New Eastern Outlook

New Eastern Outlook
Thu, 01 Jun 2023 04:59:09 +0000

1. G7 countries in search of an alternative to China’s One Belt, One Road megaproject

G7 countries in search of an alternative to China's One Belt, One Road megaproject. China

As a result of the latest summit of the G7 countries in Hiroshima, the US, Canada, the UK and the EU adopted yet another, 11th to be precise, package of anti-Russian sanctions. The package includes more than 90 companies from all over the world, which, according to Brussels, allegedly violated the restrictive measures and continue supplying Russia with sanctioned goods (including companies in Armenia, Iran, UAE, Syria and others). At the same time, eight out of these 90 companies operate in China.

In this regard, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in an interview with the German TV channel ZDF, referring to China (whose companies were sanctioned for the first time since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian military and political crisis), emphasized the need to find an alternative to the Chinese megaproject One Belt, One Road.

As you know, given the leap in the Chinese economy at the beginning of the 21st century, Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed in 2013 a global international project One Belt, One Road as a kind of revival of the historical Silk Road. The essence of Beijing's initiative is to intensify multilateral trade and investment projects with the participation of more countries and the use of Chinese and foreign capital. For the past 10 years, 152 countries and more than 30 international organizations have joined this project.

Naturally, such initiatives are not born out of nothing and pursue the far-reaching strategic interests of the initiating country. Accordingly, the dynamics of economic development (first of all, modern high-tech industrial production) and high demography of China have created objective conditions for the export of Chinese goods to world markets, GDP growth, strengthening of the national currency yuan and systematic access to new markets and regions (countries).

Taking into account geographical distances and objective need in modernization of logistics (especially land trade communications – roads and railroads), and also taking into account high financial opportunities of the European market China works on new projects on development of multilateral (first of all, trade and investment) relations with different countries to form diverse and alternative trade communications within the One Belt, One Road initiative.

Among such alternative international routes to the west, China has already developed three options:

1) the "Russian corridor," that is, through the territory of Russia and on to Europe (but now, for obvious reasons of the West's anti-Russian sanctions regime, this route toward the EU countries may be temporarily suspended);

2) "the middle corridor" (conditionally also called "the Turanian corridor," because its main beneficiaries are mainly the Turkic world or the members of the Organization of Turkic States), involving a line through Pakistan, the post-Soviet Central Asian countries, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia (possibly the Armenian Zangezur Corridor), Turkey and the EU;

3) "Iranian-Turkish corridor," including post-Soviet Central Asian countries, Iran, Turkey and the EU.

There is simply no other geography of land connection from China to Europe. Beijing is trying to use its financial, economic and military-political power to absorb all of these alternative routes to enter the European market. The latter promises a new growth of trade turnover, GDP growth, its dominance in the regions intermediate on the way to Europe (in relation to the group of small and weak countries) and the strengthening of partnerships with the larger players (in particular, with Russia, Iran and Turkey).

At the end of 2022, China's trade turnover with the US and EU countries amounted to $1.6 trillion, which was a record high. In particular, Sino-US trade grew to $760 billion, and China's trade with the EU was $847 billion. And this despite the fact that US President Joe Biden, apparently due to the controversial issues on the fate of Taiwan, as well as due to the acute economic (especially in the field of technology) competition with the PRC, pursues a policy of pressure on Beijing. For example, in June 2021 Washington banned investment in Chinese technology companies, and in November of the same year President Biden signed a law banning the use in the United States of equipment from Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE.

Nevertheless, last year showed a steady growth in China's trade with the US and the EU. At the same time, the balance of exports and imports favors China. In particular, China sells more goods to the West (the US imported $567.3 billion worth of goods and the EU imported $562 billion worth of goods) than it buys from it (the US imports $408 billion and the EU imports $285.4 billion). At the same time, the US and the EU sell more services to China than they import from China.

