Putin and Xi Show United Front Amid Rising Tensions With U.S.

MOSCOW — President Biden may have his alliance of democracies, but Russia and China still have each other.

Xi Jinping addressed Vladimir V. Putin as his “old friend,” and the Russian president called his Chinese counterpart both his “dear friend” and his “honorable friend,” as the two leaders held a video summit on Wednesday — a display of solidarity in the face of Western pressure over Ukraine, Taiwan and many other matters.

In footage of opening remarks released by the Kremlin, Mr. Putin said he would attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in February, making him the first leader of another country to confirm he would come to the event that Mr. Biden has already pledged to boycott, as have the leaders of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and others.

Mr. Xi, noting that he was meeting Mr. Putin for the 37th time since 2013, praised the Russian president for thwarting attempts to “drive a wedge between our countries.” He said the two countries were “defending the true meaning of democracy and human rights,” according to the Russian translation of their remarks as the virtual summit began.

That message appeared meant to strike a contrast with the Summit for Democracy that Mr. Biden hosted last week, which was widely viewed as an effort to build a united front against Russia and China.

The two countries, once adversaries, have formed an ever-tighter economic, military and geopolitical partnership under Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi — one that increasingly looks like a bloc against American influence as both countries’ confrontations with the United States deepen.

The talks came at a high-stakes moment. Mr. Putin is threatening an invasion of neighboring Ukraine with alarming military deployments near the border, Western officials say, just as he demands new legal guarantees from the West that would establish a Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.

Mr. Xi is facing Western calls for diplomatic boycotts of the Olympics in February as well as pressure over China’s actions in the western region of Xinjiang, where hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other Muslims have been subjected to detention and re-education.

“I expect that in February of next year we will finally meet in person in Beijing,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Xi. “We have unfailingly supported each other in questions of international athletic cooperation, including in not accepting any attempts to politicize sports or the Olympic movement.”

Anton Troianovski reported from Moscow, and Steven Lee Myers from Seoul. Claire Fu, John Liu and Khava Khasmagomadova contributed research.

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