U.S. officials are afraid that China has already made the decision to provide Russia with economic and financial aid for its war on Ukraine. Further, they fear China is seriously considering sending military supplies, including armed drones.
In what was described as an “intense” seven-hour meeting in Rome with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan laid out the U.S. case against Russia’s invasion. He emphasized that throughout the course of their invasion, the Russian military has shown obvious indications of weakness, and that Moscow had demonstrated its untrustworthiness when it feigned interest in diplomacy while preparing for invasion.
However, the Americans left the meeting feeling pessimistic that China would change its mind about backing Russia.
“The key here is first to get China to recalculate and re-evaluate their position. We see no sign of that re-evaluation,” said a U.S. official familiar with the discussions. “They’ve already decided that they’re going to provide economic and financial support, and they underscored that today. The question really is whether they will go further.”
At the top of the list of military aid Russia would like from China are armed drones and various forms of ammunition. But military transfers between the two nations would not exactly be straightforward.
The Russian and Chinese militaries do not share a common system, which will make military aid problematic. However, the Russian military, as reported by CNN, is also requesting ration packs, as it has faced severe logistical problems in a much lengthier and tougher conflict than it had expected.
Since its invasion began on February 24, Russia has faced devastating sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies. This has led to severe economic and financial trouble in the country, and it is now at risk of defaulting on its debt payments.
While Russia cannot access nearly all of its $640 billion in gold and foreign exchange reserves due to sanctions, it still holds part of those reserves in yuan, so Beijing would be able to step in and provide immediate financial assistance should it choose to do so.
In the U.S., the Biden administration is already planning for the eventuality that China will decide to back Russia. If this does indeed occur, the U.S. will shift its focus to persuading its allies, particularly in Europe, to rethink their relationships with China, recognizing that it will take a united front to combat the rising superpower.