military assistance that could radically improve Russia's chances on the battlefield. Putin noted that China's recently released 12-point peace plan could serve as a basis for negotiations, but neither he nor Xi have proposed any practical steps that could give meaning to what is largely a list of assertions about respecting sovereignty, preventing escalation and the pursuit of a diplomatic solution.

 

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