MOSCOW: In grandiose fashion, Russia’s Vladimir Putin greeted China’s new president, who has chosen Moscow as his first foreign destination since formally taking the helm last week.
The scale of today’s reception underlined close ties between the two Cold War-era rivals that are anchored in energy interests and a shared aspiration to curtail US influence around the world.
Kremlin guards snapped at attention as Xi Jinping and his long retinue walked into the gilded, chandeliered Grand Kremlin palace. The two leaders greeted members of official delegations in the ornate St George Hall before sitting down for talks.
At the start of the negotiations, Putin described the ties between the two countries as an “extremely important factor of global politics.” Xi said in turn that the relations between the two countries are at the best ever.
Putin told the ITAR-Tass news agency in an interview published today that Xi’s choice of Moscow for his first trip abroad underscored the “special nature of strategic partnership” between the two former Cold War rivals. Xi became Communist Party chief in November and was formally named president last week.
“We are working together, helping to shape a new, more just world order, ensure peace and security, defend basic principles of international law,” Putin said.
He added that Russia and China have set an example of a “balanced and pragmatic approach” to international crises — an apparent reference to their lockstep opposition to UN sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Xi’s choice of Russia followed a tradition of leaders of the two countries paying inaugural visits to each other after taking power to underline their ties. The negotiations are set to focus on oil and gas as China seeks to secure new energy resources to fuel its growing economy.
China has looked to secure energy supplies from Russia, the world’s biggest energy producer, as part of a strategy to reduce its dependence on sea routes. Russia, in turn, is interested in securing a share of China’s giant energy market, but talks on a major new pipeline to China have dragged on for years amid fierce price disputes.
Bilateral trade has been steadily growing, reaching $88 billion last year, still a fraction of China’s trade with the United States and the European Union. Trade in arms has slackened in recent years as China, which was the number 1 importer of Russian weapons in the 1990s, has built up its own industry largely through cloning.