MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin met with China’s defense minister on Sunday, underscoring Beijing’s strengthening engagement with Moscow, with which it has largely aligned its foreign policy in an attempt to diminish the influence of the United States and other Western democracies.
Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with Gen. Li Shangfu less than a month after Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a three-day state visit to Moscow.
China has refused to criticize Russia’s military actions in Ukraine and blames the United States and NATO for provoking Moscow. But China’s foreign minister said last week that China wouldn’t be helping Russia with weapons, as the U.S. and other Western allies have feared.
Officially, China remains neutral in the Ukraine conflict. However, Xi’s trip emphasized how China is increasingly becoming the senior partner in the relationship as it provides Russia with political cover and an economic lifeline during the Ukraine conflict.
In comments opening the meeting, Putin praised the general development of Russia-China relations.
“We are also working actively through the military departments, regularly exchanging information that is useful to us, cooperating in the field of military-technical cooperation, conducting joint exercises, moreover, in different theaters: in the Far East region, and in Europe, and at sea, and on land and in the air,” he said, according to the Kremlin.
Li said that the countries’ relations “outperform the military-political unions of the Cold War era. They rest on the principles of nonalignment, and are very stable.”