And despite this progressive dynamics of trade turnover, the Collective West (obviously, at the behest of Washington) in May 2023 after the G7 summit in Hiroshima is taking actual sanctions to curb China. That is why Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the 31st Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, assessing this approach of the G7 countries towards China, described it as a "policy of double containment of Russia and China."

Thus, the leading countries of the West are not guided by objective economic interests, which in this case involves support for the Chinese megaproject One Belt, One Road, but are guided by the geopolitical trends of imaginary American hegemony and the supremacy of the West over the rest of the world.

What does the Collective West understand as an alternative to the Chinese project One Belt, One Road? Some experts tend to think that what Ursula von der Leyen sees as an obvious geographical and economic alternative to China is Africa, which used to be mostly a European colony (for example, France, Portugal, Spain, England, Italy and Germany), and now is a neocolony of the EU. Brussels believes that Africa's time as a raw materials appendage of the outside world is coming to an end, to be replaced by a more progressive future based on the production of high-tech and competitive goods.

In other words, European investment and technology can move from distant China to Africa, which is relatively close in geography, minimizing the financial costs of logistics and new communications. At the same time, the US will obviously seek to select India, neighboring and competitive with China, as the new center of its Asian support for technology and investment exports.

"Indian alternative" to the Chinese Silk Road is determined not only by the peculiarities of geography, Indo-European civilization, the demographic balance between New Delhi and Beijing, but also by the desire to contain Chinese overland communications to the outside world (primarily Europe) by alternative routes. The dynamics of investment and technology growth of the US, Canada, the UK and the EU in the economies of India and Africa will be indicators of new transformations in regional and global politics.

The US is unlikely to give the "green light" to Chinese communications in the EU if Beijing retains its independence and does not make concessions to Washington on the issue of Taiwan and Russia. However, China is the heir to an ancient civilization, remembers the key and positive role of the Soviet Russia in its fate and cannot undermine its authority to satisfy the ambitions of American leader Joe Biden.

However, are the US and its subordinate EU countries capable of changing the natural course of history and the world economy, where China steadily ranks second? What can the Collective West oppose to the new economic and political alliance of China with Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey and others?

This does not mean that the US and the EU will not be able to create alternative centers in the global economy (in particular, to "grow" competitors in the face of India and African countries to challenge China). The latter fact, of course, will contribute to the regrouping of some weaker states, dependent on the new centers, communications, and, most importantly, the dictates of the US. But this will require considerable resources and time. However, these subversive plans may prove to be too much for the West. The US is frightened by the growing economy of China and its catching up with the United States.

It is useful for Washington to take into account that the military-industrial complex, where Russia's contribution is quite significant, plays an important role in strengthening China and India. It is no secret that many modern high-tech weapons developments and the global arms market belong to the United States and Russia. Accordingly, the achievements of the national military-industrial complex of China and India are to a large extent associated with Russian (Soviet) developments and military-technical cooperation partnership with our country.

The economy should develop, first of all, on the basis of economic laws (in particular, the principle of profit), and not under the influence of political conditions. In turn, modern Russia, being one of the world military-industrial leaders, today, due to the provoked special military operation in Ukraine and the Western sanctions regime, has found itself in a situation of extreme demand for diversification and modernization of the national economy not in words, but in deeds. Indeed, this crisis may still turn out to be a true blessing in disguise. Russia will strengthen the consolidation of its national intellectual, scientific, technological and production potential for a breakthrough in development given the entire complex of world natural resources and lack thereof with its competitors.

Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online journal "New Eastern Outlook."

Сообщение G7 countries in search of an alternative to China's One Belt, One Road megaproject появились сначала на New Eastern Outlook.

New Eastern Outlook
Wed, 31 May 2023 12:59:06 +0000

2. A Handful of Georgians Protest OVER Resumption of “Direct Flights from Russia”

A Handful of Georgians Protest OVER Resumption of

May 19, Tbilisi, Georgia – It is only starting now that the wheels are down and the first plane from Russia full of passengers landed with the possibility of better and ever-improving relations between Georgia and the Russian Federation. The first step after many years started with visa-free travel and direct flights.

