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U.S. Intelligence Is Facing a Crisis of Legitimacy

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The need for good intelligence has never been more visible. The failure of the Israeli security services to anticipate the brutal surprise attack carried out by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023 reveals what happens when intelligence goes wrong.

In contrast, in late February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s planned three-day “special military operation” to invade Ukraine and topple the government was pushed onto the back foot by the U.S. and U.K. intelligence communities. While Putin’s rapid seizure of Crimea by a flood of “little green men”  in 2014 was a fait accompli, by the time of the 2022 invasion, anticipatory moves including the public declassification of sensitive intelligence ensured that both the intelligence community and Ukraine remained a step ahead of Putin’s plans.

Yet, despite the clear and enduring need for good intelligence to support effective statecraft, national security, and military operations, U.S. intelligence agencies and practitioners are undermined by a crisis of legitimacy. Recent research investigating public attitudes toward the U.S. intelligence community offers some sobering trends.

A May 2023 poll conducted by the Harvard University Center for American Political Studies and Harris Poll found that an eye-watering 70 percent of Americans surveyed were either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about “interference by the FBI and intelligence agencies in a future presidential election.”

A separate study, conducted in 2021 and 2022 by the Intelligence Studies Project at the University of Texas at Austin and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, found that only 56 percent of Americans thought that the intelligence community “plays a vital role in warning against foreign threats and contributes to our national security.” That number is down 10 points from a previous high—if it can even be called that—of 66 percent in 2019, and the downward trend does not give us cause for optimism. Reframed, that statistic means that in 2022, an alarming (in our view) 44 percent of Americans did not believe that the intelligence community keeps them safe from foreign threats or contributes to U.S. national security.

Worse, despite abundant examples of authoritarian aggression and worldwide terror attacks, nearly 1 in 5 Americans seem to be confused about where the real threats to their liberty are actually emanating from. According to the UT Austin study, a growing number of Americans thought that the intelligence community represented a threat to civil liberties: 17 percent in 2022, up from 12 percent in 2021. A nontrivial percentage of Americans feel that the intelligence community is an insidious threat instead of a valuable protector in a dangerous world—a perspective that jeopardizes the security and prosperity of the United States and its allies.

The most obvious recent example of the repercussions of the corrosion of trust in the intelligence community is the recent drama over reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). First introduced in the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, Section 702 is an important legal authority for the U.S. intelligence community to conduct targeted surveillance of foreign persons located outside the United States, with the compelled assistance of electronic communication service providers. According to a report published by Office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI), 702 is “extremely valuable” and “provides intelligence on activities of terrorist organizations, weapons proliferators, spies, malicious cyber actors, and other foreign adversaries.”

Section 702 was scheduled to “sunset” at the end of 2023 if not reauthorized. Yet Congress failed to reauthorize 702 by the end of 2023, electing to punt the decision—as is so often the case—to this spring, when it was finally reauthorized (with some important reforms) in late April 2024, but it was only extended for two years instead of the customary five. An unusual alliance of the far right and the far left squeezed centrists and the Biden administration, which was strongly pushing for a renewal that would protect the civil liberties of U.S. citizens and not needlessly hobble the intelligence community in protecting the United States itself.

But the frantic down-to-the-wire negotiations about reauthorizing some recognizable form of 702 obscured a deeper problem at the heart of the contemporary Americans’ relationship with intelligence that has been brewing over the last decade: The fundamental legitimacy of a strong intelligence community—and the integrity of its practitioners—has been questioned by U.S. lawmakers on the far left and the far right, perhaps reflecting a misguided but increasing consensus of tens of millions of Americans.

This trend is now a crisis.

Section 702’s troubled journey faced queries from the privacy-oriented left, where those with overblown concerns about potential abuse by the intelligence community viewed reauthorizing 702 is tantamount to “turning cable installers into spies,” in the words of one opinion contributor published in The Hill. The intelligence community’s revised authorities (some adjustments were required given the 15 years of communications technology development since the amendment was first passed) were called “terrifying” and predictably—the most hackneyed description for intelligence tools—“Orwellian.” On the power-skeptical right, Section 702 is perceived as but another powerful surveillance tool of the so-called deep state.

