Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu hailed military cooperation held between their countries amid tensions with the West over the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
During a meeting with Li in Moscow on Sunday, Putin touted his country’s defense cooperation with China and said that joint military exercises, including ground, naval, and air force drills, were held in Europe and the Far East, Reuters reported. Li’s visit comes a month after Chinese President Xi Jinping met with the Russian leader in Moscow in an effort to assert their “no limits” partnership as they strengthen their economic, political, and defense cooperation.
“I think that it is another major area, which strengthens the trust-based, strategic character of our relations, relations between Russia and China,” Putin said of their defense cooperation on Sunday, according to the Russian news agency Tass. He also added that the Chinese defense minister “has quite a rich working program” in Russia.
“We are working actively through our military departments, regularly exchange useful information, work together in the field of military-technical cooperation, and hold joint exercises,” Putin also said, according to Reuters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping enter a hall during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21. Putin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu hailed military cooperation held between their countries amid tensions with the West over the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
Photo by ALEXEY MAISHEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
Li is meeting his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu between Sunday and Tuesday to discuss “the current state and prospects for the development of bilateral cooperation in the defense sphere, as well as current issues of global and regional security,” according to Tass.
Meanwhile, the United States has been keeping an eye on recent Chinese-Russian cooperation, warning Beijing against providing weapons or military aid to Russian troops in the war-torn Ukraine.
In February, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. had information that China was “strongly considering providing lethal assistance to Russia.”
“To the best of our knowledge, they haven’t crossed that line yet,” he told Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press. Additionally, CIA Director William Burns said on CBS News’ Face the Nation in February that the U.S. is “confident that the Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment.”
Those statements angered Chinese officials, with Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, saying in that same month that “it is the United States, not China, that is continually sending weapons to the battlefield.” Wang also accused the U.S. of “shifting blame and spreading disinformation.”
“The U.S. has no right to give orders to China, and we have never accepted the U.S.’s finger-pointing at China-Russia relations, let alone pressure or coercion,” Wang added. “Who is calling for peace talks? And who is stoking the fire and encouraging confrontation? The international community can see for itself.”
From the very early start of the war in Ukraine, which started last February, China has adopted a position that it wouldn’t arm Moscow as it tries to avoid being part of the conflict, and has been repeatedly cautioned by the U.S. against drifting away from that position.
Western nations, including NATO members, have been supplying Ukraine with advanced military equipment, tanks, and artillery as well as humanitarian aid to help the Eastern European country defeat Russian troops in a fight that extended throughout major Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, Odessa, Kherson, and intensified most recently in Bakhmut, which is located in the Donetsk region.