Washington — As the attempted Russian takeover of Ukraine nears its one-year mark, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS News on Saturday that China is actively considering providing lethal support, including weapons and ammunition to aid Moscow in its war against Ukraine.
“We’ve been concerned from day one about that possibility,” Blinken said in an interview with “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan on Saturday. Pressed on the type of lethal aid China is considering, Blinken spoke in general terms.
“There’s a whole gamut of things that — that fit in that category, everything from ammunition to the weapons themselves.”
Notably, China’s top foreign policy official, Wang Yi, told other leaders at the Munich Security Conference this week that China is working on a peace proposal to end the conflict. That public position runs contrary to what U.S. intelligence has indicated.
“We have seen them provide non-lethal support to Russia for use in Ukraine. The concern that we have now is based on information we have that they’re considering providing lethal support, and we’ve made very clear to them that that would cause a serious problem for us and in our relationship.”
Blinken confirmed that Chinese companies are already providing non-lethal support to the Russian effort. He noted the relationship between Chinese companies and the Chinese government, saying, “To date, we have seen Chinese companies and of course, in China, there’s really no distinction between private companies and the state.”
Blinken is also in Germany for the Munich Security Conference, an annual event attended by top officials worldwide on defense, human security, and the global order. There, he spoke face to face with Wang on the consequences China would face if they were to provide weapons, ammunition, or other lethal aid to Russia.
Brennan asked Blinken if Wang offered an apology for the Chinese surveillance balloon that floated over U.S. airspace several weeks ago. Blinken said that there was no apology, but the hour-long meeting was useful.
“We have to make sure that the competition that we’re clearly engaged in, does not veer into conflict,” Blinken said. “But at the same time, we will very resolutely stand up for our interests.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned at the conference that Beijing “is watching closely to see the price Russia pays — or the reward it receives — for its aggression,” according to Politico.
In the weeks leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping released a joint statement declaring a partnership without limits.
Blinken also said that Iran and Russia are expanding their military relationship.
“We’ve seen Iran provide drones that Russia is using in Ukraine to attack civilian infrastructure, to kill civilians,” Blinken said, adding that Iran’s assistance to Russia has “been going on for months.”
But now, Russia may also arm Iran, which is designated by the U.S. to be the largest state sponsor of terrorism.
“There’s an increasingly noxious relationship between Russia and Iran,” Blinken added. “Russia is also providing military equipment to Iran, including, it looks like, sophisticated fighter planes. That’s something that looks like it may be happening, which would make Iran an even greater threat, if it acquires that technology. So this is something that we’ve been talking about with allies and partners around the world. That relationship is a growing concern.”
Since the outset of the war, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has supported Putin’s military attack on Ukraine, stating the actions were justified as NATO’s expansion posed a “serious threat” to the stability of the region.
Blinken also commented on Vice President Kamala Harris’s announcement in Munich that the U.S. had formally determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
“The determination that — that we made crimes against humanity, that the vice president announced today, is unfortunately, starkly clear,” Blinken said. “And we’ve seen that almost from day one. We saw it in Bucha, when the Russian tide receded, we saw what was left in its wake. And it’s horrific. And we continue to see it across the country, the fact that they’re targeting civilians, targeting civilian infrastructure, so that people freeze to death,don’t have the lights on.”
President Biden has used the term genocide to refer to Russia’s actions. When asked if the State Department was working on legal determination of genocide, Blinken responded: “We will look at every possible termination, but we’re going to follow the facts, and we’re going to follow the law. These are very serious determinations, and we will engage in them very seriously.”