In response to legitimate concerns about past mistakes, the intelligence community has adopted procedural reforms and enhanced training that it says would account for the overwhelming majority of the (self-reported) mistakes in querying 702 collection. According to a report from the Justice Department’s National Security Division, the FBI achieved a 98 percent compliance rate in 2023 after receiving better training. Further, the Justice Department and the DNI have gone to unprecedented lengths to publicly show—through declassified success stories—the real dangers that allowing 702 to lapse would bring to the United States and its allies.

Never before has an intelligence community begged, cajoled, and pleaded with lawmakers to enable it to do its job. After all, a hobbled intelligence community would still be held responsible should a war warning be missed, or should a terrorist attack occur.

For instance, Gen. Eric Vidaud, the French military intelligence chief, was promptly fired over intelligence failings related to Putin’s (re)invasion of Ukraine despite the Elysée’s criticisms of the warnings made by the United States and United Kingdom as “alarmist.” And Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, director of Israeli military intelligence, recently resigned over the Oct. 7 attacks despite the fault probably lying across Israel’s political landscape as well. Intelligence professionals pay more than their share of the bill when their crystal ball stays cloudy.

The hullabaloo over 702 is not the only recent instance painting the actions of the U.S. national security apparatus as questionable state activity conducted by dishonest bureaucrats, and some recent history helps put the recent events into a broader downward trend in trust.

In 2013, National Security Agency (NSA) mass-leaker Edward Snowden, a junior network IT specialist with a Walter Mitty complex, sparked a needed but distorted global conversation about the legitimacy of intelligence collection when he stole more than 1.5 million NSA documents and fled to China and ultimately Russia. The mischaracterization of NSA programs conveyed by Snowden and his allies (painting them as more intrusive and less subject to legal scrutiny than they were) led to popular misunderstandings about the intelligence community’s methods and oversight.

It was not only junior leakers whose unfounded criticism helped to corrode public faith in intelligence; it has also been a bipartisan political effort. In 2009, then-U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed that the CIA had lied to her after she wished to distance herself from the agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”—which critics call torture. But Pelosi’s comments earned a “false” rating from Politifact’s “truth-o-meter.” Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta countered that “CIA officers briefed truthfully.”

Some suspicion of a powerful intelligence community stems from genuine failings of the past, especially the CIA’s activities in the early and middle stages of the Cold War, which included some distasteful assassination plots, the illegal collection of intelligence domestically (such as surveillance of Americans on political grounds, including illegally opening their mail), and the LSD experimentation on unwitting Americans as part of its infamous MKULTRA program.

Most of these excesses—characterized as the CIA’s “Family Jewels”—were reported to Congress, which held explosive hearings in 1975 to publicize these activities, bringing the intelligence agencies into the public realm like never before. Images of Sen. Frank Church holding aloft a poison dart gun, designed by the CIA to incapacitate and induce a heart attack in foreign leaders, became front page news. These serious failings in accountability were the dawn of rigorous intelligence oversight.

Public trust in government was already sinking when, in 1971, the Pentagon Papers revealed that politicians had lied about US activities in the deeply unpopular Vietnam war. The Watergate scandal the following year added fuel to fire. Although the CIA was not directly involved in Watergate, the involvement of former agency employees led to a wider belief that the agency was tainted. And in the late 1970s, CIA morale sank to an all-time low when then-President Jimmy Carter began the process of sharply reducing its staff, attributing the decision to its “shocking” activities.

