The comments, by national security adviser Jake Sullivan and CIA Director William J. Burns, were made during separate appearances on news shows Sunday morning.
Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Washington will continue to send “a strong message” to Beijing against giving military aid to Moscow “when they are using their weapons to bombard cities, kill civilians and commit atrocities.”
Such a move “would be a bad mistake, and China should want no part of it,” Sullivan said. But, he added, “at present, China has not moved forward, as far as we can discern. We have not seen them do it.”
Burns said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that there is U.S. intelligence “suggesting” China is “considering” giving Russia lethal military equipment, confirming previous news reports, including by The Washington Post. But he added, “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.”
Burns added that it appears that Chinese President Xi Jinping was surprised by the weaknesses of the Russian military, which had been expected to conquer the Ukrainian capital in a matter of days after last year’s invasion, as well as by the solid support shown by Western nations.
The solidarity, Burns said, was in the willingness of the United States and European allies “to absorb a certain amount of economic cost in the interest of inflicting greater economic damage on Russia over time.” A coalition of nations has levied economic sanctions against Russian businesses, Russian oligarchs and companies doing business inside of Russia.
“All of that, I think, has sobered Xi Jinping to some extent,” Burns said.
Burns also said Russia is not “serious” about engaging in diplomatic negotiations. Russian President Vladimir Putin believes Americans have “attention-deficit disorder” and will eventually stop caring about Ukraine, which is helping fuel his conviction that he can wait out the Western alliance, Burns said.
He said that posture came through in Burns’s meeting three months ago with Russian spy chief Sergei Naryshkin, who conveyed a “very defiant attitude” and “a sense of cockiness.”
That reflects “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.”
Still, Putin’s defiance and his military’s struggles are putting a focus on alliances he may form with strategic partners, worrying many members of Congress.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Sunday during an appearance on ABC News’s “This Week” that intelligence reports suggested China may be considering sending 100 drones to Russia.
McCaul said such discussions are “very disturbing” because “while it may be Ukraine today, it’s going to be Taiwan tomorrow,” referring to the island whose sovereignty China does not recognize and which is also a major manufacturer of semiconductors that are vital for the world economy.
Concerns over China’s hawkish posturing were also heightened after U.S. officials shot down a Chinese spy balloon this month after it passed over the continental United States; U.S. officials said the balloon is part of China’s vast international surveillance program.
McCaul went on to say, “We haven’t seen anything like this since my father’s generation, World War II.”
“We can’t throw our head in the sand and ignore this,” McCaul added. “Otherwise, the Russians will be on the Polish border and Chairman Xi will invade Taiwan.”