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Vladimir Putin threatens to shatter Xi Jinping’s Olympic dream with war in Ukraine

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London/Moscow: As the United States and Europe mount increasingly frantic efforts to deter Russia from invading Ukraine, its Chinese President Xi Jinping may have the biggest influence on Vladimir Putin’s timetable.

The Russian president said he would join Xi at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing on February 4, where the Chinese leader lavished billions of dollars to show the world his superpower status. country.

The last thing Xi would need is for Putin to overshadow China’s big moment by triggering a global security crisis with the United States and Europe, analysts say. This is especially the case given that Xi seeks to bolster his prestige at home as he seeks endorsement for an unprecedented third term later this year.

Nations have often stood back to back on the world stage. They have worked together to block United Nations Security Council resolutions that are critical of one or the other and have aligned themselves on collective issues like North Korea. They reveled in the disorderly American withdrawal from Afghanistan. And they have remained largely neutral on declared actions of national interest like Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Xi called Putin an old friend whenthey chattedin mid-December, as the Russian leader hailed what he said was a responsible joint approach to addressing pressing global issues.

But launching an invasion of Ukraine in the middle of Xi’s Olympic moment could throw a wrench in such heat and risk dragging China into the diplomatic fray. It’s possible Xi asked Putin in his recent appeal not to invade Ukraine during the Games, according to a diplomat in Beijing who asked not to be identified when discussing such scenarios. The Chinese embassy in Russia rejected the prospect on Saturday, adding that Beijing had pleaded for a solution to the problems via the framework of the Minsk peace agreements.

Putin has repeatedly denied that he currently intends to attack Ukraine.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has stressed the importancebeijing tiesto the question to aJan. 14 press briefings. All countries should observe a traditional UN resolution on the Olympic truce from seven days before the start of the Olympics until seven days after the end of the Paralympics, a spokesperson said.

It’s a window stretching from January 28 to March 20, when the frozen winter landscape of eastern Ukraine begins to turn to sickening mud during the spring thaws that military analysts in Moscow and the West thinkhindera rapid Russian incursion. The China-sponsored UN resolution was passed by consensus last month, with Russia’s representativeurgingall nations to observe the truce.

Putin must consider the interests of ideological partners and behave as cautiously as possible, said Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center. If Putin invades, he will create a very negative backdrop for the Olympics.

Russia will likely wait until at least next week when it announces it will receive written responses from the United States to its security demands. After meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Geneva on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed Western hysteria over Ukraine and reiterated that Russia was not considering invading its neighbor, even as it massed some 100,000 troops near the border.

While Russia is less likely to immediately launch a full-scale invasion, it could opt for a more limited incursion into Ukraine around mid-February, said two people familiar with recent Western assessments. Other actions, including cyberattacks and attempts to destabilize Ukraine, could take place in parallel or precede an intervention. That assessment doesn’t mean a bigger invasion is out of the question, as Western allies have repeatedly said they don’t know Putin’s intentions.

Russian forces continue to arrive in Belarus for joint military exercises from February 10-20, amid US and NATO concerns they could be used to attack Ukraine from the north. The closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics will take place on February 20.

Putin and China have been here before. The 2008 war between Russia and Georgia erupted on the day of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Summer Olympics, much to the chagrin of Chinese leaders, prompting Putin to return home to direct military operations.

Days after Putin hosted the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, for which he spent a record $50 billion to stage the Games, Russian forces began their operation to annex the Crimea to Ukraine.

Putin plans to brief Xi on Russia’s demand for security guarantees from the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies when the two meet in Beijing, said on Tuesday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to the press. Although there has been no coordination between them on the issue, President Putin will naturally inform Xi of what is happening, he said.

Asked at a briefing this week about the possibility of a Russian invasion, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijingdefendersbalanced and fair treatment of security issues while calling on all parties to resolve their differences through dialogue and consultation.

Russia has little incentive to antagonize China, its biggest trading partner with total trade of $112 billion in 2020 and a giant consumer of Russian energy and minerals. China was the biggest importer of Russian coal, buying more than 29 million tonnes in 2020, or 15% of total exports, according to RBC Newssite.

Amid diplomatic efforts to defuse the current crisis, US President Joe Biden has issued increasingly urgent warnings of the risk of Russian aggression against Ukraine. The United States and Europe have threatened stiff sanctions in response if that happens, moves that could lead Putin to move even closer to China to mitigate the impact on Russia’s economy.

Still, some say that if Putin plans to act, he will do so at the best time for Russia, despite the potential fallout.

Putin cannot sacrifice Russia’s strategic interests and security to make a neighbor feel good, even if he is highly respected and strategically important, said Tatiana Stanovaya, political consultant and founder of R.Politik. If the Russian leader thinks the security talks with the United States are going nowhere, he will visit Ukraine, regardless of China’s request. Bloomberg


Read also : US refuses to step up sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, says limits options for future


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