China Urges Calm and Respect for Russia Amid Growing Ukraine Crisis

China Urges Calm and Respect for Russia Amid Growing Ukraine Crisis

Beijing appears sympathetic to Moscow's security concerns in Eastern Europe. 

In a telephone call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi urged the United States to use restraint in Ukraine, indicating that Beijing views Russia’s security concerns in Eastern Europe with sympathy.

With around 130,000 Russian troops now deployed on the Ukrainian border and thousands more in neighboring Belarus, China has refrained from taking a position on the escalating crisis and has urged both sides to act with caution. However, Wang’s statement was perhaps China’s most pointed statement yet and indicates Beijing’s sympathy for Russia’s position.

“Russia’s reasonable security concerns should be taken seriously and resolved,” Wang told Blinken during the meeting, according to Chinese sources.

"We call on all parties to remain calm and refrain from doing things that agitate tension and hype up the crisis," Wang said.

The Kremlin, which formerly held sway over much of Eastern Europe during the Soviet era, has seen its influence steadily decline over the past thirty years. NATO today has extended to include the three Baltic states, Poland, and much of Europe’s southeast. Russian leaders view NATO as a fundamentally anti-Russian alliance and have expressed growing concerns about its eastward expansion.

Although Ukraine has not joined NATO, most Ukrainians support its entry, and the government has made accession to the alliance a major foreign policy priority. NATO officials have indicated that Ukraine would be able to join in the future, although Kiev has not yet been offered a “Membership Action Plan,” or MAP, that would provide a set of formal conditions for its entry.

Russia’s decision to position troops on the Ukrainian border has led to fears that it intends to invade, although Russian president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied any such plan. The White House has urged all U.S. citizens to leave Ukraine, and the U.S. Embassy in Kiev has seen a drawdown in personnel over the past week.

Russian leaders have offered to withdraw the troops from the border in exchange for a formal commitment from either NATO or the United States to refuse to allow Ukraine’s entry into the alliance. Because NATO’s accession process requires unanimous consent, any existing NATO member has the power to veto a new member’s entry indefinitely.

So far, however, U.S. and NATO officials have refused to block Ukraine’s entry, claiming that Kiev’s decision to enter or not should not be subject to an external veto. Ongoing diplomatic talks between the two sides have not resolved the crisis.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.