Putin and Xi
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The visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Sochi attend the inaugural ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics is invested with political symbolism. It is an expression of solidarity with Russia and with President Vladimir Putin in particular. In the event, Xi's meeting with Putin at Sochi on Thursday turned out to be substantive.

The Kremlin readout brings out that the meeting was marked by exceptional warmth. Putin disclosed that he will be meeting Xi on five occasions this year, which would include two visits to China. The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov highlighted that Xi took a common stand with Putin with regard to Ukraine. In Peskov's words, "The sides aired much criticism of outside interference.

Both parties have emphasized the unacceptability of any interference from the outside in what is happening and a very serious condemnation of such interference has been voiced." This amounts to Beijing supporting Moscow's concerns over the Ukraine situation. It is a big Chinese move, considering that it is not a Eurasian power and it implies Beijing's censuring of the European Union and the US whose officials have been visiting Ukraine and openly encouraging anti-government protests.

Interestingly, Xinhua report on the meeting in Sochi contained an additional detail that Putin expressed Russia's support for China's stance on the lessons of history relating to the Japanese aggression. The report said Xi and Putin also agreed to hold activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the World Anti-Fascist War and the 70th anniversary of the victory of Anti-Japanese War in 2015, "so as to remember the history and educate future generations."

The Xinhua report quoted Xi as underscoring that China and Russia "should continue to deepen consultation and cooperation on major international issues and jointly safeguard peace, security and stability of the region and the world at large."

Evidently, China and Russia have drawn still closer against the backdrop of the US strategies in the Asia-Pacific and in UKraine.

At the Munich security conference last week, US secretaries of state and defence John Kerry and Chuck Hagel spoke abrasively over the Ukraine situation in remarks that were patently directed at Russia. Both also spoke of a "transatlantic renaissance" in world politics, while Hagel pointedly referred to China and Russia "rapidly modernizing their militaries and global defense industries, challenging our [US'] technological edge in defense partnerships across the world." Hagel also revealed the deployment of USS Donald Cook, a missile defence-capable destroyer in Rota, Spain.

Today, it is going to be Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's turn to be received by Putin at Sochi. Tokyo also claims Abe's visit to Sochi is intended as a show of support to Putin.

Indeed, Japan is breaking ranks with the US, Britain, France and Germany, which downgraded their representation at the inaugural of the Sochi Winter Olympics. Moscow has criticized Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, but that hasn't come in the way. Evidently, Russian diplomacy is keeping the upper hand here.