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Russia seeks military equipment and aid from China, U.S. officials say

Wahington Post | In the weeks after it began its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has turned to China for military weapons and assistance, according to US officials familiar with the situation.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the delicacy of the matter, did not specify what type of weaponry was asked or whether they were aware of China's response.

The news comes as White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan prepares to meet with his Chinese colleague, Yang Jiechi, in Rome on Monday.

"We are speaking directly and privately with Beijing that large-scale sanctions, evasion efforts, or support for Russia to backfill them would undoubtedly have consequences," Sullivan told CNN.

Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said he was unaware of any such request for help. In an email to The Washington Post, he responded, "I've never heard of that."

Russian rockets hit Ukrainian military infrastructure.

On March 13, Russian missiles struck military facilities near Ukraine's border with Poland, killing at least 35 people and injuring at least 134 others. (The Washington Post/Blair Guild)

"China is profoundly concerned and saddened by the situation in Ukraine," he said. "All initiatives that lead to a peaceful resolution of the problem are supported and encouraged by us." The top objective right now is to keep the tense situation from spiraling out of hand."

According to Reuters, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said in a televised appearance on Sunday that a portion of Moscow's gold and foreign exchange reserves were in Chinese yuan. "We also see what pressure Western countries are putting on China in order to limit mutual trade."

"However, I believe that our partnership with China will allow us to retain, and not only maintain, but significantly enhance, our cooperation in an environment where Western markets are closing."

While Sullivan centered his statements on economic aid and sanctions evasion on many Sunday talk shows, authorities indicated Russia is running low on certain types of weapons. They didn't say which kinds they were referring to.

"The spillover consequences on US-China policy could be massive if Beijing offers any type of military assistance to boost Moscow's battle in Ukraine," said Eric Sayers, a former adviser to the US Indo Pacific Command and now a senior vice president at Beacon Global Strategies.

"It would put an end to the debate about how to engage with Beijing." More crucially, it would compel Washington to expedite retaliatory and decoupling moves against China, as well as put increased pressure on corporations doing business in China, according to Sayers.

According to Taylor Fravel, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who specializes in the Chinese military, China buys certain weaponry from Russia, particularly modern fighter planes and surface-to-air missile systems.

"As far as I know," Fravel remarked, "China does not sell any weapons systems to Russia." "In other words, Russia has facilitated China's military modernization, but China has given little to the growth of Russia's armed forces so far, save from the revenues from Russian weapons sales, which can be spent to increase Russian capabilities."

According to Fravel, China has attempted to strike a balance between political support for Russia, which includes blaming the United States and NATO expansion for the conflict, and maintaining ideals such as sovereignty and territorial integrity. "It would be a watershed moment" if China gives "direct material support" to Russia's war effort, he said.

Russia's request, which he had no independent knowledge of, appears to reflect the fact that "this conflict is costly and will prove taxing for the Russian military over time," according to Michael Kofman, director of the Russia studies program at the Virginia-based nonprofit analysis group CNA.

A representative for China's Foreign Ministry declared on the day Russian forces entered Ukraine that Beijing would not provide armaments to Russia, a dig at US efforts to rally military backing for Ukraine. "On this topic, China and the United States have different approaches... "I believe that Russia, as a powerful country, does not require armaments from China or other countries," Hua Chunying said at a press conference.

Senior US intelligence officials told Congress last week that Russia and China were more linked than at any time since the mid-1950s, prompting Moscow's apparent turn to Beijing.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said, "It continues to be the fact that they are moving closer together." "I believe there is a limit to how far it can go, but it is still a problem." In terms of the present crises' influence, I'm not sure how it will affect their relationship's trajectory."

CIA Director William J. Burns stated on the same panel that the China-Russia partnership has grown stronger in recent years. However, he said that he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping "and the Chinese leadership" are "a little bit unsettled" by what they're seeing in Ukraine.

China has also been keeping a careful eye on how closely the European Union and the United States have aligned on the Ukraine situation. According to Burns, Chinese officials "valued their connection with Europe and what they think to be their power to build fissures between us and the Europeans."

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