The underlying motif of the Samarkand-hosted SCO summit was the globe’s transformation. This issue brought together those leaders who came to Uzbekistan which means that Russian President Vladimir Putin, when interacting with the heads of SCO member states and those who want to join the club, was in the company of like-minded individuals. In his address, he noted the onset of irreversible transformations in the global economy and politics.
The experts polled by Vedomosti noted that the summit that was held in a face-to-face format for the first time in three years should be assessed as a venue to specify a shared stance on global issues.
The SCO demonstrated the necessity of its own existence, Editor-in-Chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine Fyodor Lukyanov told the newspaper. According to him, the Eurasian leaders are unusually interested in the organization which is moving from a period of stagnation to an "upward phase." "Nowadays, the subject of Eurasia’s development is more pertinent than ever, and from the standpoint of prospects, the summit was more than relevant," the expert thinks, adding that the SCO is expanding with Iran essentially becoming its member while Turkey expressed its desire to join it. The Samarkand summit should be viewed as a mechanism of comparing notes between Russia and those countries it has working relations with, according to Chief Researcher at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations Andrey Kazantsev. For example, in the current situation, ties with India and China, key buyers of Russian oil and gas, are crucial for Moscow, the expert says, and Putin had separate meetings both with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Indian PM Narendra Modi.
Putin and Modi discussed Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine and the Russian leader promised to do everything to finish it "as soon as possible." He also discussed the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan (his country is not a SCO member), but in the context of implementing the "grain deal" and the exports of Russian food products abroad via Turkey. Putin also discussed the clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border with Azeri leader Ilham Aliyev.
"With help from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Russian business is resolving a number of its sanctions-related issues, including the transfer of industry," Kazantsev added, while, according to him, Iran serves as a role model, being a country that has been living under sanctions for years. In Lukyanov’s opinion, the practical results of this summit will become clear later but it is obvious that Moscow is using tools such as the SCO for its actions in Eurasia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged Bishkek and Dushanbe to resolve their border conflict exclusively by peaceful means. The US and the UN have also expressed their concern. An emergency situation has been declared in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken Region with more than 140,000 people fleeing their homes while dozens, including children, have been killed and hundreds have been injured. Both sides used modern weapons including drones. One of the reasons for the armed clashes is drug trafficking. As of now, a ceasefire has been reached.
The CSTO, which both conflicting parties belong to, has limited itself to calling for a ceasefire. The alliance’s Secretary General Stanislav Zas stated this in his phone conversation with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Jeenbek Kulubaev. "The sides noted the importance of an immediate ceasefire and believe that the use of force and heavy firepower, including artillery and MLRS, is unacceptable," according to a press release of the CSTO press service.
Toktayum Umetalieva, a Kyrgyz community leader, believes the armed conflict was triggered by shifting influences on the drug market. "After the change of power in Kyrgyzstan, a process to divide up control over the drug trafficking routes began. If you look at a map, then you will notice that the communities and border posts that came under fire are involved in drug smuggling. This conflict was provoked by interested individuals from both sides precisely to move a large batch of cargo," she told the newspaper. According to her, the conflict is being intentionally politicized using land, water and ethnic factors. The commentator noted that this was not the first time a conflict like this erupted yet every time, regardless of the pretext, it was caused by drug trafficking. "Note that as soon as the cargo goes through, the sides immediately agree to a ceasefire. Unfortunately, the political elite, both the opposition and the one in power, at least, on our side, is involved in these processes," the expert asserted. She thinks that the solution to the border conflicts is in blocking smuggling activities and fighting the drug mafia.
On September 18, in Yerevan, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated that the border fighting that began on September 13 "was initiated by the Azeris and there has to be recognition of that." According to her, Armenia was disappointed by Russia’s reaction to these clashes. "It is interesting that they were disappointed they got [the CSTO’s] fact finders and not protection from that relationship and we'll see what happens next," she said, according to Reuters. The news agency noted that, as opposed to Pelosi, the US Department of State urged the sides to reach a peaceful resolution and had not blamed anyone for starting the conflict.
In the near future, the US won’t be able to replace Russia as Armenia’s partner in the security sphere, according to Head of the Caucasus section of the Center for post-Soviet Studies at IMEMO Vadim Mukhanov. According to him, it is obvious that the Biden administration wants to get closer to Nikol Pashinyan’s government, especially since Washington already has a positive experience in the Caucasus with Georgia. Yet, according to the expert, the situation with Armenia is different since good relations with its neighbors is vital for Yerevan and it is still staying afloat thanks to close ties with Russia and Iran. Mukhanov also thinks that, despite the influence of the Armenian diaspora on US domestic and foreign policy, any introduction of sanctions against Azerbaijan is also unlikely, since it closely interacts with Turkey which plays a significant role in NATO, so the US stance will probably be limited to formal warnings.
Director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan concurs, adding that Azerbaijan "is valuable for Europe and the US as an oil and gas exporter." According to him, nowadays the physical safety of Nagorno-Karabakh is ensured by Russian peacekeepers and, while the current situation is not ideal, it is difficult to imagine that somebody can replace them, the expert concluded.
On September 19, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolay Patrushev is traveling to China in order to conduct consultations on strategic stability. Yet, the West insists that his goals are to explain the situation in Ukraine which is causing concern both in China and in India, Russia’s other largest partner. Even the final declaration of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) contained a call to reject the use of force. Russia has confirmed that it was striving for peace talks. However, given that NATO is bolstering its military support for Kiev, the chances for an agreement seem slim.
Alexander Lukin, who heads the International Affairs Department at the Higher School of Economics, noted: "Following the summit, Western commentators highlighted Xi’s and Modi’s concerns over the special military operation. The uneasiness was related to the economy and politics, given that the sanctions undermine international trade, with China as the largest global superpower in trade. Additionally, the events in Ukraine undermine the calm course of global policy. Perhaps, Russia could have acted softer. Yet, essentially, China thinks that the US is to blame for these events. They conduct an inflammatory policy both towards Russia and China, seeking to reduce their spheres of influence and trying to slow down their development."
India also criticizes the West albeit not as sharply as China. "The Indians are also dissatisfied that the West is putting pressure on them," the expert said, noting that both India and China hope Russia will wrap up its special military operation somehow. "Yet they are not opposing Russia at all," Lukin added.
Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov said that the volume of goods brought in via parallel import would amount to at least $20 bln by the end of 2022 in an interview with Izvestia.
"According to Russia’s Federal Customs Service, over the three and a half months of the mechanism in operation (since May 17), merchandise worth almost $9.4 bln has been brought in (with $3.1 in August alone). So we have already adjusted the forecast a bit and by the year’s end, we expect the parallel import of goods to come to at least $20 bln," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Manturov noted that those companies that had ceased or suspended their activity on the Russian market are usually interested in continuing their work in Russia or creating conditions for a comeback. "They are considering various solutions including the transfer of assets to domestic investors," he said.
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