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Rising Russo-China relations: Xi meets Putin in Moscow before G20 summit

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Today, if at all any two big powers share territories and conduct trade mutually beneficially and they do not have any serious problems,  then, Russia and China fit the bill. The bilateral ties between two veto members and former communist states in Europe and Asia have been improving tremendously.

End of Cold War and NATO targeting Russia and China  in fact brought them  together. There have been mutual visits by leaders from both nations on a regular basis. In fact, Chinese president visits Moscow as many times as possible and each time at least a new deal of economic substance gets inked between them. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping is now in Moscow before he travels to Germany to take part in an upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Chinese president is making a two-day stop in Moscow on his way to Germany, where a G20 summit is scheduled for later this week. According to Russia’s ambassador to China, Andrey Denisov, during the visit China and Russia will sign multiple contracts for the collective worth of over $10 billion in various fields.

Ahead of his visit, the Chinese leader gave an interview to Russia’s TASS news agency, in which he particularly focused on the issue of deployment of the US THAAD missile defense systems to South Korea. Xi criticized the move as “disrupting the strategic balance in the region” and threatening the security interests of all countries in the region, including Russia and China. He also reiterated that Beijing is urging Washington and Seoul to back away from the decision to deploy THAAD systems to the Korean peninsula.

Putin and Xi already held an informal dinner at the Kremlin. The two leaders exchanged views on Syria as well as issues relating to the Korean Peninsula, where they agreed to “jointly push for a proper settlement… via dialogue and negotiation,” according to Chinese state news agency, Xinhua.   The Chinese leader also emphasized the need to boost cooperation and “steadfastly support each other in pursuing their own development paths and defending their respective sovereignty, national security and development interests,” Chinese media reported.

Economic cooperation and trade is the most wide-ranging area in Russo-China cooperation and enjoys great potential.  Before his departure for the state visit to Russia, Xi said, “Our two countries have built a high level of political and strategic trust… I believe the visit will lend new impetus to the growth of bilateral relations.”  He also expressed hope that the G20 will continue to uphold the spirit of partnership for win-win cooperation. It is the two leaders’ third meeting this year, and deals worth $10 billion are expected to be signed this time.

President Putin has described the meeting as a major event in bilateral relations that have been growing and deepening for years ever since USA and EU slapped economic sanction on Moscow for annexing (rather retaking) Crimea which had been an integral part of Russian empire for centuries before it was shifted to Ukraine for administrative reasons by then Soviet President Khrushchev.

As a sign of closer relationship, Putin will bestow upon Xi one of Russia’s utmost honors, the order of St. Andrew the First-Called, for his extreme efforts towards bolstering friendship and ties between peoples of Russia and China.

Xi’s meeting with Putin will be the third of its kind this year.

Less than a month ago, Putin and Xi met in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. At that time, Putin called the upcoming meeting in Moscow “a major event in bilateral relations,” noting that it would have a “significant” impact on bilateral ties.

Before the Astana meeting on June 8, Xi had hosted Putin in Beijing during the high-level ‘One Belt, One Road’ forum, which brought together dozens of heads of state in May to discuss international cooperation.

During Xi’s visit to Moscow, scheduled for July 3-4, Russia and China will sign several contracts worth a total of $10 billion, as well as more than a dozen intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in various fields

Strategic partnership

Beijing is Moscow’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 14.3 percent of Russia’s foreign trade turnover. Between January and April of 2017, the volume of trade between the two countries grew by 37 percent, reaching $24.5 billion.

Germany is Russia’s second biggest partner, with nine percent of Russia’s total trade volume

Moscow and Beijing have strengthened their strategic partnership on the international stage, Li noted, adding that they have been jointly pushing for political solutions to the Korean nuclear issue and the Syrian crisis.

Moscow and Beijing are determined to align positions on pressing international issues. Close ties allow the countries “to pursue a rather close course on various aspects of the agenda of international organizations, including the United Nations,” according to the ambassador.  “When good intentions framed in lofty words lead to chaos, the collapse of states and, in the long run, to bloodshed and numerous human casualties, the role of stabilizers, of the factors that may have a cooling, stabilizing effect on the generally turbulent international situation is very important.

And Russian-Chinese relations are, to my mind, such a stabilizing factor, said the ambassador.

Uniform stance

North Korea has successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which it claims is capable of hitting anywhere in the world. The Hwasong-14 ballistic missile reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers (1,741 miles) and hit its target precisely after flying for 39 minutes, the report said.

The latest test comes just hours after US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to exert added pressure on North Korea over its missile and nuclear development programs.

