NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cautioned China against supplying Russia with lethal weaponry, saying the move would be a "historic mistake with profound implications," Euronews reported on April 5.
"So far, we have not been able to confirm any provision of lethal aid, but this is something that we follow very closely," Stoltenberg told reporters at a press conference in Brussels.
According to Euronews, Stoltenberg repeatedly used the phrase "severe consequences" to describe possible NATO's reaction if Beijing decides to send lethal aid to Moscow. However, he declined to explain what those consequences would look like in practice, saying "there's no reason to go into details."
Following a meeting of NATO foreign affairs ministers, Stoltenberg criticized China for refusing to condemn Russia's war against Ukraine, spreading Moscow's propaganda narratives, and fueling Russia's economy damaged by international sanctions.
U.S. officials sounded the alarm in recent months that China is considering sending lethal aid to Russia for its war against Ukraine, while Beijing has denied the allegations.
Politico reported on March 16 that trade and customs data from between June and December 2022 showed that Chinese companies had exported 1,000 assault rifles and other equipment, such as drone parts and body armor, to Russian entities but that there was no explicit evidence the shipments were intended for Russian troops in Ukraine.
During a visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Russia on March 20-22, the two countries signed a joint statement on deepening partnership and strategic cooperation, which stressed that Russian–Chinese relations are comprehensive, strategic, and "at the highest level in history."
The Institute for the Study of War, a D.C.-based think tank, said that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, however, has been unable to secure the no-limits bilateral partnership with China the two countries declared shortly before Russia's full-scale invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022.