New Delhi: The US has warned European allies that Russia asked China for armed drones in late February as it launched an invasion of Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter.
The request has worried Biden administration officials, who are seeking to stop China – Russia’s most powerful diplomatic partner – from coming to the aid of Vladimir Putin in the war, according to People, who spoke on condition of anonymity. But the case was described.
On Monday, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat, Communist Party Politburo member Yang Jiechi, met for six hours in Rome to discuss a range of issues, including Ukraine. A US official described the meeting as intense but declined to say whether the request for military aid had come, while Yang later called on all sides to exercise restraint in the conflict.
Before the meeting of Sullivan and Yang, US officials began disclosing Russia’s bid for military and economic aid. Asked about the drone request, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington on Monday night cited an earlier statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. “The US is spreading false information by targeting China,” Zhao said. “We are playing a constructive role in promoting peace talks.”
The Biden administration has sought to persuade Beijing to use its influence to help end a conflict with Moscow that has now entered its third week. Top advisers to the president have pressured China to implement sanctions imposed on Russia’s economy by the US and its European and Asian allies.
A senior administration official acknowledged on Monday that the administration has deep concerns about Russia’s alliance with China.
Another area of concern raised by Sullivan and other Biden administration officials in recent days is the risk Putin poses for using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.
According to two people familiar with the plan, Sullivan is seeking his counterpart and Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Petrushev to directly warn the Kremlin not to do so. The call has not been scheduled yet.
Sullivan and other Biden administration officials have said Russia’s false claims that the United States and Ukraine can use chemical and biological weapons are a sign that Putin – frustrated by the slow progress with his offensive – preparing for such an attack.
“The Russian side is trying to accuse Ukrainians and the United States of potentially using chemical and biological weapons,” Sullivan said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It is an indicator that, in fact, the Russians are getting ready to do this, and try and place the blame elsewhere. And no one should fall for it.”
The last publicly disclosed conversation between Sullivan and Petrushev was in November, as reports of Russian forces building up on the border with Ukraine surfaced, according to a White House summary of their calls.
Russia wants armed drones from China for Ukraine war, America warns Europe
The request has worried Biden administration officials.