MOSCOW, November 30. /TASS/. Ukraine is still no closer to joining NATO after the purely symbolic inaugural meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Council in Brussels; Beijing is pursuing its own track in dealing with the West as it prepares to host the first EU-China summit since 2019 on December 7-8; and Finland is proving its worth to NATO as a frontline state with the artificially ginned-up border crisis. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.
The "historic" session of the Ukraine-NATO Council held in Brussels on November 29 can be seen as purely symbolic, while the format itself has most likely already exhausted itself, experts think. The participation of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba was supposed to convince members of the North Atlantic Alliance to continue their military support for Kiev even as some countries in Eastern and Southern Europe are already putting up resistance to the consensus in favor of further Ukraine aid.
"The Ukraine-NATO Council format has probably exhausted itself. Within the framework of this [form of] cooperation, there exist clear tendencies, which have been articulated for a long time already, pertaining to the soft integration of Ukraine into NATO, which effectively boil down to the fulfilment of requirements," political scientist Denis Denisov noted.
Additionally, NATO still adheres to its core criterion that new candidates for membership must not be involved in any territorial disputes or conflicts, the expert pointed out. Otherwise, the new ally could effectively draw the bloc into an armed standoff with another country.
"And, in actual fact, this discussion has been going on for years. Currently, the accession [of Ukraine] could hardly be feasible before the end of the special military operation," Denisov concluded.
The Baltic states and Poland have been the most active cheerleaders within NATO for Ukraine’s integration into the alliance. Warsaw will not alter its highly negative stance toward Russia and its policies even amid the recent sharp deterioration in Poland’s relations with Ukraine, nor will Warsaw’s spat with Kiev stand in the way of support for Ukraine’s speedy accession to NATO, at least on paper, Igor Istomin, lead researcher of the Center for Advanced American Studies (CAAS) at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), told Izvestia.
However, the Ukraine-NATO Council session just held in Brussels should be seen as purely symbolic, experts asserted.
"This was a way to fob Ukraine off in its further convergence with the bloc because, in reality, no firm, concrete promises regarding [Kiev’s] accession prospects were made. So, this was more of a symbolic gesture," Istomin said.
The meeting in Brussels was important primarily for the Ukrainian side, he asserted. It was critical for the Kiev regime to hold a high-level meeting with government ministers from Western countries, especially now that talk is emerging about Ukraine having to potentially come to a compromise in the conflict. Kiev wanted to prove to those countries that are entertaining skeptical thoughts about the entire Ukraine project that there is a need to continue the conflict, the expert concluded.
Beijing was the venue for the 16th round of foreign policy consultations between China and the European Union, thereby concluding preparations for the first face-to-face China-EU summit since 2019, which is slated for December 7-8. The meeting in the Chinese capital with the participation of the EU leadership will be strikingly different from the recent San Francisco summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden. Brussels is seeking to build its own model of relations with Beijing by stressing mutually beneficial cooperation rather than containing China through "managed competition." In turn, the Chinese leadership, having failed to convince Biden to reject confrontation, is now banking on the EU. On the eve of the summit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged European leaders to engage in a joint effort to prevent a new cold war.
According to diplomatic sources in Brussels, the anti-dumping investigation launched by the EU will be one of the key topics on the summit agenda. It has been suggested that Beijing is using huge state subsidies to keep prices on Chinese electric vehicles (EV) supplied to the EU artificially low. In turn, Beijing is expecting Brussels to observe the rights of Chinese companies, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Mao Ning said. She urged that a transparent, stable business environment be created for Chinese companies doing business in the EU and that they be provided with equal opportunities.
Politico, quoting European diplomats, said that the signing of a post-meeting joint statement outlining the summit’s results remains up in the air. One of the sources told the publication that, "recent EU-China summits have not had a joint statement." The sources confirm that the issue of subsidies for Chinese EV-makers remains a pressing topic and may complicate the high-level talks.
The reinforcement of control measures on the border between Russia and Finland is being conducted in the interests of NATO and, specifically, the United States, experts polled by Izvestia said. Against the background of migrants arriving at Finnish border checkpoints, the EU dispatched border service officers and experts on registration to Finland, while Poland will send military advisors at Helsinki’s request. Amid the artificial ramping-up of tensions, including Warsaw’s claims of a coming hybrid attack on the border, over recent days, the Finnish authorities have blocked the operations of most border crossing points in NATO’s newest member. On November 29, Russia was notified of the intention to shut down the last functioning checkpoint as of November 30.
