US Gave the Chinese Intel Beseeching Them to Stop Russia’s Ukraine Escalation. They Passed the Intel on to Moscow

"Please stop the Russians for us so we can focus more on you."

Asking the Chinese for a bailout while dissing their Olympics. Cheeky.

Over three months, senior Biden administration officials held half a dozen urgent meetings with top Chinese officials in which the Americans presented intelligence showing Russia’s troop buildup around Ukraine and beseeched the Chinese to tell Russia not to invade, according to U.S. officials.

Each time, the Chinese officials, including the foreign minister and the ambassador to the United States, rebuffed the Americans, saying they did not think an invasion was in the works. After one diplomatic exchange in December, U.S. officials got intelligence showing Beijing had shared the information with Moscow, telling the Russians that the United States was trying to sow discord — and that China would not try to impede Russian plans and actions, the officials said.

The previously unreported talks between American and Chinese officials show how the Biden administration tried to use intelligence findings and diplomacy to persuade a superpower it views as a growing adversary to stop the invasion of Ukraine, and how that nation, led by President Xi Jinping, persistently sided with Russia even as the evidence of Moscow’s plans for a military offensive grew over the winter.

This account is based on interviews with senior administration officials with knowledge of the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the diplomacy. The Chinese Embassy spokesman, Liu Pengyu, answered an earlier request for comment a half-day after this article was posted online, saying, “For some time, China has actively promoted the political settlement process of the Ukraine issue.”

China is Russia’s most powerful partner, and the two nations have been strengthening their bond for many years across diplomatic, economic and military realms. Mr. Xi and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, two autocrats with some shared ideas about global power, had met 37 times as national leaders before this year.

If any world leader could make Mr. Putin think twice about invading Ukraine, it was Mr. Xi, went the thinking of some U.S. officials.

But the diplomatic efforts failed, and Mr. Putin began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday morning after recognizing two Russia-backed insurgent enclaves in the country’s east as independent states.

In a call on Friday, Mr. Putin told Mr. Xi that the United States and NATO had ignored Russia’s “reasonable” security concerns and had reneged on their commitments, according to a readout of the call released by the Chinese state news media. Mr. Xi reiterated China’s public position that it was important to respect the “legitimate security concerns” as well as the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of all countries. Mr. Putin told Mr. Xi that Russia was willing to negotiate with Ukraine, and Mr. Xi said China supported any such move.

Some American officials say the ties between China and Russia appear stronger than at any time since the Cold War. The two now present themselves as an ideological front against the United States and its European and Asian allies, even as Mr. Putin carries out the invasion of Ukraine, whose sovereignty China has recognized for decades.

The growing alarm among American and European officials at the alignment between China and Russia has reached a new peak with the Ukraine crisis, exactly 50 years to the week after President Richard M. Nixon made a historic trip to China to restart diplomatic relations to make common cause in counterbalancing the Soviet Union. For 40 years after that, the relationship between the United States and China grew stronger, especially as lucrative trade ties developed, but then frayed due to mutual suspicions, intensifying strategic competition and antithetical ideas about power and governance.

In the recent private talks on Ukraine, American officials heard language from their Chinese counterparts that was consistent with harder lines the Chinese had been voicing in public, which showed that a more hostile attitude had become entrenched, according to the American accounts.

On Wednesday, after Mr. Putin ordered troops into eastern Ukraine but before its full invasion, Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said at a news conference in Beijing that the United States was “the culprit of current tensions surrounding Ukraine.”

“On the Ukraine issue, lately the U.S. has been sending weapons to Ukraine, heightening tensions, creating panic and even hyping up the possibility of warfare,” she said. “If someone keeps pouring oil on the flame while accusing others of not doing their best to put out the fire, such kind of behavior is clearly irresponsible and immoral.”

She added: “When the U.S. drove five waves of NATO expansion eastward all the way to Russia’s doorstep and deployed advanced offensive strategic weapons in breach of its assurances to Russia, did it ever think about the consequences of pushing a big country to the wall?” She has refused to call Russia’s assault an “invasion” when pressed by foreign journalists.

Ms. Hua’s fiery anti-American remarks as Russia was moving to attack its neighbor stunned some current and former U.S. officials and China analysts in the United States. But the verbal grenades echo major points in the 5,000-word joint statement that China and Russia issued on Feb. 4 when Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin met at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. In that document, the two countries declared their partnership had “no limits” and that they intended to stand together against American-led democratic nations. China also explicitly sided with Russia in the text to denounce enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Last Saturday, Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, criticized NATO in a video talk at the Munich Security Conference. European leaders in turn accused China of working with Russia to overturn what they and the Americans say is a “rules-based international order.” Mr. Wang did say that Ukraine’s sovereignty should be “respected and safeguarded” — a reference to a foreign policy principle that Beijing often cites — but no Chinese officials have mentioned Ukraine in those terms since Russia’s full invasion began.

“They claim neutrality, they claim they stand on principle, but everything they say about the causes is anti-U.S., blaming NATO and adopting the Russian line,” said Evan Medeiros, a Georgetown University professor who was senior Asia director at the White House National Security Council in the Obama administration. “The question is: How sustainable is that as a posture? How much damage does it do to their ties with the U.S. and their ties with Europe?”

The Biden administration’s diplomatic outreach to China to try to avert war began after President Biden and Mr. Xi held a video summit on Nov. 15. In the talk, the two leaders acknowledged challenges in the relationship between their nations, which is at its lowest point in decades, but agreed to try to cooperate on issues of common interest, including health security, climate change and nuclear weapons proliferation, White House officials said at the time.

