President Joe Biden is set to travel to Brussels for the March 25 emergency NATO summit over the war in Ukraine. The prior White House statement announcing the trip indicated the summit will "discuss ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine, as well as to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies."
But now it's not just Russia expected to be focal point of conversation among NATO heads, but China too - given last week's repeat allegations from the White House that Beijing and Moscow are poised to quietly cooperate on military supplies for Russia's Ukraine operations, as well as evasion of Western imposed sanctions.
A fresh report in Nikkei on Tuesday says summit leaders are already working on a draft statement aimed at China, which is likely only to escalate China-West tensions further, potentially ensuring Beijing retreats to a firmer pro-Russia position, as opposed to the "fence-sitting" it's already accused of.
"NATO members are debating how best to express concern over possible Chinese cooperation with Russia in a joint statement after an extraordinary summit Thursday, amid fears that military and financial support from Beijing could reinvigorate Moscow's offensive in Ukraine," Nikkei writes.
It's expected that a finalized communique will send a "clear message" aimed at deterring China from any level of cooperation with Russian actions in Ukraine.
A European diplomat involved in drafting the working statement was cited as affirming "the joint communique will mention concerns about China's potential military support to Russia." Further, he said in a reflection of what's expected to be in the document:
If Beijing intends to cooperate with Moscow, "we need to send a very clear, polite message to China that it's a mistake" and that it would "harm our relationship," Deividas Matulionis, Lithuania's permanent representative to NATO, told Nikkei on Monday.
"There is no disagreement" within the bloc on this issue, "because an aggressor is an aggressor, and who supports an aggressor then becomes an accomplice of the aggressor," Matulionis said.
This is coming off Washington escalating ongoing diplomatic tensions with China related to the Russia issue. On Monday Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced more visa restrictions on Chinese officials related to prior charges that state authorities are overseeing the ethnic cleansing of Uighurs. It seems that clearly the timing is actually related to Ukraine, however, despite no mention of the war being made regarding the fresh visa restriction measures.
In Friday's Biden phone call with Xi Jinping, the US president warned his Chinese counterpart over cooperation with Russia. Beijing has for its part vehemently rejected the recent US accusations, calling them unfounded "smears".
U.S. DEPUTY TREASURY SECRETARY ADEYEMO TO TRAVEL TO EUROPE NEXT WEEK TO COORDINATE WITH ALLIES ON SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA— First Squawk (@FirstSquawk) March 22, 2022
ADEYEMO WILL TRAVEL TO LONDON, BRUSSELS, PARIS AND BERLIN TO MEET WITH COUNTERPARTS ON SANCTIONS
Starting over a week ago, an array of US media reports based on official 'leaks' from senior admin officials stated that Russia has even requested drones from China, to replenish military supplies lost after weeks of the Ukraine invasion. China is said to have responded "positively". The widespread perception in the West is that Russia is suffering greater losses than it expected, hence the need to rely on powerful "friends" like China.
Last week the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued its own warning saying that China would retaliate...
"We call on the US not to harm China's legitimate rights and interests when handling its relations with Russia," ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian stressed.
Zhao in a daily briefing was asked if China fears US sanctions amid charges that it's quietly supporting Russia's war effort in Ukraine: "The Chinese side has repeatedly expressed its position regarding sanctions. Beijing discourages the use of sanctions to settle problems and even more opposes unilateral sanctions that lack international legal grounds," Zhao said.