The US has information suggesting China has expressed some openness to providing Russia with requested military and financial assistance, a Western official and a US diplomat told CNN. But it is not yet clear whether China intends to provide Russia with military or financial assistance as part of its war on Ukraine, US officials familiar with the intelligence tell CNN.
The consideration was detailed in a diplomatic cable relayed to allies in Europe and Asia, according to the sources.
The cable did not state definitively that assistance had been provided. One official also said the US warned in the cable that China would likely deny it was willing to provide assistance.
The Chinese Community Party leadership is not all in agreement regarding how to respond to Russia’s request for assistance, said one of the sources. Two officials said that China's desire to avoid economic consequences may limit its appetite to help Russia.
“There is real concern by some that their involvement could hurt economic relationships with the West, on which China relies," said one of the sources.
Officials are also monitoring whether China provides some economic and diplomatic relief for Russia in other forms, like the abstention vote at the UN.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is “unsettled” by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in part because “his own intelligence doesn’t appear to have told him what was going to happen,” and because of how Putin “has driven Americans and Europeans more closely together,” CIA Director Bill Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
Officials separately told CNN that Xi has been unnerved by how the war in Ukraine has reinvigorated the NATO alliance.
Chinese leadership is also concerned because of “the reputational damage that China suffers by association with the ugliness of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine” and “the economic consequences at a time when growth rates in China are lower than they’ve been in 30 years,” according to Burns.
The US is “watching very closely the extent to which" China or any other country "provides any form of support, whether that's material support, whether that's economic support, whether that's financial support to Russia,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “Any such support from anywhere in the world would be of great concern to us."
He declined to comment specifically on reports of a diplomatic cable that the US had sent to NATO allies about China’s willingness to support Russia’s war in Ukraine.
China and Russia have denied allegations that Moscow requested military assistance from Beijing.