Putin Meets ‘Dear Friend’ Xi Amid Growing Partnership

Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Beijing on Tuesday ahead of his anticipated summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Many are closely observing the meeting and its signals of the heralded “no limits” partnership between Moscow and Beijing.

This is only the second international trip for Putin since the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him in March. This stemmed from the Ukraine war.

Putin had not ventured outside of the former Soviet Union in 2023 before his Tuesday morning flight. He did visit Iran last year to meet with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

China is not a member of the ICC.

Xi described Putin as his “dear friend,” though the two have not been face-to-face since mere days after the warrant was issued. It was at that visit to Moscow when Xi invited his Russian counterpart to Beijing for the third Belt and Road forum.

According to Russian media, Putin will attend the forum’s opening. He is also expected to converse with leaders of Laos, Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam.

But it’s the meeting between leaders of the U.S.’s biggest rivals that will draw the most attention. It was Feb. 2022 when Russia and China declared a “no limits” partnership just days before Kremlin forces invaded Ukraine.

President Joe Biden asserted that the remainder of this century will be shaped by competition between democracies and autocracies. Washington labels China as its largest competitor while Russia claims the title as the major nation-state threat.

Graham Allison of Harvard University was an assistant secretary of defense under the Clinton administration.

He told Reuters that the relationship between the two countries is “the most consequential undeclared alliance in the world.”

Allison further explained that the U.S. now must realize “the inconvenient fact that a rapidly rising systemic rival and a revanchist one-dimensional superpower with the largest nuclear arsenal in the world are tightly aligned with opposing the U.S.A.”

Biden laid down the gauntlet when he referred to Xi as a “dictator” and Putin as a “killer.” He also declared that the Russian leader cannot hold onto power.