It has been “very valuable” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s president Xi Jinping have made clear their opposition to nuclear weapons, Central Intelligence Agency chief Bill Burns has said.
His comments, in the context of persuading Russia to refrain from the use of nukes, come two days after US secretary of state Antony Blinken said he had asked India and China to speak to Russia to express their opposition to nuclear weapons.
In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, when asked about his meeting with Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin in Turkey last year, Burns said the conversation was “dispiriting”.
“My goal was not to talk about negotiations. That’s something that Ukrainians are going to need to take up with the Russians when they see fit. It was more than anything else, what the President (Joe Biden) asked me to do, which was to make clear to Naryshkin and through him to President (Vladimir) Putin, the serious consequences should Russia ever choose to use a nuclear weapon of any kind as well.”
Burns said that Naryshkin understood the seriousness of that issue and so did Putin. “I think it’s also been very valuable that the Chinese leadership and Prime Minister Modi in India have also made clear their opposition to any use of nuclear weapons.”
When asked why he found the conversation dispiriting, Burns, who also served as the American ambassador to Russia, said that he got the sense that Putin still had a “sense of cockiness and hubris.”
“You know, a sense, I think, reflecting Putin’s own view, his own belief today that he can make time work for him, that he believes he can grind down the Ukrainians, that he can wear down our European allies, that political fatigue will eventually set in.”
Burns, who has extensively dealt with the Russian president, said that in his experience, Putin’s view of Americans was that US had an “attention deficit disorder”. “And we will move on to some other issue eventually. And so Putin, in many ways, I think, believes today that he cannot win for awhile, but he can’t afford to lose. I mean, that’s his conviction. So instead of looking for ways to either back down or find a famous off ramp, you know, what Putin has done is double down.” Putin, Burns said, remained “entirely too confident of his ability” to wear down Ukraine
Burns also said that China was considering, but had still not decided, on whether to provide lethal supplies to Russia.
“We are confident that the Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment. We also don’t see that a final decision has been made yet, and we don’t see evidence of actual shipments of lethal equipment. And that’s why, I think, Secretary Blinken and the President have thought it important to make very clear what the consequences of that would be as well.” Last week, at the Munich Security Conference, Blinken had warned China against providing military support to Russia.
Suggesting that Xi had watched the evolution of the war in Ukraine closely, Burns said, “And I think in many ways, he’s been unsettled and sobered by what he’s seen. I think he was surprised by the very poor military performance of the Russians. I think surprised also by the degree of Western solidarity and support of Ukraine. In other words, the willingness of not just the United States, but our European allies as well to absorb a certain amount of economic cost in the interest of inflicting greater economic damage on Russia over time. So all of that, I think, has sobered Xi Jinping to some extent.”
Source- Hindustan Times.