How an international arrest warrant for Putin puts a new twist on Xi’s visit to Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week have underscored China’s aspirations for a bigger role on the world stage. But they also revealed the perils of global diplomacy: Hours after the trip was announced on Friday, an international arrest warrant was issued for Putin on war crimes charges, which at least somewhat cut the veils of the great revelation from China.

The flurry of developments – which followed China brokering a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume diplomatic ties and its release of what it calls a ‘peace plan’ for Ukraine — came as the Biden administration cautiously monitors Beijing’s moves to assert itself more forcefully. in international affairs.

US officials made no immediate public comment on the arrest warrant issued for Putin by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but privately expressed satisfaction that an international body had accepted Washington’s assessment. that Russia has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

The Biden administration believes China’s desire to be seen as a broker for peace between Russia and Ukraine can be viewed more critically now that Putin is officially a war crime suspect, two officials say Americans. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, said the administration hopes the mandates will help mobilize previously neutral countries to weigh in. on the conflict.

A look at the Xi-Putin encounter and how it may be affected by the mandate.

What is the meaning of xi meeting with Putin

The visit to Russia will be Xi’s first overseas trip since being elected to an unprecedented third term as China’s president. It comes as Beijing and Moscow have intensified their ties in stages that began shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a meeting between the two leaders in Beijing during the 2019 Winter Olympics. last year in which they declared a “limitless” partnership.

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Since then, China has repeatedly sided with Russia to block international action against Moscow over the Ukraine conflict and, according to US officials, is considering supplying Russia with weapons to support the war. . But he also tried to cast himself in a more neutral role, coming up with a peace plan that was mostly ignored.

The meeting in Moscow is likely to see both sides reaffirm their partnership, which they see as essential to counter what they see as undue and undeserved influence wielded by the United States and its Western allies.

What is the significance of the ICC arrest warrant issued against Putin?

In the immediate term, the ICC warrant against Putin and any of his aides is unlikely to have a major impact on the meeting or on China’s position toward Russia. Neither China nor Russia – nor the United States or Ukraine – have ratified the ICC’s founding treaty. The United States, beginning with the Clinton administration, has refused to join the court, fearing that its broad mandate could lead to the prosecution of American troops or officials.

This means that none of the four countries formally recognizes the Court’s jurisdiction or is bound by its orders, although Ukraine has consented to allow certain ICC investigations into crimes on its territory and the United States States cooperated with ICC investigations.

Moreover, it is highly unlikely that Putin would visit a country that would be bound by obligations to the ICC. If he did, one wonders if this country would actually stop him. There is precedent for previously indicted individuals, including former Sudanese President Omar Bashir, who visited ICC members without being detained.

However, the stain of the arrest warrant could well play against China and Russia in the court of public opinion and Putin’s international status could take a hit unless the charges are dropped or he is not be acquitted.

Washington’s View

Although hesitant to directly discuss ICC warrants, US officials have not minced words when it comes to Xi’s planned visit to Moscow. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called Beijing’s push for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine a “ratification of the Russian conquest” and warned that the Russians could use a ceasefire to regroup their positions “so that they can relaunch attacks on Ukraine at a time of their choosing.”

SHOW: Where do U.S.-Russia relations stand a year after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine?

“We don’t think this is a step towards a just and lasting peace,” he said. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, this week called on Xi to also meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian leader also expressed interest in talks with Xi.

Kyiv view

Speaking ahead of the unveiling of the ICC mandate, Ukrainian analysts warned against falling into a potential trap ahead of the Xi-Putin meeting. “We must be aware that such peace talks are a trap for Ukraine and its diplomatic corps,” said Yurii Poita, who heads the Asia section of the Kyiv-based New Geopolitics Research Network.

“Under such conditions, these peace talks will not be peace-oriented,” said Nataliia Butyrska, Ukraine analyst on East Asia-related policy. She said the visit reflected not so much China’s desire for peace as its desire to play a major role in any post-conflict settlement that might be reached.

“China does not clearly distinguish between who is the aggressor and who is the victim. And when a country begins its peacekeeping activities or at least seeks to help the parties, not making a distinction will affect the objectivity,” Butyrska said. “From my point of view, China seeks to freeze the conflict.”

The view of Moscow

Even if China refrains from providing military assistance to Russia as feared by the United States and its allies, Moscow sees Xi’s visit as a powerful signal of Chinese support that defies Western efforts to isolate Russia and carry crippling blows to its economy.

Kremlin spokesman Yuri Ushakov noted that Putin and Xi had “very special personal bonds of friendship and trust” and hailed Beijing’s peace plan. “We highly appreciate the moderate and balanced stance of the Chinese leadership on this issue,” Ushakov said.

Observers say that despite China’s position as a mediator, its refusal to condemn the Russian action leaves no doubt about Beijing’s sympathy.

“The Chinese peace plan is a fig leaf to fend off some Western criticism of support for Russia,” said Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The optics it creates is that China has a peace plan, both sides in the war endorsed it and were ready to explore opportunities, and then he was killed by the hostile West.”

The view of Beijing

Chinese officials have boasted of their newfound influence on the international stage as their country’s foreign policy has become increasingly assertive under Xi.

Announcing Xi’s visit, China’s foreign ministry said Beijing’s ties with Moscow constitute an important global strength. “As the world enters a new period of turmoil and change, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a major power, the significance and influence of Sino-Russian relations go far beyond of the bilateral framework,” he said.

He called the visit “a journey of friendship, further deepening mutual trust and understanding between China and Russia, and consolidating the political foundations and public opinion of friendship between the two peoples for generations.”

Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Washington and Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv contributed to this report.

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