However, as an eyewitness to the arrival of the fight plane from Russia last week, and the ensuring token "show of force" by the Georgian opposition, I can understand the risks involved, especially in the realm of public relations and potential EU status.

As always, anything that hints at improved Russian-Georgian relations is quickly discounted, Salome Zurabishvili, the Georgian president has labeled the decision to open direct flights "a provocation," tweeting that the flight that landed in Tbilisi "despite the opposition of the Georgian people" was "not welcome."

Already the "spin doctors" are out in full force, round up the usual suspects, starting from the airport with waving of Ukrainian flags, and loudspeakers on the back of likely USAID paid-4 new truck blaring away "Russians Go to the Penis," and You are NOT welcomed in Georgia, amongst other less menacing slogans.

Useful idiots for the US and EU

There were more police and journalists than protesters. I quickly recognized many of the protesters from the Georgian NGO community and various foreign missions. They are the same ones who usually show up at almost every anti-government or anti-Russian protest, aside from the 60 or 70 actual protesters, by my best estimation.

This is likely a high head court, several with their Azov (is banned in Russia) t-shirts and tattoos of extremely poor taste and quality. There were not more than 100 protesters, [at the very most] including some onlookers, a hand full of Indian medical students, who had been studying in Ukraine before the Russian special operation started. It is worth noting that the vast majority of those in attendance were not even Georgians. At least CNN got something right by describing the overall turnout as having been "dozens of protesters."

Their message is not the collective sentiment of most Georgians who see the change in relations and being able to visit friends and family as a step in the right direction, after so many years of uneasy terms of constant rhetoric and saber-rattling, AND they fully understand that "more often than not such meetings are orchestrated and paid for by the Western supporters of Georgia."

A follow-up protest in front of the Georgian Parliament, on the 20th brought about the same results, and the "same participants", according to one eyewitness: "I saw the anti-flight protest outside parliament last night. It was pathetically small and full of the usual freaks. Well, several teenage girls and androgynous boys with the usual facial piercings and multicolored hair. This subsequent protest was so small, the turnout, that the police only had to cordon off side streets for about half an hour."

Media Blindness

It is always an attitude adjustment to see how the media reports something that you are an eyewitness to; there is little wonder why most people are so clueless about what is going on in the world. MSM channels are simply controlled propaganda outlets, and stray far from the truth.

Take for instance, the reporting by Radio Free Europe (is recognized as a foreign agent in Russia) takes the prize, Georgians Dismayed at Renewed Direct Flights from Russia – but does not back up such a statement with anything other than its spin.

Three scores and ten, less than one hundred becomes hundreds, or dozens according to CNN, "Hundreds gathered at the main airport in Tbilisi, Georgia, on May 19 to protest the return of direct flights from Russia. Georgian opposition activists protested against any warming of relations with the Kremlin because of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the 2008 war against Georgia."

The Reality

Most Georgians seem to be happy with the improvement in relations with Russia. Compare the pathetic protest at the airport and other venues with the size of the March in Defense of Family Values held each year. The problem is that it is a self-contained bubble amongst those who are always against anything that seeks to reestablish normal relations with the RF. They all feed each other's zealotry within their bubble and disregard and disparage anyone who the opposition to the government wants to perceive as being outside of their tribe; it is pointless to engage with them.

The protestors complain that they want Russia to give back (South Ossetia and Apkhazia), two Georgian breakaway regions, as if it was Russia's to hand over. The ONLY way that is ever going to happen is through good relations with Russia and look for ways for internal conflict resolution. And here they are sabotaging that option. The birds of feather don't know what they want.

