The Russian government has asked China to provide military equipment and economic support for its ongoing invasion of Russia, according to U.S. officials who spoke with the New York Times, Financial Times and the Washington Post on Sunday.
All three outlets reported that the U.S. officials declined to specify what types of military equipment Russia is requesting, with one citing the need to protect their methods of information collection.
One source familiar with the alleged Russian requests for support told Financial Times said there are some indications China is preparing to provide the requested assistance. The official said the U.S. is, in turn, preparing to warn its allies if China does extend support to Russia.
Russia’s alleged requests for additional military equipment comes as the Ukrainian side has claimed to have damaged or destroyed 58 Russian planes, 83 helicopters, 362 tanks, 1,205 armored vehicles of various types, 135 artillery pieces, 62 multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS), 33 anti-aircraft systems, 60 fuel tankers, seven unmanned aerial vehicles and three warships since the Russian invasion began.
China has traditionally bought much of its weapons from Russia, rather than the other way around; however, China has advanced missile and drone technologies that Russia could use in its war in Ukraine.
It is also not exactly clear what type of economic support Russia may have requested from China, but China may help Russia circumvent the wave of new sanctions that the U.S. and other countries have placed on it since the start of its invasion of Ukraine.
“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN in an interview Sunday.
During a Monday press conference, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lijian Zhao was asked about the alleged Russian requests for military support from China.
Zhao responded by saying, “Recently, the US has been maliciously spreading disinformation targeting China. China’s position on the Ukraine issue is consistent and clear. We have been playing a constructive part in promoting peace talks. The top priority at the moment is for all parties to exercise restraint, cool the situation down instead of adding fuel to the fire, and work for diplomatic settlement rather than further escalate the situation.”
Zhao was asked a second time during the Monday press conference to specifically answer whether Russia had requested support from China. Zhao did not specifically deny whether Russia has made such requests.
“In my previous answer . . I already made it clear that the US has been spreading disinformation,” Zhao repeated. “China has elaborated on its position on China-Russia relations on multiple occasions.”
China has also been careful to avoid criticizing Russia specifically for the fighting in Ukraine. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has avoided calling Russia’s actions in Ukraine an invasion but it has cast blame on the U.S. for the ongoing conflict.
“U.S. has been fueling the flame, fanning up the flame, how do they want to put out the fire?” Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying said hours after Russian forces crossed over Ukraine’s borders.
In February, a Chinese media outlet also appeared to accidentally leak instructions that advised the press to avoid sharing posts that are unfavorable to Russia or favorable to Western assessments of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The Washington Post has assessed that China is likely wary of fully supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as China often cites issues of sovereignty in response to criticisms of its actions in its territories, such as Hong Kong and Xinjiang. The Washington Post said China likely wants to foster its ties with Russia, but avoid further deteriorating already strained relations with the west.
Ming Jinwei, a commentator and senior editor for Xinhua — the official Chinese state press agency — said in a WeChat blog post last month, “Simply put, China has to back Russia up with emotional and moral support while refraining from treading on the toes of the United States and European Union.”