BEIJING: Mixed doubles curling opened competitors on the Beijing Winter Olympics on Wednesday (Feb 2) because the shadow of war in Ukraine, and the upcoming arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin, loomed over an event already reworked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
China and Britain claimed victories within the “Ice Cube”, the place American swimmer Michael Phelps gained eight gold medals on the 2008 Summer Olympics when it was often called the “Water Cube”, opening the motion within the Games which can final till Feb 20 in entrance of crowds made sparse by COVID-19 curbs.
Basketball nice Yao Ming and a Chinese soldier wounded in a border conflict with India joined in a torch relay set to final simply three days and solely be considered by chosen members of the general public earlier than the Olympic cauldron is lit.
But the political showdown between Putin and the West over Ukraine remained the main Olympic act ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony, which the Russian president will attend in a present of unity with Chinese chief Xi Jinping.
“Putin is very busy now. He is here because he has to be,” stated Shi Yinhong, a global relations professor at Beijing’s Renmin University. “Putin knows China is indispensable for Russia, just as Russia is indispensable for China.”
While many Western international locations, together with the United States, Britain and Australia, are diplomatically boycotting the Winter Olympics over China’s human rights document, Putin will be a part of a quantity of Beijing-friendly leaders on the Games.
Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, Pakistan’s Imran Khan and Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyhan of the United Arab Emirates have been amongst a number of Middle Eastern and Asian leaders anticipated to attend. From Europe, solely Poland and Serbia have stated they’ll ship their heads of state.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres may even attend the opening ceremony, telling reporters final month it was not a “political visit”.
“The Olympic ideal is something that we have to cherish, and that is the reason why I am going.”
Putin, who on Tuesday accused the West of luring Russia into conflict, has not stated whether or not he’ll meet different world leaders whereas in Beijing.
His talks with Xi, nonetheless, will likely be intently watched for indicators of increasing cooperation between China and Russia, which have grown nearer as each of their ties with the West have soured.
The Kremlin has stated that Putin and Xi would spend a “lot of time” discussing safety in Europe and the calls for Russia has made of the West, and that Putin will surely transient his Chinese counterpart about Russia’s talks with NATO.
Putin was to fly to Beijing on Thursday and he and Xi would have lunch collectively on Friday and will signal greater than 15 agreements, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov advised reporters. Russia and China would talk about higher gasoline and monetary cooperation, he stated.
He stated severe efforts have been being undertaken to create joint monetary infrastructure that might be immune to sanctions.
Russia was not imagined to have a presence on the Games as half of doping sanctions designed to punish Moscow for having doctored laboratory knowledge that might have helped worldwide anti-doping authorities determine drug cheats.
Putin will watch Russia’s athletes competing of their third consecutive Olympics with out their flag and nationwide anthem.
Alexander Gabuev, chair of the Russia in Asia-Pacific Program on the Carnegie Moscow Center, predicted that Putin and Xi might ink a deal to extend capability of the Power of Siberia, a 4,000km pipeline that transfers gasoline from jap Russia to China.
“Even if we put the whole international political situation aside, it will be an important visit during which some decisions can be outlined,” stated Vasily Kashin, a China specialist at Moscow’s HSE University.
THE WEST’S STAND
While rising cooperation between Russia and China is likely to be trigger for concern within the West, analysts count on Xi to stroll a positive line in terms of Ukraine.
China would seemingly choose to have the state of affairs in Ukraine demand heightened US diplomatic consideration with out requiring Beijing to take sides, stated Bonny Lin, a senior fellow and director of the China Power Project on the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Beijing has said this: It’s not in their best interest for there to be an actual conflict in Ukraine,” she stated.
“The best scenario for China is to more or less maintain the current state, maybe deescalate a little bit, but get just enough attention that it diverts the US away from Indo-Pacific, but doesn’t actually force China to do anything or to take any hard costs.”
It will likely be as much as the United States to indicate the remainder of its allies within the area that it isn’t being so distracted by Ukraine that it has forgotten about China, stated Derek Grossman, a senior defence analyst on the RAND Corporation.
US state division spokesman Neil Price advised a briefing on Monday that the Biden administration was greater than ready to handle diplomatic efforts on a number of fronts.
“We’re a large country. We’re a large department. Not to use once more an overused metaphor, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”