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Canada and Russia in the Arctic: Competition or Cooperation?

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Canadian-Russian relations in the twentieth century have been complicated at best and conflictual at worst. Though crisis has been avoided between the two Arctic states, the issue of Crimea as well as the war in the Donbass have nevertheless been calamitous. In what Canada perceives as Russian aggression towards Ukraine and the West and an encroachment on Ukrainian sovereign territory, Canada has been an adamant supporter of multilateral efforts to punish Russia for its actions. This has included, for the most part, Canadian sanctions towards Russia in concert with Canada’s allies, the United States, and the European Union. Canada, however, went a step further than most of its allies in taking action towards Russia. During the tenure of Stephen Harper in 2014, Ottawa implemented a unilateral policy of boycotting almost all bilateral and multilateral events and “tables” at which both Canada and Russia earlier sat together. Harper stated that Canada has refused to take part in any multilateral meetings in which Russia participates. Political commentators have termed this Canada’s “empty chair policy”.

Naturally, Ottawa was both unable and unwilling to abandon all “tables” at which both Canada and Russia sit. It would not have been in Canada’s interests to forsake its responsibilities at the United Nations, Arctic Council, or the OSCE, as Canada continues to understand its role in international affairs as a power with global interests and global influence. Canada’s continued engagement in these international organisations (IOs) demonstrates that despite attempts to punish Russia for its international transgressions, having a dialogue with Russia — albeit however minimal — is of advantage for both Canada and Russia. Whereas Canada takes a secondary role to that of Russia in the United Nations, Canada and Russia are considered institutional equals in the Arctic Council. Indeed, it is of significant relevance that the Arctic Council represents the most proliferate body within which Canada and Russia are able to cooperate. Despite different and sometimes conflicting approaches, Canada and Russia’s interaction within the Arctic Council and Arctic affairs remain a vital framework within which Canadian-Russian relations continue to develop outside of the current sphere of conflict and provide a unique space for the two states to increase dimensions of cooperation.

In late 2019, shortly before the Canadian election in October, Justin Trudeau’s liberal government released Canada’s new Arctic policy. Canada’s earlier policy, defined in the Harper years, followed an aggressive line coined by Harper that in Arctic affairs, “Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic. We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this Government intends to use it.” [1] Throughout the Harper administration, Canada pushed for more strength in the Arctic. Trudeau’s new Arctic policy, conversely, has a shifted focus towards greater peace and cooperation, whilst also pushing for the development of northern communities and emphasizing the importance of the human aspect of the North as well as climate change. The new policy asserts the importance of a “rules-based international order in the Arctic” and a renewed leadership from Canada as well as “the representation and participation of Arctic and northern Canadians in relevant international forums and negotiations.” As per Canada’s new Arctic policy of 2019, Canada sees three main foci points in moving forward with its international Arctic policy: “1. Strengthen the rules-based international order in the Arctic,” “2. More clearly define Canada’s Arctic boundaries,” and “3. Broaden Canada’s international engagement to contribute to the priorities of Canada’s Arctic and North.” This new Arctic policy is ultimately twofold. On the one hand, to push for more international cooperation in the Arctic sphere, seeking to play a more constructive role internationally. On the other hand, the new policy still holds Canada’s sovereignty in the North and international responsibilities with NATO as vital components of policy.

In Canada’s new policy, international cooperation has once again returned to the forefront of Arctic matters. The policy sees that the “circumpolar Arctic is well known for its high level of international cooperation on a broad range of issues, a product of the robust rules-based international order that is the sum of international rules, norms and institutions that govern international affairs in the Arctic.” [2] Arctic cooperation is manifested in both bilateral and multilateral forms, such as in terms of direct Canada-Russia relations, or in the form of the Arctic Council. For Canada, multilateral cooperation within the auspices of the Arctic Council represents the pre-eminent form of Arctic cooperation. Canada’s interests in its Arctic foreign policy involve exercising its sovereignty, promoting economic and social development, protecting the environment, and improving Arctic governance. Ottawa views international cooperation as indispensable and actively looks to contribute to a general, international — albeit with limitations — unity on Arctic matters.

