The United States warned on Feb. 18 that China would cross a “red line” if it decided to provide lethal military assistance to Russia, such as weapons and ammunition, to aid in its war against Ukraine.
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Feb. 19. She said, “We welcome the Chinese announcement that they want peace because that’s what we always want to pursue in situations like this. But we also have to be clear that if there are any thoughts and efforts by the Chinese and others to provide lethal support to the Russians in their brutal attack against Ukraine, that is unacceptable.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had previously issued a similar warning in an interview with CBS News, and this was just days before the one-year anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Reports recently surfaced that Chinese companies have been supplying surveillance equipment to Russia’s Wagner Group fighting in Ukraine. In January, the U.S. sanctioned Chinese satellite manufacturer, Spacety, or Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute Co. Ltd., for allegedly supplying satellite imagery to Russia “in order to enable Wagner combat operations in Ukraine.”
When asked if the Biden administration considers this to be providing military support to Russia, Blinken said the government has “been concerned from day one about that possibility.” He noted that President Joe Biden had held talks with China’s President Xi Jinping early on in the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, during which Biden had shared the U.S. government’s “deep concerns about the possibility that China would provide lethal support to Russia in this effort as well as engage in the systematic evasion of sanctions.”
China, an ally of Russia that has refused to condemn Putin’s actions in Ukraine and has criticized Western sanctions on Moscow, has denied that it is sending weapons or ammunition to Moscow. In a statement on Feb. 19, China’s foreign ministry said it would not accept “finger-pointing” or “coercion” from the United States over its relations with Russia.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that Beijing “is watching closely” to see “the price Russia pays, or the reward it receives for its aggression.” Days earlier, Stoltenberg had called on more allied nations to boost ammunition supplies, including weapons and equipment to Kyiv amid a new Russian offensive. In retaliation to his comments, the Kremlin accused NATO of being an organization that is “hostile” toward Russia and that is “trying its best to make its involvement in the conflict around Ukraine as clear as possible.”
Xi Jinping is expected to deliver a “peace speech” on the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to reports.