Russia's Reaction to Beijing's Peace Proposal

March 27, 2023
On February 24, 2023, the foreign ministry of the People's Republic of China published a 12-point document "on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis."

In Ukraine, the proposal received a rather wary reaction, although some of its ideas, such as ensuring respect for the sovereignty of all countries, were welcomed as principles that Moscow must adhere to as a starting point.

In Russia, however, authorities and the pro-Kremlin media have been savoring this Chinese proposal for several weeks now, highlighting certain points that they feel most justify their country's aggression.

What is permissible for Russia is not permissible for others

In a bit of perhaps unintentional mockery, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented on the Chinese proposal by emphasizing Moscow's commitment to the principles of the UN Charter and the norms of international law, according to which "the security of a country should not be pursued at the expense of others."

Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov spoke similarly of the Chinese plan in an interview in Izvestia, praising it for its "important worldview standpoint" that the security of one country cannot be ensured by disregarding the safety of another.

It is hard to believe that anyone could be so brazen in their hypocrisy as Moscow here.

Russia repeatedly denies not only Ukraine's concerns about its own security, but also insists on cementing the loss of Ukrainian territorial integrity and even de facto depriving Ukraine of any sovereignty in its foreign policy in the future.

At the same time, the Kremlin makes Orwellian demands for the respect of its own sovereignty and for the proper respect and consideration for its concerns.

Apparently, the Russians believe that their security is more important than the security of their neighbors, and that Moscow is thus entitled to pursue its security at the expense of others.

In this regard, it would be appropriate for the Russians to more carefully read the very first of China's 12 points, which states that "all countries, big or small, strong or weak, are equal members of the international community," and thus that "equal application of international law should be promoted, while double standards must be rejected."

Moscow presents the Chinese plan as its own

It is no wonder that the Russians have reacted very favorably to the Chinese proposal. Even more notable is how Russia has attempted to argue that the Chinese plan almost fully corresponds to the security guarantees that the Kremlin demanded from the US and NATO at the end of 2021.

Praising Beijing for its "verified and thought-out position," Aleksey Chepa, the first deputy chair of the Russian State Duma's Committee on International Affairs, claimed in comments to Gazeta.Ru that "these are basically all the points that we announced in our statements on security guarantees." Similarly, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova also asserted that the earlier Russian and current Chinese proposals were dictated by common considerations.

The Russians, however, are once again trying to see something that is not there. It is worth recalling that the Russian demands for security guarantees in 2021 not only completely neglected the security concerns of all the states previously occupied or controlled by Moscow beyond Russia itself, but also suggested a return to a period of spheres of influence.

Beijing, however, clearly proposed respecting the sovereignty of all states and abandoning the mentality of the Cold War.

A traditional Russian game of legal wordplay

Citing the Chinese point about the necessity of ceasing hostilities, the Russian  Foreign Ministry claims that it is in fact open to achieving its goals through political and diplomatic means. In their view, however, this must include recognition by Ukraine and the world of "new territorial realities," meaning extending legal legitimacy to Russia's violent seizure of Ukrainian territory and people.

To prove this, Moscow underscores that the territorial changes allegedly occurred as a result of residents of the seized territories exercising their right to "self-determination." Even if one ignores all the illegality of the Russian occupation as such, the legal absurdity of such claims has to be called out. There are no separate nations of Donetsk or Kherson Oblasts, and Zaporizhzhia Oblast is in fact the cradle of Ukrainian Cossacks. This is to say nothing of how the self-governance bodies of the indigenous people of Crimea, the Crimean Tatars, stand unequivocally on the side of Ukraine, remembering all the abuses committed by Moscow during its control of the peninsula.

On the matter of Russian "respect" for self-determination, we must also remember that the Kremlin outlawed the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people (their highest representative body) in 2016, just 2 years after annexing the peninsula.

Striking "the Collective West"

This favorite Russian term is often used by Kremlin propaganda to divide the world into opposing camps. Moscow seems to forget that in the UN General Assembly, resolutions condemning their invasion of Ukraine gain overwhelming support not only from European countries, but also from dozens of other countries around the entire world.

In an article in Komsomolskaya Pravda,  author Eduard Chesnokov notes that the Chinese plan is "a graceful blow against the United States" and "a veiled criticism of the West."

In the end, he concludes that the "Ukrainian crisis" will continue, but "Russia, China, and other non-Western players" have done everything they could to stop it. This is another bald-faced lie from the propaganda organs of the Kremlin, which started this armed aggression.

Russians are especially fond of quoting statements from pro-Kremlin politicians in Europe. In particular, the Russian media cited Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's support of Beijing's peace plan. The Kremlin particularly emphasized the need to start peace talks, which, in their view, are designed to legalize the gains of Russia's illegal aggression.

Russian propagandists also like to reference opinions from people in other countries to legitimize the Kremlin's actions. The Federal News Agency, known as a component of warlord and political entrepreneur Yevgeny Prigozhin's "troll factory", quotes a number of Turkish political commentators in its article. Most of the people cited praise the Russian-Chinese rapprochement and claim that it proves that Russia cannot be isolated. Simultaneously, the US is criticized for its pursuit of "imperialist interests," blithely ignoring Russia's imperialist aggression against its neighbors.


During Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow on March 20, Putin reiterated that he respects China's initiatives to bring about a peace settlement. The entirety of Russia's reaction to this plan confirms that it has become a sort of lifeline for the Kremlin, which has been unable to meaningfully expand its occupation of Ukrainian lands for many months now.

The pro-Kremlin media highlights only the opinions that justify Moscow's actions. However, we should not forget what the UN Charter says about wars of aggression and expansion, and which party to this war is the clear aggressor.

Analyst and Project Coordinator at UkraineWorld and Internews Ukraine