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Press review: G7 seeks more curbs on Russia, China and Beijing buoys Central Asia security

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, May 19th

MOSCOW, May 19. /TASS/. G7 member states will seek further ways to ostracize China and Russia at Hiroshima summit; Beijing is becoming a second guarantor of security for Central Asia; and report card by US experts gives the West’s anti-Russian sanctions regime a failing grade. These stories topped Friday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: G7 leaders in Hiroshima looking to cook up new ways to punish Russia and China

The Group of Seven opens a three-day summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 19, where the leaders of the world’s developed countries are set to discuss those whom the West has long placed on the other side of the ideological barricades as adversaries, namely Russia and China. Thus, the G7’s main goals with respect to Moscow are seeking ways to counteract the circumvention of anti-Russian sanctions by third countries and formulating new restrictions against Russia in the energy and military-industrial sectors. With respect to China, the G7 intends to apply a number of collective tools in an effort to contain and defend itself from Beijing’s alleged "economic coercion." However, despite all the ringing proclamations, the proposed measures may simply fail to produce any results.

According to political scientist John Kavulich, senior research editor at the Washington-based online publication Issue Insight, the G7 members wish to see an economically robust China that has the resources to import what the G7 needs, that is, to be strong only in those areas that they want, which will not happen. The expert thinks that the G7 summit will likely approve a statement on containing China’s global influence, but from there it may prove difficult to move the ball from written proclamations to sustainable solutions that can actually be implemented.

The American political scientist says that any G7 leader will refrain from pursuing policies that might hurt their voters. According to him, the lingering consequences of COVID-19 and the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, which have exacerbated inflationary trends, leading to price hikes and supply chain disruptions, continue to worry G7 leaders, especially those who are up for re-election. Kavulich stresses that there will always be a gap between what the G7 members are saying and what they are doing.

Additionally, he notes that the more the G7, G20 and EU expand their sanctions, the greater the number of countries that will seek to move away from the West toward the East and South, not because they approve of Russia’s or China’s policies, but because they resent the infringement on their own sovereign right to decide whether or not to participate in sanctions wars.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China becomes second guarantor of security for Central Asia

Chinese President Xi Jinping, following meetings in the central Chinese city of Xian with the leaders of all five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, stressed the strength of ties between China and the region. A plenary session will be held on Friday, at which a key document will be approved. According to experts, the final statement or agreement hammered out in Xian will cover the bolstering of economic cooperation and emphasize the need to take a resolute stand against religious extremism and attempts by outside powers to impose their will on the young Central Asian countries.

In a conversation with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Vasily Kashin, senior researcher at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), noted: "The future document, as has happened before, will become some kind of a joint declaration on the main directions of cooperation. The document will resonate with the provisions enshrined in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and in the Belt and Road Initiative. At the same time, China has bilateral cooperation on security issues with these countries. For them, China is a major arms supplier, and it trains their [military] personnel. This may also be reflected in the document."

The expert added that in China’s talks with regional partners, a comprehensive document is usually approved, touching on infrastructure, security, economic and humanitarian ties. He thinks that, this time, the final document will be worded as a response to the activity of the US, particularly in the area of security.

According to Kashin, there used to be a popular theory to the effect that Russia was responsible only for the security of the Central Asia region, while China was responsible only for the region’s economic development. In his view, however, this theory never comported to reality given that China has, in fact, been playing an important part in ensuring the region’s security. "All the talk about China pushing Russia out [of the region] is baseless. Politicians in these [Central Asian] countries are extremely interested in obtaining support from various powers. And, of course, they will strive to retain Russia’s support," the expert concluded.

Zhu Yongbiao of Lanzhou University concurs to a certain extent. In his opinion, Beijing is not satisfied anymore with working with Central Asian countries purely on a bilateral basis. It would now like to have a document that opens the door to fostering relations with the region as a whole.


Vedomosti: US experts acknowledge failure of anti-Russian sanctions

The Washington-based Institute of International Finance (IIF) has issued a report card on the West’s policy of anti-Russian sanctions that gives the approach a failing grade. In particular, the IIF singled out two main areas where the sanctions were meant to strike a blow: restrictions against the financial sector and an embargo on the export of goods and services to Russia. According to the IIF, the effectiveness of measures in the first area was questionable from the start. The effect of banking sanctions against a country that does not depend on global financial markets, but instead functions as a net creditor with regard to the world’s economy, is minimal. The IIF noted that similar restrictions against Iran produced the same dubious results.

