Evidently, many eyes will be on the Russian capital this week as Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the internationally isolated Russian president Vladimir Putin meet for a summit, seen as part of efforts to solidify their alliance.
Xi has described his three-day trip which began Monday as a “journey of friendship, cooperation and peace” on the heels of what many observers have described as tacit support and diplomatic awning for Russia’s nearly 14-month war in Ukraine.
The exact death toll on both sides has been difficult to ascertain, but the UN human rights office has suggested at least 8,000 non-combatants have been confirmed killed with nearly 13,300 injured since the Russian invasion on February 24 last year.
More than 8.1 million refugees have been recorded as fleeing Ukraine and sheltered across Europe, while an estimated 8 million others had been displaced within the country by late May 2022 alone.
In September last year, Russia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed that 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed in combat and claimed 61,207 Ukrainian soldiers slain, with 49,368 wounded by that time.
Xi’s signed article in the newspaper Russian gazette, also carried by the Chinese state news agency Xingua, that he looked forward to working with Putin, at 70 Xi’s senior by one year, “to jointly adopt a new vision” for relations is being carefully analyzed by the West as well as countries near China, where diplomatic ripples are being watched in the Taiwan Strait and the disputed areas of the South China Sea.
China has portrayed itself as a neutral party in the dragged out Ukraine war, and its foreign ministry said last week Beijing would “play a constructive role in promoting peace talks” between Kyiv and Moscow.
Putin has welcomed Beijing’s moves on Ukraine as indicative of a willingness to play a “constructive role” in ending the conflict, while saying Chinese-Russian relations were “at the highest point.”
Xi’s visit also comes just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin on the war crime accusation of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children.
Xi’s trip, which follows some traction in the South China Sea, where overlapping claims of sovereignty are unresolved, and disquiet in the narrow Taiwan Strait, is certainly being watched by countries in Southeast as well as East Asia.
Non-summit participants know that Xi’s Moscow trip has more than just the diplomatic toasts and smiles during official functions.
And this is where the sharp-eyed leaders of the world will have their eyes and ears close to every phrasal verb, crafted in diplomatese – even as the war in Ukraine, which has changed the world, will continue.