Sources in Beijing have offered a rare glimpse into discussions between senior leaders in China and Russia regarding the war in Ukraine, as well as their assessment of the conflict.
As this may prove of greatest value in unadulterated form, including on how Beijing sees Moscow’s plans, its consolidation and attempt to leverage the current momentum in the war, a threat of further escalation, accompanied by an opening to potential truce negotiations in September even if on terms still unacceptable to Kyiv, we are including it below with minimal omissions or edits.
These include leaving intact many controversial points, terms used (e.g., “special military operations” instead of “war” or “invasion”), and aggressive assertions that are entirely independent of SGH’s views.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a video call recently with China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on the Ukraine crisis and Sino-Russian military cooperation.
During the call, Shoigu expressed his satisfaction with Russian military operations in the Donbas region. Shoigu told Wei the ongoing battle in Donetsk will be the most important battle in Russian special military operations after the battles of Mariupol and Luhansk. The Russian and Ukrainian amies are gathering their most elite military units to fight. As long as [once?] Donetsk is seized, the Russian army will no longer have large-scale military operations in Ukraine.
The Chinese side predicts that after seizing all of the Luhansk region, the Russian army will take full control of the Donetsk region within a few weeks and the entire Donbas region within two months. [China believes] the outcome of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine is clear: Russia will win the war without doubt – Russia has de facto territorial control of eastern Ukraine, linking Crimea, four eastern Ukrainian states, and Russian territory.
The Chinese side believes the situation is becoming more and more disadvantageous to Ukraine. It is time for Kyiv to sit down and negotiate with Moscow as soon as possible. The longer the delay in negotiations with Russia, the more land Ukraine will lose.
As far as Beijing knows, Putin’s two major military objectives remain unchanged: 1 – To completely restore the territory of the two “republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk; 2 – [to control] the de facto occupied territories of Kherson and Zaporozhe regions.
Shoigu emphasized that as long as the Ukrainian army continues to resist, Russia will adjust its military objectives, that is, expand the goal of military occupation to the entire eastern Ukraine. There were two stages, [including] the first military occupation of Kharkov and Nikolayev [Russian spellings of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv). If Ukraine still refuses to negotiate, Russian forces will seize Odessa and take full control of the city, leaving Ukraine a landlocked country. Not only will this mean the de facto division of Ukraine, Ukraine will become the poorest country in Europe.
This will be an unprecedented disaster for Ukraine. We (China) certainly don’t want to see this ending. This is why China has been quietly coordinating between Moscow and Kyiv, hoping the two sides will resume negotiations at an early date. In fact, China has not supported Russia’s military action against Ukraine, and has always called for Russia’s special military operation to stop as soon as possible.
Separately, in the assessment of a senior Chinese security official:
We believe the Ukraine crisis will usher in a time window at the end of August and early September [for the US and EU] to decide whether they want to keep this proxy war going. As I have said before, Russia is not afraid of a protracted war in Ukraine. Ukraine and Europe can no longer afford a protracted war [with] Russia. If the war continues in September, there will be unprecedented energy shortages in Europe, food crises in Africa and the Middle East, and a possible global recession.
Of course, if Russia and Ukraine sign a truce in September, Europe would avoid an energy disaster and the chances of a global recession would be greatly reduced. The leaders of China, Germany, and France have all expressed efforts to bring a truce between Russia and Ukraine in September. Moscow also wants a truce, but Kyiv still does not have a clear attitude towards this.
The US and its allies have been using the Ukraine crisis to sow discord between China and Russia, or President Xi and President Putin. In the latest example, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Xi rejected Putin’s invitation to visit Russia. This is another well-planned rumor.
Although China does not support Russia’s special military operations in Ukraine, there is no doubt about the high level of mutual trust between the leaders and governments of China and Russia. You will see that Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of a G20 ministerial conference in Bali [Note: Lavrov stormed out of the G20 ministerial meetings a few hours ago in protest].
It is certain that Xi and Putin will meet in Uzbekistan in September. Moreover, as long as Xi goes to Indonesia to attend the [November] G20 summit in person, Putin will certainly go to Indonesia and hold the third face-to-face meeting [with Xi] this year.