On June 3, the United Nations Security Council imposed a fresh array of sanctions on North Korea in response to a number of missile tests carried out by Pyongyang this year.

North Korea accuses the United States of plotting with regional allies to overthrow its government. Pyongyang says it will not relinquish its nuclear deterrence unless the United States ends its hostile policy toward North Korea and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea.

Moscow and Beijing have called for a simultaneous freeze on North Korea’s missile tests and large-scale military drills by the United States and South Korea. Both countries made the demand in a statement released after Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin and the USA and South Korea refrain from carrying out large-scale joint exercises,” foreign ministries of the two countries said in a joint statement. “Parallel to this, the opposing sides should start negotiations and affirm general principles of their relations including the non-use of force, rejection of aggression and peaceful coexistence,” the statement said.

It also demanded that the United States immediately halt its controversial deployment of an anti-missile system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to South Korea.

North Korea missile launch breach of UN resolution

Separately, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called North Korea’s latest test launch of a ballistic missile a breach of a UN Security Council resolution. Ryabkov said tensions with Pyongyang risked leading to catastrophic developments and that the missile launch showed that the only way forward was to organize multilateral talks with North Korea.

Unsettled by North Korean missile and nuclear programs, the United States has adopted a war-like posture, sending a strike group and conducting joint military drills with North Korea’s regional adversaries Japan and South Korea.

USA and China

Chinese President Xi Jinping has raised concerns with his American counterpart, Donald Trump, regarding “some negative factors” affecting Sino-American relations. In a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump on Monday and before setting off for Russia, President Xi enumerated several factors adversely affecting the Beijing-Washington ties. Xi expressed Beijing’s displeasure with the recent approval by the US to sell $1 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers part of its territory.

President Trump, who had previously questioned the “One China” policy, has reassured President Xi of continued US commitment to the practice. Trump has also more recently sought to court the Chinese president, including by inviting him and his wife to his private estate in Florida in May. Xi told Trump that his government expected Washington to continue managing relations on the basis of the “One China” principle, i.e. recognizing Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan.

In a telephone conversation, Xi also discussed the US sanctions against a Chinese bank over its dealings with North Korea. The US Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on the China-based Bank of Dadong and several Chinese nationals on Thursday for having “illicit” financial activities with North Korea.

The recent sailing of a US destroyer within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit of an island claimed by China in the South China Sea was also another issue raised by the Chinese president.

The maneuver by the US guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem was earlier denounced by Beijing as a “provocation.”

Xi also expressed his opposition to the US deployment of an advanced missile system on South Korea. He warned that China and Russia would take “necessary measures” either together or independently to protect their interests with regard to the deployment of the system. “The US deployment of an advanced anti-missile system in South Korea gravely harms the strategic security interests of China, Russia, and other countries in the region,” Xinhua quoted Xi as having told Trump. “Beijing and Moscow are steadfastly opposed to the THAAD deployment and seriously suggest that relevant countries stop and cancel the installation,” he added, referring to the missile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), by its acronym.

Both China and Russia have repeatedly voiced their opposition to the deployment and argued that the controversial missile system disrupts the regional strategic balance.

South Korea decided to host the missile system last year to deter perceived threats from North Korea. The US opposes North Korea’s missile and military nuclear activities, which Pyongyang says act as a deterrence against potential invasion by its adversaries.

Global growth continues to gather momentum, as both developed countries and emerging markets show stronger economic performance. However, grave challenges remain. Therefore, it is particularly important for the G20 to play its role as a premier forum for international economic cooperation. This evening, within Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official visit, there will be an informal dinner for President Putin and Xi Jinping at the Kremlin”   It will have an unusual format of the meeting: the leaders will meet Russian and Chinese representatives of the public, businesses and media, who will briefly inform Putin and Xi Jinping on their cooperation,” added Peskov.

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Russia lacks sufficient number of migrants to fulfill its ambitious development plans

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Despite various official efforts, including regular payment of maternal capital to stimulate birth rates and regulating migration policy to boost population, Russia is reportedly experiencing decreasing population. According to the Federal State Statistics Service, Russia’s population currently stands at approximately 144 million, down from 148.3 million.

Experts at the Higher School of Economics believe that regulating the legal status of migrants, majority of them arriving from the Commonwealth of Independent States or the former Soviet republics, could be useful or resourceful for developing the economy, especially on various infrastructure projects planned for country. These huge human resources could be used in the vast agricultural fields to boost domestic agricultural production. On the contrary, the Federal Migration Service plans to deport all illegal migrants from Russia.

