World War III could break out if China actively supports Russia in its year-long battle to subdue Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky has said.
“For us, it is important that China does not support the Russian Federation in this war,” the Ukrainian president told German daily Die Welt on Monday. “In fact, I would like it to be on our side. At the moment, however, I don’t think it’s possible.”
But Zelensky added that he sees opportunity for China to make a “pragmatic assessment of what is happening.”
“Because if China allies itself with Russia, there will be a world war, and I do think that China is aware of that,” he said.
The Ukrainian president’s remarks come one day after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken admitted the US was “very concerned that China’s considering providing lethal support to Russia” as it continues its long invasion of its western neighbor.
Blinken told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that he told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, that such a move would have “serious consequences in our relationship.”
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin took a tougher tack when he said the United States “is in no position to make demands of China.”
The spat comes at a particularly fraught time in the relationship between the two nations, which most recently quarreled over a Chinese spy balloon that floated above most of the US before being shot down earlier this month.
Zelensky’s assessment echoed those of US experts who testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.
“Unfortunately, it may very well take countries like China pushing Russia for there to be any break in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s resolve at this particular moment,” Brookings Institution senior fellow Fiona Hill testified.
“It would have to be, I think, other countries beyond the United States and its Western allies demonstrating to Putin in some fashion — behind the scenes or more directly — that this war is not in their interest and that they want him to move towards the negotiating table,” Hill went on.
Meanwhile, President Biden made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Monday ahead of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
He pledged another $460 million in security aid to the war-torn nation and told Putin that his “war of conquest is failing.”
“One year later, Kyiv stands, Ukraine stands, democracy stands,” Biden said after meeting Zelensky at Mariinsky Palace in the heart of the capital, Kyiv. “The Americans stand with you and the world stands with you.”
Biden’s visit was made ahead of Wang Yi’s expected meeting this week with Putin, whom Chinese President Xi Jinping has stood by since the war’s start.
Beijing has resisted Western pressure to isolate Russia, with trade between the two nations spiking 34% in 2022.