White House Reacts To Ultra-Rare Putin-Xi Hug During Visit Highlighting Closer Military Ties

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, May 18, 2024 - 06:35 PM

The Biden administration has reacted to what might be called the hug heard around the world (or 'felt' perhaps). During the last day of Russian President Vladimir Putin's two-day visit to China where he met with President Xi Jinping, the two shared an ultra-rare embrace in host city for the visit Harbin.

During the two leaders' final 'goodbye' interaction, it was Xi who appeared to initiate the hug. One regional expert, Arnaud Bertrand, has commented "It is indeed incredibly uncommon to hug in Chinese culture, especially for senior officials, which is why you can see Putin is taken aback at first."

White House national security communications adviser John Kirby weighed in later in the day Friday, saying somewhat sarcastically, "That’s nice for them." 

Kirby went on to say that it's "no surprise" that Putin and Xi "continue to try to develop this burgeoning relationship" but that that it remains officials in both governments "aren’t necessarily all that trustful" of each other, according to the remarks.

"What they have in common is a desire to challenge the international rules-based order, challenge the network of alliances and partnerships that the United States enjoys," Kirby followed with. He said the two are trying to "look for ways to bolster each other’s national security interests as well."

However, there have been exceptions when it comes to the diplomatic past and Xi has hugged Western leaders at times too...

And an analyst quoted in the NY Times saw it as an expression of "disdain" aimed at Washington. "Xi’s very deliberate embrace of Putin for the cameras wasn’t just to emphasize the closeness of the political relationship between the two countries and their leaders," said Richard McGregor of the East Asia at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

"There was also a touch of disdain directed at Washington, which has been pressuring Beijing to withdraw support from Moscow. That clearly isn’t going to happen in any substantive fashion."

The visit culminated in a joint statement pledging deepened cooperation in sectors that include energy, the military, and space.

As for questions surrounding reports that Putin is favorable to China's vision for a roadmap to peace in Ukraine, Putin was quoted as saying in Xinhua, "We have never refused to negotiate. We are seeking a comprehensive, sustainable and just settlement of this conflict through peaceful means,"

"We are open to a dialogue on Ukraine, but such negotiations must take into account the interests of all countries involved in the conflict, including ours," he continued. Putin said he informed the Chinese leader in detail about "the situation in Ukraine" and added, "We are grateful for the initiative of our Chinese colleagues and friends to regulate the situation."

The city of Harbin was apparently chosen in part as it has Russian cultural roots...

Xi had said during the visit, "Both sides agree that a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis is the correct direction." And further "China’s position on this issue has been consistent and clear, including … the respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and the legitimate security concerns of all parties."

The Pentagon meanwhile took the opportunity to issue a fresh warning to China, with Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, he communicated to a Chinese military official "serious concern over the [Peoples Republic of China’s] support for Russia’s defense industrial base that enables Russia’s war in Ukraine."