EU Analysis Suggests China May Send Tech Hardware to Help Putin

  • EU leaders met with President Joe Biden in Brussels Thursday
  • Summit talks addressed China’s potential influence on Russia

European Union officials suspect that China may be ready to supply semiconductors and other tech hardware to Russia as part of an effort to soften the impact of sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.

The EU is concerned that China is ready to help President Vladimir Putin’s government weather the economic penalties it has put in place along with the U.S., the U.K. and Japan with particular focus on the availability of high-tech components, according to two people with knowledge of the bloc’s internal assessments.

U.S. officials have also warned that Beijing may provide help to Putin, and China’s potential influence on the situation in Ukraine was a central issue in discussions Thursday between President Joe Biden and his allies from NATO, the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the EU in Brussels. At the NATO summit there was a broad consensus that the allies should prevent China from getting too close to Russia, but there was no agreement on how they should achieve that, another diplomat said.

Beijing and Moscow have denied any requests for aid were made or accepted. One of the EU officials said that the bloc so far has no hard evidence to back up its concerns. A spokesman for the EU Commission declined to comment.

Joe Biden attends a European Union leaders summit to discuss support for Ukraine at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels on March 24.Photographer: Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg


Biden said the leaders had discussed creating an organization to watch for violations of sanctions imposed by the U.S., EU and other partners against Russia, after noting that he’d made clear China would suffer consequences if it aids the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine.

NATO and G-7 leaders discussed establishing “an organization looking at who has violated any of the sanctions and where and when and how they violated them,” Biden said at a news conference in Brussels. “And that’s something we’re going to put in train.”

Biden said he had “made it clear” to Chinese President Xi Jinping in a video conference last week that China would be risking its plans for economic growth through international trade if it provided the Kremlin with aid.

“He’d be putting himself in significant jeopardy in those aims if in fact he moved forward” with assistance for Russia, Biden said in Brussels.

The NATO leaders also appealed to Beijing in their summit communique.

“We call on all states, including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to uphold the international order including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, as enshrined in the UN Charter, to abstain from supporting Russia’s war effort in any way, and to refrain from any action that helps Russia circumvent sanctions,” the statement said.

Jens Stoltenberg, from left, Ursula von der Leyen, Fumio Kishida, Justin Trudeau, Joe Biden, Olaf Scholz, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, Mario Draghi and Charles Michel pose during a NATO summit at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on March 24.Photographer: Michael Kappeler/AFP/Getty Images

EU-China Summit

European leaders are trying to work out how they can prevent Xi undermining their sanctions regime without damaging their relationship with China, which is critical for the bloc’s economy. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, who heads the EU leaders’ council, are due to hold a video conference with Xi on April 1.

“Xi has shared our concerns and disapproves of the war,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, who held a video conference with Xi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this month. “I want to believe that China will be consistent with its vision of territorial sovereignty and therefore will continue to seek to stop this war. And I want to believe that China will not participate in any form of escalation.”

Chinese diplomats routinely describe the U.S. as the “culprit” of the crisis due to the expansion of NATO, with Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng accusing NATO in a recent speech of trying to “flex muscle” in the Asia-Pacific region.

“One could well anticipate the consequences going down this path,” Le said, hours after Xi’s phone call with Biden. “The crisis in Ukraine is a stern warning.”

The U.S. has previously warned the EU that Russia asked China for armed drones in late February as it was beginning its invasion of Ukraine. Chinese extensive land border with Russia offers plenty of opportunities to ship goods or even military supplies to the Kremlin and potentially avoid detection.

Even so, China’s envoy to the U.S., Qin Gang, on Sunday said China “will do everything” to de-escalate the war and that Beijing hadn’t sent “weapons and ammunition” to either side.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Wednesday that the U.S. currently has no indication of China aiding Russia in the war, but that the U.S. and allies will constantly monitor the situation.

“We have not seen the Chinese government move forward on the supply of weapons, but it’s something we’re watching every day and I really can’t characterize my level of comfort with that one way or the other,” he said in remarks to reporters aboard Air Force One. “It’s something we just have to maintain vigilance.”

Sullivan said discussions in Brussels would include “how we get coordinated on our approach vis-a-vis China” and its involvement in the war.

Author: Chiara Albanese, Bloomberg

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