Wednesday, March 22, 2023

By:  Lauren Sforza

The Hill

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) blasted Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia for “celebrating authoritarian power” on Tuesday.

“This was a three day bro-fest celebrating authoritarian power,” he said on “CNN This Morning.”

Merkley, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that China and Russia are “very comfortable” together and want to “flex their muscles” to the world. He said that the two countries have formed an “authoritarian bloc,” which is a “threat to freedom everywhere.”

“You have a China, which didn’t hesitate to run over the top of Hong Kong,” he continued. “You have Russia, which invaded Ukraine. And they’re both authoritarian leaders who want to flex their muscles in the world and they’re finding that they’re very comfortable being lined up with each other.”

Xi concluded his three-day visit to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. Xi’s visit was seen by the West as Beijing doubling down on its support for Russia.

U.S. officials warned last month that there will be “consequences” if China begins to provide lethal aid to Russia to support its war in Ukraine.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that China called Xi’s visit a “journey of friendship, cooperation and peace,” and accused the U.S. of “fanning the flames” in the Russia-Ukraine war by providing weapons to Ukraine.

China reiterated that it remains neutral in the conflict, and just wants to “promote peace talks,” the AP reported.

China called for a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine last month, and released a 12-point plan in finding a resolution for the conflict, which included ending hostilities, resuming peace talks and addressing the humanitarian crisis the war created. The Associated Press reported Monday that Putin welcomed Xi’s plan for “settlement of the acute crisis in Ukraine.”