Biden takes veiled swipe at China in condemning Russia backers on Ukraine

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US President Joe Biden on Thursday (Feb 24) said any country that backed Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine would be “stained by association,” after China rejected calling Moscow’s move an invasion and instead urged all sides to exercise restraint.

Ukrainian forces battled Russian invaders on three sides after Moscow mounted an assault on Ukraine by land, sea and air in the biggest attack on a European state since World War II.

Mr Biden, speaking to reporters at the White House where he unveiled tough new sanctions on Russia coordinated with allies, said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions represented a dangerous moment for freedom around the world.

“Putin will be a pariah on the international stage. Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association,” Mr Biden said without naming China.

Asked if he was urging China to isolate Russia, Mr Biden said: “I’m not prepared to comment on that at the moment.”

Mr Biden said Mr Putin’s action “betrays a sinister vision for a future of our world; one where nations take what they want by force.”

Some geopolitical analysts said Russia’s action could embolden China over Taiwan, an island Beijing regards as a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary.

Russia attacked Ukraine three weeks after Mr Putin met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the run-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics that ended on Sunday. The two announced a strategic partnership aimed at countering US influence and said they would have “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation”.

Ahead of Mr Biden’s remarks on Ukraine, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called on “all sides to exercise restraint to prevent the situation from getting out of control,” but bridled at journalists’ characterisation of Russia’s actions.

“This is perhaps a difference between China and you Westerners. We won’t go rushing to a conclusion,” she said.

“Regarding the definition of an invasion, I think we should go back to how to view the current situation in Ukraine. The Ukrainian issue has other very complicated historical background that has continued to today. It may not be what everyone wants to see.”

The ministry said later that senior diplomat Wang Yi, also China’s foreign minister, had spoken with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Mr Wang said that the Ukraine issue had a “complex” history and reiterated that China understands what it called Russia’s”legitimate concerns” on security, the ministry said.