The Georgian PM sums it up well, and to the point, and the EU may not like what he has to say:

"From a humanitarian point of view, anything and any decision that facilitates the life, movement and business of our citizens is, of course, positive and welcome,"- Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said on May 11, assessing Moscow's decision to lift the visa regime with Georgia and restore direct flights.

I can't believe sometimes what it is that I hear from them, the NGOs and the protesters, as it is so counterproductive to own their demands and goes against the greater good for Georgia as a fledgling democracy and developing country. The BIGGER picture image that is being painted by NGOs over the resumption of flights is far from the reality of most Georgians, and rather bleak—[but the NGOs] rationale is understandable –it is all about the continuity of their funding sources.

It is [again] like, a choice between Russia and the EU?

For instance, as part of one joint NGO statement, paid for by foreign funds, TI, Transparency International, and many others, describes how "The permission given by the Georgian authorities for flights between Tbilisi and Moscow is a direct sabotage of the country's status as a candidate for EU membership," say more than a hundred non-governmental organizations, adding that "Russian plane does not land in EU."

The statement also makes the unsupported claim that the "granting of permission for flights between Tbilisi and Moscow by the Georgian authorities is a direct sabotage of the EU membership candidate status" and is against the vast majority, nearly 9 in 10 Georgians and Article 78 of the Georgian Constitution, and how the government continues to change its foreign policy direction.

And continues to claim that before deciding on the status of a candidate for EU membership, such a demarche ignores the foreign course chosen by the Georgian people, and which has already brought to Georgia visa-free travel and direct flights to the EU, not to Russia.

The NGOs want to assert that the "Georgia population is already suffering because of the government's current foreign policy, one of the results of which is the increase in Russian immigration to Georgia. They claim that the sharp increase in prices and inflation caused by this policy is an additional fee that the citizens of Georgia have to pay."

Despite such simplified thinking, and the failure to understand basic economics, as to the real cause of out-of-control inflation in the world, hint, printing of money with no financial backing, US policy and a war of convenience in Ukraine started by the West that dates back to 2014.

It is a relief to witness how the hodgepodge of the so-called Georgian opposition is running out of steam. On the flip side, Georgia is not so easily intimidated by threats of US and European sanctions and the refusal of EU candidacy status or fast-tracked membership. Georgia is now looking for normalized relations with Russia, and [this trend] has the potential for greater things to come.

Only left to defend Georgian honor is Salome Zurabishvili, the so called Pro-Western president who is now calling for a boycott of Georgia's national carrier.  Now she claims that she will lead a personal boycott of Georgian Airways over its decision to resume flights to Russia, and urged her fellow citizens [travellers] to do the same. Moreover, she alleges that Georgian Airways is "ready to do anything for money" and "taking advantage of a reality that is unacceptable for a very large part of our population."

One-sided and near-sighted policies

I think there have always been strange people among us, lone voices, and ones who will actually do anything for money, speaking mostly of Zurabishvili. It is only now because information spreads quickly we know more about such people—and in real-time. The reality is simple, if Georgia pursues an independent policy, it will benefit the entire nation and the larger region—not a zero-sum game.

Many Georgians should quote Victoria Nuland on "what to do with the EU," as an appropriate commentary on their meddling and following one-sided and near-sighted policies.  Let the EU do what it wants, and those who are impacted by overreactions can only hope that the EU and its so-called partners will not make the same mistakes as they did in Ukraine in 2014.

Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook"

Сообщение A Handful of Georgians Protest OVER Resumption of "Direct Flights from Russia" появились сначала на New Eastern Outlook.

New Eastern Outlook
Wed, 31 May 2023 09:59:26 +0000

3. Regarding the Foreign Policy of Algeria (PDRA) in Present Conditions

Regarding the Foreign Policy of Algeria (PDRA) in Present Conditions

Recently, there has been an increase in Algeria's efforts on the foreign policy track, which is associated with a significant growth in the profitability of energy supplies to the EU against the background of the rejection of Russian gas by the Europeans.

