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Russia and the alternative to the global world order

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Monday, May 25

1Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov is in Moscow where he will hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the two will discuss the conflict in the disputed Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh and ways to strengthen bilateral ties when they meet on May 25. Strategic partnership between Russia and Azerbaijan is important both in terms of the bilateral cooperation and stability in the South Caucasus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. The economic relations between the two countries are developing, the trade turnover has reached its historic high and increased by 12 percent compared to 2014. Many Russian regions have relations with Azerbaijan, said Lavrov adding that preparations for the sixth Russian-Azerbaijani forum in Ekaterinburg are underway.

2Indonesia could soon be purchasing crude oil form Iran and tapping into the Middle Eastern nation’s oil fields. “The government is considering opportunities to buy Iranian crude directly,” said Dadan Kusdiana, spokesman for the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. The United States government and the European Union have blocked the import, purchase and transport of Iranian crude.But Indonesia could soon join other countries in Asia, such as China, India and Japan, and start buying oil from Iran. (Jakarta Globe)

3Azerbaijan and Russia have reached an agreement to hold a joint military exercise in Caspian Sea. Nearly ten surface ships and vessels will take part in the exercise. During the consultations, the representatives of the military delegations agreed to hold an exercise on joint actions to protect marine economic objects in the Caspian Sea in the central part of the sea in September of 2015.

4In 2015 Kazakhstan may increase its grain exports to Iran five times thanks to the Uzen-Bereket-Gorgan railway launched in December 2014, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said when speaking at the annual Astana Economic Forum. The 900-km-long railway link constructed through concerted efforts of the nations involved and launched early December 2014 runs from the Kazakhstan’s steppe across Turkmen Karakumy desert to the mountainous Gulistan province in the North of Iran. The project was bolstered by the Asian Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank.

5Wary of Russia, Europe now tiptoes when it comes to expansion: “In the final declaration agreed on Friday, E.U. leaders recognized the “aspirations and European choice” of their neighbors but offered nothing more. Former Soviet countries that had entertained hopes of joining the European Union as full partners now feel they are being shut out. The newfound caution hands the Kremlin a victory as pressure eases slightly in the Ukrainian crisis. European advocates of a more open-armed approach toward former Soviet nations warn that concessions will only encourage Russia to be more aggressive with its neighbors in the future.” Writes Michael Birnbaum for The Washington Post.

6Invest in Kazakhstan 2015 the official publication of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan – is a definitive guide to foreign direct investment, looking at the wide range of opportunities across all major industrial and financial sectors, and how they can be harnessed to efficiently maximize long-term returns. The publication will provide an in-depth view of Kazakhstan’s business environment, with an extended section on Kazakhstan’s key oil and gas industry, as well as a focus on the areas of mining and minerals, construction, power and renewable energy, transport and infrastructure, agriculture, ICT, banking and finance, healthcare, tourism, and education.

7Azerbaijan became the leader of the International Fund for Cooperation and Partnership of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea (BSCSIF). Chingiz Abdullayev became the new president of the Fund. The change of the leadership of the structure took place on May 23 in Baku during the 14th session of the General Assembly and the Board of Directors of the BSCSIF. The BSCSIF is an international non-governmental non-profit organization, established on March 4, 2009 by the initiative of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Romanian President Traian Basescu.

8Turkmenistan has unveiled a gold-leafed statue of the president in a gesture intended to burnish the leader’s burgeoning cult of personality. The 21-meter monument presented to the public Monday consists of a statue of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov atop a horse mounted on a towering pile of marble. Berdymukhamedov, nicknamed Arkadag (the Protector), won the presidential election in 2012 with a landslide 97 percent in a vote criticized by election monitoring groups.

9“The Russian administration will have an opportunity to present the country as a leader of the non-western world. Presidency of the BRICS will allow Moscow to position itself as a participant of an association that offers an alternative to the global world order. In the company of the largest economy in the world (at least that is how the IMF estimates China’s GDP in relation to its purchasing power parity) and the dynamic leaders of South Asia, Latin America and Africa, Moscow can confidently say that it does not intend to return to the G8, even if it is suddenly invited back” writes Alexander Gabuev for the Russia Beyond the Headlines

10Azerbaijan awaits unambiguous and firm actions by the European Union to ensure that the resolutions of the UN Security Council on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are strictly complied with and implemented, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in its statement on the final declaration of Riga summit.“However, there are issues that cannot be a subject to compromise” he added.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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Ukraine: Commission proposes to criminalise the violation of EU sanctions

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The European Commission is today putting forward a proposal to harmonise criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU restrictive measures. While the Russian aggression on Ukraine is ongoing, it is paramount that EU restrictive measures are fully implemented and the violation of those measures does not pay off. The Commission proposal sets out common EU rules, which will make it easier to investigate, prosecute and punish violations of restrictive measures in all Member States alike.

