China continues to parrot Russian talking points about the war against Ukraine. On the eve of U.S. President Joe Biden's trip to Europe over the weekend, the Chinese Communist Party-run Global Times claimed the West’s support for Ukraine is backfiring.
"While Washington is obsessed with delaying Russia-Ukraine negotiations, Europe wants security and stability,” the publication said in a March 23 editorial.
“There are emerging anti-war voices in Europe, and these voices include disapproval toward Washington's arms delivery to Ukraine. More and more Europeans realize that blindly sending arms to Ukraine is heading toward the opposite direction of the security goals they pursue."
That is misleading.
In fact, an overwhelming majority of United Nations members backed resolutions condemning Russia’s war. As for the issue of security, European countries on Ukraine’s flank fear that Moscow might eventually push the war westward.
Europe does want stability, and the U.S. and European Union member states remain united in opposing Kremlin aggression with stiff economic sanctions, defensive military aid to Ukraine and help for the millions of refugees uprooted by indiscriminate Russian attacks.
These sanctions include, among other steps, freezing assets controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin, some of his top aides, Russian oligarchs, and companies and government agencies; closing airspace to Russian airliners; stripping Russia’s most-favored-nation trade status; and restricting exports of defense and other strategic technologies to Russia.
Even Switzerland, a neutral country since 1815, has made an exception and joined the European sanctions against Russia.
The strength of the alliance was affirmed at the recently concluded NATO, G7 and EU summits, attended by Biden, where more sanctions were promised.
"Together, we should aim at holding accountable those responsible for the devastation and commit to imposing further costs on Russia until Putin ceases his aggression," Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a March 24 joint statement.
The Global Times editorial echoes Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who in mid-March claimed Western weapons flowing to Ukraine “are creating a colossal danger” for their EU suppliers themselves.
In fact, the danger is to Russian troops, which, according to numerous assessments, have been punished with surprisingly heavy losses. Those losses are largely unreported in Russia’s media thanks to Kremlin censorship and suppression of dissent.
The 27-member European Union announced on February 27 that it would send some 500 million euros in military aid to Ukraine.
As EU treaties prohibit its budgetary money from being used for weapons transfers, it employed its “European Peace Facility,” an off-budget financing instrument with a ceiling of 5 billion euros for the 2021-2027 budget cycle, for the aid package. The 500 million euros was, according to one diplomat, “almost all what we can spend for this year,” Politico reported.
“For the first time ever, the EU will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” von der Leyen said. “This is a watershed moment."
On March 23, the EU said it would double its military aid to Ukraine to 1 billion euros.
On February 26, Germany reversed a longstanding policy of never sending weapons to conflict zones and pledged delivery of 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles. It also approved the shipment of howitzers and ammunition originally from Estonia.
Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland, which are Europe’s neutral countries, have also agreed to provide military aid to Ukraine.
It's true that some in the West have expressed concerns that the arms deliveries could prolong the war and bloodshed. However, contrary to what the Global Times suggests, this appears to be a minority view in Europe.
The Global Times editorial’s assertion that the U.S. has somehow tried to stymie peace talks is belied by the record. In fact, U.S. and EU leaders continue to encourage talks and repeatedly pushed for a diplomatic solution as tensions rose in the months before the invasion.
During that period, Russia massed troops along the Ukraine border, with the deceptive excuse that it was conducting military exercises, and repeatedly said it had no plans to invade.
Chinese officials either bought Russia’s deceptive comments or went along with them, even though the U.S. said it had intelligence that Russia was planning to invade.
Starting last November, U.S. officials quietly held talks with Chinese officials, including China’s ambassador in Washington and foreign minister, to discuss intelligence showing the Russian troop buildup and persuade the Chinese to tell the Russians not to launch a war, The New York Times reported in February and March, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
“The Chinese officials rebuffed the Americans at every meeting and expressed skepticism that Mr. Putin intended to invade Ukraine, the U.S. officials said,” the newspaper reported in March.
"After one diplomatic exchange in December, U.S. officials got intelligence showing Beijing had shared the information with Moscow, telling the Russians that the United States was trying to sow discord — and that China would not try to impede Russian plans and actions, the officials said," the Times reported in February.
The U.N. General Assembly has twice passed resolutions overwhelmingly calling for Russia to stop the attack on Ukraine, but China abstained both times.
Instead, the Chinese government insists it is neutral while basically siding with Russia on state media and censoring news that is sympathetic to Ukraine or negative toward Moscow.
Ukraine has paid a heavy price.
During the first four weeks of war, the Kyiv School of Economics reported, Russia’s attacks cost the Ukraine economy between $543 and $600 billion. The damage and destruction includes at least 4,431 residential buildings, 92 factories and warehouses, 378 learning institutions, 138 health care facilities, 12 airports, and seven power plants.
The United Nations human rights office said on March 27 that 1,119 Ukrainian civilians had been killed and 1,790 wounded since the Russian invasion.
The world body noted that the true casualty figures are expected to be "considerably higher", as reports are delayed in some regions where intense hostilities are going on.