China’s President Xi Jinping told his ally Vladimir Putin that “change is coming” in a strange farewell message before departing Moscow after meeting with the Russian leader. This comes after Xi suggested that no country in the world is greater than another, specifically noting the US’s political power.
Xi told Putin through his interpreter: “Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years. And we are driving this change together.”
“Please, take care, dear friend,” Xi added, shaking Putin’s hand before being sent off by the Russian leader, who told Xi to have a “safe journey.”
This small but ominous exchange is likely to raise alarm for the US and its allies. It was reported in February 2022 that the two Eastern leaders had cultivated a “no limits” friendship, and that Putin had invited Xi to the Russian capital.
The Daily Mail reported that China and Russia have rejected what they perceive to be an attempt by the US to install a “unipolar world” controlled primarily by Washington.
However, the meeting between Xi and Putin was not all pomp and circumstance. The two signed a number of memorandums and agreements that are apparently meant to boost “bilateral cooperation” on several fronts, according to the report. There is currently no reported evidence that China has agreed to enter into a military-political pact with Russia amid the conflict in Ukraine.
The disturbing farewell between the two Eastern powers came after Putin had vowed to respond to British efforts to send ammunition involving depleted uranium to Ukraine, adding that the UK had increased the risk of a “nuclear collision.”
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, following the news that the UK was sending uranium-ridden ammunition to Ukraine, suggested that Russia “has much more than just depleted uranium,” seeming to mean that these weapons could be used if the occasion permits.
Putin noted that the UK’s willingness to provide Ukrainian troops with Challenger 2 tanks and uranium-riddled ammunition marked a substantial step in using weapons with a “nuclear component,” according to the Daily Mail. The justification for using depleted uranium in ammunition is that it can penetrate thick layers of material, such as armor.
However, uranium can also poison someone if they inhale it, resulting in instances of cancer and other warzone-based illnesses.
Putin was angered by the thought of the UK equipping Ukrainian soldiers with 14 next-generation battle tanks, saying: “The United Kingdom announced not only the supply of tanks to Ukraine but also shells with depleted uranium.”
“If this happens, Russia will be forced to respond accordingly, given that the West collectively is already beginning to use weapons with a nuclear component. It looks like the West indeed intends to fight Russia until the last Ukrainian.”
However, the UK’s Ministry of Defense made a statement, saying that Russia is “deliberately trying to disinform” over the type of ammunition that has been sent to Ukraine.
“The British Army has used depleted uranium in its armor-piercing shells for decades. It is a standard component and has nothing to do with nuclear weapons or capabilities.”
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a weapons expert and former tank commander, suggested that Putin’s comment about nuclear escalation is “bonkers.”
“Depleted uranium is completely inert,” Bretton-Gordon told the Independent. “There is no way that you could create a nuclear reaction or a nuclear explosion with depleted uranium.”
The UK’s Ministry of Defense has also noted that the health risks that come with depleted uranium ammunition is “likely to be low.”
However, Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s Defense Minister, reiterated that the world is just “steps” away from a nuclear disaster, according to the Daily Mail.
“Another step has been taken, and there are fewer and fewer left,” he said. When he was questioned on whether the world was really closer to a nuclear conflict, he replied: “It was not by chance that I told you about steps. There are fewer and fewer.”
Bob Seely, a conservative MP, and a British army veteran dismissed the comments as simple intimidation.
“Russia uses nuclear threats to try to intimidate. Moscow did this in the Cold War and sadly the Kremlin is doing it again now,” Seely said.
“Putin's primary political aim is to undermine the link between Ukraine and its Western allies that are supplying Kyiv with funding and arms. If he can break that link, he believes he could eventually grind Ukraine down and win a victory that his troops have not been able to win on the battlefields in southern and eastern Ukraine.”
“What's worrying is that Russia is now increasing the level of nuclear threat rhetoric. Is this because President Xi has left Moscow, or because he is giving his blessing to it? China's role here is important.”
“Putin's rhetoric is likely to be just that, but we do not know that he is bluffing and therefore we need to assume he may use nuclear weapons. If we take his threat seriously, and everything we can to deter him, we make it less likely that he will use them, but for sure we live in dangerous times and we need to be honest about that. We cannot just assume he is bluffing.”
“What is also clear is that the longer this war goes on, the more dangerous it will become. Therefore, the least dangerous option is to arm Ukraine to win this war this year, or at least push Russia onto the defensive... Arming Ukraine remains the least bad option.”