Putin, Xi Agree NATO Should Not Expand East, Plan to Meet During 2022 Beijing Olympics

Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed support for Russia's plan to push back against NATO's potential eastward expansion.

Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed these moves and made arrangements to meet in person during the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games on a video conference. According to Putin's foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov, the two presidents also discussed "mounting threats to Russia's national interests from the U.S. and the NATO bloc, which consistently move their military infrastructure close to the Russian borders."

This conference comes as the two nations continue to align with each other against perceived Western domination, particularly from the United States. Both countries currently face U.S.-backed sanctions for political controversies such as China's alleged treatment of Uyghur Muslims and Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Putin specifically discussed the need for the U.S. and NATO to talk to him about legally binding security agreements.

In statements made after the conference call, both Xi and Putin acknowledged these measures. Putin said that principles shared between the two countries include "not interfering in internal affairs (of each other), respect for each other's interests, determination to turn the shared border into a belt of eternal peace and good neighborliness."

Xi was more direct in his statement. "At present, certain international forces are arbitrarily interfering in the internal affairs of China and Russia under the guise of democracy and human rights, and brutally trampling on international law and the norms of international relations," he said according to Chinese state broadcasting service China Central Television (CCTV).

Putin with Xi in Office
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a video call to discuss bilateral relations and international affair as heightened tensions between Moscow and the West over a Russian troop buildup near Ukrainian borders that is stoking fears of a possible invasion. Above, Putin gestures during his videoconference with Xi in Moscow on December 15. Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Putin and Xi spoke as Moscow faces heightened tensions with the West over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine's border. In recent weeks, Western nations engaged in diplomatic efforts to prevent a possible invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin has denied harboring plans to storm its neighbor.

Beijing and Washington also remain at odds over trade, technology and China's military intimidation of Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory.

Russia's relations with the U.S. sank to post–Cold War lows after it annexed Crimea and threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in Ukraine's east. Tensions reignited in recent weeks after Moscow massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's border, a move Ukraine and the West feared may indicate plans for a new invasion.

Moscow has denied that it plans to attack Ukraine and in turn blamed Ukraine for its own military buildup in the country's war-torn east. Russian officials alleged that Kyiv might try to reclaim the areas controlled by the rebels.

It is within that context that Putin has pressed the West for guarantees that NATO will not expand to Ukraine or deploy its forces there.

Xi said, through a translator, that he appreciated that Putin "strongly supported China's efforts to protect key national interests and firmly opposed attempts to drive a wedge between our countries."

CCTV reported that Xi said that "both China and Russia need to carry out more joint actions to more effectively safeguard our security and interests."

The U.S., Canada, Australia and Britain have said they will not be sending dignitaries to the Winter Olympics as part of a diplomatic boycott to protest China's human rights record. Other countries have said they won't be sending officials because of pandemic travel restrictions.

In welcoming Putin's planned visit, Xi said that sports could be a channel for their countries to boost ties.

"Both sides should strengthen coordination and cooperation on international affairs to maker louder voices on global governance, and come up with practical plans on global issues, including the pandemic and climate change," Xi was quoted by CCTV as saying.

China's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Xi told Putin he "very much looks forward to this 'get-together at the Winter Olympics' and stands ready to work with President Putin 'for a shared future' to jointly open a new chapter in post-COVID China-Russia relations."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Xi Putin Meeting
In his video meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly said that "both China and Russia need to carry out more joint actions to more effectively safeguard our security and interests." Above, an outdoor screen shows a news program of a virtual meeting between Xi and Putin, in Beijing on December 15. Photo by Jade Gao/AFP via Getty Images