Blinken says China is Russia’s primary military complex supplier

By Thomson Reuters Apr 19, 2024 | 7:57 AM

By Crispian Balmer and Humeyra Pamuk

CAPRI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticised on Friday Chinese support for Russia’s defence industry, saying Beijing was currently the primary contributor to Moscow’s war in Ukraine though its provision of critical components for weaponry.

He said this effort was fueling “the biggest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War.”

Speaking at a news conference capping the end of a gathering of G7 foreign ministers on the Italian island of Capri, Blinken said Washington had made it very clear to Beijing and others that they should not be aiding Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

“When it comes to Russia’s defense industrial base the primary contributor in this moment to that is China. We see China sharing machine tools, semiconductors, other dual use items that have helped Russia rebuild the defense industrial base,” Blinken said.

“China can’t have it both ways. It can’t afford that. You want to have positive, friendly relations with countries in Europe, and at the same time, you are fueling the biggest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War,” Blinken said.

The U.S. has warned China not to aid Moscow’s war effort since Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which came just weeks after Russia and China declared a “no limits partnership.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock echoed Blinken’s concerns.

“If China openly pursues an ever closer partnership with Russia, which is waging an illegal war against Ukraine, … we cannot accept this,” Baerbock said after a meeting with her G7 counterparts in Capri.

U.S. officials briefed reporters earlier this month on materials China was providing to Russia, including drone and missile technology, satellite imagery and machine tools, that fall short of providing lethal assistance but were helping Russia build up its military to sustain its two-year-old war in Ukraine.

A Chinese embassy spokesperson told Reuters at the time that China was not a party to the Ukraine crisis and that normal trade between China and Russia should not be interfered with or restricted.

President Joe Biden raised the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a phone call earlier this month, after which U.S. officials said Blinken would travel to China in the coming weeks. Details of Blinken’s trip have not yet been announced.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Toby Chopra)