The closing ceremony for the Beijing Winter Olympics was held on Feb. 20. On the next day, following months of massing troops and weapons of war on the Ukraine border, Russian President Vladimir Putin made his move. After recognizing the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic regions located in eastern Ukraine, Putin ordered troops into the country. A full-scale Russian invasion began on Feb. 24.
Although it was obvious to the world that Putin had postponed his planned invasion until the closing of the Olympics, hosted this year by Russia’s closest ally, China, CCP officials have vehemently denied they asked Putin to do so.
Citing “senior Biden Administration officials and a European official,” The New York Times reported, “a Western intelligence report” indicated that at an early February meeting, senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials to delay their invasion of Ukraine until the Olympics were over.
If this intelligence is accurate, it shows that senior Chinese officials were aware of Russia’s plans at least several weeks before the invasion began.
Putin traveled to Beijing and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Feb. 4, prior to the opening ceremony. The Kremlin issued a lengthy statement at the time. (A link to the Kremlin’s website is no longer working.)
The Washington Post reported at the time that Xi, who had not met another foreign leader in person in almost two years, “said China and Russia ‘firmly support each other in safeguarding their core interests,’ according to a summary of the meeting by China’s state news agency Xinhua.”
The two leaders voiced their objections to NATO’s growth, said their partnership had “no limits,” and confirmed plans to “establish a new global order with true ‘democracy,’” the Times reported.
In short, the statement demonstrated the closeness of the relationship between the two leaders.
Although the intelligence report was classified, according to the Times, it was shared among Western intelligence officials and was “considered [to be] credible.”
Do you think the consequences to the Russian invasion of Ukraine will discourage China from invading Taiwan?
Chinese officials have denied they asked Russian officials to delay the invasion. The Times’ emailed Liu Pengyu, the Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, who responded, “These claims are speculation without any basis, and are intended to blame-shift and smear China.”
The Times pointed out that during the 2008 Summer Olympics, which were held in Beijing, Russia invaded Georgia. Chinese officials had been angry about it.
To say the least, the relationship between Russia and China has changed since then, most noticeably in recent years and even months.
In another sign of the growing trust between the two countries, in preparation for their invasion of Ukraine, Russia pulled troops from the Chinese border and deployed them to the Ukrainian border and to Belarus.
Xi and Putin’s Feb. 4 meeting in Beijing marked their 38th meeting, according to the report.
The Times contacted Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, to get his take on the intelligence report. Gallagher hadn’t seen it, but said, “The Chinese support all of Putin’s narrative to blame the West for provoking Russia. I see no change in the Chinese views on Russia. They remain in a de facto alliance against the West at this point.”
U.S. intelligence officials learned just how close Russia and China had become when they tried to enlist the Chinese to help prevent the Russian invasion.
Time after time, American officials were told by their Chinese counterparts that an invasion was unlikely.
In November, the Times reported that senior American officials presented “intelligence on the Russian troop buildup around Ukraine” to senior Chinese officials.
They later learned that the Chinese had “shared the information with Moscow, telling the Russians that the United States was trying to sow discord and that China would not try to impede Russian plans.”
The principle of “Occam’s razor” tells us “when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”
Applying this principle to the question of whether the Chinese knew about Russia’s planned invasion of Ukraine and asked them to delay it until the Olympics had ended, we can only conclude that it’s true.
The two powers have grown extremely close. When the U.S. shared intelligence to China about the troop buildup, officials immediately passed it on to the Kremlin. Past dealings with officials from these countries have shown that neither nation is known for its veracity.
Regardless of the fact that the Winter Olympics showed the venue in Beijing to be pretty much a dystopian nightmare in every way, Russia was well aware of how important hosting this event was to China. The Chinese wanted everything to be perfect. The eyes of the world would be on Beijing for two weeks (or so they thought). The Russian invasion of Ukraine would immediately divert the world’s attention from Beijing, a situation the Chinese wanted to avoid.
Although we have no evidence to prove that China asked for a delay, how could it really be otherwise?