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21 Feb, 2023 21:00

‘Big difference’ between arming Ukraine and Russia – Borrell

The EU’s top diplomat told China’s state councilor that Brussels holds itself to different rules
‘Big difference’ between arming Ukraine and Russia – Borrell

The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has refused to reveal exactly what explanation he gave to Chinese state councilor Wang Yi for his contention that there is "a difference" between arming Russia and Ukraine.

The exchange came after Wang asked Borrell why he was so concerned with Beijing potentially giving weapons to Moscow when Brussels is funnelling arms to Kiev, the latter told reporters on Tuesday.

The two met at the Munich Security Conference last week, after which the Spaniard warned that any Chinese assistance to the Russian military would be considered a “red line” by the EU.

Speaking to reporters at a NATO meeting on Tuesday, Borrell said that he and Wang had a “frank conversation” in Munich.

During this conversation, Wang made it clear that “China doesn’t provide arms to countries at war,” and had no plans of providing arms to Russia. This, Wang said, “is the principle of China’s foreign policy,” according to Borrell’s recollection.

However, Borrell said that Wang asked him: “Why do you show concern for me maybe providing arms for Russia when you are providing arms for Ukraine?”

Borrell said that he responded by explaining the “big difference” between these scenarios, pointing out “what is at stake for us Europeans in the war in Ukraine.” However, he did not share his explanation with the press.

Borrell is not the only senior Western diplomat to caution Beijing over its alleged support for Russia’s military. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed last week that Washington was already aware of China’s non-lethal support for Moscow, and threatened “serious consequences” if that support escalated to lethal weapons.

China’s foreign ministry responded to Blinken in a similar manner as Wang did to Borrell, urging the US to “seriously reflect” on its role in stoking the Ukraine conflict. “It is the US, not China, that has been pouring weapons into the battlefield,” a ministry spokesman said on Monday.

China has repeatedly called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and plans on releasing a peace proposal in the near future. Meanwhile, Beijing and Moscow have stepped up their bilateral trade since the beginning of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine last February, and both countries are currently taking part in trilateral naval drills with South Africa.

Ahead of a potential visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping this spring, Wang held a meeting in the Russian capital with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev on Tuesday. Sino-Russian relations are “rock solid and will withstand any test of the changing international situation,” Wang said after the meeting.