The sharp increase in financial opportunities has contributed to the development of activity in the field of regional policy of the PDRA, which is making significant efforts to combat terrorism and Islamic extremism. In this regard, the country's government has sought to expand its interaction with neighboring countries in the region on political and economic fronts. In particular, official Algeria assists neighboring Tunisia, which is at the acute phase of sociopolitical crisis, by giving grants in the amount of 600 thousand dollars to decrease the influence of Islamists in this state.

It is also predicted that the Algerian foreign policy activity in Mali will increase, due to the desire of the PDRA to enable negotiations between the warring parties and to stop further destabilization of the situation there, for example, by using foreign military influence. Algeria notes that, given the long borders with Mali, it is advisable to restore and strengthen the joint Algerian-Malian Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development, established in 2015 and aimed at resolving the conflict in the north between the Tuareg rebels and the central authorities of Bamako.

Regarding the Maghreb region, Algeria attaches great importance to the processes of resisting the strengthening of the regional influence of Rabat, which, after Washington's official recognition of its claims to Western Sahara, has intensified its actions to seek support from African states. The PDRA fears that US mediation might lead to the normalization or strengthening of Morocco's relations with Israel in the security sphere and Tel Aviv's supply of munitions to Rabat, which might disrupt the delicate balance of power in the region.

Against this background, Algeria is purposefully opposed to granting Israel observer status in the African Union (AU) and consequently to strengthening cooperation between the member countries of the organization and Tel Aviv, justifying its actions by the need for Israel to first resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Given the above-mentioned aspirations of the PDRA leadership on the foreign policy track, Algeria in late 2022 initiated the Arab League summit, during which the Algerians managed to promote the final document favorable to the Palestinians, as well as condemning the normalization of relations between Israel and several Arab countries.

As part of the diversification of foreign policy directions, Algeria has demonstrated its focus on intensifying cooperation with the BRICS countries, and is also considering the possibility of acquiring membership in this organization. In addition, the Algerians have taken a number of steps to develop cooperation with the PRC. In particular, the PDRA has purchased Russian arms and military equipment and expanded cooperation with Russia on some infrastructure projects.

At the same time, Algeria seeks to strengthen its relations with the West, especially against the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine. Firstly, Algeria is cooperating with the EU in terms of natural gas supplies to Europe (11% of all European needs). It is also expected to increase hydrocarbon supplies after the completion of the Nigeria-Algeria gas pipeline project through Niger by about 100 billion cubic meters per year.

In that connection, and taking into account the significant role of the PDRA in providing security in North Africa, the Western states are not seeking to impose sanctions on the Algerians, who are actively cooperating with Russia, which is in fact providing the PDRA with 80% of its weapons and military equipment.

It seems that the above circumstances will contribute to the preservation of strategic planned Russian-Algerian cooperation in all areas of the economy, despite the presence of a trend to intensify the interaction of the PDRA with the West.

At the same time, Algeria should take into account the policy of neocolonialism towards African states followed by the West, which only pursues its own interests of siphoning off resources from the African continent. In its customary manner of "divide and conquer," the Collective West is trying to discredit Russia's foreign policy in the eyes of Africans in order to prevent a mutually beneficial rapprochement between Russia and African states on an equal footing, using for this purpose, among others, the Ukrainian crisis.

To counter this phenomenon, the PDRA would be well advised to focus on pursuing an Africa-centric policy and developing its own unique path as one of the regional leaders with a serious impact on the situation in Africa. This would also be facilitated by an independent and balanced position of the Algerian authorities on a number of international issues on peace and security, protection of cultural heritage, education, top level sports, etc.

Bakhtiar Urusov, a political observer, exclusively for the online journal "New Eastern Outlook."

Сообщение Regarding the Foreign Policy of Algeria (PDRA) in Present Conditions появились сначала на New Eastern Outlook.

