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Putin needing weapons from Xi

Putin needs weapons from Xi, but diplomatic support against the ICC arrest warrant may be more palatable

Dominic Nicholls By Dominic Nicholls
Ooh, for a peek at the items on the agenda for today’s meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

Weapons? Possibly.

What Putin really needs are armoured vehicles and the technology to make his precision weapons be, well, precise.

In recent months Russian forces have taken to misemploying weapons – using anti-ship missiles against land targets, for example. They still go bang at the end of their journey but the guidance systems often don’t work as they should.

So he may well want to ask Xi to send technology, possibly via Belarus or some other compliant country to avoid sanctions. They could be sent as ‘dual-use’ technology; ostensibly for deployment in electrical items such as dishwashers.

Trying the same trick with tanks is harder, but Putin’s need for heavy armour is bordering on desperate given he is thought to have only low hundreds of decent vehicles left to call on.

Mr Xi could offer the lot.

The trouble for Putin is that it would be utterly humiliating for any request to be rebuffed. Mr Xi knows that to supply heavy weapons or sophisticated technology would be to cross a line, one hitherto deemed off limits.

But there is something else Putin ask for that might be more palatable to the Chinese leader: diplomatic support.

Putin will likely view his indictment last week on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as little more than an annoyance; it will not land him in The Hague any time soon.

But can he take the chance of, say, a visit to Tajikistan – a signatory to the Rome Statute underpinning the ICC – before knowing where international opinion is?

Putin is due to visit South Africa in August for a summit of the five leading emerging economies, known as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

If he attends, South Africa, another ICC signatory country, is duty-bound to clap him in irons.

Given South Africa’s close relationship with Russia that is unlikely. But pressure could be applied by neighbours seeking better relationships with the West.

However, the country with possibly the greatest influence across the African continent as a whole right now is China, due to lucrative (if unevenly loaded) trade and infrastructure deals.

Might Putin be tempted to ask Mr Xi to lend his diplomatic heft into persuading African countries not to lobby South Africa too hard over the ICC?

To visit the BRICS summit in Durban and return unmolested would be a huge coup for Putin. After all, he likes nothing more than to poke holes in international institutions he sees as Western stooges out to stymy legitimate Russian ambition.

Unlike weapons, this would be easier for Mr Xi to agree to but place such opaque action as a low priority.

Faces saved all round.

Published by Guestspeaker

A joint effort of several authors who do find that nobody can keep standing at the side and that “Everyone" must care about what is going on in today’s world. We are a bunch of people who do not mind that somebody has a totally different idea but is willing to share the ideas with others and to be Active and willing to let others understand how "today’s decisions will influence the future”. Therefore we would love to see many others to "Act today".

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