Certainly, this approach includes Russia as a necessary partner. In 2019, Canada signalized a willingness to work with Russia on Arctic matters. For example, the recent posting of Alison LeClaire, former Senior Arctic Official and Director General of Circumpolar Affairs, as Canadian Ambassador to Russia, suggests that Canada is getting serious on Arctic cooperation with Russia. Additionally, as per Canada’s new Arctic policy, Canada has directly engaged itself with the possibilities of cooperation with Russia, in that Canada “will take steps to restart a regular bilateral dialogue on Arctic issues with Russia in key areas…”[3]

Despite Canada’s willingness to cooperate internationally and with Russia on Arctic matters, Canada continues to honour its international responsibilities and alliances and has placed these at the forefront of its Arctic policy. This includes Canada’s membership in NATO and NORAD, not to mention Canada’s intensive relationship with the United States. This has resulted in a sobering policy towards Russia, in which Russia remains a theoretically potential threat to Canadian sovereignty and interests in the Arctic region. Both NATO and NORAD have made attempts to develop increased measures in case of a Russian threat. This has been followed by an increase in symbolic discourse of the potentially threatening nature of Russia’s existence in the Arctic and fears that Russia’s military and economic build up in the region could endanger Canada’s northern interests. Ultimately, an offensive act towards Canada on the part of Russia a priori does exist in order to secure Russia’s interest; this, however, is extremely unlikely, especially when considering Canada’s role in NATO. Canada continues to perceive the realistic possibility of a Russian threat in the Arctic, despite an openness towards cooperation with Russia. Canada’s membership in NATO and the perception of a possible Russian threat, however, do not necessarily imply that Canada will be unable to work with Russia on certain matters, albeit it does indicate a level of reservation on the part of Canadian policymakers. As an increase in Russia’s military presence in the Arctic is undeniable, fears among Canadian policymakers emerge as to the level of successful cooperation attainable. Nevertheless, Trudeau’s new policy plays down the narrative of Arctic conflict, signaling that cooperation and dialogue with Russia is of first-rate importance [4]. Though Canada has not overlooked the possibility of threats to its sovereignty and interests in the Arctic as well as the importance of its international alliances and obligations, Canada’s new Arctic policy focuses on the possibilities of open and mutually beneficial cooperation in the Northern region in order to achieve its goals and interests — including with Russia.

Russia, similar to Canada, has also released a new Arctic policy in 2020, which comprehensively details Russia’s Arctic plans up to 2035. Russia’s new Arctic policy, signed into force by President Vladimir Putin on March 5, 2020, also presents a multidimensional approach to its Arctic affairs. As the world’s largest Arctic power, Russia has long sought to develop the North for its own purposes, especially for the extraction of natural resources. To this extent, the Arctic region is primarily important for the Russian economy, especially in terms of natural resources and the development of Northern Sea Route. For Russia, the North Sea Route — a transport and transit route emerging as a result of melting polar ice that would more than half the travel distance from South East Asia to Europe and save billions of dollars in shipping costs — , as well as Arctic gas reserves, are the foundation of Russia’s economic and geopolitical plans in the North [5]. As a result, Russia considers the North to be of immense geopolitical and geoeconomic importance. It is therefore of little surprise that Russia has been actively working to obtain a stronger foothold in the region, such as claiming sovereignty over the disputed Lomonosov Ridge, which, if recognized internationally, would extend Russia’s sovereignty over the Arctic region hundreds of kilometres beyond Russia’s northern land borders. Russia is, without a doubt, the world leader in northern development. It holds the largest northern population, infrastructure, and Arctic military of all eight Arctic states. Russia’s move into the economic and geopolitical focus on the Arctic is not inherently threatening to Canada; on the contrary, Russia, like Canada, is looking for greater Arctic cooperation.

As a result of the economic importance of the Arctic sphere for Russia, Russia acts pragmatically vis-à-vis other Arctic (and non-Arctic) states. The immense value that the Arctic holds for Russia has caused Moscow to act and react benevolently in the international sphere. Examples of this can be seen in Russia’s signing and ratification of the Ilulissat Declaration of the five Arctic coastal states in 2008, which defines the governance of the Arctic, as well as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS].

