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Biden Ratchets Up Tensions With Russia and China

President Joe Biden announced new sanctions against Russia on Friday—as well as others aiding in its offensive against Ukraine.

Marking the one-year anniversary since Russia invaded Ukraine, Biden met with G7 leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday morning to coordinate support efforts. Following the virtual summit, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sweeping sanctions against Russia’s key economic sectors, from banks to its defense and technology industry. More than 30 out-of-country individuals and companies accused of aiding the Russian effort or evading U.S. sanctions have also been targeted by the action, including persons and groups in and from China.

Biden traveled to the Kyiv this week in a show of support for Ukraine. In a speech in Poland on Tuesday, Biden condemned Russia’s “murderous assault” on the country and characterized President Vladimir Putin as a “dictator” with a “brutal hand.” Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to supporting Ukrainian defense efforts moving forward, saying the “democracies of the world have grown stronger, not weaker.”

If the president’s words were a jab at autocrats such as Chinese President Xi Jinping, other government officials levied open admonitions at Russia sympathizers. On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the U.S. would “certainly continue to make clear to the Chinese government and to companies and banks in their jurisdictions what the rules are regarding our sanctions—and the serious consequences that they would face in violating them.”

During a Washington Post Live event the same day, under secretary of state for political affairs Victoria Nuland said the department knows that Russia has “consistently been asking the Chinese for weapons,” and that some Chinese companies, “whether the government is witting or not, have been sneaking up to the edge and trying to provide some support.”

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“We’ve already made clear that we’re prepared to sanction Chinese companies,” she added. “We’ve done it already.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week suggested that China was considering escalating its efforts to back Russian military action. “We are very concerned that China is considering providing lethal support to Russian aggression against Ukraine,” he said.

Following the broadcast, China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin denied the accusation, saying that China is “promoting peace talks” between Russia and Ukraine. “The U.S. is not qualified to give orders to China,” Wenbin said, noting that the superpower “will never accept U.S. criticism, even coercion and pressure on China-Russia relations.” As barbs continued to fly, a U.S. Department of Defense representative on Wednesday said the U.S. doesn’t have intelligence showing that China has given “lethal aid” to Russia, but said the agency believes this option isn’t off the table.

China’s support for Russia over the past year has escalated tensions with the U.S., which has waged a nearly five-year trade war with the “world’s factory.” “We’re in a vigorous competition with China, and that’s something we’re not at all shy about,” Blinken said in a Sunday interview on “Meet the Press.”

“We’ve taken important steps over the last couple of years to invest in ourselves so that we compete effectively, but also to align with allies and partners around the world so that we have a shared approach to some of the challenges that that China poses,” he said. “As we’re doing that we have a strong interest in trying to manage the relationship responsibly, and to make sure to the best of our ability that competition doesn’t veer into conflict or in the Cold War. I don’t think that’s in our interest.”