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Russia-Ukraine War

Hungary’s Orban visits Ukraine for first time since Russia’s 2022 invasion



A Symbolic Yet Tense Visit Highlights Europe’s Internal Fractures and Ukraine’s Ongoing Struggle for Support

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban made his first visit to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in 2022, marking a significant yet contentious moment in European politics. This visit comes at a time when Orban’s stance on the war and his close ties with Moscow have often put him at odds with other EU leaders. As Hungary assumes the rotating presidency of the EU, Orban’s trip to Kyiv and his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reveal the intricate and often strained dynamics within Europe regarding support for Ukraine.

Orban’s visit to Kyiv, while symbolic, was shrouded in tension. Despite the official cordiality, with Zelenskyy expressing appreciation for Orban’s visit coinciding with Hungary’s EU presidency, the underlying discord was palpable. Orban’s public acknowledgment of the war’s gravity and his stated goal of understanding how Hungary could help Ukraine during its EU presidency starkly contrast with his previous calls for immediate cease-fire and peace talks, which have often been seen as undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Hungary’s assumption of the EU presidency comes at a critical juncture. Although the role is largely ceremonial, it provides Hungary with a platform to influence the bloc’s agenda. Orban’s government has signaled an intention to act as “honest brokers,” yet skepticism abounds due to Hungary’s controversial democratic record and its divergent stance on Russia compared to other EU member states. This visit to Ukraine, therefore, serves as a litmus test for Hungary’s commitment to European unity and support for Ukraine.

One of the significant points of contention between Hungary and Ukraine is the treatment of the ethnic Hungarian minority in Ukraine’s Zakarpattia region. Orban has used allegations of mistreatment to justify his reluctance to provide military support to Ukraine or allow arms transfers across their shared border. This issue highlights the broader geopolitical maneuvering at play, with Hungary leveraging its minority population concerns to maintain a degree of autonomy in its foreign policy, often at odds with the broader EU consensus.

While Orban’s visit dominated headlines in Europe, significant developments were also occurring in Washington. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced an upcoming $2.3 billion security assistance package for Ukraine, emphasizing anti-tank weapons and air defense systems. This announcement, along with high-level meetings between U.S. and Ukrainian officials, underscores the unwavering support from the United States as Ukraine continues to resist Russian aggression. These developments set the stage for the upcoming NATO summit, where military support for Ukraine is expected to be a central topic.

Orban’s visit and the concurrent U.S. support highlight the multifaceted nature of Ukraine’s struggle for sovereignty and security. Within Europe, Orban’s actions may serve as a catalyst for further discussions about the unity and coherence of the EU’s foreign policy, especially concerning Russia. For Ukraine, the visit underscores the importance of continued diplomatic engagement with all EU members, despite differing political stances, to secure comprehensive support in its fight against Russia.

Prime Minister Orban’s visit to Kyiv, juxtaposed with robust U.S. military support for Ukraine, illustrates the complex and often contradictory landscape of international relations amid the ongoing war. As Hungary navigates its role within the EU and Ukraine strives for security and sovereignty, the actions of both nations will have far-reaching implications for the region’s stability and the future of European unity.

Russia-Ukraine War

China’s Defiant Signal to NATO: Military Drills in Belarus



China and Belarus have embarked on joint military exercises this week, seen by experts as a calculated response to NATO’s growing interest in the Asia-Pacific region. This move underscores China’s increasing involvement in Europe and raises questions about its long-term strategic intentions.

Just a day before NATO’s summit, where Japan and South Korea were key participants, China initiated 11 days of anti-terrorism exercises with Belarus in Brest, a city uncomfortably close to NATO member Poland. Belarus, a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been instrumental in supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sharing borders with both Ukraine and Poland.

Dubbed “Eagle Assault 2024,” these drills aim to enhance military interoperability, focusing on night landings, overcoming water obstacles, and urban operations, as stated by the Belarusian Ministry of Defense. As the exercises proceeded, Chinese and Belarusian military representatives convened to discuss joint logistics, further solidifying their collaborative capabilities.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian, when pressed about the implications for NATO and Polish security, deflected, suggesting that such questions be directed to “competent authorities.” He emphasized that the exercises do not target any specific country, framing them as a reflection of the deepening ties between China and Belarus. Belarus, the newest member of the China- and Russia-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, has seen its president, Alexander Lukashenko, engage in high-level meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

During talks in Beijing, Wang expressed China’s commitment to deepening high-level exchanges and strengthening strategic cooperation with Belarus, advancing their comprehensive partnership. This partnership, according to Chinese state media, aims to oppose external interference and resist unilateral bullying.

Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, highlighted the significance of Belarus to China, noting that political solidarity and trade between the two countries have seen tremendous progress since the expansion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative into Belarus. She emphasized that Belarus offers China strong support in Eastern Europe and the Global South.

United by their support for Russia’s war on Ukraine, authoritarian political systems, and general discontent with the Western-led international order, China and Belarus are forging a closer alliance. China’s diplomatic efforts often target similar states, maintaining alliances with North Korea and a “no limits” strategic partnership with Russia.

China’s focus on Eastern Europe as a frontier for engagement has become more pronounced. During a European tour in May, Xi Jinping visited Serbia and Hungary, pledging to build a “Chinese-Serbian community with a shared future in the new era” and elevating relations with Hungary to an “all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership.”

As China strengthens ties with Eastern Europe, it continues to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, providing an economic buffer against Western sanctions and supplying dual-use technology that could be used in weapons against Ukraine. Despite this support, China remains cautious about offering overt military aid to Russia, fearing Western sanctions.

Supporting Belarus, a close ally of Moscow, signals to the West that China is prepared to engage in military cooperation near EU and NATO borders. China’s objection to NATO’s involvement with South Korea and Japan is clear. Lin, in a recent news conference, criticized NATO for expanding its mandate and stoking confrontation.

Analysts see the military collaboration with Belarus as marking a new chapter in China’s European foreign policy objectives. Yun Sun noted that China’s cautious approach to extending military presence to Europe is changing, with the joint exercise evidently linked to the NATO summit in Washington, which included Japanese and Korean participation. This exercise, she argued, is a tit-for-tat response.

Ali Wyne, senior research and advocacy adviser for U.S.-China at the International Crisis Group, wrote that with the U.S. reinvigorating its alliances in Europe and Asia, China seeks to demonstrate its ability to form coalitions, deepening ties with U.S. competitors and adversaries.

Michal Bogusz, an analyst at the Polish Center of Eastern Studies, views the Eagle Assault exercise and increasing collaboration between Beijing and Belarus as part of a global expansion of informal relationships among authoritarian regimes. He suggested that recent visits and support among China, Russia, and North Korea indicate a coordinated effort to strengthen their de facto alliance.

The upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in 2025, with China assuming the rotating presidency, will be a critical moment to observe the evolving dynamics of this alliance.

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Russia-Ukraine War

Kremlin Labels NATO’s Long-Range Missile Discussions a ‘Dangerous Escalation’



Peskov Warns Against Provocative Actions Amid Heightened Tensions Over Ukraine Conflict

The Kremlin has sharply criticized recent discussions among NATO members regarding the potential deployment of long-range weapons systems in Ukraine, labeling these talks as a “dangerous escalation.” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, voiced these concerns following statements from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his top aide Andriy Yermak, who called for lifting U.S. restrictions on using supplied weapons against targets deep within Russia.

At a joint news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Zelenskyy emphasized the need to remove all limitations to defend Ukraine effectively. Currently, the U.S. restricts Ukraine to targeting only locations just inside the Russian border from where attacks originate.

Peskov’s comments come after NATO’s summit in Washington, which Russia monitored closely. He deemed the discussions highly provocative, noting the differing stances within NATO, with some countries like the UK showing no hesitation in supporting Ukraine’s use of long-range missiles, while others seek to maintain a balance and oppose easing these restrictions.

Peskov also asserted that long-range missiles are already targeting regions such as Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, which he referred to as Russian territories, although these areas are internationally recognized as part of Ukraine. He warned that extending the range of such missile attacks would provoke a dangerous escalation.

In addition to addressing the missile issue, Peskov responded to comments made by U.S. President Joe Biden about Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling them “absolutely unacceptable.” Biden’s description of Putin as “a murderous madman” was not specifically cited by Peskov, but the Russian spokesman insisted that such disrespectful language is impermissible between heads of state.

