Sep 15, 2022
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“I dropped my speech on the carpet”: Putin’s SCO interlocutors had problems

The morning before the opening of the SCO summit was sunny and hot. However, the leaders of 14 states who arrived in Samarkand (Nikol Pashinyan was supposed to be the 15th, but for obvious reasons he refused to appear where Ilham Aliyev was expected) had no time to indulge in idle bliss. Many had not seen each other since at least the beginning of the pandemic, and now, in order to catch up, they sought to communicate face to face.

Vladimir Putin began the marathon of bilateral meetings at 8 am Moscow time and managed to hold talks with the leaders of Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Pakistan before lunch. All of them were held at the Samarkand Regency Hotel, which became the official residence of the Russian delegation for the duration of the summit. Since there were four leaders, and only two halls suitable for receiving, the protocol service had to repeatedly change the “decoration”. After talking with one guest, Putin would go to the next room to meet with the next one, and in the first hall at that time they would re-point the marathon and put up new flags. And so four times in a row.

GDP coped with diplomatic “logistics” with a bang. But his counterpart had problems every now and then: the president of Turkmenistan dropped a prepared speech on the carpet, and the prime minister of Pakistan could not cope with the earpiece for a long time. Can anyone help me? He looked around in confusion. Vladimir Putin had already risen from his chair to rush to help his colleague, but it turned out that a specially trained person had access to the Pakistani’s ear: the earpiece fell twice, and twice it was picked up and put back in place by an officer dressed in full dress. However, there were practically no covid or any other restrictions in the Russian residence. (Well, except that only owners of fresh PCR could use the elevator.) VVP shook hands with all the guests, hugged some and willingly posed for a joint photograph.

A completely different atmosphere, judging by the video materials available (there were no journalists present), reigned at the Chinese site, where Vladimir Putin went to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping closer to dinner. At the time of signing the issue, the official website did not publish joint photos and images, which depict the moment of the meeting of the two leaders or their handshake. And state TV channels immediately showed the beginning of negotiations: Putin and Xi are sitting at a large round table at a very significant distance from each other. What is the reason for such caution, neither the Chinese nor the Russian side has not yet explained. Before Vladimir Putin, the head of the PRC held several meetings with other leaders (with someone wearing a mask, with someone without), but the social distance was practically not observed at them. Moreover, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, visited the exhibition together with Xi, and the head of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, planted a tree. And both gave him a medal, an event that required close enough contact.

However, the outward coldness was partly offset by the warm words with which the Chinese leader addressed the Russian president. Xi called Vladimir Putin a “dear” and “old” friend. And he recalled the special atmosphere of their previous meeting: “In February, we were pleased to celebrate the day of the beginning of spring and the opening of the Winter Olympics together, to discuss grandiose plans for the development of Chinese-Russian relations.” The Kremlin warned that the leaders intended to discuss Ukraine and Taiwan in Samarkand. However, only Vladimir Putin publicly confirmed this readiness. The Russian president thanked his Chinese counterpart for his balanced attitude towards the Ukrainian crisis, promising once again to “explain in detail” Moscow’s position on this issue. “For our part, we firmly, in practice, adhere to the principle of“ one China ”. We condemn the provocations of the United States and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait,” VVP stressed. According to him, attempts to create a unipolar world have recently taken on an “absolutely ugly shape” and therefore “absolutely unacceptable for the vast majority of states.” “We jointly stand for the formation of a just, democratic and multipolar world order (…), and not on some rules that someone has come up with and is trying to impose on others,” the president reminded the Chinese leader.

In fact, the head of the PRC also likes long speeches with beautiful metaphors and numerous proverbs, which in Chinese tradition are considered a sign of high intelligence and great intelligence. But Xi did not demonstrate any of this this time. He agreed with Putin that the world is going through a stage of “colossal” and “unprecedented” changes in history. However, it can still end well. “We are ready with our Russian colleagues to set an example of a responsible world power and play a leading role to put such a rapidly changing world on a trajectory of sustainable and positive development,” Xi Jinping said about China’s ambitions. The meeting then continued behind closed doors.

Western observers suggest that Xi’s caution may be due to his ambiguous position. Beijing, on the one hand, condemns the sanctions against Russia and declares its intention to develop cooperation, but, on the other hand, is not ready to publicly support what is happening in Ukraine. In addition, the White House pointed out directly to China that now is not the time to deal with Russia as if “nothing is happening.”

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