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Xi and Putin Hold Virtual Summit

As both leaders face pressure from Western powers, the prospect of deeper ties becomes more attractive.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a video meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a video meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting via video conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 28. Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold virtual talks, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Malaysia, and European Union leaders host their eastern neighbors for the Eastern Partnership summit.

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Putin and Xi Hold Virtual Summit

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold virtual talks, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Malaysia, and European Union leaders host their eastern neighbors for the Eastern Partnership summit.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Putin and Xi Hold Virtual Summit

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold virtual talks today as the two leaders face pressure from the West on separate fronts.

Today’s meeting is expected to be “quite lengthy,” according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, as the two leaders cover “talks on energy, cooperation in the field of high tech, joint investments, and trade,” Peskov said.

Geopolitics is also likely to be high on the agenda, with Peskov suggesting Xi and Putin would also address the “very aggressive rhetoric both from NATO and the U.S.,” alluding to tensions over Ukraine.

Both leaders have been on the receiving end of Western opprobrium in recent weeks, with NATO leaders continuing to spar with Putin rhetorically over a Russian military buildup perceived as threatening non-NATO member Ukraine and as Western leaders join a U.S.-led diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics amid concerns over human rights abuses against China’s Uyghur minority.

There won’t be a need for much small talk ahead of today’s summit; the two have met more than 30 times since Xi rose to his country’s highest office, with the Chinese leader describing Putin as his “best friend” in 2019.

Those deep ties are starting to bear fruit in the military arena too. In late November, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, signed a road map to improve military relations, where they resolved to increase joint military exercises and patrols.

Their geographic proximity is likely to be a roadblock to any long-term alliance, however, as both countries vie for influence in Central Asia—a contest that, so far, Moscow is winning.


What We’re Following Today

Blinken in Malaysia. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Malaysia today for a two-day visit on the second leg of his Southeast Asia tour. The secretary is expected to meet with Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah as well as Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Blinken’s visit comes after he outlined the five “core elements” of the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy in a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday.

EU Eastern Partnership summit. The European Union hosts the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine for the sixth Eastern Partnership summit today in Brussels, the first summit in four years. Belarus, a traditional member of the partnership, has suspended its involvement over mounting disputes with the bloc. The EU is set to announce an investment plan worth more than $2.5 billion to benefit partnership states.


Keep an Eye On

U.S.-UAE ties. The United Arab Emirates has threatened to suspend a $23 billion weapons deal with the United States over apparent disagreements between the two sides over technology access and the use of equipment from Chinese company Huawei in UAE communications infrastructure. The two countries are currently in negotiations for the Persian Gulf state to acquire 50 F-35 advanced fighter jets as well as drones and other munitions.

A U.S. official, speaking to the Wall Street Journal, said the issue was unlikely to derail the sale: “This sort of back-and-forth is not unusual for significant arms sales, and we are hopeful we can work through these issues.”

Afghanistan’s food crisis. Afghanistan’s food crisis is deteriorating rapidly, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) warned on Tuesday as it published survey estimates showing 98 percent of Afghans were not eating enough food, with WFP spokesperson Tomson Phiri blaming a collapsing economy, drought, and years of conflict for the dire circumstances. The agency plans to increase its food assistance from 15 million people in 2021 to 23 million people in 2022.

Belarus’s opposition. The European Union has threatened further sanctions against Belarus after a court sentenced opposition leader Sergei Tikhanovsky to 18 years in prison on Tuesday, finding him guilty of inciting social hatred and instigating mass unrest. Tikhanovsky was arrested by Belarusian authorities in the run up to the August 2020 presidential election. His wife, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has led Belarus’s opposition movement in his stead, mounting a global campaign to challenge Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko.


Odds and Ends

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has yet to hear a bump in the night as he begins life in his official residence, a home avoided by the last two Japanese leaders and one that has gained a reputation for being haunted. The rumors stem from a 1936 coup attempt, known as the Feb. 26 Incident, with proponents alleging that those killed in the upheaval still walk the house’s halls. The belief is persistent enough that a Shinto priest conducted an exorcism during renovations in 2005.

Perhaps it worked, as Kishida on Monday reported no ill effects following his move from parliamentary member housing to the prime minister’s residence. “I slept well,” Kishida said. As for any ghosts? “So far, I have not seen [any].”

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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