Meanwhile, the U.N. General Assembly has adopted a resolution demanding Russia withdraw its military and unauthorized personnel from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, ensuring its safety under Ukrainian control. The resolution passed with 99 votes in favor, nine against, and 60 abstentions. The Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest, remains a critical concern as it needs external power to prevent a meltdown despite being shut down.

On the military front, President Biden announced a significant new aid package for Ukraine at the NATO summit. The $225 million package includes advanced weaponry such as a Patriot missile battery, NASAMS munitions, Stinger missiles, HIMARS ammunition, and various artillery rounds, reinforcing U.S. support for Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict.

These developments highlight the escalating tensions and the complex international dynamics surrounding the conflict in Ukraine, as well as the high-stakes geopolitical maneuvers by both NATO and Russia.

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Russia-Ukraine War

NATO Braces for Arms Race Amid Rising Tensions with Russia and Allies



This week’s NATO summit in Washington has been a focal point for discussions on supporting Ukraine. Yet, behind closed doors, officials are grappling with a more ominous challenge: an arms race with Russia and its emerging coalition.

NATO leaders argue it’s no longer enough to arm Ukraine against relentless Russian attacks. They must also outspend, outpace, and outproduce the alliance forming between Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.

China’s critical role in sustaining Russia’s military has not gone unnoticed. Western officials accuse Beijing of sending raw materials and dual-use components essential for advanced weapons systems. Meanwhile, sanctions from the U.S. and Britain have targeted Iranian companies producing drones for Russia. Declassified U.S. intelligence also notes Russia’s use of North Korean missiles, with South Korean officials reporting Pyongyang has sent over 3 million artillery shells to Moscow.

The NATO official highlighted that China’s support has drastically changed Russia’s battlefield posture, rendering outdated the assessments that Russia’s military would need years to rebuild. “The assessments didn’t account for China’s substantial involvement,” the official said.

Concerns mount as cooperation among Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran deepens, highlighting the urgency of NATO’s response. President Joe Biden acknowledged this burgeoning alliance, describing it as a significant concern. A strategy to disrupt their efforts is in place, though details remain undisclosed.

Some U.S. officials have labeled this coalition the new “axis of evil.” Admiral John Aquilino, former commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific, urged lawmakers to act accordingly. Analysts, like Richard Goldberg from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, warn of an intensifying partnership among these nations. “They are aligning on strategic capabilities,” Goldberg said, “and we must view them as an axis, not individual parts.”

Despite these developments, forming a cohesive anti-Western alliance among Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran is not without hurdles. Michelle Grisé from the RAND Corporation points out significant tension points, such as competition for energy markets and differing approaches to Israel. “This axis poses a serious threat, but it’s not an insurmountable rival,” Grisé noted. To form a cohesive alliance, they must translate their opposition to the Western-led order into a unified vision, a task she believes will be challenging.

NATO allies, however, are not complacent. The U.S., Germany, and Spain are ramping up production of interceptors for Patriot air defense batteries, while the U.S. and Turkey collaborate on producing artillery shells in Texas. Biden emphasized the need for the EU and NATO to build their ammunition and weapons capacity, declaring, “The West will become the industrial base for defensive weapons.”

Biden also hinted at imposing economic costs on China for its support of Russia. Yet, some Western officials remain optimistic. “The steps we’re taking are delivering results,” the NATO official said, predicting better production numbers in the coming year.

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Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine Strikes Back: Six Russian Regions Attacked



Ukraine launched drone attacks on six Russian regions in retaliation for a deadly missile strike on Kyiv’s main children’s hospital, causing multiple casualties and extensive damage.

In a bold counteroffensive, Ukraine launched drone strikes on six Russian regions overnight. This retaliation came after a devastating Russian missile strike hit Kyiv’s main children’s hospital, resulting in 38 deaths and 190 injuries. The Russian Defense Ministry reported the interception and destruction of multiple drones across Belgorod, Kursk, Voronezh, Rostov, Astrakhan, and Volgograd regions. Footage showed fires at oil depots and other sites. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the hospital attack, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “bloody criminal” and urging stronger international actions against Russia.