Within the long-term sustainable development program, Russia has multibillion dollar plans to address its infrastructure deficit especially in the provinces, and undertake megaprojects across its vast territory, and migrant labor could be useful here. The government can ensure that steady improvements are consistently made with the strategy of legalizing (regulating legal status) and redeploying the available foreign labor, majority from the former Soviet republics rather than deporting back to their countries of origin.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has been credited for transforming the city into a very neat and smart modern one, thanks partly to foreign labor – invaluable reliable asset – performing excellently in maintaining cleanliness and on the large-scale construction sites, and so also in various micro-regions on the edge or outskirts of Moscow.

With its accumulated experience, the Moscow City Hall has now started hosting the Smart Cities Moscow, international forum dedicated to the development of smart cities and for discussing about changes in development strategies, infrastructure challenges and adaptation of the urban environment to the realities of the new normal society.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia lacks sufficient number of migrants to fulfill its ambitious development plans. He further acknowledged that the number of migrants in Russia has reduced significantly, and now their numbers are not sufficient to implement ambitious projects in the country.

“I can only speak about the real state of affairs, which suggests that, in fact, we have very few migrants remaining over the past year. Actually, we have a severe dearth of these migrants to implement our ambitious plans,” the Kremlin spokesman pointed out.

In particular, it concerns projects in agricultural and construction sectors. “We need to build more than we are building now. It should be more tangible, and this requires working hands. There is certainly a shortage in migrants. Now there are few of them due to the pandemic,” Peskov said.

Early April, an official from the Russian Interior Ministry told TASS News Agency that the number of illegal migrants working in Russia decreased by 40% in 2020 if compared to the previous year. It also stated that 5.5 million foreign citizens were registered staying in Russia last year, while the average figure previously ranged between nine and eleven million.

On March 30, 2021, President Vladimir Putin chaired the tenth meeting of the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations via videoconference, noted that tackling the tasks facing the country needs not only an effective economy but also competent management. For a huge multinational state such as Russia, it is fundamentally, and even crucially important, to ensure public solidarity and a feeling of involvement in the life, and responsibility for its present and future.

At this moment, over 80 percent of Russian citizens have a positive view on interethnic relations, and it is important in harmonizing interethnic relations in the country, Putin noted during the meeting, and added “Russia has a unique and original heritage of its peoples. It is part of our common wealth, it should be accessible to every resident of our country, every citizen, everyone who lives on this land. Of course, we will need to review the proposal to extend the terms for temporary stay of minors of foreign citizens in the Russian Federation.”

President Vladimir Putin has already approved a list of instructions aimed at reforming the migration requirements and the institution of citizenship in Russia based on the proposals drafted by the working group for implementation of the State Migration Policy Concept of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025.

“Within the framework of the working group for implementation of the State Migration Policy Concept of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025, the Presidential Executive Office of the Russian Federation shall organize work aimed at reforming the migration requirements and the institution of citizenship of the Russian Federation,” an official statement posted to Kremlin website.

In addition, the president ordered the Government, the Interior and Foreign Ministries, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Justice Ministry alongside the Presidential Executive Office to make amendments to the plan of action for 2019-2021, aimed at implementing the State Migration Policy Concept of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025.

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Nobody Wants a War in Donbass

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image source: euromaidanpress.com

Any escalation is unique in its own way. Right now there’s a combination of unfavorable trends on both sides, which are leading to an escalation of the conflict. This combination creates additional risks and threats that weren’t there before.

On the Ukrainian side, the problem is that the president is losing his political position and becoming a hostage of right-wing and nationalist forces. Many of the reform initiatives that he came to power with have stalled. Political sentiments are changing within his faction. They’re saying that with his recent steps, in particular the language law and the closure of television stations that Kyiv dislikes, he’s starting to stray towards the agenda of his predecessor, Poroshenko. And this means a weakening of his position. Probably, he’s already thinking about re-election and how he will look during the campaign. Here, the trend is unfavorable.

On the other hand, there’s the arrival of Biden, who will always be more attentive to Ukraine than Trump. There’s an expectation that the U.S. will be more consistent and decisive in its support for the Ukrainian side in the event of a conflict. This invigorates the forces that are looking for an escalation.

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh also played a role. They said there was only a political path to resolving the conflict, but in Karabakh [the Azerbaijanis] used force and made real progress. This motivates the people who think that military force can resolve a conflict. Moreover, Ukraine is carrying out defense cooperation with Turkey, so there may be hopes that the balance of forces will shift in Kyiv’s favor.

