New Delhi: China and Russia enjoy a strategic partnership and Beijing has not declared Moscow to be its “enemy” unlike the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said days before he is to meet US President Joe Biden in Geneva.
In an interview with NBC News, the Russian President said Moscow does not see Beijing as a “threat” but as a “friendly nation”.
“The first thing I want to say is that over the last few years, the last few decades, we have developed a strategic partnership relationship — between Russia and China that previously had not been achieved in the history of our nations,” he said. “A high level of trust and cooperation in all areas: in politics, in the economy, in the area of technology, in the area of military and technical cooperation.”
“We do not believe that China is a threat to us,” he added. “China is a friendly nation. It has not declared us an enemy, as the United States has done.”
Putin and Biden are set to meet in Geneva on 16 June. This will be their first bilateral interaction since Biden assumed power.
Putin said China is a “huge, powerful” country and it has exceeded the US in terms of purchasing power parity. He also said China is fast becoming powerful in terms of trade as well.
According to the Russian President, the fact that China is rising in terms of a global economic powerhouse, the world is having a “confrontation with China”.
“However, we’re not alarmed by it, including, among other things, by the fact that our defence sufficiency, which is how we describe it, is at a very high level, including because of this. But the most important thing is the nature and level of our relationship with China,” he said.
‘Russia, US ahead of China in ammunition, warheads’
According to Putin, it is not a matter of concern for Russia that China is going to have four aircraft carriers and is not willing to participate in the US-led arms control negotiations.
“The level, both in terms of the amount of ammunition, warheads and delivery vehicles, the United States and Russia are far, far ahead of China. And the Chinese justly say, ‘Why would we make reductions if we are already far behind what you have? Or do you want us, do you want us to freeze our level of nuclear deterrence? Why should we freeze? Why we, a country with a 1.5 billion population, cannot at least set the goal of achieving your level?’ These are all debatable issues that require thorough consideration. But making us responsible for China’s position is just comical,” he said.
Justifying China’s stand, he said Beijing’s “arguments are simple and understandable.”
Putin also said Russia is not concerned about China’s increasing naval power despite sharing a coastal border with that country.
“You are right that there will be four of them (Chinese aircraft carriers). It is correct that there will be four of them… Well, the coast is huge. But the bulk of the border between us and China is a land border,” Putin added. “There will be four of them because one needs to be in maintenance, one needs to be on combat duty, one needs to be in repairs. There is nothing excessive here for China.”
‘I met certain Uyghurs’
On the issue of China’s alleged mistreatment and human rights violations against the Uyghur community, Putin claimed he has met members of that clan during his trips to China.
“I assure you at the very least what I heard with my own ears, that on the whole they welcome the policies of the Chinese authorities in this area,” he said. “They believe that China has done a great deal for people who live in this part of the country from the perspective of the economy, raising the cultural level, and so on and so forth.”
On being asked if his support for China on the Uyghurs issue is a message to the Muslim population in Russia, Putin said his country has 10 per cent population of Muslims and they are “making a colossal contribution to the development of our country. And that pertains to both — clerics and ordinary citizens.”
He said Russia is also an observer in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
‘Attempts at destroying relationship between Russia and China’
During the interview, Putin also said attempts are being made by some countries to destroy the cordial relationship between Russia and China.
“We can see attempts at destroying the relationship between Russia and China. We can see that those attempts are being made in practical policies… You know, we are neighboring countries. One does not choose one’s neighbors,” he said. “We are pleased with, as I said, the unprecedentedly high level of our relationship as it has evolved over the last few decades, and we cherish it, just like our Chinese friends cherish it, which we can see.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)