This fierce exchange underscores the escalating violence, with Ukraine demonstrating its capability to hit back deep into Russian territory. The war-torn nation’s resolve to defend itself is clear, even as it grapples with the aftermath of the brutal attack on its largest pediatric facility. As both sides brace for further confrontations, the international community watches closely, with calls for accountability and more decisive measures to curb the conflict.

With nearly 100 facilities damaged nationwide, the humanitarian toll of the conflict continues to mount, highlighting the urgent need for a resolution. However, the path to peace remains fraught with challenges, as the war’s devastating impacts ripple through both nations.

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Russia-Ukraine War

UN Security Council to hold emergency Ukraine meeting as nation mourns



Russian Missile Strikes Kill 37 and Injure Over 170, Sparking Global Outcry and Calls for Enhanced Defense

As Ukraine grapples with one of the deadliest missile barrages since the conflict began, the nation has declared a day of mourning. This somber Tuesday sees the United Nations Security Council convening an emergency meeting to address the aftermath of a brutal Russian offensive that left at least 37 dead and over 170 injured. The attacks, described by Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko as some of the largest since the war’s inception, struck multiple cities, including a children’s hospital in Kyiv, igniting international condemnation and calls for immediate action.

“Russian terrorists must be held accountable for this,” declared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a fervent address late Monday. “Mere concern does not stop terror. Condolences are not a weapon. We need to shoot down Russian missiles. Russian combat aircraft must be destroyed where they are based. Strong steps must be taken to eliminate any security deficit.”

Zelenskyy’s plea for decisive action resonates deeply as NATO leaders gather for a summit in Washington. The timing of this summit could not be more critical. Zelenskyy insists that the world possesses the means to arm Ukraine sufficiently, urging that such support be rendered immediately. His call to action underscores the pressing need for global unity and swift intervention.

Echoing these sentiments, U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the missile strikes as “a horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality” and reaffirmed America’s unwavering support for Ukraine. Biden’s pledge includes new measures aimed at strengthening Ukraine’s air defenses to protect its cities and civilians from relentless Russian assaults. “The United States stands with the people of Ukraine,” he asserted, signaling robust international solidarity.

Ukraine has been relentless in its appeals for enhanced air defense systems from its allies, seeking authorization to use these defenses against military targets inside Russia. The Pentagon, in a briefing on Monday, reiterated that U.S. policy allows for Ukrainian use of U.S.-supplied arms against threats originating from outside deep Russian territory. Major General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, emphasized the U.S. commitment to providing Ukraine with the necessary capabilities to defend its sovereignty.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres was unequivocal in his condemnation of Monday’s attacks. He labeled the strikes on the Kyiv hospital and another medical facility in the Dniprovsky district as “particularly shocking.” His spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, highlighted the egregious nature of targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, calling such actions “unacceptable” and demanding their immediate cessation.

Russia’s defense ministry, however, maintains a starkly different narrative. It claims the strikes targeted Ukrainian defense plants and military air bases, asserting their success while denying any intent to hit civilian facilities. The ministry even suggested, without evidence, that the damage in Kyiv was caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile. Col. Yurii Ignat of the Ukrainian air force provided a sobering assessment, noting that Russian missiles are now equipped with advanced heat traps to evade air defense systems, flying at low altitudes to avoid detection and interception.

The international community watches closely as the NATO summit progresses. Czech President Petr Pavel condemned the attack on the hospital as “inexcusable,” voicing an expectation that NATO will reach a consensus recognizing Russia as the “biggest threat for which we must be thoroughly prepared.”

The UN Security Council’s emergency meeting is a pivotal moment. As Ukraine mourns, the world is called to confront the harsh realities of this conflict and take meaningful action. The missile strikes not only demand a response but also a reevaluation of the strategies needed to ensure Ukraine’s defense and sovereignty. The decisions made in these forums will shape the future of Ukraine and set a precedent for global responses to aggression and humanitarian crises.

In the face of such brutality, the resilience of Ukraine and the solidarity of the international community stand as a testament to the enduring fight for justice and peace. The coming days will reveal whether the world is ready to take the decisive steps that Zelenskyy and his people so desperately need.

