Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko visits China

In September, Belarus and China agreed to strengthen ties.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko visits China
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, China, March 1, 2023. BelTA/Maxim Guchek/Handout via REUTERS

The backstory: Belarus has been one of Russia’s most loyal allies in the war on Ukraine. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko allowed Russian troops into the country last February for the first part of its invasion of Ukraine. Usually, China is also seen as an ally of Russia, but it has represented itself as neutral in this war and has been calling for peace.

Still, President Xi and Putin have a strong relationship, and China has continued to buy Russian oil and gas while other countries have put sanctions on Russia’s economy. The West has also put economic sanctions on Belarus.

More recently: In September, Belarus and China agreed to strengthen ties with a strategic partnership during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan, a meeting Putin also attended. Since then, things have gotten a little sticky between the US and China, even though both countries have been trying to get along. The US is worried that China could send lethal aid (i.e. weapons) to Russia’s war effort. China continues to say it won’t. Last week, China released a suggested peace plan for the war but didn’t say anything about Russia backing out of Ukraine.

The development: On Tuesday, Lukashenko said the US is trying to create anti-China sentiment in Europe. The next day, Lukashenko met with Xi in China. With this visit, Chinese state media said China is showing respect for different powers and rejected the idea that China is moving into a new role in the war. During the meeting with Lukashenko, Xi maintained that China is neutral in the war but is also pushing for peace. According to the Chinese readout of the meeting, Lukashenko expressed support for China’s position and validated the proposed peace plan.  

Key comments:

"[This meeting] is just another element of the PRC's deepening engagement with Russia, with all of those who are engaged with and supporting Russia's brutal war against Ukraine," State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday.

"China's paper on the political solution to the Ukrainian crisis has been released," Xi said during the meeting, according to a Chinese readout. "The core of China's position is to promote peace and talks. We must stick to the direction of political settlement, abandon all Cold War mentality, respect the legitimate security concerns of all countries, and build a balanced, effective, and sustainable European security architecture."

"Minsk has long considered China as a key foreign policy and economic partner and, therefore, invested a lot of time and political effort in deepening relations with Beijing," Yauheni Preiherman, who directs the Minsk Dialogue Council on International Relations, told the New York Times.