China Isn’t Giving Lethal Aid to Russia… Yet. Here’s What U.S. Officials Know.


Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… on Wednesday, the Pentagon said that although the U.S. hasn’t seen evidence that China has provided lethal aid to Russia, “the Chinese also haven’t taken that aid off the table.” In this week’s analysis, we’ll be looking at 1) what the Pentagon said this week about the possibility of China deepening its relationship with Russia, 2) what recent intelligence on China’s military operations already says about relations between the countries, and 3) why the DoD says providing lethal aid to Russia would be a “miscalculation” by China.

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Quote of the Week

“Apart from Russia, China doesn’t really have a lot of friends in the international arena. So, Russia is really the main partner that China has.”

Elizabeth Wishnick

Latest Stories: Before getting into the heart of the matter this week, a few stories we’re covering include how a team of Chinese engineers have developed a new autonomous transmedium drone capable of flying in the air and swimming underwater. Elsewhere, an unidentified object that recently washed ashore in Japan and prompted investigations by bomb disposal squads may have finally been identified. You can find links to all our recent stories at the end of this week’s newsletter.

Video News: This Friday, Chrissy Newton catches up with scientist Carmel Majidi on Rebelliously Curious, who explains how a shapeshifting metal robot he created can escape from jail, just like a scene out of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. You can also watch past episodes and other great content from The Debrief on our official YouTube Channel.

Podcasts: This week in podcasts from The Debrief, host MJ Banias was joined by the author of a particular weekly newsletter on The Debrief Weekly Report to discuss the recent U.S. war on suspected commercial balloons, and what it all means. Meanwhile, on The Micah Hanks Program, I went into a deeper analysis of President Biden’s statements about the downing of unidentified objects, and what the story behind this odd series of events might actually be. You can subscribe to all of The Debrief’s podcasts, including audio editions of Rebelliously Curious, by heading over to our Podcasts Page.

And with that behind us, it’s time to take a look at the DoD’s recent statements on concerns over deepening relations between China and Russia, and what that could mean for the U.S. going forward.

U.S. “Not Yet Seeing China Giving Lethal Aid to Russia”

On Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed that it has not yet seen indications that China is currently supplying lethal aid to its allies in Russia, although U.S. officials believe China may be prepared to do so.

Amidst a flurry of questions from reporters about military advisories on the consumption of lemon poppy seed poundcake MREs and a string of suspected commercial balloons shot down over the U.S. and Canada in recent days, Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said that “there will certainly be consequences” if China makes the choice to strengthen its relationship with Russia by providing it with military support.

Singh said that although “we haven’t seen them give lethal aid to Russia at this time for the war but they haven’t also taken that off the table,” adding that the U.S. must remain consistent in its response to actions by both countries.

“I believe Secretary Blinken also met with his counterpart in Germany just last week. We reinforced there,” she said, adding “there will be consequences for China should this partnership with Russia further deepen.”

The statements were made amidst reports that the U.S. is mulling over the release of data it has collected, indicating China may try to transfer arms to Russia in an effort to resupply portions of what the country has lost since invading Ukraine last year.

China’s Problematic Relationship with Russia

While concerns over whether China might replenish portions of Russia’s lost warfighting capabilities that have diminished since invading Ukraine last year, the United States has already monitored activities conducted jointly by the two countries in the furtherance of their collective military goals.

In 2021, the Russian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army participated in ZAPAD/INTERACTION-2021, a large-scale joint military exercise that aimed to “expand cooperation between the two militaries,” according to an unclassified report assessing China’s military power released by the Pentagon last November.

Chinese Military Power Report
(Credit: Unsplash)

The report said the training exercise was conducted on Chinese soil for the first time in its history, and involved “theoretical and systems training, weapon swaps, and a culminating exercise to further understanding and cooperation between the two militaries.” 

“The PLAA also continued extensive joint training using PLAN landing ships and civilian RORO vessels to expand amphibious capabilities,” the report also said of the joint exercise.

Perception Management

Citing what it calls the PRC’s “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination,” the report also said that China’s cooperation with Russia “entails a relatively high degree of military cooperation,” taking place primarily “through exchanges of training, equipment, technology, high-level visits, and other coordination mechanisms.”

Yet while China has quietly worked to solidify some aspects of its military operations with Russia, the country has also worked to lessen perceptions that it is aligned with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine began.

According to the November report, leadership in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are believed to have taken “diplomatic measures to manage increased global concern regarding PRC rhetorical and diplomatic alignment with Russia,” which U.S. intelligence agencies observed “before, following, and during the invasion of Ukraine,” in addition to what was characterized as “concern for the PRC’s growing assertive and coercive economic and military actions.”

During Wednesday’s press conference, Singh emphasized that showing continued support for Russia would be a serious miscalculation on China’s part.

“As I mentioned before, we’ve warned China about any implications and consequences should they provide materiel support to Russia,” Singh said.

“This is a war that Russia . . . launched against Ukraine. We’re coming to the one year anniversary just at the end of this week,” Singh said.

“It would certainly be a miscalculation of China to provide lethal aid to Russia.”

President Joe Biden
U.S. President Biden with Ukranian President Zelensky during Biden’s recent trip to Ukraine.

Fundamentally, Singh emphasized that while such concerns about deepening relations between China and Russia exist, the Pentagon’s primary concerns right now have to do with Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, adding that while the U.S. supports Ukraine, our country has no desire for conflict with Russia.

“We’re not at war with Russia. We’re not fighting with Russia. We are supporting the Ukrainians in [the] war that Russia started,” Singh said.

“This administration has been committed to standing with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” she added.

“And that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

That concludes this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief. You can read past editions of The Intelligence Brief at our website, or if you found this installment online, don’t forget to subscribe and get future email editions from us here. Also, if you have a tip or other information you’d like to send along directly to me, you can email me at micah [@] thedebrief [dot] org, or Tweet at me @MicahHanks.

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