Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have called on the West to “abandon the ideologized approaches of the Cold War” as the two leaders displayed their deepening “borderless” relationship amid a standoff between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.
Xi and Putin, who were in Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on February 4, met before the celebrations began.
The joint statement, noting that “the friendship between the two states has no borders, there are no ‘prohibited’ areas of cooperation,” came as Russia is estimated to have massed more than 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine and Europe Demands security guarantees, including a pledge never to accept Kiev into NATO.
With the crisis showing no signs of abating, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed in an appeal on February 4 that Western allies send a “clear and consistent” message to Russia about the implications of another invasion of Ukraine have to.
Johnson and Scholz also agreed on the importance of dialogue with Moscow and said they would try to use all available diplomatic channels to end current tensions.
“Prime Minister and Chancellor Scholz have underscored the need for allies to send a clear and consistent message to Russia, including on the implications of another Russian invasion of Ukraine,” read a British statement.
They also agreed to continue working jointly and with other international partners on a comprehensive package of sanctions, and Johnson stressed that these sanctions “should be immediately ready to go into effect in the event of another Russian invasion of Ukraine.” it said in the statement.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Feb. 4 to discuss Russia’s military buildup and steps “to encourage Russia to engage in diplomacy over the war and ensure security and stability.”
Blinken reiterated the willingness of the US and its allies to “impose swift and severe consequences against Russia if it decides to escalate,” the State Department said in a statement said.
Putin’s trip to China is his first face-to-face meeting with Xi since 2019 and comes as the two countries’ foreign policies become increasingly similar.
China’s relations with the West are also increasingly strained over Beijing’s human rights record, particularly its treatment of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province, its expansionist stance in the South China Sea and its actions in Hong Kong.
Putin told Xi that Russia was preparing a new deal to supply China with 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas from its Far East as unrest surrounding Ukraine threatens to derail the disputed Nord Stream 2 Baltic pipeline, which is expected to receive Russian gas deliveries will flow directly to Germany in the near future.
whirlwind of diplomacy
As diplomacy on the Ukraine crisis continues, the European Union warned Russia that it has put together a “robust and comprehensive” sanctions package against Moscow if Russia invades Ukraine.
“We have prepared a robust and comprehensive package of financial and economic sanctions,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on February 4 in an interview with the newspapers “Handeslblatt” and “Les Echos”. “Export controls, especially for technical goods.”
Von der Leyen said the pipeline is also part of the sanctions package. Whether the pipeline can go into operation “depends on the behavior of Russia,” she said.
“People close to Putin and oligarchs could of course be hit hard,” von der Leyen added.
In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke on the phone with both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on February 3, announced that he would travel to Russia on February 7 and Ukraine on February 8.
Macron will discuss the situation in Ukraine with the two leaders, the Elysee Palace said in a statement on February 4.
Zelenskyy hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on February 3, who offered to mediate Kiev’s standoff with Moscow.
Erdogan said Turkey was “ready to do its part to end the crisis between two friendly nations who are their Black Sea neighbors”.
Erdogan is the latest leader of a NATO country to visit Kiev amid increased diplomacy to defuse tensions over Russia’s military buildup near the border with Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on February 3 accused Moscow of massing some 30,000 combat troops and advanced weapons in Belarus ahead of planned joint military exercises later this month. Stoltenberg called Russia’s deployment in Belarus the largest since the end of the Cold War
Stoltenberg’s announcement came after Washington said it would send thousands of troops to Europe to bolster NATO allies amid an ongoing standoff sparked by Russia’s massive troop buildup.