US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did an interview with CBS News on Sunday in which he spoke about the possibility of China sending weapons and munitions to Russia to support the war in Ukraine that began almost a year ago. It is the first time that the US administration has spoken publicly about China’s role in the war in this way.
The interview host asked Blinken for a comment on the surveillance systems that China appears to be providing to the Wagner Group mercenaries who are fighting in Ukraine affiliated with the Russian military. Blinken replied that he and the president, Joe Biden, have been worried “since day one” about the possibility that China will help Russia by supporting it militarily with various types of equipment: “For the moment we have found that Chinese companies have provided non-lethal aid i.e. for example clothing, bulletproof vests and the like. But then Blinken added:
Based on the information in our possession, we are concerned that they are thinking of sending weapons (lethal support, i.e. “lethal aid”, ed), and we have been very clear with them: it would be a serious problem both for us and for our diplomatic relations .
Blinken did not specify what kinds of “lethal aid” China is considering sending, but said that “there is a whole range of items that fall into this category, from ammunition to the weapons themselves”.
The day before the interview Blinken had met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the annual Munich Security Conference, in an interview described as “very direct” by the US State Department. It had been the first high-level diplomatic contact since the crisis caused by a Chinese spy balloon spotted over US skies and shot down in early February over the coast of South Carolina. That crisis had begun shortly before Blinken made an official visit to China, which was later cancelled, and since then relations had remained tense.
If what Blinken said were to materialize, or find further confirmation, it would be a notable development for the war: at the moment the Russian army is struggling very much to make progress in the field, and for months analysts have been describing it as in difficulty and badly equipped. On the contrary, China has very large economic and military resources.