One of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies sought on Monday to deepen a strategic partnership with China, expanding defence cooperation and strengthening coordination between Moscow and Beijing on major geopolitical issues.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Putin has tilted more strongly towards China as the war and severe Western sanctions torpedoed Russia’s relationship with the United States and its European allies. Just before the invasion, Putin and Xi Jinping declared a “no limits” partnership, though at a meeting last week in Uzbekistan Putin said he understood that the Chinese president had concerns and questions about the conflict.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, a close Putin ally, met China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Nanping to discuss the implementation of agreements Putin and Xi reached at their meeting. “The development of a strategic partnership with China is an unconditional priority of Russian foreign policy,” the security council said in a statement.
Patrushev and Yang also discussed the Korean peninsular, Taiwan and Ukraine. “The sides agreed on further military cooperation with a focus on joint exercises and patrols, as well as on strengthening contacts between the General Staffs,” the security council said.
Patrushev, a former Soviet spy who has known Putin since the 1970s, is a hardline ally and seen as one of the few people able to influence the Russian president. The deepening partnership between the rising superpower of China and the natural resources titan of Russia has raised alarm in some Western capitals.
In recent years China has participated in a number of Russian war games – joint military exercises designed to simulate how the countries would defend themselves against an attack. Moscow has repeatedly backed Beijing over Taiwan and criticised what it casts as “provocations” by the United States.
China has refrained from condemning Russia’s military operation against Ukraine or calling it an “invasion”.