After the meeting, American officials decided that the Russian troop buildup around Ukraine presented the most immediate problem that China and the United States could try to defuse together. Some officials thought the outcome of the video summit indicated there was potential for an improvement in U.S.-China relations. Others were more skeptical, but thought it was important to leave no stone unturned in efforts to prevent Russia from attacking, one official said.

Days later, White House officials met with the ambassador, Qin Gang, at the Chinese Embassy. They told the ambassador what U.S. intelligence agencies had detected: a gradual encirclement of Ukraine by Russian forces, including armored units. William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, had flown to Moscow on Nov. 2 to confront the Russians with the same information, and on Nov. 17, American intelligence officials shared their findings with NATO.

At the Chinese Embassy, Russia’s aggression was the first topic in a discussion that ran more than one and a half hours. In addition to laying out the intelligence, the White House officials told the ambassador that the United States would impose tough sanctions on Russian companies, officials and businesspeople in the event of an invasion, going far beyond those announced by the Obama administration after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

The U.S. officials said the sanctions would also hurt China over time because of its commercial ties.

They also pointed out they knew how China had helped Russia evade some of the 2014 sanctions, and warned Beijing against any such future aid. And they argued that because China was widely seen as a partner of Russia, its global image could suffer if Mr. Putin invaded.

The message was clear: It would be in China’s interests to persuade Mr. Putin to stand down. But their entreaties went nowhere. Mr. Qin was skeptical and suspicious, an American official said.

American officials spoke with the ambassador about Russia at least three more times, both in the embassy and on the phone. Wendy R. Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, had a call with him. Mr. Qin continued to express skepticism and said Russia had legitimate security concerns in Europe.

The Americans also went higher on the diplomatic ladder: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke to Mr. Wang about the problem in late January and again on Monday, the same day Mr. Putin ordered the new troops into Russia-backed enclaves of Ukraine.

“The secretary underscored the need to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said a State Department summary of the call that used the phrase that Chinese diplomats like to employ in signaling to other nations not to get involved in matters involving Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, all considered separatist problems by Beijing.

American officials met with Mr. Qin in Washington again on Wednesday and heard the same rebuttals. Hours later, Mr. Putin declared war on Ukraine on television, and his military began pummeling the country with ballistic missiles as tanks rolled across the border.

Source: The New York Times

  1. Chacko Kurian says

    Well said China.
    What kind of mental insanity the western leaders suffer from? Looks like psychological projection in its malignant form. Here in Australia, that moron PM was berating China for not joining them to condemn Russia!
    Condemning China being a favourite past time of him and his ministers.

    Psychological projection is the process of misinterpreting what is “inside” as coming from “outside”.[1] In its malignant forms, it is a defense mechanism in which the ego defends itself against disowned and highly negative parts of the self by denying their existence in themselves and attributing them to others, breeding misunderstanding and causing untold interpersonal damage.[2] A bully may project their own feelings of vulnerability onto the target, or a person who is confused may project feelings of confusion and inadequacy onto other people. Projection incorporates blame shifting and can manifest as shame dumping–Wikipedia.

  2. SteveK9 says

    It is funny hearing people say ‘Russia lied’. Well, in this circumstance telling the truth could cost a lot of Russian lives, so … And, the US has never lied???

  3. Serozha says

    Who wrote this CIA propaganda?

  4. Adam says

    My only problem is why the Russians were still keeping their money in western banks and linking their gold to western institutions. institutions set up by the west would always be weaponised, because they started it and made the rules. Russia is a vast country, so instead of keeping the money in western banks, invest in the vastness of Russia creating new viable cities and towns with universities and research centres like Shenzen instead of it on decadent western luxuries like cars, apartments and houses in London, New York and Paris. That is the psychological barrier that is holding Russia back from being a great country. Because if they create cities like these, it would generate innovation, jobs and young people would have more kids to increase the population. Also if they give more resident permits to foreigners who would bring their knowledge and expertise to these special towns, they would create an eco system of cosmopolitan places with ethnic enclaves of different peoples around the world, creating more interactions and links between Russians and foreign countries.
    Its strange that Russia has no vibrant equivalent China towns and that of other ethnicities. The racist tendencies of Russians is a negative development for the demographics and natural alliances with other countries. Even people who got educated in Russia would not have Russia as their first call if they want to take their family on holiday, that is because of the hostile racist tendencies of Russians. So Russia does not get any traction from the millions of foreign students who get educated in Russia. So the psychological mindset of Russia is a negative for their pushback against western aggression. Making it easy for western propaganda to work against them globally.
    Because there is no sustained positive exchange and interaction between people around the world with Russians, therefore from Africa, South America, Europe and Asia there is not enough critical amount of people with positive feedback to their communities about Russia for a pushback against western propaganda.
    If you look at the coverage about Africans and Russian women during the world cup, it was basically racist. How does that translate now into public opinion against Russia in African countries. So Russia’s attitudes and psychological racial tendencies works against them. Russia has had a long relationship with India, but there no large vibrant Indian communities in Russia comparative to the US, UK and Canada, the same for Chinese communities and all other communities. All these translate into negative soft power attraction and narrative, to pushback on western propaganda and dynamic interaction between countries of the global some. China has more vibrant international communities than Russia, so there is a critical amount of people all over the world advocating and pushing back against western propaganda narratives against China from their own experiences and those of their relatives and friends, Russia has none of that.

  5. Alhajjfazlur Rahman says

    Established that china isn’t Russia’s strategic ally rather just business partner and untrustworthy when crisis appear.

  6. Martillo says

    When toothless, meth-addled Onkel Sammy tries his schtick betweeen Mr. Bear and the Dragon things are bound to get messy…. in Slumville.

  7. Martillo says

    Blinken got Wanged…you say? Shocked am I, truly shocked

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