It is ultimately telling of Russian foreign policy that Russia has included “cooperation and peaceful settlement of all disputes in the Arctic” in its new policy of 2020. This lends further credibility to the argument that Russia, despite the Ukraine Crisis and weakening of relations with the West since 2014, is actively looking for some level of rapprochement. Indeed, an examination of Russia’s Arctic policies are wholly void of the conflictual language found in other spheres of political relations. Certainly, Russia is very much open to economic and scientific cooperation in its northern territories. This includes, among others, investment, scientific, and technological cooperation, environmental and fishing cooperation, and further development of the Northern Sea route. Russia has been open to the peaceful and fair settling of disputes in the Arctic region as well. In 2010, for example, during the Medvedev presidency, Russia and Norway struck a sea border deal, dividing 175,000 km2 of undersea “land,” much of which has oil and gas-rich deposits. The end of the dispute, which concluded 40 years of talks between Russia (and the Soviet Union) and Norway, was announced by President Medvedev in 2010, attesting to Russia’s balanced position in international circumpolar affairs.

Although Canada is not concretely mentioned in the Arctic policy signed into force by Putin in 2020, Vladimir Putin has, such as on February 7, 2020, spoke of cooperation with Canada in positive terms: “We are open to cooperation with Canada … Our countries are neighbours in the Arctic and have a shared responsibility for the sustainable development of this vast region, for preserving the traditional way of life of indigenous peoples and for respecting its fragile ecosystem.” [6] Though Russia, unquestionably, is focused on attaining its interests and aims in the Arctic — possibility at the expense of others — it has on more than one occasion signalized a willingness to cooperate and aim for mutual benefit in crucial spheres in a rules-based international order and within the institutions, such as the Arctic Council, that govern the Arctic region.

The pertinent question here is if and how Canada and Russia are able to develop, maintain, and foster amicable relations and cooperation in the Arctic against the backdrop of worsening general Canadian-Russian relations as well as the increasing importance and competition in the Arctic region. Both Canada and Russia are open to Arctic cooperation. Indeed, Canadian and Russian interests in circumpolar affairs often correspond with one another, thereby fostering the possibility for improved and increased cooperation. On the part of Canada, Ottowa has on multiple occasions and directly within its policy stated that it will take steps to restart a regular bilateral dialogue on Arctic issues with Russia. Russia has voiced similar aims. Russian scholar Natalia Viakhireva explains that in the international sphere, Russia takes on two faces: the “aggressive revisionist,” such as in the post-Soviet space and “liberal internationalist” in the circumpolar sphere. Yet in her article on Canadian-Russian cooperation in the Arctic, she argues that relations between “close competitors” are a combination of cooperation and competition, but that the West must recognize that Russia’s cooperative behavior on Arctic issues can be mutually beneficial. The first step for Canada and Russia, therefore, is to acknowledge mutual interest in the Arctic sphere, to place significance on the current low level of conflict in the region, and to encourage the continuation of positive cooperation, both bilaterally and multilaterally.

A closer analysis of Canadian-Russian relations within the Arctic Council demonstrates a unique level of existing cooperation between the two states on a number of important matters. Most prevalent of those is the issue of extra-regional actors within the governance of the Arctic. Countries in Eastern Asia, such as China, Japan, and Korea, but also EU members such as Germany and France see it within their national interests to “internationalize” the Arctic. These countries, and foremost China, advocate greater involvement in the region and support the loosening of Russian and Canadian control over the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. They are looking to reorganize the governing structure of the Arctic and circumvent what Russia and Canada perceive as their sovereign territory in order to benefit from the changing geopolitical and geoeconomic nature of the Arctic. China, especially, wants unfettered access to the North Sea Route and the Northwest passage. Though Canada and Russia could and to some extent currently are benefiting from cooperation with non-Arctic states (especially in technology and environmentalism), both are opposed to Asia’s and Europe’s encroachment on the Arctic. Russia, like Canada, also declared its opposition to “[a]ttempts by a number of foreign states to revise the basic provisions of international treaties regulating economic and other activities in the Arctic.” [7] Canada and Russia’s shared opposition to foreign encroachment demonstrates a distinctive opportunity for cooperation between the two Arctic countries, as has already been the case. As these extra-regional actors’ interests often do not coincide with those of Canada and Russia, the Arctic Council and the Arctic in general are in need of a fundamentally balanced and strong policy regarding this question. It would serve the common interests of Canada and Russia to spearhead this, either bilaterally or within the Arctic Council. Though this is probably not enough for rapprochement, it has the potential for further Canadian-Russian cooperation in the region. If both Russia and Canada take a proactive coordinated stance on the matter, the two “Arctic Giants” are in the position to affect and form future Arctic policy, especially in regard to the matter of non-Arctic states.

