Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to the U.S., issued a statement Tuesday about Russia’s unprovoked invasion and war in Ukraine. It comes in the aftermath of the public meeting at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, on February 4 this year between China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. The last time they met in person had been two years prior. Although China and Russia do not have a formal alliance, the purpose of their meeting was to issue a lengthy statement of over 5,000 words about the close friendship between the two nations, that it has “no limits” or “forbidden” areas of cooperation. The statement adds that China and Russia “oppose further enlargement of NATO.”
Ten months earlier, President Putin started amassing troops on Russia’s border with Ukraine, the largest nation in Europe (if Russia is not considered part of Europe since there are two different definitions of “Europe.”) Even though this collection of armed forces gained impetus in the fall of last year, Mr. Putin and other Russian authorities were repeatedly saying that this movement of troops was only for training purposes. In the months leading up to those Winter Olympic games, Putin regularly said he was not intending to have those troops invade Ukraine. That turned out to be a big lie, since Putin announced the invasion just as it was beginning, on February 24th.
By the time of that February 4th meeting, for which Putin traveled to Beijing and Xi hosted him there, Russia had amassed about 150,000 troops on Russia’s border with Ukraine and some of them on Belarus’ border with Ukraine since Belarus is now an ally of Russia. What made all of this so much more alarming was that Mr. Putin’s Russian armed forces had invaded the independent and democratic Ukraine in 2014 and, in armed conflict, Russia quickly overtook Ukraine’s prized territory of the Crimea Peninsula and annexed it to Russia.
That in itself makes it difficult to believe throughout last year that Mr. Putin was being honest in saying he was moving all of those troops a second time to the border with Ukraine with no intention of invading Ukraine to take more territory. As I said in a previous post, I think the West, namely NATO and perhaps the European Union, should have told Putin that Russia has a big land to train forces besides doing it right on its border with Ukraine and that if it did not promptly pull them back, NATO and the EU would send forces into Ukraine as well. The problem with this scenario was that these two entities had internal disagreement about such a subject. But now they do not, since the war in Ukraine is uniting them against Russia.
So, to me, it is also difficult to believe the main assertion of Ambassador Gang’s statement this week which says, “There have been claims that China had prior knowledge of Russia’s military action and demanded Russia delay it until the Winter Olympics concluded. Recent rumors further claimed that Russia was seeking military assistance from China. Let me say this responsibly: Assertions that China knew about, acquiesced to, or tacitly supported this war are purely disinformation.
. . . . . . . .
“China is committed to an independent foreign policy of peace. As a staunch champion of justice, China decides its position on the basis of the merits of the issue. On Ukraine, China’s position is objective and impartial: The purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter must be fully observed; the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, including Ukraine, must be respected.”
Ambassador Gang also in this statement called this present Russian invasion and conflict in Ukraine as “war.” Mr. Putin calls it a “special military operation.” He has recently gotten a law passed saying that if anyone in Russia calls it a “war,” they could be imprisoned for up to 15 years.
Since Russia had invaded and taken Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and it had amassed about 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s border by February 4th this year, and Putin and Xi made a pact that day about the friendship between China and Russia, it is difficult for me to believe that Mr. Xi at that time did not ask Mr. Putin if he intended to invade Ukraine in armed conflict. If Mr. Xi did not do this, it makes him and his advisors look very inept at governance.
What do you think?