President Xi of China has pledged to support Russian demands for guarantees that Nato will not expand any further into eastern Europe, according to a Kremlin aide.
The Russian and Chinese presidents vowed to defend one another’s interests against the US and its allies during a video call yesterday that underlined how the two countries’ shared suspicions of the West have brought them into closer alignment.
Yuri Ushakov, 74, a foreign policy adviser to President Putin, said afterwards that Xi had said China and Russia now had a relationship that was stronger than an alliance.
Russia has dispatched tens of thousands of troops to the vicinity of its border with Ukraine and threatened this week to station medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe unless Nato came forward with a “political and diplomatic solution” to the tensions.
On a visit to Moscow yesterday Karen Donfried, a US assistant secretary of state, was given the Kremlin’s proposals for a legally binding undertaking that Nato would not deploy offensive weapons near Russia’s borders. She said she would pass them on to other members of the alliance.
However, Ursula von der Leyen, 63, president of the European Commission, said the EU was prepared to impose sanctions that would amount to “unprecedented measures with serious consequences for Russia” should it invade Ukraine.
Ushakov said Putin, 69, had drawn his “old friend” Xi’s attention to “mounting threats to Russia’s national interests from the US and the Nato bloc, which consistently move their military infrastructure close to the Russian borders”.
Xi, 68, is said to have replied that he sympathised with Putin’s concerns and “especially stated his support” on the Nato question.
The pair also addressed a broader range of perceived threats. These included the Aukus partnership between the US, Britain and Australia, and the Quad alliance of India, Japan, Australia and America.
“At present, certain international forces are arbitrarily interfering in the internal affairs of China and Russia under the guise of democracy and human rights, and brutally trampling on international law and the norms of international relations,” Xi said, according to Chinese state television.
Beijing and Moscow are not formally allied but Ushakov said their joint “effectiveness” was greater than that of an alliance.