In addition to the institutional interaction between Canada and Russia in the Arctic Council, the nature of the Arctic and its vast territories means that no state can self-sufficiently operate without at least a minimal degree of bilateral or multilateral communication and cooperation with other Arctic states. Neither Russia, nor Canada, nor the United States have such developed infrastructure or fleets of icebreakers to accomplish such a task alone. In the scenario of an oil spill, search-and-rescue mission, or for the purpose of Arctic tourism, bilateral cooperation is a necessity. Here Canada and Russia are in a position to accelerate and expand cooperation on a series of matters. Cooperation could be expanded into other spheres of mutual importance, such as technological and scientific research, oil-spill prevention, conservation, or economic spheres such as shipping. Likewise, both Canada and Russia’s new Arctic policies place importance on the development of northern communities, improving the quality of life of northern peoples, and the protection of the environment. Many of these spheres, some of which are already covered by the Arctic Council or have other bilateral treaties in place, succeed in circumventing overtly political or controversial fields for Russia and Canada as well as military competition between the two states.

In considering Russia and Canada’s aims, interests, and points of contention in the Arctic upon the backdrop of deteriorating relations in other international contexts, the notion of Arctic cooperation presents concrete possibilities of communication, cooperation, and — albeit with much time and effort — an improvement in relations between the two states. Canadian-Russian relations have not come to a stark halt. Rather, certain international spheres have endured the weakening of relations due to the Ukraine Crisis. As it is unlikely that Canada and Russia will find common ground on the matter of Ukraine in the near future, especially considering the increasingly intense dialogue between the two and the war in Eastern Ukraine, Canada and Russia will be required to focus on other real and potential spheres of possible cooperation. Foremostly, this will include greater coordination within the Arctic and Arctic Council. As a result of global warming and melting ice, in the coming years and decades the Arctic territories will take on immense geopolitical and geoeconomic importance. As Canada and Russia have more mutual concerns than points of contention in the Arctic, Arctic affairs do and, in the future, will represent the most formidable backdrop for an easing of tensions. It would thus be advisable for both Russia and Canada to maintain a proactive approach to Arctic affairs. This does not denote ignoring military and defense matters in the Arctic, despite the small probability of a conflict, but rather focusing on aspects that are relevant to the national security and interests of both states. In this regard, in the case of a conflict, Canada will fall in line with its NATO partners. Russia, for its part, has already placed a focus on the security and military dimension of its Arctic territories. Therefore, in conclusion, the spheres of real and potential cooperation offer Canada and Russia a basic level of opportunity to improve weakened relations without having to concede on vital points of each states’ respective foreign policy. Russia and Canada would do better to shift the narrative of the conflict between them to more proactive spheres of mutual benefit, which would result in an increased level of positive cooperation.

1. Adam Tereszowski, “Securing Canada’s Sovereignty in the Arctic,” Potentia (2010): 80.

2. Government of Canada, “Arctic and Northern Policy Framework International Chapter.”

3. Ibid.

4. Andrew Chater, “Three Takeaways from Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy.”

5. Maria L. Lagutina and Natalia Yu. Markushina, “The Arctic Region and the New North: the Russian Approach” in Russia and the World: Understanding International Relations, ed., N. Tsvetkova (Langham: Lexington Books, 2017), 325-357.