In response to congressional findings and mountains of bad press, subsequent directors of the CIA considered the criticisms and made numerous changes to how the intelligence community operates. While the intelligence community (and its leaders) made good-faith efforts to operate strictly within its legal boundaries, be more responsive to congressional oversight, and embrace some level of transparency, the public image of the CIA and the broader intelligence community didn’t change. After the Cold War ended, the preeminent vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, called twice for the disbanding of the CIA. Such political pummeling of the role of intelligence and the integrity of its practitioners was bound to leave a mark.

The politics of distrust are back to the bad old days. By 2016, distrust of the intelligence community had returned with a vengeance: then-presidential candidate Donald Trump claimed that NSA was circumventing domestic legal constructs to spy on his campaign through its close partnership with the Government Communications headquarters (GCHQ), the British signals intelligence agency. (The NSA said those claims were false and GCHQ called them “utterly ridiculous”.) As president-elect, Trump also compared U.S. intelligence to “living in Nazi Germany.” Once Trump entered the Oval Office, the FBI was a frequent target for his invective thanks to the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.

While the intelligence community is a long way away from the excesses of the 1970s, it is not perfect. Intelligence is an art, not a science. It is not prediction so much as narrowing the cone of uncertainty for decision-makers to act in a complex world. Even when acting strictly within the law and under the scrutiny of Congress and multiple inspectors general, the intelligence community has been wrong on several important occasions. It failed to stop the 9/11 attacks, got the assessment that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction spectacularly wrong, and was made to look impotent by Osama bin Laden for nearly a decade before the U.S. Navy SEALs caught up with him on a CIA mission in Pakistan in May 2011.

Errors still happen because intelligence is hard, and the occasional failure to warn, to stop every attack, or to prevent every incorrect search query is inevitable. Today, mistakes are self-reported to Congress; they are no longer hidden away as they sometimes were in the past. Yet the intelligence community has done a poor job telling its own story and self-censors due to widespread over-classification—a problem that the DNI has acknowledged, if not yet remedied. It has only belatedly begun to embrace the transparency required for a modern intelligence apparatus in a democratic state, and there is much work yet to be done.

It is the job of the intelligence agencies to keep a calm and measured eye on dark developments. In a world in which the panoply of threats is increasing, the role of the intelligence community and its responsibilities within democratic states has never been greater. If the community cannot be trusted by its political masters in the White House and Congress, much less the American people, then it will not be given the ability to “play to the edge,” and the risk is that the United States and its allies will be blind to the threats facing them. Given the adversaries, the consequences could be severe.

U.S. intelligence has had a rebirth of confidence since 9/11 and the incorrect judgments of the Iraqi weapons program. It was intelligence and special operations that hunted and killed bin Laden, U.S. law enforcement that has kept the U.S. homeland safe from another massive terror attack, and the intelligence community correctly predicted the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

That increased sense of purpose and morale is moot if the U.S. people, Congress, or the president (sitting or future) do not trust them. This crisis of legitimacy is a trend that may soon hamper the intelligence community, and the results could be unthinkable. Getting the balance between civil liberties and security right isn’t an easy task, but the intelligence community must have the tools, trust, and oversight required to simultaneously keep faith with the American people while serving as their first line of defense.


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Former FBI agent: ‘We have to want to have less firearms violence, or we won’t have it.’ – WILX

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Former FBI agent: ‘We have to want to have less firearms violence, or we won’t have it.’  WILX

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Ukraine says it has checked Russia’s offensive in a key town, but Moscow says it will keep pushing – Yahoo! Voices

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Ukraine says it has checked Russia’s offensive in a key town, but Moscow says it will keep pushing  Yahoo! Voices

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The Changing Nuclear Mind Game

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order for nuclear weapon drills went public on May 6, the day after Orthodox Easter—a bitter irony since he styles himself a fervent guardian of Christian values, which do not include the simulation of nuclear annihilation the last time I checked. I wonder whether he signed the order before or after his much-publicized attendance of Easter service at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order for nuclear weapon drills went public on May 6, the day after Orthodox Easter—a bitter irony since he styles himself a fervent guardian of Christian values, which do not include the simulation of nuclear annihilation the last time I checked. I wonder whether he signed the order before or after his much-publicized attendance of Easter service at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

The exercises will simulate “theater,” or regional, nuclear attacks, in contrast to “strategic” nuclear exercises simulating war with the United States. These theater exercises will be centered in Russia’s southern military district, likely targeting not only Ukraine but also NATO members Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. The message coming from Moscow is that the exercises are in answer to loose talk from French President Emmanuel Macron and other NATO leaders about possibly sending alliance forces to fight in Ukraine.

