Flashpoints | Diplomacy

After US Strike on Soleimani, China and Russia Coordinate at UN

Moscow and Beijing are increasingly taking steps in tandem at the Security Council in responding to U.S. actions.

Ankit Panda
After US Strike on Soleimani, China and Russia Coordinate at UN
Credit: Flickr via Wilson Loo

China and Russia have coordinated their response to the U.S. strike on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq earlier this month at the United Nations. Both countries, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with veto power over resolutions, have coordinated directly in the aftermath.

According to China‘s Xinhua news agency, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke on a phone call over the weekend, shortly after the U.S. strike on Soleimani. The two “discussed bilateral cooperation at the United Nations (UN) Security Council,” Xinhua noted.

“Wang said that China pays high attention to the intensification of U.S.-Iran conflict, opposes the abuse of force in international relations, and holds that military adventures are unacceptable,” the Xinhua report noted. During a visit to China by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in the days before the strike on Soleimani, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had criticized what it saw as U.S. “bullying.”

On Monday, the United States also leveled an accusation at the United Nations that Moscow and Beijing had blocked a Security Council statement condemning a late-December 2019 assault on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which followed a U.S. airstrike on members of an Iran-aligned Iraqi militia.

According to the U.S. mission to the United Nations, many countries condemned the embassy assault, which was in “in stark contrast to the United Nations Security Council’s silence due to two permanent members – Russia and China – not allowing a statement to proceed.” The specific content of the statement was not clear. According to Reuters, Russia and China “dismissed” the U.S. statement, saying they condemned all attacks on diplomatic facilities.

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In a follow-up statement, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, expressed concern that any Security Council statement should also address other developments, including possibly the United States’ strike on Soleimani after the embassy raid. “We have seen more events taking place, especially the unilateral action from the United States,” Zhang, told reporters. “If the council is supposed to do something, we should have complete coverage of the whole thing.”

“The press statement was nearly ready. It was agreed upon, at least with us and with the U.S.. However then, on 3 January, there was that strike on the airport in Baghdad. To ignore this and not to take this into account in the overall context would be impossible,” Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian permanent representative to the United Nations, said.

Though Beijing and Moscow are not formal allies, the two have increasingly coordinated on a range of matters internationally. In 2017, the United States, under the Trump administration, identified both Russia and China as great power competitors, adopting a more confrontational stance toward both countries. In the meantime, the Russia-China relationship has been described by some observers as an entente, if not an alliance.

In December, China and Russia were reported to have jointly drafted a resolution that would proposed sanctions relief measures for North Korea. The move came amid an anticipated end-of-year deadline put in place by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year for the United States to change its negotiating position in denuclearization diplomacy. That resolution has not yet been formally introduced.