Biden-Putin reinforce alliances - Washington Hispanic

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US President Joe Biden wrapped up his visit to Europe on Wednesday with a meeting to strengthen his alliance with NATO's fragile eastern flank, while Russian President Vladimir Putin tightened ties with China as his invasion of Ukraine nears completion. their first anniversary.

Biden's Warsaw meeting with the leaders of the Bucharest Nine countries came at the end of a hectic four-day visit to Ukraine and Poland to reassure his allies that US support to repel Russia is not at risk.

For his part, Putin received Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party's top foreign policy official, in Moscow on Wednesday. US intelligence services have warned that Beijing is considering providing weapons and ammunition to the worn-out Russian military.

The tightening of alliances was a further sign that both sides are preparing for a protracted conflict in Ukraine, with the fighting expected to intensify with the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere.

Biden had delivered an eloquent speech on Western unity in Warsaw on Tuesday, just a day after his unannounced visit to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in kyiv. As Biden spoke in Poland, Putin announced that Russia would suspend its participation in the last of the nuclear arms control treaties that remained in force between the United States and Russia.

Biden called Moscow's decision "a serious mistake." The suspension is expected to have an immediate impact on US surveillance of Russian nuclear activities. However, the pact - known as New START - was already dying after Russia at the end of last year called off negotiations aimed at rescuing an agreement that both parties had accused themselves of violating.

Biden met on Wednesday with the presidents of the Bucharest Nine, the nations on the eastern flank of the NATO alliance that closed ranks after Putin ordered the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The group is made up of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

“You are the front line of our collective defense,” Biden told them. “And they know better than anyone what is at stake in this conflict. Not only for Ukraine, but for the freedom of democracies throughout Europe and the rest of the world."

These countries worry that Putin could take military action against them if he succeeds in Ukraine. Biden responded to those concerns by vowing that NATO's mutual defense pact is "sacred" and that "we will literally defend every inch of NATO."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who was present at the meeting, highlighted Russia's previous actions in Georgia and Ukraine, saying that “we cannot allow Russia to continue undermining European security. We must end the cycle of Russian aggression."

It is unknown how the United States and its allies intend to achieve this in any way other than the continued supply of Soviet and Western weapons that have enabled the Ukrainian armed forces to recapture nearly half the territory they lost in the early days of the conflict.

After Russia's battlefield shortcomings were exposed early in the conflict, Putin has also been looking for an arms supplier, reaching out to Iran and North Korea for assistance, and potentially China.

Washington still has no indication that China has decided to send weapons to Moscow, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week that if Beijing decides to act it would be a "serious problem."

China has carefully weighed the pros and cons of directly assisting Russia throughout the conflict. But after a year of conflict, Beijing now seems increasingly concerned that Russia — one of its closest allies — is heading for what could be seen as a defeat in Ukraine.

The United States and its allies have threatened to impose secondary sanctions against countries that support Russia's war actions. But no consensus was reached this week on tougher penalties for China — which could have implications for the global economy — should it decide to resupply weapons to Putin's forces.

A European official described as "unequivocal" the intelligence information that China is evaluating the possibility of supplying weapons to Russia. Western officials do not know whether the possibility is being considered at this time solely by China's military, or some other branch of the government, or by the Chinese government as a whole, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Western intelligence indicates that the type of supplies China is considering providing Russia would be to replenish weapons Russia was losing or wasting on the battlefield in Ukraine, the European official said.

From what they have received intelligence so far, Western officials do not believe that Chinese arms supplies to Russia would be enough to turn the tide of the conflict.

But China's cooperation on military supplies for Russia's war in Ukraine would be an important sign of Beijing's current mood to take risks when it comes to siding with the Russian stance against the West.

Li Mingjiang, an associate professor of international relations at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace event last week that Beijing was weighing the value of creating "a situation in which the United States would have to deal actually with two possible enemies and that will help divert some of the attention and resources that the United States has in the Asia-Pacific region.

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