The Kremlin appears to be reinforcing, in no uncertain terms, a red line against NATO boots on the ground in Ukraine. Fortunately, it is a red line that most NATO leaders share, including U.S. President Joe Biden. From the very outset of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Biden made it clear that the United States and its allies would send military assistance to Ukraine but not engage in the fighting. His goal was and remains crystal clear: to avoid a direct fight between Russia and NATO in Europe that could escalate to World War III and nuclear conflict.

Putin also wants to avoid a direct fight between Russia and NATO. For him, that means avoiding strikes against NATO territory or reconnaissance aircraft patrolling the airspace over the Black Sea. NATO deliveries are fair game for attack once they arrive on Ukrainian soil, but not while they are still transiting NATO territory.

The United States and Russia thus agree on one thing in this terrible war: They do not want to risk a nuclear holocaust. Why, then, do the Russians keep claiming that the world is facing one?

Part of it is evidently the Kremlin’s effort to derive value from this very brinkmanship—a pattern of behavior rarely seen since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the last time the world came to the brink of a nuclear exchange. During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union fought proxy wars in many places, from Angola to Vietnam, but threats to use their nuclear forces rarely played a role. Neither side used such threats to achieve conventional battlefield goals, the way leading Russian officials have been doing throughout the war in Ukraine.

Instead, Washington and Moscow first built up their strategic arsenals—the long-range nuclear weapons by which they threaten each other directly—sustaining essential parity as they went. So long as neither side built significantly more than the other, and as long as both sustained a high level of readiness, the two superpowers had a nuclear deterrent that both considered stable.

This stability became so boring and reliable that people more or less forgot about nuclear annihilation. Once policymakers in Washington and Moscow began to control and limit their nuclear arsenals in the 1970s—starting with the first U.S.-Soviet détente and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty—the rest of the world was glad. No one wanted to think about what would happen if the nuclear superpowers “pressed the button.” And they did not have to: The superpowers were heading in a different direction, reducing their reliance on nuclear weapons.

The war in Ukraine has thrown this complacency into turmoil, because Putin and his minions have insisted on rattling the nuclear saber throughout the invasion. Now the rest of the world has to think again about nuclear weapons and what Russia might do with them.

This bizarre game of nuclear look-at-me is linked to the Kremlin’s equally bizarre complaint that its act of invading Ukraine has created an existential threat to Russia. In this telling, NATO support to Ukraine is tied up with strategic defeat of Russia. As commentators in Moscow claim, Russia only wanted the best for Ukraine—its liberation from a “Nazi” regime and a fake idea of statehood. However, once NATO began to aid Kyiv, the bloc’s goal was not helping Ukraine, but destroying and dismembering Russia.

Some leading officials in NATO member states have indeed voiced Russia’s strategic defeat as an objective for what they are trying to achieve in assisting Ukraine. But again, Biden has been crystal clear that the bloc has a limited objective that does not threaten Russia itself. In May 2022, he said: “We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia. As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow. So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces.”

But Putin and his chief ministers have not been mollified. They continue to go on and on about how the United States and NATO are seeking the strategic defeat of Russia and its demise as a nation. Their motivation is obvious: If its people believe that the country is facing total destruction, they will stay in the fight for the sake of survival.

