In a recent report by the Financial Times, it was revealed that Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against the use of nuclear weapons, specifically in the context of the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. This intervention by Xi signifies the limits to which he is willing to support Putin and demonstrates his newfound influence in Moscow.
For months, Putin has been escalating his rhetoric towards Ukraine and its Western allies, even hinting at the possibility of a nuclear attack. However, it seems that the use of nuclear weapons is a red line for Xi, who is using his influence to enforce this boundary. This development is significant as Xi has been one of the few leaders of a major power to back Putin throughout the Ukraine invasion, providing crucial economic and diplomatic support.
Xi's stance on Ukraine is a delicate balancing act. On one hand, he wants to see Russia succeed in order to humiliate the US. On the other hand, he does not want to anger European countries, upon whom China remains economically dependent, and who would be greatly affected by the fallout of a Russian nuclear attack. Such an attack would undermine China's efforts to stabilize relations with the European Union and could potentially lead to a Russian battlefield defeat, as NATO may be encouraged to provide advanced weaponry to Ukraine.
It is worth noting that the Kremlin has denied the Financial Times report, with Putin's spokesperson dismissing it as "fiction." However, if the report is true, it highlights the changing dynamics of the relationship between China and Russia, with Xi asserting his influence and potentially becoming responsible for trying to prevent Putin from escalating the conflict to a nuclear level.
Furthermore, Putin's previously unchallenged power in Russia is now under threat, as evidenced by the recent mutiny staged by mercenaries from the Wagner group. This development may have unsettled Chinese officials, who rely on stability in Russia for their own strategic interests.
In conclusion, Xi's warning to Putin regarding the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine showcases the limits to which he is willing to support the Russian president. It also highlights the delicate balancing act that China is performing in its stance on Ukraine, as it seeks to deepen its relationship with Russia while also conveying to the West that it can dissuade Moscow from further dangerous escalations. The situation remains complex and fluid, with the potential for further setbacks for Putin that may require Xi's intervention.