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Modern Warfare

Ukrainian Drone Triggers Warehouse Explosions in Russia as War of Attrition Grinds On



A village in Russia’s western border region was evacuated on Sunday after a series of explosions occurred following debris from a downed Ukrainian drone setting fire to a nearby warehouse, according to local officials. Social media footage showed rising clouds of black smoke in the Voronezh region, with loud explosions heard in succession.

Governor Aleksandr Gusev reported that falling wreckage triggered the “detonation of explosive objects.” Although no casualties were reported, residents of a nearby village in the Podgorensky district were evacuated as a precaution. Roads in the area were closed while emergency services, military, and government officials worked at the scene. The Russian Ministry of Defense did not address this particular strike in their morning briefing but mentioned that air defense systems had destroyed a Ukrainian drone over the Belgorod region.

This incident follows reports of another fire caused by drone debris at an oil depot in Russia’s Krasnodar province on Saturday. The blaze was extinguished by Sunday morning, according to Russia’s emergency services.

These drone strikes come in the midst of a strategic retreat by Ukrainian troops from a neighborhood on the outskirts of Chasiv Yar, a town in Ukraine’s Donetsk region that has been heavily bombarded by Russian forces for over a month. The Ukrainian military’s spokesperson informed The Associated Press that the withdrawal was necessary due to the intense Russian assault. Chasiv Yar’s fall could jeopardize critical Ukrainian supply routes and put nearby cities at risk, potentially aiding Russia’s goal of seizing the entire Donetsk region.

Russian forces have been trying to gain ground in Ukraine’s industrial east for months, locking Ukrainian defenders into a grueling war of attrition. A joint investigation by independent Russian news outlets Meduza and Mediazona, published on Friday, reported that Moscow’s forces are losing between 200 and 250 soldiers in Ukraine each day.

On Sunday, Ukrainian air force officials reported that two ballistic missiles and 13 Shahed drones sent by Russia overnight were shot down. However, the officials did not provide details on the impact of the missiles.

In a separate incident, 14 people were killed in Ukraine after a bus collided with a cargo vehicle, leaving only one survivor, according to Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko. The victims included a 6-year-old child.

As the war continues, the conflict remains marked by frequent clashes, strategic withdrawals, and a high human toll on both sides, underscoring the devastating and prolonged nature of this war of attrition.

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Russia Threatens Nuclear Doctrine ‘Amendments’ Amid Ukraine War



Russia Threatens Nuclear Doctrine ‘Amendments’ Amid Ukraine War

A top Russian official has suggested that the ongoing war in Ukraine necessitates changes to Moscow’s nuclear doctrine. Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, emphasized the need for these amendments, reflecting growing international concerns and debates surrounding the doctrine, which currently allows for the use of atomic weapons if Russia perceives a threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has maintained an ambiguous stance on nuclear weapons. Although he has asserted that nuclear weapons are unnecessary for achieving his goals, recent drills involving tactical nuclear weapons in southern Russia and Belarus signal otherwise. During the St Petersburg International Economic Forum last month, Putin described the nuclear doctrine as a “living instrument” and hinted at possible modifications, stating that Moscow is closely monitoring global developments and does not rule out changes to its nuclear policies.

High-ranking Russian officials, including former president Dmitry Medvedev, have frequently issued nuclear threats, while Kremlin propagandists have suggested missile strikes on Western countries allied with Ukraine. In an interview with the Russian foreign policy magazine International Affairs, Ryabkov argued that the traditional concept of nuclear deterrence is no longer fully effective due to the Ukraine conflict. He hinted at the need for “conceptual additions and amendments” to the doctrine, though he did not provide specific details.

Ryabkov mentioned that these changes would eventually lead to “more concrete approaches” regarding the potential escalation by Russia’s adversaries, reiterating the Kremlin’s narrative that the West is escalating the conflict initiated by Putin.

The discourse around Russia’s nuclear doctrine has intensified recently. Dmitri Trenin, from the Moscow think tank Institute of World Economy and International Relations, suggested last month that the doctrine should be modified to allow for the first use of atomic weapons if “core national interests are at stake.” He argued that this change is necessary to persuade the West that provoking conflict with Russia would not leave them comfortable and fully protected.