According to Roman Plyusnin, research fellow at the Center for Nordic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe: "Tensions at the Russian-Finnish border are growing. And they are growing due solely to the actions of the Finnish side. It is hardly likely that Finland would be drawn into a conflict with Russia in the near future, while NATO infrastructure there has not been set up yet, but grounds for future provocations are undoubtedly being prepared. Finland has become a NATO frontline state and is clearly not following any sovereign policy anymore."
Vasily Klimov, researcher with the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told Izvestia: "Finland became a full-fledged member state of NATO, a military-political bloc hostile to Russia, having rejected the neutrality it had been adhering to for 75 years. So any actions on the border are dictated not only by the specifics of its national policy but also by the needs of the entire alliance. Still, one shouldn’t expect any escalation on the border given that there is in fact no direct conflict between Russia and NATO."
Finnish political scientist Johan Backman pointed out to the newspaper that tensions at the border were growing. In his opinion, this was happening in the interests of the US and NATO, and that the shut-down of the border was being demanded by Washington. He reiterated that right now Finland intends to sign a bilateral treaty with the US military for the allocation of land for siting US bases, which will be followed by the deployment of troops. According to the expert, refugees are a made-up pretext for the border dispute because there simply are not that many of them. The political scientist noted that the current spin is that Finland has fallen victim to Russia’s alleged armed hybrid aggression. He recalled that, in 2016, over 30,000 refugees came to Finland via Sweden and no one then was moving to shut the borders or making claims of hybrid aggression. He branded the current events as being driven by paranoia and hysteria, terming them a gross violation of human rights and international law, adding that, among others, Finnish experts concur with this opinion.
Media: High-level climate conference set to kick off in Dubai
On Thursday, another session of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) will open in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The key issues on the session’s agenda include summing up the results of implementing the Paris Agreement, approving a new global goal for adapting to climate change, and launching a financial mechanism to compensate developing countries for climate losses. The most important issues for Russia are maintaining cooperation on climate issues, above all, with the Global South, and counteracting attempts to include recommendations on rejecting fossil fuel in the final decision.
"A highly important issue for Russia is counteracting any attempts to include a rejection of fossil fuels in the conference’s final decision as well as [promoting] a stance of 'technological neutrality,' which means that nobody has the right to tell Russia how to achieve hydrocarbon neutrality (meaning, above all, plans to develop nuclear and hydro energy as well as, for example, increasing the use of natural gas, including in transportation," said climate expert Vasily Yablokov of the Coalition for Sustainable Development in a conversation with Kommersant.
The issues of climate change and the fight against it remain pertinent even under the difficult conditions of crises in Ukraine and Palestine, Andrey Kortunov, research director at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Vedomosti. This issue has not lost its global significance but under current conditions the timeframe of achieving climate goals will be reconsidered. As a result, countries will have to change their approaches and adapt to the new situation.
However, for Russia it will be important to show that Moscow is ready to participate in a climate dialogue and develop cooperation programs with the Global South, which Russia is urging to band together in order to develop a "sovereign" agenda. "The most important thing for Russia right now is not some specific outcome of the summit but the very fact of participating in it - it is necessary to show that Russia has not dropped out of the climate agenda, that we are participating in collective actions for alleviating climate change, but we do have our own vision of this entire situation, our national interests and development priorities as well our own sovereign path that we will not deviate from," Mikhail Yulkin, expert of the International Sustainable Energy Development Center under the auspices of UNESCO and founder and CEO of CarbonLab, told Kommersant.
The macroeconomic report of the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) for January-October 2023 shows the continued explosive growth of business activity and domestic demand, both in private consumption and investment, amid the exacerbating situation on the job market and growing inflation. The year will end with very high GDP growth, above 3%, due to which growth may peter out in 2024 for purely statistical reasons. A number of analysts think that a technical two-quarter recession is also possible. It appears that the secondary effects of economic overheating in 2023 may become significant next year.
Bloomberg Economics made similar assessments, rating the yearly growth of the general output of non-financial sectors within GDP in 4Q 2023 at 5-5.5%. This also indicates economic growth within the 3-3.5% range at year-end. Wholesale trade, amid increased trade in transportation vehicles versus last year, as well as processing industries, will make the greatest contribution to growth, says Alexander Isakov, the assessment’s author.
The extremely explosive annual growth in processing by 9.5% in October (with output decreasing by 0.4% in October given seasonal fluctuations), much like in the previous six months, according to the Russian Economy Ministry, was overwhelmingly attributable (by 85%) to three sectors: heavy engineering (by 4.5 percentage points), chemicals and metallurgy. "The effect of the stimulating factor of the special military operation still remains. If export restrictions in metallurgy and the oil sector are relaxed, then before the year-end it is possible to expect a somewhat positive or neutral effect for industry," said Vladimir Salnikov of the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting
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