6. The Arctic, “Путин отметил важность сотрудничества стран Арктического совета”; Официальный интернет-портал правовой информации, Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 05.03.2020 № 164 “Об Основах государственной политики Российской Федерации в Арктике на период до 2035 года”.“

7. Kommersant.ru, „Путин утвердил основы госполитики в Арктике до 2035 года,“; Официальный интернет-портал правовой информации, Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 05.03.2020 № 164 “Об Основах государственной политики Российской Федерации в Арктике на период до 2035 года”.“

From our partner RIAC

Doctoral candidate at Heidelberg University, International Relations MA Candidate, St. Petersburg State University

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Weakness or calculation? How the pandemic undermined the US world leadership

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Anyone watching the numerous doomsday movies, happily churned out by Hollywood, will see American doctors saving the planet from space-borne viruses and the plague epidemic that turn people into zombies. However, the very first serious test in a decade has shown that the US healthcare system is actually inferior even to the Russian one, created during the Cold War years. And this despite the fact, that for the past 30 years, the Russian medical system has been suffering from “optimizations,” cuts and underfunding. Moreover, while the Kremlin, even for propaganda reasons, has managed to provide real assistance to a number of European countries, and has been the first to launch a vaccine on the market, Washington’s actions can be regarded as a sign of weakness, and a very dangerous one to its allies at that.

More than a year after the start of the global lockdown, we can already sum up the initial results, which look disappointing to Washington. The US healthcare system has collapsed under the pressure, thus laying bare the country’s inability to bring the outbreak of a less-than-deadly disease under control. As for Russia, despite its lack of America’s vast resources, it still managed to win the vaccine race and become the first to come up with a viable antidote.

More importantly, Moscow has also come out on top in the information “war” with the West, with its Sputnik V vaccine proving to have far fewer side effects than its Pfizer and Moderna counterparts. Therefore, the US and British lobbying of their own vaccines, and their attempts to close the European market for the Russian vaccine look unethical, to say the least, all the more so amid numerous European media reports about people having  died from side effects after being inoculated with Western vaccines. At the same time, there are simply no reports about similar complications caused by the Russian vaccine, even though the European Commission and Brussels have been keeping a close eye on the effects of its use in European countries, including Serbia and Hungary, which have already taken the first deliveries of the Sputnik V vaccine.

What is the reason for the US demonstrating its weakness? How come that in the midst of the epidemic Washington was unable to find the resources to demonstrate its readiness to lend a helping hand to its European allies? Unfortunately, one of the reasons was that the Americans simply freaked out. The truth is, the US healthcare system is rather decentralized and unorganized. People with good health insurance have little to worry about. However, in a situation of a pandemic, the US medical facilities are pretty hard to manage, so one has to do it manually. Compounded by the general atmosphere of panic and the fact that the poorest strata of society, who have no health insurance and constitute the main risk zone (obesity due to malnutrition, advanced chronic diseases and other COVID-inducing conditions), the system simply collapsed. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Trump administration tried to keep maximum resources at home. Moreover, the businessman-turned-president, who had openly spoken about “exporting security,” never missed a chance to make it clear to his allies that US assistance is never free. As a result, he was replaced by Biden, a Democrat who advocates maximum support for all democratic forces. However, Democrats usually provide moral or military support, but they have proved equally unprepared to line up any serious assistance to the countries hit the hardest by the pandemic.

Moreover, it was actually at the suggestion of the United States and the UK that the COVAX system, a global initiative aimed at providing equitable (but not free) access to COVID-19 vaccines for countries in need, stalled. It turned out (who might have guessed?) that both the US-developed Moderna and the British AstraZeneca vaccines are primarily needed by their own electorates, and only then by countries that need them, but are unable to produce their own vaccine. Meanwhile, India with a population of over 1 billion, managed to fulfill its obligations, and Russia is ready to launch the production of vaccines in Europe. However, bending under Washington’s pressure, the European Union has banned the import of Russian, Indian and Chinese vaccines, without bothering to explain the reasons for this ban.

A country, claiming world domination cannot lead in everything, of course.  Therefore, it is not surprising that the healthcare systems of many European countries, like Sweden and Switzerland, are way better that what they now have in the United States. That being said, the world leader still bears full responsibility for its allies and cannot leave them to their own devices, not only in the event of a military conflict, but also in the midst of a pandemic. However, this is exactly what it did…

From our partner International Affairs

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The legacy of 2020, and 2021 in the prospects of the United States and China

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image source: cnn.com

2020 was a crucial year because of Covid-19, which disrupted the evolution of the world order in the direction of differentiation and transformation. This is the most severe crisis the human world has faced since the Second World War.