So there is a lesson here for leaders not only in the United States but also in Europe and Asia: The fabric of nuclear deterrence is changing, its mind game adjusting to a new era of nuclear brinkmanship. So far, Putin and those around him have been the most active practitioners, but North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, whose nuclear capacity now extends beyond his regional neighbors, has been not far behind. Beijing, although it has sustained a nuclear good-guy image with a policy of no first use, could be tempted to follow Putin’s example as its nuclear force structure becomes more modernized and its ambitions extend throughout Asia.

With so much loose nuclear talk in the air, the United States and its allies must think hard about how to sustain stable and strong deterrence. In other words, they are going to have to focus on how to talk responsibly to the global public about nuclear weapons. The most important audience in deterrence, of course, are the potential nuclear aggressors.

The first rule should be to maintain discipline about using terms such as “strategic defeat,” so as not to pander to claims that it is Washington and its allies that are posing an existential threat. If the United States does not seek the destruction of the aggressors’ regimes and the dismemberment of their countries, it should say so. If Washington is not clear about the objectives in a conflict, then it should say nothing at all.

The second rule should be to sustain the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and the reliability of its command and control systems. That means consistent, solid support for the ongoing modernization of the nuclear triad. It means continuing nuclear training and exercises in a transparent manner and testing nuclear delivery systems—missiles and bombers. All of these actions should not be articulated in a threatening manner—the United States should not be the one rattling the nuclear saber—but convey quiet confidence in the country’s nuclear deterrence forces.

Third, Washington should be pursuing with assurance the mutual predictability that comes from controlling and limiting nuclear weapons at the negotiating table. Of course, Russia, China, and North Korea show little interest in coming to that table today, but the United States should not be the side that is quitting it. The global public wants to see continued progress on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, not a descent into a new nuclear arms race. And importantly, the table of nuclear talks is a good place to deliver deterrence messages. As difficult as it may be, the United States and its allies must continue to lead in this arena.

Finally and most importantly, the United States and its allies must sustain steady progress in military assistance to Ukraine. The most serious implication of the delayed funding vote in the U.S. Congress was that the United States could be halted in its tracks by a bully brandishing nuclear weapons. U.S. leaders need to convey quiet confidence in the country’s nuclear deterrent and keep their promises to Ukraine. Together, these two elements make up the critical message that must go to others who might try nuclear threats to get their way.

In each of these steps, Washington has great potential to bolster its nuclear deterrent. The United States’ naturally open system facilitates communicating deterrence messages when a president speaks to the nation or military and political leaders testify before the U.S. Congress. The national budget process permits the country to convey openly and clearly the process of its nuclear modernization. And working together with allies, the United States can drive nuclear statecraft forward in ways that preserve nuclear predictability and, at the same time, strengthen deterrence. The fabric of nuclear deterrence may be changing, but determining its future must not be left to the aggressors.


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Israel-Hamas war: Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant’s publicly criticising PM Benjamin Netanyahu was a dramatic move

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When Yoav Gallant recorded a televised statement criticising Israel’s judicial reforms in March 2023, Benjamin Netanyahu sacked him. A few days later, after massive street protests, the defence minister was reinstated.

Mr Gallant has again taken to the television to criticise the Israel Prime Minister, this time over the lack of a ‘day-after plan’ for Gaza.

He implied that Mr Netanyahu’s indecision was harming the country’s security and leading to a de-facto military control of Gaza.

The bad blood between prime minister and defence minister is no secret, but thrusting it into the open in this way was a dramatic move.

Israel-Gaza latest: IDF soldiers killed by Israeli ‘tank crossfire’, military says

That he remains in office, despite calls from the far-right to dismiss him, says as much about the weakness of Mr Netanyahu’s hold on power as it does about the logic behind Mr Gallant’s intervention.

An Israeli soldier sits in a tank near the Israel-Gaza border. Pic: Reuters

Image: An Israeli soldier sits in a tank near the Israel-Gaza border. Pic: Reuters

On Wednesday night, around the same time Mr Gallant was holding his press conference, five Israeli soldiers were killed and seven seriously wounded in a friendly-fire incident in Jabaliya, northern Gaza.

