Putin is rational and is highly unlikely to play into the hands of President Xi. He has a great sense of the history of Russia, including its official predecessor Soviet Union.
In a recent op-ed in The Times, London, former British Secretary of State William Hague says that Chinese President Xi Jinping is the "only one person in the world" who "has the power to halt the bloodshed in Ukraine." Really?
Knowledgeable sources say the Hague assessment on Xi's power to mediate the Ukrainian conflict cannot be taken seriously. Of course, in recent years, political, economic and diplomatic relations between Beijing and Moscow have improved a lot. But Xi hardly has the kind of trust that may be needed for Russian President Vladimir Putin to let him mediate.
Putin is an old hand in Russian politics and diplomacy. He has a great sense of the history of Russia, including its official predecessor Soviet Union. He knows what communist leader Mao Zedong did to Soviet leaders Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev.
Putin is rational. He understands the costs of the ongoing war. He may be looking for a decent exit from the ongoing Ukrainian conflict. Putin must be aware of what the Chinese calculus in the current scenario might be. President Xi is said to be calculating that it is in his national interest that the current Russia-Ukraine crisis lingers on and deepens. This would compel Washington to focus its attention on dealing with Moscow. Beijing could use this to focus on advancing its own military capability to replace Washington as the number one power on the planet.
Besides, Beijing is believed to be calculating that if the Russia- US friction continues, Moscow would be economically far more dependent on China. China's consumer technology firms would benefit from the exit of their foreign rivals in Russia. Currently, Russia is Europe's largest market for smartphones.
Sources say Putin is highly unlikely to play into the hands of President Xi. He may prefer to sort it out with his Ukrainian counterpart Zelensky. The latter is now already willing to drop his bid to join NATO. He has indicated his willingness to talk about all other issues with the Kremlin. In a press briefing, the Russian foreign ministry has said "some progress has been made "in their talks with Kyiv.
Putin needs to save Russia's economy from the negative effects of the sanctions being increasingly imposed on it by the United States and European nations. According to a study, Russia's economy depends upon its oil and gas production. It exports 60 per cent of its production to the European Union. Its main customer is Germany. Europe is the world's second-largest importer of natural gas. Russia supplies 35-40 per cent of the EU's gas needs.
( The author is a New Delhi-based journalist )