As of 10 May 2021, According to the Hopkins University Global New Crown Epidemic Statistics Report, as of May 10, 2021 there have been 158,993,826 confirmed cases worldwide and 3,305,018 deaths.

The pandemic is like a fatal global social test. On the basis of a world order that has already undergoing a crisis, it has not only caused a pause and thus a deceleration of economic development, but it has also stepped up social division and the transfer of power from the political to the technical sphere.

Although the most experienced analysts and leading research institutions have published various reports, currently none of them can accurately predict in detail the huge impact of the pandemic on the history of the 21st century.

The pandemic, however, will bring about major changes in four areas.

Firstly, it will accelerate the general trend of global economic recession and differentiation. This is due to the currency over-issue policies adopted by several countries and to intensified domestic social polarisation. Since 2018 the global economic and financial crisis has not yet been solved. On the contrary, the crisis has only been concealed by the short-term response of monetary policy.

Secondly, the pandemic will speed up internal changes and the reorganisation of the international political and economic order precisely due to internal social differentiation. Owing to the turbulent influence of domestic and international policies, economic and political risks in fragile regions of the world will intensify or have knock-on effects.

Thirdly, the pandemic will strengthen the digital society and competition between countries in building new technologies will become more intense. The most significant impact of digital society is the silent arrival of a transparent society that exists but has no human contacts.

Fourthly, the pandemic promotes the rise of vaccine nationalism and accelerates the revival of the community value of East Asian countries, which has epochal significance from the perspective of the history of world civilisation.

The most influential political and economic event in 2020 was the US elections and the related change of Administration. The US elections represented the sharpest but also the most frustrating change in US history. Although Donald Trump lost the election, 74,216,154 citizens voted for the outgoing President.

For the United States, the change in direction cannot be seen as the advent of a resolute and determined policy along one single line, as the basic reality of the highly divided American society was not changed, but indeed strengthened due to the general election. The huge impact promoted the spread of political violence and protests in the United States.

Source: The US Crisis Monitor, Bridging Divides Initiative, Princeton School of Public and International Affairs’, Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination.

First of all, Donald Trump lost the election, but the spectre of Trumpism has remained in the United States and even in Europe, which is generally not conducive to advancing the strategy of developing relations with China.

Secondly, the “antagonism” of the US strategy towards China has not changed radically. Trump hadopened a political-economic dispute with China. Itisparticularlynoteworthythat the younger generation of the Republican leadership isgraduallybecominghostile and negative towards China, and exertsgreatinfluence in Congress.Thisdoesnotfavours world peace.

Thirdly, if this attitude is not contained, it will lead to negative long-term impacts between high-tech decoupling and ideological competition. Finally, China’s policy towards the United States has been perfected and refined: although the government is still adopting a wait-and-see attitude, the voice of seeking cooperation and being rational and pragmatic is still the mainstream in China.

Besides the issue that China will reduce its dependence on the world and increase world’s dependence on China itself, China will reduce its dependence on traditional growth models and increase its care for social, green and environmental sustainability.

The year 2021 is proving that the focus of the analysis of global political and economic trends will still be competition between China and the United States. President Biden’s Administration still regards China as its main strategic competitor, but the methods of addressing the issue are quite different from those of Trump’s Administration. The main difference lies in the fact that President Biden focuses on solving domestic problems and does not exclude the most important issues with China.

President Biden’s Administration has adapted its strategy for China as the influence of major lobbies and interest groups – such as the US finance and military industry – on policy is constant compared to the previous Administration. Nevertheless, the Chinese factor in the chain of global interests keeps higher levels.

Indeed, voices from both parties in the US Congress calling for curbing China’s rise are also increasing.

In short, in terms of China’s policy direction, President Biden’s Administration is expected to oppose a trade war because it harms the core interests of the US business community. However, there are likely to be problems for Taiwan, Xianggang (Hong Kong), Xinjiang Weiwu’er (Uyghur), South China Sea, Xizang (Tibet), as well as other issues.

