The United States has released a warning to European allies that Russia asked China for armed drones in late February as it was beginning its invasion of Ukraine, as per the sources familiar with the matter.
The request has alerted Biden administration officials who are seeking to prevent China, who is Russia’s most powerful diplomatic partner, from coming to Vladimir Putin’s aid in the war, as per the people, who described the matter on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, National Security Advisor of White House Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat, Communist Party Politburo member Yang Jiechi held a meeting for six hours in Rome to discuss a variety of issues, including Ukraine. One U.S. official has described the meeting as intense but declined to say whether the request for military aid came up, while Yang afterwards called on all sides to exercise patience in the conflict.
Before the Sullivan & Yang meeting, American officials began disclosing Russia’s military and economic assistance bid. Asked about the request for a drone, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington on Monday night referred to an earlier statement from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian. “The U.S. has been maliciously spreading disinformation targeting China,” Zhao said. “We have been playing a constructive part in promoting peace talks.”
The Biden led administration has sought to persuade Beijing to use its influence with Moscow to help end a conflict that has now entered its third week. The president’s top advisers have pressured China to impose sanctions on Russia’s economy imposed by the U.S. and its European and Asian allies.
A senior administration official has acknowledged Monday that the administration has deep concerns about Russia’s alignment with China.
Another area of concern raised by Sullivan and other Biden administration officials in recent days is the risk that Putin resorts to using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.