Violating EU sanctions is a serious criminal offence

The implementation of EU restrictive measures following the Russian attack on Ukraine shows the complexity of identifying assets owned by oligarchs, who hide them across different jurisdictions through elaborate legal and financial structures. The proposed Directive will establish the same level of penalties in all Member States. Thereby it will close existing legal loopholes and increase the deterrent effect of violating EU sanctions in the first place. The main elements of the proposal include:

  • A list of criminal offences, which violate EU sanctions, such as:
  • making funds or economic resources available to, or for the benefit of, a designated person, entity or body;
  • failing to freeze these funds;
  • enabling the entry of designated people into the territory of a Member State or their transit through the territory of a Member State;
  • entering into transactions with third countries, which are prohibited or restricted by EU restrictive measures;
  • trading in goods or services whose import, export, sale, purchase, transfer, transit or transport is prohibited or restricted;
  • providing financial activities which are prohibited or restricted; or
  • providing other services which are prohibited or restricted, such as legal advisory services, trust services and tax consulting services.
  • Offences will cover circumventing an EU restrictive measure: this means bypassing or attempting to bypass restrictive measures by concealing funds  or concealing the fact that a person is the ultimate owner of funds.
  • Common basic standards for penalties: depending on the offence, the individual person could be liable to a maximum penalty of at least five years in prison; companies could be liable to penalties of no less than 5% of the total worldwide turnover of the legal person (company) in the business year preceding the fining decision.

Next steps

The proposal will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council as part of the ordinary co-legislative procedure.

Background

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the EU has adopted a series of sanctions against Russian and Belarussian individuals and companies. The implementation of EU restrictive measures shows the complexity of identifying assets owned by oligarchs, who hide them across different jurisdictions through complex legal and financial structures. For example, by transferring ownership of sanctioned property to a non-sanctioned third party. They are helped by existing legal loopholes, as the criminal law provisions on breaches of EU sanctions vary across Member States. An inconsistent enforcement of restrictive measures undermines the Union’s ability to speak with one voice.

In May 2022, the Commission proposed to add the violation of EU restrictive measures to the list of EU crimes. At the same time, the Commission proposed new reinforced rules on asset recovery and confiscation, which will also contribute to the implementation of EU restrictive measures. The proposals come in the context of the ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force, set up by the Commission in March.

Following the adoption on 28 November of the Council Decision identifying the violation of Union restrictive measures as an area of serious crime that meets the criteria set out in Article 83(1) of the TFEU, the Commission is now putting forward this proposal for a Directive on the violation of Union restrictive measures, as a second step.

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Americans are outraged: US has given about $54B of assistance to Ukraine. The EU only 16B

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On a broadcast of the Fox Business Network’s “Kennedy,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) said he will not continue to support aid to Ukraine until the European Union matches the aid already provided by the U.S.

We need a complete audit of the money sent by America. There should be assurances that the country hasn’t had an illegitimate relationship with FTX, and “the millions of dollars that were paid to the Biden family by Ukraine over the years isn’t influencing our foreign policy,” said Tom McClintock. (Through this crypto-exchange FTX the Democrats laundered huge amounts of money that were allocated by the US Congress for Ukraine).

McClintock stated, “I supported the initial assistance to Ukraine. Ukraine is primarily a European security issue. Now, you look at the numbers, the United States has given about $54 billion of assistance to Ukraine. And the EU had only 16 billion.

“So, they’ve got about half of our GDP. But they’ve only given about a third of the assistance that we have. Now, given the fact that’s happening right on their doorstep, not on ours. It seems to me they need to at least match what we’ve already done.

“And then I also believe there needs to be a full audit of where our money has gone and we need assurance that Ukraine’s relationship with FTX is entirely legitimate, as Ukraine contends. And I think the American people would also like to be assured that the millions of dollars that were paid to the Biden family by Ukraine over the years isn’t influencing our foreign policy,” said Tom McClintock.

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Europe accuses US of ‘profiting from war’

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Top European officials are furious with Joe Biden’s administration and now accuse the Americans of making a fortune from the war, while EU countries suffer. “The fact is, if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons,” one senior official told POLITICO.

Washington announced a $369 billion industrial subsidy scheme to support green industries under the Inflation Reduction Act that Brussels went into full-blown panic mode. “The Inflation Reduction Act has changed everything,” one EU diplomat said. “Is Washington still our ally or not?”

“We are really at a historic juncture,” the senior EU official said, arguing that the double hit of trade disruption from U.S. subsidies and high energy prices risks turning public opinion against both the war effort and the transatlantic alliance. “America needs to realize that public opinion is shifting in many EU countries.”

The biggest point of tension in recent weeks has been Biden’s green subsidies and taxes that Brussels says unfairly tilt trade away from the EU and threaten to destroy European industries. Despite formal objections from Europe, Washington has so far shown no sign of backing down.

As they attempt to reduce their reliance on Russian energy, EU countries are turning to gas from the U.S. instead — but the price Europeans pay is almost four times as high as the same fuel costs in America. Then there’s the likely surge in orders for American-made military kit as European armies run short after sending weapons to Ukraine.

Officials on both sides of the Atlantic recognize the risks that the increasingly toxic atmosphere will have for the Western alliance.

“The U.S. is following a domestic agenda, which is regrettably protectionist and discriminates against U.S. allies,” said Tonino Picula, the European Parliament’s lead person on the transatlantic relationship.

Cheaper energy has quickly become a huge competitive advantage for American companies, too. Businesses are planning new investments in the U.S. or even relocating their existing businesses away from Europe to American factories. Just this week, chemical multinational Solvay announced t is choosing the U.S. over Europe for new investments, in the latest of a series of similar announcements from key EU industrial giants.

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