Will Russia receive help from China?
Last August, thousands of Russian and Chinese soldiers spent five days driving tanks, firing artillery, flying in the sky and testing new military technology in the Gobi desert of western China.
Military exercises between China and Russia have become increasingly popular in recent years, but the August drills were the first time Russian troops have conducted them on Chinese territory. This is also the first time Russian soldiers have used weapons of the Asian nation.
Now, Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine raised the prospect of Russian soldiers using Chinese weapons in actual combat.
It all comes down to controversial reports earlier this week, when US officials said that Russia had asked China to provide military equipment for the operation in Ukraine.
China’s Foreign Ministry immediately refuted, claiming that Russia never asked China to provide military equipment and said the reports were “malicious disinformation” deliberately spread by US officials. .
In the latest statement, Russia also affirmed that it “has sufficient potential to conduct a special military operation in Ukraine”, and rejected the request of China to provide military equipment.
Despite these official assertions, the US has sent cables to its allies in Europe and Asia saying that China has signaled openness in providing military assistance to Russia, according to the Financial Times.
In fact, Russia’s arms exports to China are characteristic of the military relationship between the two countries, rather than vice versa.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), between 2016 and 2020, China bought $5.1 billion worth of weapons from Russia, accounting for 77% of Beijing’s total arms imports in the past year. this period.
China buys advanced weapon systems, missiles, submarine and helicopter technology from Russia, while Russia imports key weapon components from China.
If it helps, China will only support Russia with food rather than weapons.
According to Fortune, over the years, China’s military leadership has shown respect for Russia’s military capabilities, even as China’s military is vastly superior to its counterpart.
“Chinese leaders attach great importance to Russia’s armed forces because they have a lot of combat experience, which Chinese leaders consider their forces to be lacking. They think that Russia has won the last wars,” said Peter Layton, senior analyst at the Griffith Asia Institute at Australia’s Griffith University.
However, China’s admiration for the Russian military may have waned in recent years as China’s own military has advanced more.
That change of attitude is one reason China may be less interested in directly assisting Russia in Ukraine. “The Chinese see that they are at least on an equal footing (in terms of military technology) with the Russians,” said expert Layton.
The Chinese military leadership is also paying attention to the mistakes of the Russian military in the operation in Ukraine, “It seems that China’s admiration for Russia’s military power is decreasing day by day.” , he said.
And if in the event China does indeed support Russia militarily, it is not clear what that support will be. Is it troops, weapons or some other kind of support?
According to a report from the Financial Times, Russia is believed to have asked China for surface-to-air missiles, drones, intelligence-related equipment, armored vehicles and used vehicles. for logistics and support.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that Russia has requested packaged rations for soldiers.
With genuine intentions, experts say, Beijing is more likely to supply Moscow with items such as food rather than heavy weapons.
“China has its own limits,” Drew Thompson, a former US Department of Defense official told Fortune.
“Beijing wants to avoid selling large, high-value weapons to Russia in the middle of a conflict. China wants to protect itself from secondary sanctions from the West, preventing weapons technology from being transferred to a rival. defense, and avoid being drawn directly into the conflict”.
But Thompson said China could supply Russia with ammunition, spare parts or other types of ancillary equipment to bolster Russia’s military efforts.
“They will take calculated, measured steps to maintain neutrality, while still supporting Russia in important ways,” the expert said.
However, experts agree that any help to Russia – no matter how sophisticated – will make the US angry, along with serious risks affecting China. The biggest hurdle is sanctions, and it’s unlikely Beijing would want to take the risk to do this.
So far, Chinese officials have remained tight-lipped about their plans. Will China support the Russian operation in Ukraine in the coming days and weeks, and if so, to what extent? All is still a mystery.
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