Russia ‘stumbling’ in Ukraine may influence China says Green
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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s isolation is reaching new heights, as even China’s Xi Jinping, who only in February declared a “no limits” friendship with him, seems to be taking some distance. According to Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace, Beijing “is rather embarrassed” by the dictator’s latest moves. His thoughts are echoed by others.
In nearly three months of war, China has refused to condemn Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and fallen short of discrediting Russian disinformation.
Yet, it hasn’t shown direct support for the Kremlin’s war efforts, either.
Mr Wallace thinks the way the conflict is playing out for his autocratic counterpart goes against Beijing’s interests.
He said: “I think China views instability [as] bad for business.
“I think probably China is rather embarrassed by the behaviour of Putin. He’s a rather inconvenient friend, and … you don’t see a full-throated support.”
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China and Russia, despite not sharing an official alliance, currently enjoy the best relations they have had since the late Fifties.
Beijing’s apparent estrangement from Moscow could be linked to concerns the US will use its global force and financial influence to curb China as it is now doing with Russia.
China might be the world’s second-largest economy, but it is nonetheless fragile and can certainly not afford the kind of isolation Russia is facing, given it relies on Brussels and Washington for more than one-quarter of its total trade.
Its relationship with Russia is, to a certain extent, also competitive.
As the two nations seek power everywhere from the Arctic and Central Asia to Central Africa, neither wants the other to dominate too much territory.
The invasion, which is likely to leave the Kremlin in a weaker position, could grant Beijing advantage, with Mr Wallace saying Moscow is “really worried” about China monopolising the high north.
The disproportionately large losses among Russia’s military, which according to the defence secretary are demoralising leadership at the Kremlin, are only set to exacerbate said vulnerabilities.
While exact figures for the number of fatalities are difficult to verify and confirm, the Russian death toll now stands at more than 25,000, as per the Land Forces of Ukraine’s latest figures.
Western estimates are somewhat lower, though still place the losses above 15,000.
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With the defence secretary and other top officials, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, having branded Russia a “pariah state”, Mr Wallace’s question seems key when looking at Moscow’s international future: “How many world leaders are going to be taking Putin on line two?”
Rare remarks by a former Chinese ambassador to Ukraine may serve as a hint at what lies ahead for Moscow.
Retired diplomat Gao Yusheng, who served as China’s top envoy in Kyiv from late 2005 to early 2007, said Russia was headed for defeat and being “significantly weakened” by the conflict.
The comments, which he reportedly made speaking at a recent Chinese Academy of Social Sciences-backed seminar, have not been verified.
Mr Gao, who had previously been posted in Moscow at the time of the Soviet Union’s fall in 1991, described the war as the “most important” international event since the Cold War ended
According to an article published by Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television before being taken down, he said: “The so-called revival or revitalisation of Russia under the leadership of Putin is a false proposition that does not exist at all.
“The failure of the Russian blitzkrieg, the failure to achieve a quick outcome, indicates that Russia is beginning to fail.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a news briefing on Wednesday he was “not aware” of Mr Gao’s speech – a response that was left out of the official transcript.
Some well-known nationalist commentators questioned whether the former ambassador’s remarks had been faked.
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