Russia asked China for military equipment, U.S. official says

The Russian government has asked China for military equipment and other support, a U.S. official told POLITICO on Sunday, possibly indicating that Moscow fears its position after struggling to advance deeper into Ukraine more than two weeks into its invasion.

The official, who wasn”;t authorized to speak publicly, would not offer specifics about Russia”;s request or how the United States came to learn about it. The White House wouldn”;t comment on the record.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin”;s forces have seen their campaign to take the capital, Kyiv, and other regions mostly stalled because of Ukraine”;s Western-backed resistance. The introduction of thousands of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, along with other advanced equipment, has helped overmatched Ukrainian troops destroy Russia”;s warplanes, helicopters and other vehicles. While Russia maintains a military advantage, experts say, the hardware losses have made an already complicated campaign that much harder.

The revelation of the Kremlin”;s request comes a day before national security adviser Jake Sullivan is set to meet Yang Jiechi, China”;s top foreign policy official, in Rome to discuss the Russia-Ukraine war.

Earlier on Sunday, Sullivan told CNN”;s “;State of the Union”; that “;we are communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them. We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country anywhere in the world.”;

The U.S. and Europe-led economic sanctions campaign to punish Russia for the invasion has pushed Moscow to seek more economic help from China.

“;We have part of our gold and foreign exchange reserves in the Chinese currency, in yuan,”; Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said during a Sunday TV interview. “;And we see what pressure is being exerted by Western countries on China in order to limit mutual trade with China.”;

The military support Russia needs from China is less clear. Perhaps Moscow is asking for “;exploratory talks,”; said Michael Kofman, Russia director at the Virginia-based CNA think tank, or it “;could be chips, which is what they really need.”; But the majority of semiconductors, he noted, come from Taiwan, whose government is enforcing the global export restrictions on Russia.

Russia has “;definitely set themselves behind several years of procurement in terms of equipment,”; Kofman said.

The Kremlin”;s request raises important questions about how Russia sees its progress, or lack thereof, on the Ukrainian battlefield and about the Moscow-Beijing relationship writ large.

Seeking military assistance just two weeks into the war could indicate Russian military leaders assess that they need a backfill of equipment to sustain the invasion, especially as the campaign to take Kyiv remains mostly stalled.

And how Chinese leader Xi Jinping chooses to back Putin –; with whom he has met 38 times –; could provide a clear signal about the strength of their ties. Usually Russia sells weapons to China, so agreeing to the request would underscore a changed dynamic.

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