According to a US official, Russia requested military supplies from China for use in its invasion of Ukraine, escalating tensions over the ongoing conflict ahead of a Monday summit in Rome between top advisers from the US and Chinese administrations.
Prior to the discussions, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan issued a harsh warning to China not to assist Russia in evading global sanctions that have wreaked havoc on the Russian economy. “We will not allow it to happen,” he stated emphatically.
President Joe Biden is concerned about the possibility of China providing financial assistance to Russia. Russia had recently requested help from China, including military weapons, to go forward in its current battle with Ukraine, according to a US official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive subjects. The scope of the request was not specified by the official. The Financial Times and The Washington Post were the first to report on the request.
China is also being accused by the Biden administration of propagating Russian misinformation, which might be used as an excuse for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces to invade Ukraine with chemical or biological weapons.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has put China in a precarious position with two of its most important commercial partners: the United States and the European Union. China requires access to those markets, but it has also shown support for Moscow, professing a partnership with “no bounds” alongside Russia.
Sullivan will be searching for boundaries in what Beijing would do for Moscow in his discussions with top Chinese foreign policy advisor Yang Jiechi.
In a round of Sunday news program appearances, he told CNN, “I’m not going to sit here publicly and brandish threats.” “But what I will tell you is that we are speaking directly and informally with Beijing that there will be absolutely no consequences” if China assists Russia in “backfilling” its sanctions losses.
“We will not allow that to happen, and we will not allow any country in the world to provide a lifeline to Russia through economic sanctions,” he added.
Zhao Lijian, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, did not mention Ukraine in his brief remarks on the discussions, adding that the “main subject of this meeting is to execute the crucial accord made by the Chinese and US heads of state in their virtual summit in November last year.”
“They will discuss China-US ties as well as international and regional problems of mutual concern,” Zhao said late Sunday on the ministry’s website.
The discussions, according to the White House, will center on the direct impact of Russia’s conflict on Ukraine on regional and global security.
Officials from the Biden administration believe that Beijing is disseminating bogus Russian assertions that Ukraine was conducting chemical and biological weapons laboratories with American assistance. They claim that if Russia goes forward with a biological or chemical weapons strike against Ukrainians, China will effectively provide cover.
“It’s a good indication that they may be on the verge of doing it themselves,” Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” When Russia accuses other nations of preparing biological or chemical assaults, Sullivan said, “it’s a good tell that they may be on the edge of doing it themselves.”
“We haven’t seen anything that signals any type of imminent chemical or biological strike right now,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on ABC’s “This Week,” but “we’re monitoring this very, very closely.”
The startling US claims of Russian misinformation and Chinese collusion came after Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova claimed that the US was funding Ukrainian chemical and biological weapons laboratories based on no proof.
The Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson Zhao Lijian reiterated the Russian assertion, claiming that the US Department of Defense had “total authority” over 26 bio-labs and related facilities. The United Nations has stated that it has received no evidence to support such allegations.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, termed the charges “preposterous.”
According to a person familiar with administration thinking, there is growing worry inside the White House that China is aligning itself with Russia on the Ukraine crisis in the hopes of advancing Beijing’s “view of the international order” in the long run. The source talked on the condition of anonymity because he or she was not allowed to speak publicly.
The Russian rhetoric on chemical and biological warfare is “an signal that, in reality, the Russians are getting ready to conduct it and try to lay the responsibility elsewhere,” Sullivan said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Russia deployed chemical weapons in an effort to murder Putin critics Alexei Navalny and former spy Sergei Skripal, according to the international community. Russia also backs Syria’s Assad regime, which has used chemical weapons on its own people throughout the country’s decade-long civil war.
China is one of the few countries that has not condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Just three weeks before Russia invaded on February 24, China’s leader Xi Jinping received Putin for the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
During Putin’s visit, the two leaders published a 5,000-word statement pledging their relationship to be boundless.
China has denounced economic penalties against Russia and refrained from voting on UN resolutions condemning Russia. Despite concerns about its impartiality and lack of expertise resolving international conflicts, it has indicated support for peace negotiations and offered its services as a mediator.
However, it is unclear how far Beijing will go to alienate the West and jeopardize its own economy. According to Sullivan, China and all other nations have been warned that they cannot “essentially bail Russia out… offer Russia a workaround to the sanctions” without consequences.
On CNN, Sullivan stated that the US believes China was aware that Putin was “planning something” before to the invasion of Ukraine. “It’s quite probable that Putin lied to them the same way he lied to Europeans and others,” he said, adding that the Chinese leadership “may not have realized the whole magnitude of it.”
Sullivan and Yang last met in person in Switzerland, when Sullivan expressed worry about China’s military provocations against Taiwan, human rights violations against ethnic minorities, and efforts to silence pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
That encounter paved the way for a three-hour virtual conference between Biden and Xi in November.
While in Rome, Sullivan will meet Luigi Mattiolo, the diplomatic aide to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.