The persistent threat of Russia resorting to nuclear weapons has influenced the cautious balance maintained by the U.S. and NATO allies in supplying Ukraine with weapons to counter Moscow’s aggression without risking further escalation. Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, stressed the importance of resuming the suspended Russian-U.S. dialogue on nuclear risk reduction and arms control to avoid nuclear miscalculation. He also called on the U.S. and NATO members to refrain from making rhetorical threats of nuclear retaliation, avoid provocative nuclear exercises, and rule out mirroring Russia’s counterproductive moves.

As the war in Ukraine continues, the potential amendments to Russia’s nuclear doctrine pose significant implications for global security. The international community remains on edge, closely watching how these developments might reshape nuclear strategy and the broader geopolitical landscape.

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Xi and Putin Unite at Central Asian Summit to Challenge U.S. Hegemony



Leaders of China and Russia Strengthen Ties Amid Growing Influence in Central Asia

In a bid to counter what they see as U.S.-led dominance on the global stage, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin held pivotal talks at a security summit in Kazakhstan. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, which aims to address Eurasian security concerns, saw both leaders reaffirming their partnership and discussing strategies to enhance their influence in the region.

Established in 2001 by China and Russia, the SCO serves as a forum for these two powerhouses to project their influence across Eurasia. Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov highlighted the significance of this gathering, emphasizing that the SCO, along with BRICS, represents “the main pillars of the new world order,” advocating for genuine multilateralism in global affairs.

The BRICS coalition, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, recently extended invitations to six more countries: Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, underscored the importance of the SCO summit, stating it would “build more consensus among all parties and promote security, stability, and development of member countries.”

This summit also provided Kazakhstan and other Central Asian nations an opportunity to bolster their ties with these influential neighbors. Notably, the timing of this summit is crucial as China and Russia continue to deepen their relationship. In 2022, China declared a “no limits” partnership with Russia, and since then, Beijing has portrayed itself as a neutral actor in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Xi and Putin last met in May when Putin visited Beijing. Since then, China has extended diplomatic support to Russia and emerged as a primary market for Russian oil and gas. Despite their burgeoning ties, Central Asia remains a contested space for both countries. For Russia, the region comprises five former Soviet republics with deep-rooted cultural and economic ties. For China, Central Asia is crucial for its Belt and Road initiative, raising concerns over potential threats to Russia’s influence.

Analysts suggest that the summit’s discussions may have underlying implications, as both nations need to balance their competing interests in Central Asia while pursuing closer cooperation.

Eoin Micheál McNamara, a research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, noted that the SCO allows China and Russia to engage in collective dialogue with Central Asian states, helping manage mutual suspicions about each other’s intentions in the region.

“The SCO is therefore useful to keep the China-Russia alliance together as a force in wider great power politics,” McNamara explained. Carol Saivetz, a senior fellow at MIT’s Security Studies Program, anticipated that participants would discuss security in abstract terms and focus on economic projects. Historically, there was an implicit understanding that China would handle economic issues while Russia acted as the region’s security guarantor. However, with the ongoing war in Ukraine, China might exploit the instability to expand its influence.

Saivetz highlighted Xi’s early arrival to meet with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and his subsequent visit to Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, as indicators that China is not limiting its options to multilateral formats or Moscow. Despite the war in Ukraine overshadowing the summit, public discussion on the topic is unlikely due to differing opinions among Central Asian states.

Tina Dolbaia, a research associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, echoed this sentiment, suggesting that discussions about the Ukraine war would probably occur behind closed doors. She emphasized the relevance of the Ukraine conflict to the power struggle between China and Russia in Central Asia. “Putin is currently willing to underestimate and overlook China’s rising role in Russia’s ‘backyard’ due to the importance of countering the West in Ukraine and establishing a multi-polar world order,” Dolbaia explained.

Despite the significant influence wielded by China and Russia in the region, Central Asia’s loyalties are not firmly aligned with either. Dolbaia noted that Central Asian countries understand the need to navigate their relationships with both powers carefully. As the SCO summit concludes, the delicate balance of power in Central Asia remains a focal point for both Beijing and Moscow, highlighting the intricate dynamics of their partnership amid growing global tensions.

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