The United States and China are sending top aides to meet in Rome on Monday as tensions mount between the two countries over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine amid increasing worries that the conflict will escalate even further.
Putin’s unilateral and globally unpopular decision to invade Ukraine has put China in a delicate spot with two of its biggest trading partners: the U.S. and European Union. China needs access to those markets, yet it also has made gestures supportive of Putin, joining with Moscow in declaring a friendship with “no limits.”
The White House said the talks will focus on the direct impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on regional and global security. Biden administration officials say Beijing is spreading false Russian claims that Ukraine was running chemical and biological weapons labs with U.S. support. They say China is effectively providing cover if Russia moves ahead with a biological or chemical weapons attack on Ukrainians.
Update: Today, President Biden authorized $200 million for additional arms and equipment to Ukraine. This unprecedented fourth drawdown in less than one year brings the total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to over $1.2 billion since January 2021.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 12, 2022
Adding another layer of tension to the meetingis the accusation from U.S. officials that China is spreading Russian disinformation which could be a pretext for chemical or biological weapons attacks launched by Vladimir Putin’s forces in Ukraine. When Russia starts accusing other countries of preparing to launch biological or chemical attacks, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “it’s a good tell that they may be on the cusp of doing it themselves.”
WATCH: National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says Russia will pay a “severe price” for chemical weapon use. #MTP@JakeSullivan46: “When Russia starts accusing other countries of potentially doing something, it's a good tell that they may be on the cusp of doing it themselves.” pic.twitter.com/8S9CTKJVgl
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) March 13, 2022
In advance of the talks, Sullivan made the rounds of the Sunday news shows and bluntly warned China to avoid helping Putin evade punishment from global sanctions that have hammered the Russian economy. “We will not allow that to go forward,” he said.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday condemned Russia for what he called the "shocking and horrifying" killing of an American journalist in Ukraine by Russian forces. https://t.co/ymKFJCXx3c pic.twitter.com/oYYuMTOwhu
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) March 13, 2022
In his talks with senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi, Sullivan told CNN he’ll be “looking for limits” in what Beijing will do for Moscow. “I’m not going to sit here publicly and brandish threats,” Sullivan said on “State of the Union.”
"Vladimir Putin is frustrated." National Security Adviser JakeSullivan tells DanaBashCNN why Russian forces attacked a Ukrainian military base near the border of NATO territory: https://t.co/5ySC0Y92Mf pic.twitter.com/ZzrrkvE416
— Tony Montana (@TownyMontana) March 13, 2022
“But what I will tell you,” Sullivan told host Dana Bash, “is we are communicating directly and privately to Beijing that there absolutely will be consequences” if China helps Russia “backfill” its losses from the sanctions. “We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country anywhere in the world,” Sullivan said.