This conclusion is logical, albeit a bit belated, noted Olga Belenkaya, head of macroeconomic analysis at Finam. However, according to her, the cut off of many major Russian banks from dollar and euro payments and enhanced compliance procedures among foreign banks have significantly complicated international financial transactions for Russian businesses, forcing them to switch to less convenient national currencies that offer only limited liquidity. She also concurs that sanctions against Russia’s foreign transactions, such as the oil price cap and restrictions on exporting high-tech products to Russia, have also not been critical thus far because the Russian economy has basically adapted to these limitations as well, by redirecting foreign trade and financial flows through third countries.

According to Sovcombank Lead Analyst Mikhail Vasilyev, the more important thing to note is which countries have joined the sanctions. Only the US, Europe, Japan and their allies have introduced sanctions against Russia, while the rest of the world, including China, India, Turkey, Latin America, the Middle East, the CIS and most of Asia, have declined to join in and have continued to work with Russia. This is precisely what enabled the redirecting of supply chains and significantly decreasing the impact of Western sanctions. In his opinion, the Russian economy has overcome the short-term shock rather effectively; however, further action is needed to improve the import of investment products and technologies.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Damascus’ return to Arab fold poses challenge to White House

Syrian President Bashar Assad will take part in an Arab League (formally the League of Arab States) summit for the first time in 13 years. His attendance became possible after the organization, with the active intervention of Saudi Arabia, the summit’s host country, voted to reinstate Syria’s membership. The readiness of the US’ Middle Eastern partners to restore Damascus’ standing as a full-fledged member of the Arab world effectively throws down the gauntlet to the White House’s policy of sanctions in this area. Experts think that, under these new circumstances, the parameters of the US military presence in eastern Syria may now change.

Anton Mardasov, non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute’s (MEI) Syria Program and military affairs expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), thinks that Washington may retain its limited military contingent in Syria to spite its regional allies and in order to demonstrate resolve, or may agree to a certain "rebranding" of the Syrian Democratic Forces, its main military proxy "on the ground."

"On the other hand, dialogue between the US and Damascus is underway one way or another, including at the neutral venue [provided by] Oman," the expert told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "And the resolve of the US military to retain their presence in Syria may not dovetail with the Biden administration’s policy. In this sense, there are indeed many unknowns that may shrink the US presence there, as happened in Iraq," he added.

In any case, Assad will get more room to maneuver, but it is an entirely different issue that the other countries in the region are unlikely to be doing any maneuvering of their own, Mardasov concluded.


Vedomosti: Algerian president to visit Russia in June

A diplomatic source told Vedomosti that Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune will visit Russia in mid-June. This visit will mark the renewal of direct contacts between the leaders of both countries. A source close to Russia’s foreign military and technical cooperation sector confirmed that the visit was in the works. The once-close ties between Algeria and the USSR were paused in the 1990s due to clashes with terrorist groups in Algeria and the general instability in Russia.

The Algerian president’s visit to Moscow is a landmark event in the foreign policy of the two countries, says Boris Dolgov, senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Eastern Studies. He notes that the Algerians are displaying interest in Russia despite Western pressure and the threat of sanctions. "This shows the importance of our country in the Arab world and in North Africa in particular," the expert stressed. He added that since the departure of the previous president in 2019, Algeria has not been active on the international stage and will now seek to make up for lost time, including in its relationship with Russia. A range of regional issues have accumulated since then, which the Algerian leadership may wish to discuss with Moscow.

Sergey Balmasov, senior expert at the Institute of the Middle East, added that Algeria is seeking to meet its foreign policy goals and obtain economic advantages with Russia’s help. He reiterated that, in November 2022, Algeria applied to join the BRICS group. The expert also thinks that issues pertaining to military and technical cooperation and to coordinating efforts in the global gas market may be high on the agenda during the talks. "And for Russia, Algeria is a major window to Africa," he noted, pointing out the country’s influence on the continent.

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