Biden Should Listen to Zelenskyy on China

| Mar 15, 2023

The U.S. should give China a chance to end Russia’s war on Ukraine.

By Mark Hannah, Senior Fellow

This article appeared in POLITICO Magazine on March 15, 2023.

The White House welcomed the news on Friday that China had facilitated a deal to restore diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. “We support any efforts to de-escalate tensions there and in the region. We think it’s in our interests,” said spokesperson John Kirby. So why hasn’t Washington expressed the same openness to efforts by China to promote its peace deal for the war in Ukraine?

The Chinese plan was met with reflexive dismissal by the national security advisors to both President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump. Jake Sullivan suggested the first point of the 12-point plan — i.e., to respect the sovereignty of all countries — made the other points moot. “This war could end tomorrow if Russia… withdrew its forces,” he concluded. When a Sullivan predecessor, John Bolton, was asked about the plan, he went so far as to say China poses a greater threat to Ukraine than it does to Taiwan, because “China’s in this with both feet on Russia’s side.”

If that’s true, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy certainly didn’t get the memo. He reportedly sees merit in parts of China’s plan, and looks forward to discussing it with China’s leaders. In fact, it was just reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to meet virtually with Zelenskyy when he’s in Moscow next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to Zelenskyy, “The more countries, especially… large ones, influential ones, think about how to end the war in Ukraine while respecting our sovereignty, with a just peace, the sooner it will happen.”

Ukraine’s openness to China’s involvement makes sense. The plan isn’t stacked in Russia’s favor, despite the two nations’ supposed “friendship without limits” (a characterization that has proven overblown). Besides urging respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, it contains quite a few elements which also should make Russia bristle: protecting civilians, condemning threats to use nuclear weapons and ending interference with humanitarian aid.

Read more of Mark’s article in POLITICO Magazine.

Written by Mark Hannah

Mark is a senior fellow with the Independent America project at the Institute for Global Affairs and host of the podcast, None Of The Above.

Read more from Mark

This post is part of Independent America, a research project led out by IGA senior fellow Mark Hannah, which seeks to explore how US foreign policy could better be tailored to new global realities and to the preferences of American voters.

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