China approved “provision of lethal aid” to Russia in its war in Ukraine earlier this year and planned to disguise military equipment as civilian items, according to a U.S. intercept of Russian intelligencerevealed in leaked secret documents. Says The Washington Post.
The intercept, apparently obtained through U.S. eavesdropping on Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), was included in a top-secret summary, dated Feb. 23, of recent Ukraine- and Russia-related “products” compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It was among a number of previously unreported documents that The Washington Post obtained from a trove of images of classified files posted on a private server on the chat app Discord.
According to “signals intelligence,” the intelligencesummary said, the SVR reported that China’s Central Military Commission had “approved the incremental provision”of weapons and wanted it kept secret. The report did not indicate the source of the SVR’s information.
The document, titled “The Watch Report,”andproduced by the ODNI as “A Summary of Recent Reporting and Select items from [intelligence] Community,” is labeled top secret with highly restricted distribution. The China information is listed under a subhead, “BEIJING REPORTEDLY APPROVES COVERT SHIPMENTS OF LETHAL AID TO RUSSIA.”
“We have not seen evidence that China has transferred weapons or provided lethal assistance to Russia. But we remain concerned and are continuing to monitor closely,” a senior administration official said. A senior defense official agreed with that assessment. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss information about the top-secret document.
The report provides the most detailed evidence to dateof what led to a flurry of public and private Biden administration warnings to Beijing beginning in late February.
China, which maintains it is neutral on the war in Ukraine, denounced those U.S. statements and said it would never accept coercion or “the U.S. pointing fingers” when Washington is funneling massive amounts of arms into the war.
But the leaked document expands insight into Russia’s deepening relationship with China, which is now Moscow’s chief foreign friend as President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine leaves Russia increasingly isolated. Although Chinese leader Xi Jinping appeared to cement his relationship with Putin during a three-day visit to Moscow last month, China has held back from fully endorsing the Russian leader’s effort in Ukraine, instead positioning itself as a potential peacemaker.
The United States and NATO have responded skeptically to Beijing’s calls for a cease-fire and to its 12-point peace plan, saying no solution should allow Russia to “rest” and “rearm.” Ukraine, meanwhile, demands that any negotiated settlement respect its internationally recognized borders, which would require Russia to withdraw from Crimea and other occupied areas of Ukraine.