U.S. 'Delighted' Vladimir Putin Is Losing Support for War in Ukraine

U.S. officials are seeing cracks in what little remains of international support for Vladimir Putin after the Russian president faced concerns from China's Xi Jinping and a rebuke by India's Narendra Modi last week.

"I was very surprised, but also delighted to hear that President Xi and Prime Minister Modi criticized Putin directly about what they're doing in Ukraine," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday.

The Kremlin was "losing the supporters that they have," the American diplomat said at an annual summit hosted by the nonprofit Concordia, an event that coincides with the U.N. General Assembly each year.

Putin's calculations about his chances of success—and a potential collective response from NATO—were "completely off base," she argued.

During a meeting on September 15 with his Chinese counterpart, Putin referenced Xi's "questions and concerns" about the war in Ukraine without elaborating. Beijing has sided with the Kremlin's grievances against NATO but hasn't openly supported Russia's invasion.

Xi urged Russia to jointly "assume the role of great powers" in order to introduce "stability and positive energy" at a time of turmoil. The Chinese leader didn't mention Ukraine in his opening remarks before the talks, his second face-to-face summit with Putin since early February, and part of Xi's first foreign trip in more than two years.

West Sees Cracks In Vladimir Putin's Support
President Vladimir Putin of Russia, right, poses with President Xi Jinping of China during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders’ summit on September 16, 2022, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. In their first in-person talks since before the Ukraine war, Putin acknowledged Xi’s “questions and concerns” about the conflict, which has entered its seventh month. ALEXANDR DEMYANCHUK/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Putin sat down with Modi the following day. The Indian prime minister skipped his traditionally greeting hug and went on to assail the Russian leader in his public remarks.

"I know that today's era is not of war, and we have spoken to you many times on the phone that democracy, diplomacy and dialogue are such things that touch the world," Modi told Putin, according to an approximate translation from Hindi by India's external affairs ministry.

"Today we will get a chance to discuss how we can move forward on the path of peace in the coming days. I will also get an opportunity to understand your viewpoint," the Indian prime minister was quoted as saying.

Putin, meanwhile, acknowledged Modi's "concerns, which you continuously express."

"We will do everything for all of this to end as soon as possible," he said on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders' summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Modi has faced criticism from Western commentators for not openly condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. However, his position has been met with considerable understanding from Washington, which accepts the reality of New Delhi's present reliance on Moscow for arms and energy.

At a press conference last Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the signals out of China and India were "reflective of concerns around the world about the effects of Russia's aggression on Ukraine—not just on the people of Ukraine, devastating as that's been, but on countries and people across the entire planet."

"I think what you're seeing is just a manifestation of the fact that this aggression has been an aggression against the interests of people across the planet, and I think it increases the pressure on Russia to end the aggression," he said.

West Sees Cracks In Vladimir Putin's Support
President Vladimir Putin of Russia, left, speaks to President Xi Jinping of China during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders’ summit on September 16, 2022, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. In their first in-person talks since before the Ukraine war, Putin acknowledged Xi’s “questions and concerns” about the conflict, which has entered its seventh month. SERGEI BOBYLYOV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

It's unclear why Putin chose to publicly air Xi's concerns—if that's indeed what he was doing—but Wendy Sherman, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, said it showed the Beijing-Moscow alignment to be "a relationship of convenience" and "not a full-blown marriage."

"It was quite interesting that President Putin made a remark that he knew that Xi Jinping had concerns about what he was doing in Ukraine," she told an event hosted by The Washington Post on Friday. "Very interesting for Putin to say that."

China's president "has constantly talked about sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Sherman, who observed Russia's invasion "doesn't square with the principles that he wants for his own views, whether it's about Hong Kong or Tibet or Taiwan."

Sherman suggested Beijing also may be seeking more influence in Central Asia, which Russia considers part of its historical sphere of influence, as the Kremlin remains distracted in Ukraine. "I'm sure that Xi Jinping is looking for advantage," she said.

In a delayed national address in Moscow on Wednesday morning local time, Putin announced a partial mobilization of his country's armed forces.

The Russian leader accused the West of "nuclear blackmail" and attempting to "destroy our country."

"If Russia feels its territorial integrity is threatened, we will use all defense methods at our disposal, and this is not a bluff," he said.

Sergei Shoigu, Russia's defense minister, said around 300,000 reservists would be called up for the conflict, which the Kremlin has yet to describe as a war.

Western leaders linked Putin's announcement to Ukraine's regaining of vast territories in the northeast Kharkiv region this month, and its slower but ongoing counteroffensive in southwest Kherson.

"No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war," British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace was quoted as saying.