Blinken claims China faces ‘reputation risk’ over response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Russia: Antony Blinken questioned on strengthening sanctions

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Beijing has said it is remaining neutral on events in Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched Moscow’s onslaught against the ex-Soviet state on February 24. However, China is also yet to condemn the Kremlin for its invasion and has voiced concerns about sanctions imposed on Russia by the West.

China has even blamed the Ukraine crisis on NATO’s eastward expansion, which started eight years after the fall of the USSR in 1999.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested leaders in Europe are becoming increasingly sceptical about Beijing’s response to the conflict.

Speaking at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, he said: “This is something we’re looking at very, very carefully.

“I think you’re seeing that China is having to deal with the significant reputational risks that it is already incurring by being seen as – in the most charitable interpretation – on the fence, and more practically, supportive of Russia.”

But Mr Blinken refused to provide more details about the “increasingly deep scepticism” brewing across the continent in public.

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He instead said: “But for now, we’re not seeing significant support by China for Russia’s military actions.”

Sino-Russian relations, particularly on trade, have been bolstered despite Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Overall trade between the two nations rose by 12 percent in March compared to a year earlier, taking the Chinese percentage of Russian trade to 18 percent.

During the Russian President’s visit to the Chinese capital in February for the Winter Olympics, the two countries also said they would boost trade to $250billion (almost £200billion) by 2024.

However, Beijing has shied away from offering military support to Moscow.

China responded to reports citing an American official who claimed Russia had asked its ally for military equipment by saying it was untrue and “disinformation”.

But around 80 percent of China’s total arms imports were from Russia between 2017 and 2021, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

During his appearance at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr Blinken also claimed Washington and Kyiv are “largely aligned” on what military equipment Ukraine believes it needs to fight Russia and what the United States can provide.

He said: “I think we’re largely aligned in what they say they need and what we think we’re able to provide.”

Mr Blinken added: “The nature of the battle has changed from what was necessary for Western Ukraine and in Kyiv, to where things are now.”

However, despite responding to Volodymyr Zelensky’s demand for heavy weapons by sending drones, heavy artillery and anti-tank Javelin missiles, Washington has ruled out sending in US or NATO troops to Ukraine.

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