The possibility of renewed trade negotiations between China and the United States is expected to increase significantly in the future and the US strategy of constructive competition will be reformed.

Regardless of changes in Sino-US relations, China will certainly promote greater bilateral and multilateral investment cooperation, while seeking new development and shaping new models of cooperation.

The key areas which are currently the most important and noteworthy are, firstly, China’s joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and seeking to adhere to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which shows that China’s top leadership has decided to continue the reform strategy of internal and external promotion.

The RCEP is a free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region between the ten States of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and five of their free trade partners: Australia, China, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Japan and New Zealand. These Member States account for approximately 30% of world’s population and GDP, thus making it the largest trading bloc.

The CPTPP, instead, is a draft regional investment and regulatory treaty in which negotiations, until 2014, twelve Pacific and Asian countries participated: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the USA and Vietnam.

Indeed, between the RCEP and the CPTPP, there is not only the interconnection of the industrial chain and commonality -and more reasons for unity than differences – but also the influence of great powers’ strategic factors.

The main difference between the two is that the CPTPP has higher economic quality requirements, while the RECP is more inclusive. Secondly, the China-EU trade and investment agreement is likely to be signed, which has clear short-term interests for Europe and long-term strategic interests for China. China, however, still needs to take a cautious attitude towards European policy and its legal systems based on double standards. Thirdly, China and Russia are strengthening comprehensive strategic cooperation and there will be new opportunities for their cooperation in the energy and military sectors.

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Why Congress should be rough on Chris Miller at his testimony on Wednesday

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FBI director Chris Wray’s weak congressional testimony in March left most of the Capitol attack questions unanswered and most of us scratching our heads: if the chiefs of the intelligence agencies don’t know, then who does?

As I argued back in March, before Senate Wray picked the low hanging fruit questions — such as confirming that the Trump mob that stormed the Capitol was indeed Trump’s mob and not some other people — while conviniently glazing over the real questions.

This is why the congressional testimony by former acting Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller, this Wednesday matters. The national guard mystery is still the elephant in the room that’s still sitting in the corner in loud, deafening silence.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee has been looking for answers from federal intelligence agencies on Trump’s role in the Capitol insurrection since day one. They have knocked on pretty much any door they could think of, requesting information from sixteen offices in total. That brings us to Wednesday when the Committee will hear from Chris Miller, as well as Jeff Rosen, former acting Attorney General, and Robert Contee III, District of Columbia Police Chief, in a hearing titled “The Capitol Insurrection: Unexplained Delays and Unanswered Questions.”

Back in March, when Senate grilled Wray, the FBI director could not answer why the national guard was not sent in to quell the attack. Wray vaguely put the decision on local policy makers, conveniently circumventing federal responsibility.

Then months later, defense officials actually stated that the national guard was delayed for reasons of “optics” and worries over how it would look if Trump’s mob was pushed out forcefully, as they should’ve been. Miller dragged his feet for hours before giving the green light, as he wanted to imagine what exactly the national guard’s intervention will look like. The actual deployment took only 20 minutes, logistically speaking.

Miller has already spoken about Trump’s “cause and effect” words responsible for inciting the Capitol attacks. And some commentators like Sarah Burris at Raw Story already predict that Miller is about to throw Trump under the bus on Wednesday.

But that’s not enough. Where was Miller back then? The delay was his decision and no one else’s. The Congressmen and Congresswomen of the House Oversight and Reform Committee chaired by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, should not go easy on Miller only because now, after the fact, he is willing to speak up against Trump. Now it’s easy. Now it doesn’t count.

Trump removed Secretary of Defense Esper over his objection to sending the national guard on the Black Lives Matter movement that sparked up exactly one year ago. That’s why Trump replaced Esper with Miller. Miller could have also said no to Trump but he played along. That’s why Miller doesn’t get to play hero now. There are no heroes in the Trump Administration’s aftermath. Some “cause and effect” talk and hypocritical outrage after the fact don’t count. Now doesn’t count. The House Oversight and Reform Committee shouldn’t buy this. The time for cheap spins and late awakened conscience is up. Now is the time for real answers. Miller and Rosen should get a rough ride on Wednesday. Anything else would not be acceptable.

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