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Xi & "friend" Putin could call for Ukraine ceasefire

Xi & "friend" Putin could call for Ukraine ceasefire
Xi & "friend" Putin could call for Ukraine ceasefire | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

The big story geopolitically is Xi Jinping's trip to Moscow, a three-day state visit, by far the most geopolitically significant summit of the year since the Russian invasion, frankly, a year ago. And also a deeply problematic geopolitical summit, in the sense that it goes strongly against the interests of the United States and all of its allies. Let's keep in mind this summit comes on the back of the International Criminal Court, that is recognized by 123 countries around the world, though not by Russia, the U.S. or China, declaring that Putin is a war criminal and that he should be arrested by any member state if he travels there. Indeed, the German government's already announced, if Putin were to go to Germany, that's it, they're arresting him. Never going to happen. But nonetheless, on the back of that, and then Putin's trip to Crimea and his trip to Mariupol occupied Ukrainian territory over this weekend. Mariupol, first time, he's been in territory the Russians have taken since February 24th.

All of that obviously told to Xi Jinping before the trip was being made. And now, you see these two men, these two authoritarian leaders side-by-side on a global stage. And by far, the friendliest meetup they have had, since February 4th, a year ago when Putin made that trip to Beijing during the Olympics, and they declared that they were friends without global limits. This is very different from what we saw from Putin and Xi Jinping the last time they met in-person back in September. That was in Samarkand. It was the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. That was where Putin was on the back foot, he had lost a fair amount of territory from a Ukrainian counteroffensive. His military was underperforming. And indeed, Putin had to publicly recognize that the Chinese had concerns about the Russian War in Ukraine. He's not recognizing that right now.

In fact, what Putin and Xi Jinping are talking about is an opening of negotiations with the Ukrainians, that the Ukrainians are not prepared to accept the potential of a ceasefire on Ukraine, which would allow the Russians to keep the territory they've occupied right now, which the Ukrainians, of course, would not accept.

This is Putin feeling much more comfortable about his geopolitical alignment, at least as far as China is concerned. And that's his most important, most powerful friend on the global stage. Why is that happening right now? Well, number one, it's a bookend to what happened just a couple of weeks ago when Xi Jinping in Beijing was an unprecedented fashion, making comments against the United States, saying that, "Confrontation would come if the U.S. maintained its position of attempting to contain China." We've not seen Xi Jinping call out the Americans directly like that, since he came to office for the first time a decade ago. So he's unhappy with his role vis-a-vis China. That was particularly true when the Americans came out publicly with intelligence that showed that the Chinese were negotiating to provide direct military equipment to Russia, the U.S., the UK and NATO all publicly disclosing that information and warning the Chinese that sanctions would, come direct sanctions if they were to proceed with it.

In other words, exactly the way the Americans treated the Russians with the intelligence they had before the invasion into Ukraine. The Russians denied that invasion. The Chinese denied that they were sending any weapons to Russia. The intelligence seems very hard from what I've heard from a number of actors that have seen it. The point is that the Chinese really didn't like being treated the same way that the Americans were treating the Russians. Of course, in part, that's driving them into a more public relationship with Putin that is warmer and friendlier. At the same time, China also sees, believes that time is increasingly on Russia's side. They don't want their friends, the Russians, to lose this war, but they also see divisions, especially in the United States with Republicans trying to run for the presidency. People like Trump, in particular, but also to a degree, DeSantis and others that are trying to caution against the level of support the Americans are presently providing to Ukraine. And something that the Chinese, of course, would like to see the back of.

So for all of these reasons, this Xi Jinping visit to Russia is a very big deal. I don't believe that the Chinese will actually start providing weapons to the Russians, at least not unless the Russians start performing very, very badly indeed on the ground. So, we'll watch and see how the counteroffensive goes in the coming weeks. I expect the Ukrainians will grab at least some ground, because the issue of the artillery that they've desperately needed, the ammunition appears to have been resolved by the United States and its allies. That should allow the Ukrainians to start a significant counteroffensive in coming weeks. But it also means they need to take a lot of territory back, because otherwise the potential that U.S. support will start to weaken as we get towards 2024, that the US will be more divided and the Europeans will become more divided on the back of that.

That is a big concern, indeed. Now, the big question for the next 24 hours is, will China directly call for a ceasefire and will the Russians support that? I think it is possible. Let's keep in mind that Xi Jinping and Putin are not constrained by checks and balances, by separation of power, by rule of law, which doesn't exist in their country. So if Putin, Xi Jinping individually decide that's what they want to say, they can and they will. The Ukrainians, of course, will have a very hard time with that. They'd have a hard time with calling for negotiations. Let's also keep in mind that while Xi Jinping has a three-day state visit to Russia, they have not yet announced a date for even a phone call, a video call with the Ukrainian President, Zelensky. So while Ukraine is being careful in what he's saying about the Chinese publicly, he absolutely knows that China is playing ball here for the Russians. There is no honest broker, in terms of China's interests in bringing this war to a close.

So Ukraine's in a bit more of a challenging position today, than they were a week ago. Russia certainly feeling stronger than they were a week ago. China feeling on the back of this peace breakthrough that they have resolved with the Saudis and the Iranians, that the Americans were no part of. Now, Xi Jinping is in Moscow, not the message that if you are a NATO country, you want to be seeing coming out of the Kremlin right now.


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