There’s also a radicalization of the political leadership of the DNR and LNR. They say that [full-scale] war is, if not inevitable, than very likely—and Russia must intervene. The idea that the DNR and LNR should join Russia is gaining popularity once again. This is facilitated by Russia’s actions. In the last two years, the mechanisms for granting Russian citizenship to residents of the LNR and DNR have changed. Hundreds of thousands of LNR and DNR residents are already citizens of the Russian Federation, and Russia has—or at the very least should have—some obligations towards its citizens. This gives hope to [the residents] of the LNR and DNR that if an escalation begins, Russia won’t remain on the sidelines and we will see large-scale intervention. Without Russia, the conflict will not develop in the favor of the republics.

As for Russia, our relations with the West continue to deteriorate. There’s Biden’s statement about Putin being a killer, and relations with the European Union. We are witnessing an accumulation of destabilizing trends.

I don’t think anyone wants a real, big war, since the costs of such a conflict will exceed the political dividends. It’s difficult to predict what such a conflict might lead to, given that the stakes are very high. But an unintended escalation could occur.

Hopefully, all of those involved have enough wisdom, determination, and tolerance to find a positive solution. So far, we are far from a serious conflict, but we’re closer than at the beginning of April 2020 or 2019. Unfortunately, we’re headed downhill, and it’s difficult to say how long it will go on.

To prevent a [full-scale] war from starting, the situation in Donbass needs to be stabilized. That’s the first task. In recent weeks, the number of ceasefire violations has been increasing, and the number of victims is growing. We need to return to the issues of the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the OSCE mission, and monitoring the ceasefire.

The second task is to discuss issues of political regulation. The main uncertainty is how flexible all the parties can be. The Minsk agreements were signed a long time ago, [but] it’s difficult to implement them in full, there needs to be a demonstrated willingness not to revise them, but to somehow bring them up to date. How ready are the parties for this? So far, we aren’t seeing much of this, but without it we will not advance any further.

The third issue is that it’s impossible to resolve the Donbass problem separately from the problem of European security as a whole. If we limit ourselves to how we fought in Donbass, Kyiv will always be afraid that Russia will build up its strength and an intervention will begin. And in Russia there will always be the fear that NATO infrastructure will be developed near Voronezh and Belgorod. We have to deal not only with this issue, but also think about how to create the entire architecture of European security. And it isn’t a question of experts lacking imagination and qualifications, but of statesmen lacking the political will to seriously deal with these issues. Because if you reduce everything to the requirements of the formal implementation of the Minsk agreements, this is what we’ve been fighting about for seven years already.

I think that Ukraine will now try to increase the political pressure on Moscow and get away from the issue of the Minsk agreements. And going forward a lot depends on what the position of the West and U.S. will be. To what extent and in what format will they provide support in the event of an escalation? This is still an open question. And, I think, even Biden doesn’t know the answer to it.

From our partner RIAC

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Updating the USSR: A Test for Freedom

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Thirty years ago, on March 17, 1991, the only all-Union referendum in the history of the USSR took place. One question was put to a vote: “Do you consider it necessary to preserve the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics, in which the rights and freedoms of a person of any nationality will be fully guaranteed?” Almost 77 percent of those who voted said “yes” to the preservation of the USSR in an updated form. The authorities of Armenia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and Estonia refused to hold the referendum on their territory. By that time, the legislative and executive bodies and institutions in these republics were already controlled by secessionist forces, which did not hide their intentions to leave the USSR.

The March 17 referendum at that time was the only convincing attempt to appeal to public opinion on the most important issue of the political life of a huge country. However, the results did not change anything — by December 8 of the same year, the leaders of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine decided to dissolve the USSR. The referendum itself became the beginning of the end of a unique state — an experiment in the vast expanses of Eurasia. By that time, the republican elites were already ready to take power and wealth into their own hands; the events of August 1991 spurred this readiness — in Turkmenistan, where almost 100 percent of the population voted to preserve the USSR, on August 22, 1991, all enterprises were placed under republican control.

All the republics of the USSR met the new year in 1992 as newly independent states. For some of them, this status was a long-awaited event, for which they had fought. Others were, according to former Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Apas Jumagulov, “thrown out of the union, cut off as an unnecessary part of the body.” Many economic ties broke off immediately, while others collapsed gradually; the rest survived and were even strengthened. In politics, everyone was left to their own problems. Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Tajikistan plunged into bloody political and interethnic conflicts during their first years of independence.

