US contradicts Shapps claim that China and Russia are ‘working together’ on war in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping recently met in Beijing
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping recently met in Beijing - Getty

The US has questioned a claim by the UK that Russia and China are working together on combat equipment to be used in Ukraine.

Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, said on Wednesday that the two countries were “collaborating” on lethal aid for Moscow to use in its war against Kyiv.

He told a defence conference in London: “An axis of authoritarian states led by Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea have escalated and fuelled conflicts and tensions.

“They have increasingly been working together,” he said. “And today I can reveal that we have evidence that Russia and China are collaborating on combat equipment for use in Ukraine.”

However, the claim was quickly disputed by Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s national security adviser.

Asked about Mr Shapps’ speech at the daily White House press briefing, Mr Sullivan replied: “We have not seen that to date. I look forward to speaking with the UK to make sure that we have a common operating picture.”

In his speech, Mr Shapps said that the surge in trade between the two nations since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin’s recent state visit to Beijing showed that the countries were “covering each other’s back”.

China’s embassy in the US said last month that it had not provided any weapons to Russia, adding that it is “not a producer of or party involved in the Ukraine crisis”.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps fears Russia and China are collaborating on combat equipment for use in Ukraine - stolenoranges / King's College London/PA

Mr Shapps said in his speech that the world needed to “wake up” to the growing threats to the West.

He later added that “lethal aid is now, or will be, flowing from China to Russia and into Ukraine, I think it is a significant development”.

He did not provide further evidence to support his assertion.

The US has previously accused China of helping Russia with technology that has been used on the battlefield in Ukraine, but stopped short of saying that Beijing was directly supplying arms.

Provide critical components

Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said on a visit to China last month that there was no evidence of China selling weapons.

“What China is doing, or what some of its enterprises are doing, is to provide critical components for Russia’s defence industrial base, things like machine tools, microelectronics and optics,” he said.

Mr Shapps added that he would make the “unambiguous case” for all Nato countries to boost their defence expenditure to 2.5 per cent at the bloc’s summit in Washington DC in July.

The current Nato standard stands at two per cent, but only 11 of the alliance’s 32 members reached that target last year.

However, last month the UK committed to boosting its defence spending to 2.5 per cent by 2030.

The Chinese embassy in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.