Jabaliya was one of the first areas Israeli forces entered, following 7 October.

Four months ago they announced they had dismantled Hamas battalions in the refugee camp and yet they have been forced to return, in large numbers, because Hamas has regrouped and remains a threat there.

That’s what insurgencies do, but Mr Netanyahu seemingly failed to foresee it.

How often, in wars past, have we seen militant forces fade away in the face of a superior army, only to return later, alive to fight another day.

Procrastinating on a plan for civilian rule of Gaza, as Mr Netanyahu has done for months now, has left a vacuum in much of the enclave and so, surprise, surprise, Hamas has returned to areas that Israel had declared clear.

Israeli forces have also returned, this time with experience of the particular battlefield but increasingly frustrated about the political indecision that has brought them back; battle-hardened, but war-weary.

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Lacking a clear strategy, and without a vision for the ‘day-after’, Israeli troops risk being dragged into a war lasting years not months. Maybe that is Mr Netanyahu’s plan after all, but his call for “total victory” is a fantasy – militant groups and terror organisations have an annoying habit of regenerating.

What is needed is an alternative to Hamas, another option for governing Gaza. That would put pressure on the group and create a political pathway for Arab states, and the West, to coalesce around.

Mr Gallant knows it and so, reportedly, do senior Israeli security figures. Mr Gallant is trying to force Mr Netanyahu to make a decision, something he famously avoids, but with Israeli soldiers still dying in Gaza it soon will not just be his defence minister publicly turning against him.


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What to Know About the Summit Between Putin and Xi in China

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China’s backing will be crucial to President Vladimir V. Putin as he intensifies his offensive in Ukraine. But his host, Xi Jinping, has other competing priorities.

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Xi Jinping greeted President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in a show of solidarity at the start of a two-day state visit.CreditCredit…Sergei Guneyev/Sputnik

David Pierson
Published May 15, 2024Updated May 16, 2024, 12:51 a.m. ET

When China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, hosts President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia this week, the two leaders are expected to present a united front. But they have different agendas.

Mr. Putin is trying to escalate his war in Ukraine before Ukrainian forces can receive a replenishment of arms from the United States, and probably wants to know he can rely on China. Mr. Xi will seek to bolster his strategic partner and “old friend,” but he is also under pressure to avoid further alienating the West over his support for Russia.

Those priorities are the backdrop of Mr. Putin’s two-day state visit, which began in Beijing on Thursday and will include a trip to the northeastern city of Harbin, where a China-Russia trade fair is being held.

Mr. Putin will most likely seek more help from Beijing, which has provided a lifeline to the Kremlin ever since Western sanctions were imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago. China purchases huge quantities of Russian oil and provides technologies that help Moscow withstand its economic isolation and sustain its war machine.

Mr. Xi considers Russia an important counterweight in China’s rivalry with the United States, but he risks alienating Europe, a key trading partner, at a time when China is relying on exports to revive its sluggish economy.

Here is what to know about the summit.

The visit is Mr. Putin’s first foreign trip since winning his fifth presidential election in March. Mr. Xi showed the same respect to Mr. Putin when he made Russia his first foreign trip after securing his norm-shattering third term as China’s president in March 2023.

Mr. Xi has met with Mr. Putin over 40 times, including virtually, which is more than any other leader. The two men have cast their relationship as deeply personal by exchanging birthday greetings and referring to each other as “old” and “dear” friends.

In Mr. Putin, Mr. Xi sees a like-minded autocratic leader who blames the United States for holding back his country’s rise. The two leaders declared a “no limits” partnership weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in 2022, to push back against what they consider American hegemony.

ImageXi Jinping and Vladimir Putin hold up wine glasses and look at each other as they prepare to toast. Behind them is a Russian mural.

