White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan leaves the U.S. Capitol after a closed-door briefing with Senators in Washington, DC.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan leaves the U.S. Capitol after a closed-door briefing with Senators in Washington, DC. Getty Images

Sullivan Vows ‘Consequences’ If China Helps Russia in Ukraine

The national security advisor expressed “deep concerns” about China’s alignment with Russia, during a seven-hour meeting Monday.

The White House’s top national security aide on Monday said China will face “consequences” if it provides material support to Russia’s war in Ukraine, a senior administration official said. 

During a seven-hour meeting in Rome, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Yang Jiechi, China’s director of the office of the Foreign Affairs Commission, had a “very candid” conversation that touched on topics ranging from the growing threat of North Korea to China’s support of Russia during its invasion of Ukraine.  

“We do have deep concerns about China’s alignment with Russia at this time, and the national security advisor was direct about those concerns and the potential implications and consequences of certain actions,” the senior administration official told reporters on Monday. 

Russia has asked China for military and economic assistance to continue waging war against Ukraine, the New York Times reported. The official declined to comment on whether China has expressed a willingness to fulfill these requests and financially support Moscow, or the specifics of what consequences Beijing might face.

Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said Monday that China has “tremendous leverage” because of its close relationship with Russia, and is better positioned than most other countries to get Russian leader Vladimir Putin to end the invasion of Ukraine. 

“We will not allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses,” Price said at a briefing. “We would like to see every country make very clear where it stands, and to stand on the side of the rules-based order.” 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki questioned how much of a difference China could make even if it did back Russia, given that international sanctions have cut Moscow off from the rest of the world, putting Russia at risk of default as soon as Wednesday. Beijing makes up just 15 to 20 percent of the world’s economy, while the G7, which has been united in imposing sanctions on Russia, makes up more than half, she said at a briefing Monday. 

Allies in the Indo-Pacific have joined countries from NATO, the G7, and the European Union in imposing sanctions, drafting statements denouncing Russia’s actions, and sending humanitarian aid demonstrating the global rebuke of Moscow’s war in Ukraine. 

“The traditional division between this is Europe and this is Asia…that’s gone,” Edgard Kagan, the NSC’s senior director for East Asia and Oceania, said at a Hudson Institute event on March 4. “What we're seeing is the fact that our relationships, our alliances, and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific are actually materially significant to a crisis in Europe.” 

While much of the world has united to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine—which has targeted civilians—China has sided with Moscow on the world stage. In January, Beijing was the only member of the United Nations Security Council to vote with Moscow against holding a meeting on Russia’s military build up. 

Though the meeting with Sullivan happened at a time of increased tensions over China’s support of Russia, the U.S. official said it had been in the works since President Joe Biden’s virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November and was not called specifically to talk about the war in Ukraine. 

“This meeting was not about negotiating on specific issues or outcomes, but about a candid, direct exchange of views,” the Biden administration official said. “We believe that it is important to keep open lines of communication between the United States and China, especially on areas where we disagree.”