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

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Moscow highlighted China’s aspirations for a greater role on the world stage. But they also exposed the dangers of global diplomacy: Hours after the trip was announced on Friday, an international warrant for the arrest of Putin on war crimes charges was issued, which at least took some wind out of China’s big reveal.

The wave of developments — which followed China’s brokerage of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume diplomatic relations and the release of what it calls a “peace plan” for Ukraine — came as the Biden administration watched with suspicion to Beijing’s steps to assert itself more vigorously in international affairs.

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

The Biden administration believes China’s desire to be seen as a mediator for peace between Russia and Ukraine may be viewed more critically now that Putin is officially a war crime suspect, two US officials said. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said the government hopes the arrest warrants will help mobilize hitherto neutral countries to weigh in on the conflict.

A look at the Xi-Putin meeting and how it could be affected by the warrant.

What is the meaning of xi meeting with Putin

The visit to Russia will be Xi’s first trip abroad since being elected to an unprecedented third term as China’s president. It comes as Beijing and Moscow intensified ties in steps that began shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine with a meeting between the two leaders in Beijing at last year’s Winter Olympics where they declared a “no borders” partnership.

READ MORE: President Xi Jinping wants China to play a bigger global role after the Saudi-Iran deal

Since then, China has repeatedly sided with Russia in blocking international action against Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine and, US officials say, is considering supplying Russia with weapons to support the war. But it has also tried to cast itself into a more neutral role, offering a peace plan that has essentially been ignored.

The meeting in Moscow is likely to lead the two sides to recommit to their partnership, which both see as critical to countering what they see as undue and undeserved influence from the US and its Western allies.

What does the ICC’s arrest warrant mean for Putin?

In the short term, the ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin and one of his aides is unlikely to have a major impact on the meeting or China’s attitude towards Russia. Neither China nor Russia – nor the United States or Ukraine – have ratified the founding treaty of the ICC. The US, beginning with the Clinton administration, has refused to join the court, fearing its broad mandate could lead to prosecution of US troops or officials.

That means none of the four countries formally recognize the court’s jurisdiction or be bound by its orders, though Ukraine has agreed to allow some ICC investigations into crimes committed on its territory and the US has cooperated in ICC investigations. .

Moreover, it is highly unlikely that Putin would travel to a country bound by obligations to the ICC. If he did, the question is whether that country would actually arrest him. There is precedent for those previously indicted, notably former Sudanese President Omar Bashir, who have visited ICC members without being detained.

However, the taint of the arrest warrant could well work against China and Russia in the court of public opinion and Putin’s international stature could be dented unless charges are dropped or he is acquitted.

The view from Washington

While wary of directly discussing the ICC orders, 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 call a ceasefire. to regroup their positions “so that they attack Ukraine at a time of their choosing.”

WATCH: Where do US-Russia relations stand one year after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

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

The view from Kiev

Prior to the revelation of the ICC order, Ukrainian analysts warned against falling into a possible trap ahead of the meeting with Xi-Putin. “We must be aware that such peace talks are a trap for Ukraine and its diplomatic corps,” said Yurii Poita, head of the Asia section of the Kiev-based New Geopolitics Research Network.

“Under such circumstances, these peace talks will not be aimed at peace,” said Nataliia Butyrska, a Ukrainian East Asia analyst. She said the visit reflects not so much China’s desire for peace as a desire to play an important role in whatever settlement can be reached after the conflict.

“China does not make a clear distinction between who is the aggressor and who is the victim. And when a country starts its peacekeeping activities or at least tries to help the parties, not distinguishing this will affect objectivity,” Butyrska said. “From my perspective, China is trying to freeze the conflict.”

The view from Moscow

Even if China stops providing military aid to Russia, as the US and its allies fear, Moscow sees Xi’s visit as a strong signal of Chinese support that will undermine Western efforts to isolate Russia and deal crippling blows to its economy challenges.

Kremlin spokesman Yuri Ushakov noted that Putin and Xi have “very special friendly and confidential personal ties” and applauded Beijing’s peace plan. “We deeply appreciate the reticent, balanced stance of China’s leadership on this issue,” Ushakov said.

Observers say that despite China’s stance as a mediator, the refusal to condemn the Russian action leaves no doubt where Beijing’s sympathy lies.

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

The view from Beijing

Chinese officials brag about their new influence in the international arena as their country’s foreign policy has become increasingly assertive under Xi.

Announcing the Xi visit, China’s foreign ministry said Beijing’s ties to Moscow are a major global power. “As the world enters a new period of turbulence and change, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a major power, the significance and influence of China-Russia relations extend far beyond the bilateral scope,” it said.

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

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

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