The path of the countries that emerged from the ruins of the USSR over the years was the road to gaining their own subjectivity in international politics. With great difficulty and despite all odds, Armenia and Moldova are coping with this task. The majority — Russia, Azerbaijan and all the countries of Central Asia — were able to solve the problem more or less successfully. Georgia and two Slavic republics — Belarus and Ukraine, were hanging in the “limbo” between external management and full-fledged statehood. The three Baltic republics quickly transferred their sovereignty to the European Union and NATO. In their independent development, they had to make, in fact, the only decision, which, moreover, was due to historical reasons and external circumstances. This decision was made and now the fate of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia cannot be perceived outside the context of Russia-West interaction.

For the rest, the direct link between success in creating their own statehood and the scale of interaction with the West (Europe and the United States) is quite obvious. This historical fact reveals a relationship between the ability of small and medium states to ensure their sovereignty and the interests of the great powers in their neighbourhood. Such powers were Russia and the European states, united into the European Union simultaneously with the collapse of the USSR. Also, an important role was played by the United States, which always sought to limit Russian opportunities and supported the newly independent states. At the same time, an attempt to choose in favour of closer relations with the West to the detriment of Russian interests in all cases, without exception, led to a very shaky statehood and the loss of territory.

The dramatic fate of Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine shows that the strong collective institutions of the West are capable of exerting a stabilising effect only on those states that directly became part of them.

In all other cases, no matter how complete absorption becomes possible, an orientation towards these institutions only leads to the use of small countries in a diplomatic game with bigger partners.

Therefore, the experience of the development of such major players as Azerbaijan or Uzbekistan is indicative — they were able to confidently form their own statehood, without finding themselves in a situation of choosing between conflicting poles of power. Their main resource turned out to be a rather fair demographic situation. But not only this — the population of Ukraine has also been and remains large by European standards. Kazakhstan is a success by this indicator; equal to the average European country or small Asian states.

Therefore, the ability of most of the countries of the former USSR to build relatively independent and stable statehood played no less important role. In many ways, this ability was established during the years of the Soviet Union’s existence. Founded on December 30, 1922, it was not just a continuation of the Russian Empire, which had collapsed five years earlier. Its main distinguishing feature was its unique model of state administration, based on the full power of one political party. As long as the unique position of the Communist Party remained in the Soviet state, the experiment could exist. With the abolition of Article 6 of the Constitution of the USSR, its days were numbered regardless of the desire of the population or the real readiness of the elites to take full responsibility for what was happening.

The USSR model of state structure, new by historical standards, created the conditions for a rather unique experiment, within the framework of which union republics were created, none of which, except for Russia, Georgia and Armenia, had the experience of centralised state administration within the territorial boundaries that they acquired within the framework of the USSR. At least the peoples inhabiting them can boast of a significant experience of statehood as such. Thus, most of the countries of Central Asia trace their ancestry back to great empires or urban civilizations of past centuries.

The Baltic republics were always on the sidelines — their independent statehood arose during the collapse of the Russian Empire and existed as such for almost 20 years before being incorporated into the USSR in 1940. Russia has returned to its historical state of being a major European power or empire of the 19th century, with the development of a multinational and multi-faith society central to its development objectives. In fact, Russia has not lost anything really necessary for its survival in international politics.

The peculiar structure of the USSR formalised the situation in which the former outskirts of the Russian Empire ceased to be part of the Russian state, although Moscow served as the centre of the union. Russia among them was in the most ambiguous position — it did not have its own most important institutions of Soviet statehood — the party organisation and the republican State Security Committee. Russian nationalism was subjected to the most severe and consistent persecution by the Soviet authorities.

The vast majority of republics within the USSR, for the first time, received the experience of building their own state and their national elite.

The backbone of the ruling class was the Soviet and party nomenklatura, which all took power, with few exceptions, after 1991. Even in Tajikistan, where the first years of independence were overshadowed by the civil war, it was this part of society that was eventually able to establish control over the situation. In other Central Asian countries, elites formed on the basis of the state tradition established during the Soviet era, gradually supplemented by representatives of a new generation that grew professionally after the collapse of the USSR.

Thirty years is a sufficient period to assess the results of the independent development of the countries that emerged from the republics of the former USSR. Now the period of their growing up can be considered complete; ahead is an independent future. Russia is increasingly feeling independent and not particularly obligated to its neighbours. In any event, Moscow will continue to follow a moral imperative of responsibility for maintaining peace and strictly ensure that its neighbours correlate their actions with Russian security interests.

From our partner RIAC

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