China has stopped the delivery of Polish MiG-29s to Ukraine

WASHINGTON — Sometime in March, almost immediately after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Poland expressed a desire to supply Ukraine with its MiG-29s. However, Warsaw needed permission from Washington. A red line then was radically different from a red line today.

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Then the US changed its mind in just a few days. Washington first welcomed Poland’s decision and there was talk that Polish MiG-29s would fly to the Ramstein base in Germany. Poland expected and was negotiating, to receive American F-16s in return. And then came Washington’s refusal – the US did not agree to the deal, which was considered almost finalized.

While Poland was puzzled and Washington was explaining itself, Moscow made an unexpected move. Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia’s nuclear capabilities to be put on full combat alert. The world, the US, NATO, and Ukraine took this as a clear signal that a red line was being crossed somewhere.

China perhaps best understood the threat of nuclear war. But Beijing was not worried about a nuclear clash in Europe but in Eurasia. Beijing has judged that if Poland donates MiG-29s to Ukraine, Russia will take this as crossing the red line and nuclear war is inevitable, despite Moscow’s consistent nuclear military doctrine in recent decades.

Is there any truth to the claims that China influenced the US not to accept the Polish proposal? Is China the reason MiG-29s still can’t “fly” into Ukraine? We ask such questions because such claims have surfaced. They don’t come from some fan forum, but from an expert on Russia and the Russian-Ukrainian war, whose book on the subject is published by HarperCollins. This is Mr. Owen Matthews.

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China’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine war continues to be rather odd. China refuses to provide its weapons to Russia, claiming neutrality. At the same time, however, Chinese Foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi assured his Russian counterpart, Mr. Sergey Lavrov, just weeks ago that Beijing supports the Russian side and the unification of the Russian people “under the leadership of Putin”. Immediately after that statement came a second, which said China would deepen its relationship with Russia at all levels.

Matthews claims in his article that China is at the heart of the failed deal, with the consent of the US. He cited an unnamed source in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. It all started between one of the rare agreements between the American President Mr. Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Mr. Xi Jinping. Both agree that the world does not need a nuclear war.

Matthews writes that it was precisely the fear of nuclear war that caused Beijing to recognize in Poland’s offer to donate MiG-29s an opportunity for nuclear strikes to begin. An emergency meeting was arranged, Matthews wrote, between former European leaders and senior officials, the meeting backed by China. This group operated at the diplomatic level, communicating with Washington.

At a lower level operated the intelligence and military channels that exist between the Russian and Chinese armed forces. These channels were activated for another purpose – even if Russia were to start using nuclear weapons, they must remain within the limits of Russian military doctrine.

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So Washington, through the newly minted diplomatic group, has been told that if the US does not accept the deal, or stops it, China and the military channels already in place will do everything possible to prevent Russia from using nuclear weapons. China has guaranteed that Chinese PLA generals will personally do their best to prevent their Russian counterparts from activating the “red button”.

According to Matthews, the US took seriously the claim that the Polish MiG-29s could be an unpleasant catalyst. “It worked,” the Chinese source told Matthews, adding, “The [US] decided that supplying aircraft was a step too far.”


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