China sending lethal aid to Russia, likely shift Ukraine war dynamics in Putin’s favour

'A Russian military that's fueled by or aided by a Chinese infusion of weapons and platforms is more lethal militarily and more capable,' said a senior US official.

Sounak Mukhopadhyay
First Published4 Mar 2023
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the ceremony of opening of the Big Circle Line (BCL) of the Moscow Metro (subway) via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the ceremony of opening of the Big Circle Line (BCL) of the Moscow Metro (subway) via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)(AP)

Initial US intelligence indicates that China is contemplating providing lethal aid to Russia for the war in Ukraine, according to an anonymous current and former US official with knowledge of the intelligence. US officials corroborated this information for weeks from various sources of intelligence, as well as with allies who provided additional streams of information. These officials spoke anonymously to NBC News to discuss classified intelligence matters.

Multiple sources of intelligence pointing towards China potentially providing lethal aid to Russia, such as ammunition and artillery, have caused concern among Biden administration officials. This move could potentially shift the dynamics of the war in Moscow's favour.

"A Russian military that's fueled by or aided by a Chinese infusion of weapons and platforms is more lethal militarily and more capable. That's not going to be good for the people of Ukraine," the publication quoted a senior administration official as saying.

Also Read: One year of Russia-Ukraine war: A timeline of key moments so far

Top administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA Director Williams Burns, have publicly expressed their confidence in the intelligence and cautioned China against providing Russia with lethal military aid.

China denies any plans to send lethal aid to Russia, calling the US accusation "disinformation". US officials have yet to see any evidence of China making any decision or movement towards providing lethal aid to Russia.

National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson John Kirby, speaking at a White House press briefing on March 2, stated that the US is uncertain about how serious China was about possibly sending weapons to Russia.

As per Kirby, the US believes China has not ruled out the possibility of providing lethal aid but has not seen any evidence that Beijing is moving towards doing so. The NSC declined to comment further on the matter.

Also Read: End of Putin? How Russia’s failure in Ukraine may push this man to become Kremlin’s next supremo

Officials familiar with the intelligence have stated that the initial intelligence was unclear about what specific systems or equipment China was considering providing to Russia, including the possibility of providing drones beyond those already available commercially. According to a second senior US official, there are varying levels of confidence about how serious China is about this.

In an interview on CBS News' "Face the Nation", Burns confirmed that the decision to release the intelligence publicly was intended to discourage China from providing Russia with lethal aid. Burns stated, "We're confident that the Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment." He also mentioned that Secretary Blinken and President Biden wanted to make it clear what the consequences of such a move would be.

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