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China fills Russia's critical war gaps, US says

April 13, 2024

The United States has accused China of aiding the largest Russian military expansion since the Soviet era. Chinese support has been critical in the Russian war effort in Ukraine, US officials have said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands for the picture, Moscow, Russia 2023
The Chinese Embassy in the US urged Washington not to interfere with trade ties between China and Russia Image: Russian Presidential Press Office/AP/picture alliance

China is helping the Kremlin to boost its military efforts during a critical stage of Russia's war in Ukraine by providing drone and missile technology and sharing satellite images with Russia, senior US officials said on Friday. 

US President Joe Biden was said to have raised the issue during his recent call with Chinese President Xi Jinping

The Chinese Embassy in the US rejected the accusations, saying it was "not a producer of or party involved in the Ukraine crisis" and urging the US not to interfere in "normal trade relationships" between China and Russia. 

US looks to put international pressure on China

The US officials said they hope releasing information on Chinese aid to the Russian military will encourage European countries to put pressure on China. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is heading to Beijing this weekend.

China has been instrumental in revitalizing Russia's military "which had otherwise suffered significant setbacks" since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, a US official said on condition of anonymity.

"Russia is undertaking its most ambitious defense expansion since the Soviet era and on a faster timeline than we believed possible early on in this conflict," the official said."Russia would struggle to sustain its war effort without PRC inputs."

China-Russia relationship 'without borders'

What the US says China provides the Russian military

China has drastically increased sales of specific items to Russia, including drone and turbojet engines, machine tools, microelectronics and optical components, materials used by Russia to produce missiles, tanks, aircraft and other weapons, according to US intelligence data revealed to reporters.

Officials, on the condition of anonymity, told reporters that in 2023 Russia had received about 90% of microelectronics imports from China. The company name appearing in the materials is one of China's largest machine tool manufacturers — Dalian Machine Tool Group. Other Chinese companies mentioned are providing Russia with optical components to be used for tanks and armored vehicles, according to the US data.

Moreover, China allegedly assisted Russia by providing imagery to Moscow for its war on Ukraine. China reportedly also helps to improve satellite and space-based capabilities for use in Ukraine "increasing the Russian threat across Europe." 

China's aid in Russia's military expansion extends to supplying nitrocellulose — a special component used to make propellants for weapons, Reuters news agency cited the US officials as saying.

ac/sms (Reuters, AFP)