Xi's Intentions to Visit Putin and Lukashenka and Vučić's Latest High-profile Statements: ISW Analysis
Xi Jinping plans to visit Putin next week. Meanwhile, Lukashenko confirmed that his state was supplying Russia with electronic components, while Vucic refused to promise that Serbia would not impose sanctions against the aggressor state.
As evidenced by such statements and the upcoming visit of the Chinese leader to Moscow, ISW analysts said.
Xi to face bunker dictator
Xi Jinping will meet with Putin during a visit to Russia from March 20 to 22. In particular, to discuss sanctions evasion schemes and China's interest in mediating a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine.
The Kremlin said that Putin and Xi intend to sign vague bilateral documents and discuss topical issues of a comprehensive partnership.
Note! It is also reported that Chinese companies sold rifles, spare parts for UAVs and equipment that could be used for military purposes to Russian organizations. In addition, Western intelligence agencies have said that Beijing is considering the possibility of providing Russia with lethal equipment.
Xi is likely planning to discuss sanctions evasion schemes with Putin and Russian officials to support the sale and supply of Chinese equipment to Russia. – noted in ISW.
Earlier, analysts at the American Institute for the Study of War estimated that Lukashenko and Xi on March 1 signed a package of 16 agreements that could help Russia evade sanctions by channeling Chinese goods through Belarus. Xi is also likely aimed at facilitating China's efforts to position itself as an impartial third-party negotiator between Russia and Ukraine.
In addition, the Chinese leader may try to use his success in mediating the resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia into a larger attempt to mediate this war.
Belarus supplies Russia with electronic components
Lukashenka confirmed that the Belarusian industry supplies electronic components to Russia. This potentially confirms ISW's preliminary assessment that Minsk can help Moscow avoid Western sanctions.
On March 17, the self-proclaimed president announced that Belarus and Russia had signed an agreement to establish a joint center for the development and production of photomasks (an intermediate product used in the production of integrated circuits). He also added that the two states have developed a list of critical electronic components and that the Belarusian industry has already begun to supply unspecified microelectronics to Russian enterprises.
It should be noted that earlier American analysts estimated that Belarus could help Russia evade sanctions, and China could secretly transfer goods and/or equipment to Russia through Belarus. The US State Department has already sanctioned several additional Belarusian defense enterprises and tightened export controls to Belarus from February 24, 2023.
However, ISW notes that these sanctions may not be comprehensive enough to prevent Minsk from sending Moscow electronic components that are used in weapons systems and other dual-use technologies. Lukashenko said this at the technological enterprise of the Belarusian joint-stock company Planar, against which the United States does not seem to have imposed sanctions.
Serbian president changes rhetoric
The Russian president's rhetoric about Belgrade's refusal to impose sanctions against Russia is softening.
“The teacher refused to promise that Serbia would not impose sanctions against Russia, acknowledged that Belgrade's decision not to join European sanctions against Russia led to “difficult [economic] circumstances” for Serbia, and stated that he would appreciate “when we are in corner and when our policy should change “March 17,” the ISW noted.
By the way, Serbian Economy Minister Rade Basta called on the government to impose sanctions against Russia and said that his state was paying a “high price” for not doing so on March 14.
Politico previously reported that Vučić appears to be revisiting Serbia's close ties to Russia, fueled in part by the Wagner group's recruiting and subversion efforts in Serbia and the exposure of the international economic and information loss inflicted on Putin by his invasion of Ukraine, analysts said.