The Guardian’s world affairs editor, Julian Borger, talks through the state of play between the US, China and Russia.
The United States will try to convinces China not to supply arms to Russia at a high-level meeting in Rome which the White House sees as critically important not just for the war in Ukraine but also for the future of the global balance of power.
Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, will meet his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, in the Italian capital amid reports that Russia has asked China for weapons to bolster its faltering invasion of Ukraine.
Sullivan will point out that the US briefed Beijing on Vladimir Putin’s intentions months ahead of the invasion, but that the Chinese leadership ignored those warnings, mistakenly believing that Putin was bluffing to gain leverage, according to sources familiar with plans for the Rome meeting. Sullivan will also argue that if China supplies weapons to Moscow it will be a further, historic mistake, and a turning point in global politics.
The White House is anxious to prevent the Ukraine war further cementing a division of the world into two opposing blocs. In an interview with CNN, Sullivan said:
We also are watching closely to see the extent to which China actually does provide any form of support – material support or economic support – to Russia.
It is a concern of ours. And we have communicated to Beijing that we will not stand by and allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses from the economic sanctions.”
Sullivan said the US had made clear to Beijing that there would “absolutely be consequences” for “large-scale” efforts to help Russia sidestep sanctions.
Russia has also asked China for economic help as it faces severe western sanctions, but Sullivan told CNN the US was “communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences” if China helps Russia evade sanctions.
The Financial Times, New York Times and Washington Post reported on Sunday about the Russian request for weapons, amid claims from US officials that the Russian military was running short on certain kinds of armaments.
The spokesperson for the US embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, told CNN he had “never heard” of the Russian arms requests.
“The current situation in Ukraine is indeed disconcerting,” he said in a statement. “The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even getting out of control.”