In a photograph provided by Russian state media, Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin toasted during a dinner at the Kremlin in Moscow in 2023.Credit…Pavel Byrkin/Sputnik

Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin also view themselves as architects of a new world order free of U.S. interference. The two leaders have promoted multilateral groupings of developing countries like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS, so named because it includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, as a way to counterbalance the West.

Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin will most likely try to project strength and solidarity during their summit to demonstrate to other countries that there is an alternative to the U.S.-led global system.

“Russia-China relations have reached an all-time high, and even in the face of severe international situations, relations between the two countries continue to strengthen,” Mr. Putin said in an interview with Chinese state media published on Wednesday.

China has vowed not to provide lethal weapons to Russia, but the United States and Western analysts say China has been aiding Russia with satellite intelligence and fighter jet parts as well as supplying components with both civilian and military uses, such as microchips, machine tools, optical devices, electronic sensors and telecommunications gear.

Mr. Putin will most likely want any such supply of parts and equipment to continue, to help sustain his military’s advances as he intensifies the war effort.

Russian forces opened a new line of attack in recent days near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Ukraine’s forces are stretched thin and running short on weapons, but billions of dollars’ worth of arms from the United States are expected to trickle in soon.

Mr. Putin is also expected to seek more trade and business deals and is traveling with a large delegation. Included are five deputy prime ministers; the heads of Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear power company, and Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency; as well as Sergey V. Lavrov, the foreign minister; Maksim Reshetnikov, the economy minister; and Andrei R. Belousov, an economist who was named the new defense minister this week.

“The people involved reflect the priorities of both sides,” said Elizabeth Wishnick, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses in Virginia who studies Chinese foreign policy.

Mr. Belousov has experience working with China, having previously been co-chair of the Intergovernmental Russian-Chinese Commission on Investment Cooperation, which was founded in 2014 to promote more trade between the two countries.

And among the deputy prime ministers traveling with Mr. Putin is Alexander Novak, a key official for Russian oil and gas, including the development of the Power of Siberia 2 natural gas pipeline. Mr. Putin has long sought to cement an agreement on the project, which would redirect Russian gas supplies that had gone to Europe toward China instead.

It is unclear whether Mr. Xi is interested in the pipeline. Analysts say the Chinese leader could be reluctant because it would travel through a third country, Mongolia, and that it could expose China to potential secondary sanctions and leave it even more reliant on Russia for energy.

Mr. Xi has tried to align with Russia and steady ties with the West at the same time to help his ailing economy, an approach that some call a strategic straddle.

China casts itself as neutral on the war in Ukraine and as a proponent of peace. It has offered a vague, 12-point plan for a political settlement of the war and sent an envoy to conduct shuttle diplomacy in Europe.

Western countries have dismissed China’s efforts because they do not call for a withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. China also sides with Russia by blaming the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for creating the tensions that led to Moscow’s invasion.

Mr. Xi’s refusal to condemn the Kremlin’s war has ultimately worsened China’s relations with the West, and it has led to Europe’s growing alignment with the United States on security issues. This makes China’s efforts to head off a trade war with the European Union — over exports of Chinese electric vehicles and market access for European companies — harder for Mr. Xi.

President Biden with Mr. Xi during a meeting in California in November, when the two struck a tentative détente. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Tensions are also rising with the United States, testing a tentative détente struck by President Biden and Mr. Xi in November. The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a sharp increase in tariffs on an array of Chinese imports, including electric vehicles, solar cells, semiconductors and advanced batteries.

During a visit to Beijing last month, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken warned that the United States would blacklist Chinese banks aiding Russia’s war effort. Russian media reported earlier in the year that Chinese financial institutions had already begun scaling back transactions with Russian firms over concerns about secondary sanctions. Analysts say the change most likely contributed to the drop in year-on-year trade between Russia and China in March, the first such decline since January 2021, according to Chinese customs data.


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France accuses Azerbaijan of fomenting deadly riots in overseas territory New Caledonia

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