Russia wants 3 things from China, says FPRI

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in China this week is the latest sign of deepening strategic ties between both sides.   

Putin will make a two-day state visit to China from Thursday at the invitation of Xi, it was announced on Tuesday. This will be the Russian leader’s first overseas trip since Putin kicked off his fifth term in office last week.

It comes amid the Kremlin’s growing reliance on China for trade and political backing as it seeks to strengthen its “no limits” partnership with Beijing on various fronts.

“It’s pretty clear that for these last two years, Putin has wanted three things from China,” Max Hess, fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Wednesday.

He wants a “deal” for the Power of Siberia 2 natural gas pipeline and seeks further Chinese support for the war in Ukraine, especially in terms of hardware, he added. Putin also wants access to Chinese financial markets and to use the “Chinese currency to further Russia’s trade,” Hess said.

“We’ve really seen remarkably little progress on all of those things,” he added. “So, it’s really Putin going to China seeing what he can get.”

Mounting pressure

In an interview with state-media Xinhua published ahead of the visit, Putin said Russia-China economic and trade relations have developed rapidly, “demonstrating their continued ability to respond to external challenges and crises.” 

He also backed China’s peace proposal on the Ukraine war and said Russia remained open to dialogue in resolving the conflict.

Beijing released a 12-point plan over a year ago that offered vague principles for ending the war in Ukraine. The plan wasn’t well received by Ukrainian and Western allies. 

“Putin is in Ukraine for the long haul. He has no plan of giving that up,” said Hess, adding the Russian leader is trying to “press his advantages” on the battlefield and on the diplomatic front with China.

Watch CNBC's full interview with Mark Gitenstein, U.S. ambassador to the EU

China is also facing rising pressure from Washington over its military support for Russia.

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced stiff new tariff rates on $18 billion worth of Chinese imports, to protect American industries from unfair competition.

As a result, Beijing has few options but to get closer to Moscow, observers say.

“Just look at Biden putting 100% tariffs on Chinese electric vehicle exports. All of this is sending a message to the Chinese that no matter who’s elected in November, that the U.S. is trying to contain them,” Ian Bremmer, political scientist and president of the Eurasia Group, said in a commentary.  

“I think longer term, the more they see that from the US and their allies, the closer with the Russians they will eventually be.”

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