Republican Candidates Spar Over Confronting China-Russia Alliance in Ukraine

Republican Candidates Spar Over Confronting China-Russia Alliance in Ukraine
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie participates in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Aug. 23, 2023. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Andrew Thornebrooke

Top Republican contenders for the party’s presidential nomination are sparring over continued U.S. support for Ukraine, with some arguing that the United States should leave the nation to its fate and others urging a robust defense against a growing China-Russia alliance.

Supporting U.S. assistance for Ukraine during the second Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, were former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, however, urged that the United States immediately halt aid to Ukraine and seek a deal with Russia.

Mr. Christie underscored that China, Iran, and North Korea are providing economic and military support to Russia as it wages its attempted conquest of Ukraine.

As such, he said, Russia needed to be stopped to prevent a cascade of conflicts led by authoritarian powers in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

“The Chinese are paying for the war in Ukraine,” Mr. Christie said.

“The fact of the matter is, we need to say right now that the Chinese-Russian alliance is something we have to fight against, and we are not going to solve it by going over and cuddling up to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”

GOP Candidates Split on Confronting Russia in Ukraine

Mr. Christie was met with some argument on the debate stage.

Mr. DeSantis pledged to make the war in Ukraine a European problem, swearing to abandon the nation in order to ensure that U.S. tax dollars went to U.S. causes.

“I will end this war,” Mr. DeSantis said.

“We’re going to make the Europeans do what they need to do.”

Mr. Ramaswamy likewise suggested that the United States should halt security deliveries to Ukraine and cede occupied Ukrainian territory to Russia through a peace deal. Ukraine, he suggested, is simply not a good enough nation to support.

“Just because Putin is evil does not mean Ukraine is good,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.

“We need a reasonable peace plan to end this.”

Mr. Christie condemned Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Ramaswarmy, noting that four consecutive presidents have tried and failed to negotiate in good faith with Mr. Putin.

“I understand people want to go and talk to Putin,” Mr. Christie said. “Guess what? So did George W. Bush. So did Barack Obama. So did Donald Trump. And so did Joe Biden when he said a ‘small invasion’ wouldn’t be so bad. Every one of them has been wrong.”

Mr. Pence and former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley also condemned Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Ramaswamy for failing to acknowledge the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) through its support of Russia.

“It’s never been a territorial dispute,” Ms. Haley said. “...A win for Russia is a win for China.”

“That’s a green light to take Taiwan,” Mr. Pence said. “Peace comes through strength.”

Both Mr. Christie and Ms. Haley have said they would not support U.S. or NATO troops becoming directly involved in Ukraine's defense.

China-Russia Alliance Looms

CCP leadership has come to increasingly believe that Mr. Putin’s Russia is its most important ally in a shared mission to undermine the United States and the international order it leads.
To that end, CCP leader Xi Jinping visited Moscow in March, describing Mr. Putin as a “dear friend” and hailing their work towards creating “change which hasn’t happened in 100 years.”
That statement was accompanied by an open pledge by the two leaders to reshape the international order to their interests, with Mr. Putin saying that China and Russia would create a more just “multipolar world order” to replace the “rules” of the current international order.
Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin first declared a “no limits” partnership agreement in February 2022, only weeks before Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Since then, the two have pledged increased economic and strategic cooperation, and have signed a joint declaration deepening the nations’ “comprehensive strategic partnership.”

Since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, the CCP has become Russia's most important partner in trade and diplomacy, helping Moscow to carry on amid otherwise devastating international sanctions.

The United States has consistently warned that the CCP could provide weapons or munitions to the Russian military, and in recent months has underscored that the regime hasn't taken such an arrangement off the table.

The White House has also acknowledged that private Chinese companies have directly supported Russia’s war in Ukraine, but it stopped short of saying that such support amounts to lethal aid.

When the White House issued sanctions on numerous international bodies related to Russia’s war on Feb. 24, for example, it also targeted Chinese entities accused of backfilling Russia’s defense industry, effectively helping the regime to skirt sanctions.
According to a February report by German media outlet Der Spiegel, China previously falsified shipping documents to disguise military aviation equipment bound for Russia as civil in nature and used intermediaries in the United Arab Emirates to deliver dual-use drones to Russia.

That same report alleged that the CCP is currently preparing a shipment of suicide drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.

Similarly, a report by Japan's Kyodo News that cites anonymous U.S. government sources claims that Chinese ammunition has been found on battlefields in Ukraine. The report clarified, however, that there was no evidence that the CCP had sold the ammunition to Russia directly.
Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.