West sees Xi and Modi’s criticism of Putin as change for war in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s public rebuke by Chinese and Indian leaders over his invasion of Ukraine signals a shift in global perceptions of the war, Western officials have said, amid efforts by Europe and the United States to erode international support for the Kremlin.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rebuke of Putin and the Russian leader’s acknowledgment of concerns raised by Chinese President Xi Jinping last week were signs of unease with Moscow, three Western officials said. The remarks, at a summit in Uzbekistan, came days after a Ukrainian attack forced the Russian military to cede more than 3,000 km2 of territory.
The comments were “a genuine and clear signal” of annoyance, a senior European official said, adding that India and China could now adjust their actions towards both Russia and the West.
A senior European minister told the Financial Times they interpreted the comments as “genuine criticism”.
“From Modi in particular. I don’t think he likes it,” the minister added. “It was much better to be in a position of ambiguity where you can be friendly with both parties. And benefit from being friends with both.
Modi told Putin that “today’s era is not an era of war”. The Russian leader told his counterpart: “We will do our best to stop this as soon as possible”, citing “concerns that you constantly express”.
It came after Putin also acknowledged Xi’s “concerns” about the war in public remarks at the event.
The exchanges at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization gathering in Samarkand mark the most public acknowledgment of concern over the war in Ukraine by the two largest economies not to impose sanctions on Moscow.
The comments underscored how Putin “only further isolates himself from the international community,” John Kirby, spokesman for the United States National Security Council, said on Friday. “Even countries that weren’t loud and strident in opposing him are starting to wonder what he’s doing in Ukraine.”
The apparent concern from China and India is a potential obstacle to Putin’s goal of deepening ties with non-Western countries.
A week before the Samarkand meeting, Putin gave a speech in Vladivostok where he said countries like China were able to catch up with Russia’s lost trade with Europe.
“It went beyond a simple change of partners or orientation. He is considering rival political and economic blocs,” a Western diplomat in Moscow said.
Although China took advantage of a rebate to increase its purchases of Russian raw materials, the risk of secondary US sanctions means that its companies have been reluctant to fill the vacuum left by the sanctions in the Russian defense and technology sectors. .
“They expected more from China,” said another Western diplomat in Moscow. “Chinese companies have either been ordered not to operate or they need high-level clearance to do so.”
The Kremlin said Russia’s relationship with China remains strong. In comments broadcast on Sunday, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state television that Moscow and Beijing have “complete affinity in our approach to all sorts of provocative actions emanating from the United States and of the unacceptability of such destructive behavior”.
Peskov acknowledged that potential secondary Western sanctions to deepen China’s trade relationship with Russia were “complicating factors” that had a “negative effect”, but said they were “not able to have a significant effect, because the general trend is still very much oriented towards growth”. ”.
Analysts pointed out that while the rhetoric was clear, neither Xi nor Modi made direct reference to Ukraine or voiced support for Kyiv. Both have increased their purchases of Russian energy exports and have continued to trade with Moscow since the full-scale invasion began nearly seven months ago.
“Modi’s statement achieved what he wanted to achieve: sending a message to the West that he is not with Putin,” said Sushant Singh, senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.
Singh noted that Modi’s remarks did not raise any “contentious issues” regarding Ukraine’s sovereignty or territorial integrity, but instead focused on questions regarding the impact of the war on areas such as food security. , fuel and fertilizer supply.
Nonetheless, Western officials saw them as progress in efforts to counter Putin’s narratives that Western sanctions against Russia were to blame for the economic fallout from the war.
Josep Borrell, head of EU diplomacy, wrote in a article published Sunday in the French newspaper Sunday newspaper that Ukraine’s recent victories on the battlefield have revealed the weakness and lack of motivation of Russian troops. These events “show that even if Ukraine has not yet won the war, Russia is undoubtedly losing it,” he writes.
Although Borrell warned that the war was far from over, he said it was time to start thinking about a peace process.
Additional reporting by Leila Abboud in Paris and Felicia Schwartz in Washington