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‘No Hope’: Ukraine Lawmakers Dismiss China Peace Talk After Putin-Xi Meet

Chinese leader Xi Jinping departed Moscow on Wednesday having flattered his “dear friend” Vladimir Putin with a high-profile state visit at an otherwise delicate moment for Russia’s president, whose campaign to make Kyiv bend the knee has run far over schedule.

Putin is now the first leader of a permanent member of the UN Security Council with an arrest warrant to his name for possible war crimes. For his troubles, his Chinese opposite number was received with a red carpet, brass brand, big flags, and small tables.

Xi’s strides into the Kremlin were effortless; China’s third-term president is comfortable with his reaffirmed political stature, confident in Beijing’s position on the international stage, and convinced of his decision to back Putin to the hilt. He even endorsed Putin’s electoral prospects before the Russian leader himself was ready to announce another run for the office he has held on and off for two decades.

Xi, who is expected to sit atop the Communist Party’s hierarchy for at least another five years, had described his three-day visit with Putin as “a journey of friendship, cooperation, and peace.” That was indeed the order of priorities, according to their public remarks.

Despite some early expectations that Xi would elevate the Chinese peace proposal for Ukraine, the yearlong war became something of an afterthought as the two leaders put on an unmistakable display of unity in the face of Western pressure. The talks did little to bolster Xi’s peacemaking credentials, Ukrainian lawmakers said.

“China is not interested in Ukraine winning the war and returning all its occupied territories. Victory for Ukraine would mean for China victory for democracy and the defeat of its strategic partner without limits. China will do everything to prevent it from happening,” Oleksandr Merezhko , a member of the Ukrainian parliament, told Newsweek.

“The China-Russia relationship is mature, stable, independent, and resilient,” said a Putin-Xi joint statement to cement their comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era, a title Beijing reserves exclusively for its quasi-alliance with Moscow. “Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, and China needs a strong and successful Russia.”

They again declared support for one another’s “core interests”—sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, and development. And “large-group talks” with Russian delegations led by cabinet-level officials resulted in a second joint statement on cooperation across national industries through 2030, China’s foreign ministry said in a readout.

“China and Russia regard each other as priority partners for cooperation, always respect each other, and treat each other as equals, serving as a model for major power relations today,” Xi and Putin agreed.

At home, however, China’s leaders are cognizant of the Kremlin’s moment of relative vulnerability and the timeliness of their diplomatic relief. State media has presented Xi’s trip as having offered instruction and counsel to his Russian counterpart, according to independent scholar Philip Cunningham, author of the Substack newsletter China Storywhich watches the carefully choreographed news programs of Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

“The optics of the summit clearly favored Xi. Any talk of equal footing is just rhetorical,” Cunningham told Newsweek. “On CCTV, the meeting between the two mostly focuses on Xi talking. What surprised me most was not only that Putin can be seen dutifully taking notes, but CCTV repeats this abject clip about 10 times, as if Putin were just a schoolboy.”

“Xi,” said Cunningham, “never takes notes.”

Putin also committed to more market access for Chinese companies than was granted to Russian industry actors, according to Russia watchers who scrutinized the multi-year agreements covering energy, finance, trade, technology, agriculture, space, and more. The deals will increase Russia’s growing use of China’s yuan for export settlements, currency holdings, and securities exchanges amid restricted access to the dollar and euro.

“Russia’s economic isolation has created lucrative business opportunities for Chinese firms, many of which are state backed. Beijing remains keen to provide Moscow with a financial lifeline, so long as it can avoid eliciting a strong US response in the process,” said Craig Singleton , a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Perhaps most interesting is that China’s actions to date appear aimed at ensuring Russia has what it needs to sustain its wartime economy—not actually win the war,” Singleton told Newsweek.

“For its part, Russia can turn to few other countries to help bolster its economy—and Beijing knows it, which is why China will continue to extract lucrative concessions from Russia on a range of fronts,” he said. “Yet, China runs the real risk of being seen as taking advantage of Russia’s economic isolation for its own benefit, which could potentially aggravate long-standing tensions between Chinese and Russian elites.”

Beijing extracted meaningful political benefits, too. After a year of Chinese equivocation on Russia’s decision to puncture Europe’s long peace, Putin appears more willing than ever to back Xi’s own security concerns in Asia, which also happen to revolve around the postwar military posture of the United States and its regional allies.

Their joint statement, which identified America as the main antagonist, called for the withdrawal of nuclear weapons deployed overseas and warned of “the consequences and risks to regional strategic stability” associated with AUKUS, the agreement by the US and UK to share nuclear-powered submarine technology with Australia.

“The two sides also express serious concern about NATO’s continued strengthening of military-security ties with Asia-Pacific countries, which undermines regional peace and stability,” said the Russian and Chinese leaders. “The two sides oppose the piecing together of closed and exclusive blocs in the region to manufacture bloc politics and camp confrontation.”

Russia’s ongoing invasion was beset with errors from the start: It overestimated the readiness of its own troops, underestimated Ukrainian resistance, and misread the West’s willing to inflict long-term economic pain, often at its own immediate expense. But amid a sea of ​​miscalculations, Xi was Putin’s one good bet.

“When discussing topical international and regional problems, the president and I affirmed that Russia and China’s views on them are identical or very close,” Putin said of Xi. “We can see that the practice of applying illegitimate, politically biased sanctions and other restrictions, and the use of other means of unfair competition in the economic struggle, is expanding.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping departed Moscow on Wednesday having flattered his “dear friend” Vladimir Putin with a high-profile state visit at an otherwise delicate moment for Russia’s president, whose campaign to make Kyiv bend the knee has run far over schedule.

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