China Aiding Russia in Ukraine War

The PRC is skirting sanctions to supply a frienemy.

Breaking News from WSJ (“China Aids Russia’s War in Ukraine, Trade Data Shows“):

China is providing technology that Moscow’s military needs to prosecute the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine despite an international cordon of sanctions and export controls, according to a Wall Street Journal review of Russian customs data.

The customs records show Chinese state-owned defense companies shipping navigation equipment, jamming technology, and fighter-jet parts to sanctioned Russian government-owned defense companies.

Those are but a handful of tens of thousands of shipments of dual-use goods—products that have both commercial and military applications—that Russia imported following its invasion last year, according to the customs records provided to the Journal by C4ADS, a Washington-based nonprofit that specializes in identifying national-security threats. Most of the dual-use shipments were from China, the records show.

China’s backing for Russia while it wages war on Ukraine was supposed to be on the agenda for discussion during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s travels to Beijing this weekend. That trip was indefinitely postponed Friday after the Pentagon said that it had tracked a Chinese reconnaissance balloon over the continental U.S. earlier in the week.

Russia’s foreign, defense and economic ministries didn’t respond to requests for comment. “Russia has enough technological potential to ensure its security and conduct the special military operation. This potential is constantly being improved,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

While Russia has the capability to produce much of its basic military needs domestically, it relies heavily on imports for dual-use technology, such as semiconductors, that is essential for modern warfare.

Western officials said their economic pressure campaign launched last February would cripple Moscow’s war machine by targeting those exports to Russia, including computer chips, infrared cameras and radar equipment.

But customs and corporate records show Russia is still able to import that technology through countries that haven’t joined the U.S.-led efforts to cut off Moscow from global markets. Many of the export-controlled products are still flowing through nations such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, whose governments are accused by Western officials of flouting the sanctions and controls. Turkish officials have said the sanctions are ineffective and that Ankara is playing an important role as an interlocutor with Russia. Under pressure from the U.S., Turkey has moved to halt some financial and business ties.

To some extent, this makes sense. China is in an uncomfortable coalition with Russia to disrupt American hegemony and selling Russia parts to keep a fight that the United States is spending tens of billions of dollars a year on going is in their interests. Then again, this further ties China’s regime to an international pariah and further escalates tensions between the two most powerful actors on the planet.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Slugger says:

    If somebody gives you stuff, at some point you become dependent on them. I suspect that China would like to see their neighbor turn into a dependency instead of a rival.