Ukraine: what will China do? There are signs he is uncomfortable with Putin’s methods | Russia

China’s decision to abstain Friday night at the end of the UN Security Council’s vote condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may be a source of deep frustration in the west, but it will also send a earthquake in the Russian Foreign Ministry that China’s protection is not unconditional.

UK-based diplomats, reviewing China’s stance mid-week, expected Beijing to join Russia in voting against the US-sponsored motion, but like the UAE States and India, he abstained, leaving Russia isolated in deploying its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council.

On one level, the vote represents the line of least resistance for China and can be seen as a safe return to China’s longstanding support for the inviolability of borders and the defense of non-interference in the affairs of sovereign states. But there are tentative signs that China is uncomfortable with being seen as defending Putin’s methods and the potential disruption of the global economy.

Putin may have shown his respect for China by delaying the invasion after the Winter Olympics, but China was not consulted about the invasion. Chinese diplomats ridiculed predictions of an invasion and left many citizens behind. The Deep Partnership Agreement signed with Russia on February 4, the opening day of the Beijing Winter Olympics, did not include any invasion. China takes advantage of the existing world order and finds the instability troubling. The prospect of Russia being locked out of the Swift payment system could benefit Chinese efforts to build an alternative, but the short-term disruption is worrying.

It was noted, for example, on Friday that Russia offered high-level talks with Ukraine in Minsk, albeit on unacceptable terms, after a conversation between Putin and President Xi Jinping.

Ahead of the vote, China’s foreign minister received three calls from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Emmanuel Bonne, diplomatic adviser to President Emmanuel Macron. China said in the calls it reiterated its support for non-interference and the UN charter, but also expressed sympathy for Russia’s sense of being threatened by the five rounds of expansion. successors of NATO.

But even as China contorts itself into stubbornly refusing to portray Putin’s actions as an invasion, it has come close to including Russia in its criticisms.

China stressed on Friday that “it is absolutely imperative that all parties exercise the necessary restraint in order to prevent the situation in Ukraine from deteriorating or even spiraling out of control. The security of life and property of ordinary people must be effectively safeguarded and, in particular, large-scale humanitarian crises must be avoided.

Ukraine, he said, should be a communication bridge between East and West, not the front line of clashes between big countries. This, by implication, suggests that China would favor Ukraine being a neutral state.

The risk for Russia is that if it falls into pariah status, it will remain as a supplicant rather than a future partner of China. Within 10 years, Europe will have freed itself from dependence on Russian gas and oil – it has become a pressing emergency in Rome and Berlin. Russia will depend on China as a customer.

There is another danger for Russia. China is proud of its influence in Africa. All African representatives on the Security Council voted against Russia. Kenya’s ambassador did so by insisting that he had opposed previous Western military interventions.

Other broader tests of African opinion are imminent.

Washington wants Russia’s guilt tested further ahead of the 193-member general assembly at which all members vote. A broad alliance is forming behind the Ukraine cause. In a debate on Wednesday, countries from Guatemala to Turkey to Japan condemned Russia’s membership of self-declared breakaway republics or voiced support for Ukraine.

In 2014, after the capture of Crimea by Russia, the General Assembly passed a resolution declaring the Russian referendum in Crimea invalid. It received 100 votes for, 11 against and 58 abstentions, while two dozen countries did not vote. The stakes will be slightly different if there is a new vote, but the invasion has been more open than in 2014, social media more ubiquitous and China, whose status is growing on the world stage, has less ease in to hide. With greater power perhaps will come greater responsibility.

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