Ahead of Xi-Putin meeting in Moscow, White House rejects cease-fire in Ukraine

The Biden administration is raising alarm that Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to call for a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine, warning that support for such a move would play to the favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said Friday that an unconditional cease-fire halting Russia’s offensive in Ukraine would legitimize Moscow’s hold on an estimated 17 percent of Ukrainian territory that was taken by force.

“A cease-fire now is … effectively the ratification of Russian conquest,” Kirby said.  

“And of course, it would be another continued violation of the U.N. Charter.”

The remarks from the White House come ahead of an expected summit early next week between Xi and Putin in Moscow.

Xi’s visit to Russia also comes following Beijing’s publication of a “12 point peace plan” to end Russia’s war in Ukraine but criticized by the U.S. and its allies as an empty position paper that fails to hold Moscow accountable for its aggression. 

Kirby called for Xi to reach out to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky if the Chinese are serious about being a neutral arbiter. 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday said he spoke with China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, where the two discussed “the significance of the principle of territorial integrity” and underscored the importance of Zelensky’s “Peace Formula” to end Russia’s war, which in part calls for Russia to withdraw its troops from all the territory it occupies in Ukraine.  

Chinese officials have sought to portray their stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine as neutral, but Washington, Kyiv and its supporters have criticized Beijing for failing to condemn Moscow’s invasion and violation of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty — a principle that China holds up when warding off outside criticisms against its designs on subsuming the democratic island of Taiwan.

And China has further offered diplomatic and economic cover for Russia’s war through its ongoing engagement with Putin and robust commercial ties; China is a key importer of Russian oil, and Chinese companies are implicated in supplying Russia’s military sector. 

Kirby said it would be “part of the Chinese playbook” for Xi to come out of his meeting with Putin portraying Beijing as a moral arbiter calling for a cease-fire to end fighting that has cost thousands of lives on the part of Russia and Ukraine, without recognizing Moscow as the guilty party.

“The reason why the rest of the world is not calling for that right now is because, as I said, it would effectively ratify Russia’s geographic gains inside Ukraine, and it would put Mr. Zelinsky at a distinct disadvantage.”

And the White House has said it has privately and publicly warned Beijing against supplying Putin with lethal military assistance, a move that the U.S. says China is considering, but has not made a decision to carry out.

“We still have the same level of concern that we did last week about the potential for China to supply lethal weapons and lethal capabilities to Russia,” Kirby said.

“We still don’t believe they’ve taken it off the table, but we also haven’t seen any indications, any confirmation that they’ve made a decision to move in that direction or have actually provided anything. We don’t believe, we’ve said this privately to the Chinese, as well as publicly to all of you, that this is in China’s best interest.”

Tags China Dmytro Kuleba John Kirby Russia-Ukraine war Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelensky Xi Jinping Xi Jinping

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