On Friday (February 24), it will be two years since Russia invaded Ukraine. As Ukraine has made huge gains and changed the course of the war in its favour in the last few months, Russia and China showcased their deepening ties on Wednesday (February 22).
The visit by Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party's most senior foreign policy official, to Moscow is seen as a sign that Beijing might offer the Kremlin stronger support in Ukraine.
Not only that, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that China's Xi Jinping would visit Russia, saying that relations between the two nations had reached "new frontiers".
Since Russian forces invaded Ukrainian territories last year, China has been offering Putin diplomatic and financial support. But, according to reports, it has refrained so far from overt military involvement or sending arms and ammunition to Russia.
Chinese state-controlled firms have also sold non-lethal drones and other equipment to both Russia and Ukraine. Not getting military support from China led to Russia turning to Iran and North Korea for arms supplies such as military drones, rockets, and artillery shells.
China so far has taken a stance of non-interference in the conflict and has called for a peaceful resolution through dialogue and negotiations.
While China has not played a direct role in the conflict in Ukraine, a recent show of unity and Putin's comments show that the situation might change soon.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made these fears public saying that: "Based on the information we have... they're considering providing lethal support." China did not comment directly on Blinken's statements, but accused Washington of "spreading false information" and "shifting blame".
We have seen how huge support from the US and other western nations and the availability of modern weapons have given Ukraine the upper hand in the war. And China, a manufacturing hub, is also known for its arms and ammunitions.
VIDEO: On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. A year into the war, tens of thousands of lives have been lost and millions of people have been displaced. pic.twitter.com/dwsqRdcYyg— AFP News Agency (@AFP) February 22, 2023
An influx of Chinese weapons would be a huge boost for Russia and probably a game-changer in the Ukraine war. Mick Ryan, a strategist, and retired Australian Army Major General said to AFP that if China comes along, any advantage Ukraine had because of the industrial capacity of the West will disappear instantly.
"Chinese munitions would make life very difficult for the Ukrainians, whether it's artillery ammunition, whether it's precision munitions or longer-range strike weapons which Russia is running out of", he said.
China is one of the largest producers of arms and ammunition in the world and has a long history of developing and producing a wide range of military equipment, including small arms, artillery, tanks, missiles, and aircraft.
Not only that, China has a complex and extensive intelligence apparatus consisting of multiple agencies and organisations and this could help Russia a lot in Ukraine if Beijing decides to share information with Moscow.
The meeting between Putin and Chinese leaders comes two days after US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv. While air raid sirens were going on and off, Biden met Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and reaffirmed the US support for the nation.
Biden said he would announce another delivery of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, and air surveillance radars, and said that the US will be with Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Chinese leader's meeting with Putin and Xi Jinping's planned visit to Moscow can also be seen as a message to the US that if it can openly show support and give weapons to Ukraine, so can China.
A day after meeting the Chinese leader and a day before the first anniversary of his invasion of Ukraine, Putin said that Russia will maintain increased attention on boosting its nuclear forces in an address to mark Thursday's 'Defender of the Fatherland' public holiday'.
Russian President Vladimir #Putin revived his imperialistic narrative that #Russia is fighting for Russia's "historic frontiers" today, a narrative that he had similarly voiced in his speech before the re-invasion of #Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.https://t.co/bWuVJWppB9 pic.twitter.com/lycKisPE7g— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) February 23, 2023
Putin's comments come two days after his suspension of a bilateral nuclear arms control treaty with the United States. "As before, we will pay increased attention to strengthening the nuclear triad," said Putin, referring to nuclear missiles based on land, sea, and in air.
The most senior US General estimates that around 100,000 Russian and 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured in the war in Ukraine, reported BBC. Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, also suggested that around 40,000 civilians had died after being caught up in the fight between the forces.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) verified a total of 7,199 civilian deaths during Russia's invasion of Ukraine as of February 12, 2023. Of them, 438 were children. However, OHCHR specified that the real numbers could be higher.
The war in Ukraine has also led to one of the worst refugee crises ever. More than 6.7 people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded their country.