Imperial treatment for Xi Jinping in Kremlin-designed choreography. Great Russian praise for his «constructive and balanced proposal» on the Ukrainian crisis. And the Chinese leader responds by inviting Vladimir Putin to Beijing. The Russian press hastened to launch the news, which in other times would have been taken for granted: the ceremonial between Heads of State requires reciprocity and therefore the invitation to return the visit soon is the norm. However, now the tsar is being pursued by an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court in The Hague. There China does not recognize the courtjust as the United States, Russia and even Ukraine do not participate: but hosting a wanted man for war crimes in his home is a gesture of strong support on the part of Xi. Putin could go to Beijing for the third Forum on the Belt and Road Initiative, the plan for the new Silk Roads so dear to Xi. The event is expected to take place this spring.
The appointment on the Silk Road also gives the economic sense of the embrace between the two leaders. Putin told Xi that Chinese firms must replace Western ones in Russia. He announced that the “Power of Siberia 2” will bring 50 billion cubic meters of gas to China annually: «We have agreed on the parameters», he exulted. The megaproject has been under discussion for years. Total Siberian gas pumped to China in 2030 will rise to 98 billion cubic meters per year, plus 100 million tons of liquefied gas will be exported. As Putin finds an outlet to fill the vacuum left by the Europeans. Moscow is also talking about sharing the Arctic Route for economic purposes with its Chinese (political) navigation friends and Putin expands to the dream of «together becoming world leaders in artificial intelligence».
The increasingly close trade relationship, which binds and subordinates Russia to the Chinese superpower, was overshadowed at this summit by the global attention focused on the Ukrainian question. Putin and Xi yesterday “discussed in depth” the Chinese proposal for a political solution. Many of the 12-point plan (starting from a ceasefire that would keep the Russians on the conquered positions) “are in tune with the Russian approach and can be taken as a basis for a peaceful settlement”, Putin said. But “we don’t see at the moment that Westerners and Kiev are ready”. The tsar claims that the West “wants to fight to the last Ukrainian”. Xi alongside him professes “Chinese neutrality”. In the joint document, the two leaders agree that “there are no winners in a nuclear war and therefore it should never be fought”.
If you want to be credible, Xi will have to consult Volodymyr Zelensky. The Ukrainians say that there is still nothing concrete on the hypothesis of the first meeting between the two: “We are waiting for an answer to our request, we are working on it”. The Ukrainian president yesterday received a visit from Japanese premier Fumio Kishida, the last of the G7 leaders to go on a mission of solidarity to Kiev, he spoke of rebuilding the devastated cities, but his choice of side is also a blow to China .
The halls of the Kremlin used for the summit inspire political suggestions. The great State Banquet was held in Palace of the Facets (Granovitaya Palata). Tsar Ivan the Terrible celebrated his territorial gains in Asia there, Peter the Great celebrated his 1709 victory over Sweden at Poltava, which today is in Ukrainian territory.
Historians of politics recall that in the Palace of Facets, it was the year 1988, President Ronald Reagan toasted with Mikhail Gorbachev, raised his glass «to the art of friendly persuasion, to the spirit of peace, to the hope of finding a better way to settle things”. It is impossible for Xi Jinping to address similar words privately to his best friend Vladimir Putin.