March 17, 2023 | 5:21 pm
WASHINGTON — Ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow next week, the US is concerned that a China-brokered peace deal between Russia and Ukraine will end the war before Ukraine can retake its territory, the National Security Council spokesman said. , John Kirby, Friday.
“We are very concerned about that because of what it actually means in terms of benefiting Russia at the expense of Ukraine,” he told reporters.
“It must end in a just way, in a way that respects Ukrainian prerogatives and fully respects Ukrainian sovereignty,” Kirby said.
“Honestly, [Kyiv is] still fighting for their sovereignty and we will continue to help them to do so,” he added.
China confirmed on Friday that Xi will visit Russian President Vladimir Putin next week, weeks after Beijing issued a 12-point proposal to end the war that has killed hundreds of thousands of troops on both sides with an immediate ceasefire. -fire.
“President Xi’s visit will be a journey for peace,” Wang Wenbin, spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said on Friday.
“China will take an objective and fair position on the crisis in Ukraine and play a constructive role in advancing peace negotiations.”
While Kirby said a peace plan “might sound good”, the US is wary that “any proposals from the People’s Republic of China … would be unilateral and reflect only the Russian perspective”.
While Russia and China are not formal allies, the two struck up a “no borders” partnership weeks before Putin invaded last year and Xi has never condemned the attack on Ukraine.
“If you look at their 12-point so-called ‘peace plan,’ it talks about a ceasefire,” Kirby said.
“A ceasefire is now effectively the ratification of the Russian conquest and would in effect recognize Russia’s achievements and its attempt to seize the territory of its neighbors by force.
“A ceasefire right now – while that may sound good – we don’t think it would have that effect,” he added.
The Russian army now occupies a significant part of eastern and southeastern Ukraine as fighting continues throughout the Donbas region.
They have also occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula since the last invasion in 2014, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also promised to liberate.
Not only would Beijing’s peace plan allow Moscow to claim all those regions, but Kirby said ratification is “highly unlikely” to bring about lasting peace because US officials believe Putin won’t stop until he makes his final statement. goal: the conquest of Kiev.
“Russia would be free [under the Beijing plan] to use a ceasefire to only further solidify their positions in Ukraine to rebuild, adapt and refresh their forces so that they can resume attacks on Ukraine at a location of their choosing moment,” said Kirby.
“We do not believe this is a step towards a just and lasting peace.”
Still, Wang maintains that China will remain impartial in support of peace, noting that Xi will have “an in-depth exchange of views with President Putin on … important international and regional issues.”
But even if that were true, Xi probably wouldn’t push for peace out of sheer benevolence — he may be planning to use it to cast China as a world leader on the national stage, Kirby said.
“There is a possibility that they are throwing this idea of a ceasefire and trying to set themselves up as peacemakers and the only ones calling for the fighting to stop,” Kirby said.
“It would be a classic part of the Chinese playbook to go to a meeting like this and come out and say, ‘Look, we were the ones calling for an end to the fighting and no one else is.”
“The reason the rest of the world is not asking for it now is because, as I said, it would effectively ratify Russia’s geographic gains within Ukraine and it would [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy clearly at a disadvantage.”
China’s efforts could also be “part of their efforts to increase their influence and make it appear as if their influence has in fact increased,” Kirby said, as Xi aims to overthrow the US as the largest global superpower in the coming decades.
“When it comes to the war in Ukraine, they have not joined the rest of the international community in supporting Mr. Zelenskyy,” he said.
“We would certainly hope they would, but we’ll see what comes out of this meeting.”
But so far China has not announced any intention to meet or call Zelenskyy.
“A just, lasting, lasting peace should be one that is not one-sided, that fully embraces Ukrainian perspectives and respects the basic idea of sovereignty, Ukrainian sovereignty in this case,” he said.
Officially, Wang said Xi’s upcoming visit is a “friendship journey” aimed at “strengthening the political base and public support for the long-standing friendship between the two peoples.”
But even that worries some defense experts who are keeping a close eye on the burgeoning relationship, especially as Russia has been forced to rely almost exclusively on other American adversaries after most of the world isolated the country when it invaded Ukraine.
“It is very concerning every time we see adversaries working together,” the head of US central command General Michael Kurilla told the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Thursday, noting that Iran has “shipped hundreds of their advanced unmanned aerial vehicles to Ukraine.” “.
Iran also sent troops to Crimea last year to train Russian soldiers on the drones, while North Korea secretly supplied Russia with artillery shells, the White House said in November.
With both North Korea and Iran sending military aid to Russia since the war broke out, China remains the only major US adversary that has not supplied Moscow with weapons for its war against Ukraine.