The United States has warned European allies that Russia has ordered armed drones from China in late February as the invasion of Ukraine begins, according to people familiar with the matter.
The request has worried China’s most powerful diplomatic partner in Russia, Biden administration officials, who want to prevent Vladimir Putin from coming to the aid of those who have described the issue on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese diplomat General Communist Party Politburo member Yang Jiechi met in Rome for six hours to discuss a variety of issues, including Ukraine. A U.S. official said the meeting was lively, but did not say whether a request for military assistance had been made, and Yang called on all sides to take appropriate action in the conflict.
Prior to the Sullivan and Yang meeting, U.S. officials began announcing Russia’s offer of military and economic aid. Asked about the drone request, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington on Monday night quoted a previous statement from Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. “The U.S. has maliciously spread misinformation against China,” Zhaok said. “We have played a constructive role in promoting peace talks.”
The Biden administration has sought to persuade Beijing to use its influence with Moscow to help end the third week of conflict. The president’s top advisers have pressed China to enforce sanctions imposed on the Russian economy by the US and its European and Asian allies.
A senior administration official admitted on Monday that the administration has deep concerns over Russia’s accession to China.
Another concern raised by Sullivan and other Biden administration officials in recent days is the risk of Putin using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.
Sullivan wants to call on Nikolai Patrushev, his partner and secretary of the Russian Security Council, to warn the Kremlin not to go live, according to two friends who know the plan. The call has not yet been scheduled.
Sullivan and other officials of the Biden administration have said that false claims by Russia that the United States and Ukraine may use chemical and biological weapons indicate that Putin is preparing for the attack, frustrated by the slow progress of his invasion.
“On the Russian side, the level of rhetoric is rising, trying to accuse Ukrainians and the United States of using chemical and biological weapons,” Sullivan told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “That is, in fact, an indication of what the Russians are preparing, and that they are trying to put the blame elsewhere. And no one should fall for it.”
The last public briefing between Sullivan and Patrushev took place in November, with reports of Russian forces accumulating on the Ukrainian border, according to a summary of the White House call.
According to the summary, the two men “discussed a number of issues on the bilateral agenda and with regional and global concerns.” “The talks were conducted in an honest and constructive manner.”
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