The Observer view on how Xi Jinping plans to use his meeting with war crimes suspect Vladimir Putin | Observer editorial

The welcome and overdue indictment of Vladimir Putin for war crimes allegedly committed in Ukraine confirms his place as a international outlaw. The determination by the intercontinental prison court docket (ICC) is unlikely to lead to his arrest and demo in the foreseeable upcoming. But it does make sure that, from now on, Russia’s president will be a legal suspect and wanted person, liable to arrest in the ICC’s 123 member states and a large humiliation to his country.

Putin’s command accountability for 1000’s of heinous war crimes fully commited in Ukraine has been distinct from the start off of the war he launched. He and his henchmen have denied any culpability. Russia does not recognise the ICC. The decision to indict Putin for the unlawful deportation of young children, fairly than other crimes, demonstrates the energy of evidence in these particular cases. But supplemental charges really should and need to adhere to.

It is a reduction that the ICC prosecutor and judges have not bowed to tension to withhold or hold off expenses for dread of jeopardising a notional potential peace approach. Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, has argued that Putin must not be “humiliated”. But Putin has blocked peace talks and, in any function, the two difficulties must not be conflated. Putting an important blow for worldwide justice, the courtroom has proven there is no impunity for even the most senior leaders.

Like Russia (and the US), China is not a party to the ICC. But the indictment should go away its president, Xi Jinping, in no doubt about the despicable reputation of his host as he starts a condition stop by to Moscow this 7 days. A far more principled chief may phone off his trip. But Xi, as well, has blood on his palms in Xinjiang, where he stands accused of overseeing genocide and crimes versus humanity. In any circumstance, Xi’s motives for checking out are in essence self-fascinated.

This week’s clear confirmation of a “no limits” Sino-Russian friendship will be portrayed in some quarters as a strengthen for Putin. Nonetheless it is plain who is the dominant companion in an progressively dysfunctional romance. Xi will give continued financial cooperation and diplomatic support – and refuse to condemn the Ukraine invasion. But he is unlikely to provide all the weapons Putin desperately demands, for fear of remaining sucked right into the conflict.

Beijing seeks to portray itself as an trustworthy broker. Nevertheless its stance is not credible, as proven by its absurdly 1-sided “peace plan”. Xi does not want Putin to be defeated. The ensuing instability would not be in China’s interest. Similarly, he does not want a large Russian accomplishment that could possibly reverse its increasing subordination to Beijing. An ongoing struggle that distracts and depletes the US, China’s main challenger, and which divides Europe and Nato, most effective suits Xi’s purposes.

Xi’s overarching aim is to advance his declare to lead an substitute, non-democratic, intolerant earth get, supplanting the US-dominated position quo and UN-endorsed guidelines-based mostly method. The new unconvincing Chinese-brokered deal involving Saudi Arabia and Iran was hailed by Beijing as an example of how its supposedly disinterested method brings success. Xi also hopes to get in excess of European leaders, specifically in France and Germany, who want an end to the war and a near trade marriage with China.

Like Richard Nixon’s take a look at to Beijing in 1972, when he famously performed the “China card” from the Soviet Union, Xi is using his Russian alliance to weaken and thwart the US. A smarter, stronger leader than Putin would recognize Xi’s activity. But Putin is neither wise nor robust – and the tacit information to Russians from the ICC indictment is that his days in electric power are numbered.