The United States believes China may provide non-lethal military aid to Russia for use in Ukraine, and the administration is concerned they may be considering sending lethal aid, according to four US officials familiar with the matter. .
While China has provided some assistance to Russia, including running a Russian disinformation campaign about the war and promoting Russian false pretenses about the war, according to sources familiar with the matter, it has also been used by Russian troops in Ukraine. There is more concrete help for
Officials declined to give details about the non-lethal military aid, but said it could include gear for the spring offensive, such as uniforms or body armor.
A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment.
In the weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, senior US officials including President Biden and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned Beijing not to provide material aid to Russia for war or there would be consequences. It appears that China was compliant and did not sell the lethal weapon system to Russia.
“We have been clear about our concerns about lethal assistance. We have yet to see them cross that line, but we do not think they have taken it off the table,” according to a familiar source.
The familiar source said China is trying to “creep along the line without getting caught,” and recent trend lines point to potentially more solid Chinese government support for the Russian military.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi met today after the Munich security conference, and a source familiar with the conversation says it was “an essential topic of conversation”. Blinken and other US officials have been sharing information about Chinese aid to Russia with allies and partners at the conference.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at the conference on Saturday and said that China has grown closer to Russia since the war began.
“We are also troubled by the deepening of Beijing’s ties with Moscow since the start of the war,” he said. “Looking forward, any move by China to provide lethal support to Russia will only reward aggression, continue killing, and further undermine a rules-based order.”
The US is consulting with allies and partners in Munich and elsewhere and sharing respective trend lines on China’s support for Russia, according to sources familiar with the talks.
Bloomberg and CNN reported in January that the Biden administration had confronted Chinese government officials with evidence suggesting Chinese companies were providing non-lethal support to Russia in the war.
Now, US officials say the aid is coming from the Chinese government itself.
It is not clear whether the support violates any sanctions, the officials said, or if the US will impose new sanctions or costs on China for this non-lethal support, but sources familiar with the administration’s thinking say the US will continue to look for violators. will not hesitate to target sanctions.