New Eastern Outlook
Wed, 31 May 2023 04:59:09 +0000

4. On Olena Zelenska’s visit to South Korea

On Olena Zelenska's visit to South Korea

On May 16, 2023, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol met with First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska, who arrived in Seoul as a special envoy for her husband, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. According to diplomatic sources, Ukraine's first lady arrived in Seoul on May 15 and stayed for several days.

The visit of the wife of the President of Ukraine to the Republic of Korea as a special envoy could not fail to attract attention. The Korea Times was quick to note that the visit could serve as a catalyst for South Korea to provide weapons or other military support to Kyiv, despite threats from Moscow, and Professor Park Won-gon, quoted in the article, pointed out that the discussion of providing Ukraine with arms support "may not be explicitly stated in public comments."

Currently, South Korea provides only humanitarian and economic assistance to Ukraine, following the principle of not including lethal weapons in assistance offered to countries in conflict. At the same time, South Korea is one of the few countries whose weapons and ammunition are compatible with the Ukrainian ones, and it has a rich stock of such ammunition: the 155mm artillery shell is especially important.

Actually, the fact that Yoon Suk-yeol adheres to the position described above, in the author's opinion, is, if not the main, then an important reason that the counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has not yet begun. An effective offensive requires a powerful and protracted artillery preparation, for which you need not just a lot of shells but a huge amount of them. Meanwhile, the United States has actually exhausted the limit of ammunition that it supplied to Kyiv, using even shells from warehouses in South Korea, although the North Korean threat is positioned as one of the most important.

South Korean weapons served as replacement, but this was not enough, and therefore Yoon Suk-yeol was subjected to strong pressure, during which he made a statement that it could be difficult for Seoul to adhere exclusively to humanitarian or financial assistance if "a situation arises that the international community cannot tolerate, such as a large-scale attack on civilians, massacres or serious violations of the laws of war."

But during Yoon Suk-yeol's visit to the United States, this topic was not developed, and officials on both sides said they accepted Seoul's position. This is important to the author because, given the status of the visit, Yoon could well have made the highfalutin statement that the cup of patience is overflowing, the ashes (of victims, whose names would have been carefully selected) are pounding in his heart, and South Korean shells are being sent to the front lines.

So they decided in Kyiv to get weapons by hook or by crook, and sent a beautiful woman as a special envoy, because her husband's video speech at the National Assembly on April 12, 2022 had completely failed to impress: a significant part of the MPs simply did not show up, and most of those present "were absorbed by their phones." Another detail: during their joint work, the husband was an actor, and the wife was a screenwriter.

In an exclusive written interview with the Yonhap news agency made before the visit, Zelenska called for more radical support for the fight against "Russian aggression that affects the "future of the whole world." "We know from history what happens when the aggressor is not punished … Everyone should be interested in stopping him … It is the same as stopping street crime before it reaches your street."

Demands for lethal weapons poured from her lips – "when there is a criminal in the house, the owners clearly need not only humanitarian aid, food and medicine, but something more radical to drive the criminal out …."

She catalogued a raft of grim wartime stories, including a 12-year-old boy forcibly separated from his mother who is still in Russian captivity, and two siblings taken to an orphanage after his father was thrown in prison.

Referring to the idea of a ceasefire, Zelenska said that Ukraine would be satisfied only with the "peace that will result from our victory, not an abstract armistice." "It is impossible to shake hands with the hand that has just killed your relatives and neighbors. You cannot sit down at the negotiating table with a murderer who has no regrets."

In addition, Zelenska expressed her intention to invite President Yoon Suk-yeol and First Lady Kim Keon-hee to "her war-torn country," calling South Korea "a model of resilience and development."

However, the author was drawn to a very interesting statement: "I think the world should be more afraid of losing this interest (in the conflict – author's note) than we are, because if the aggressor wins, the whole world loses… I don't advise anyone to lose that interest, because it is an interest in your own life and the future of the whole world." And it is an open alarm at the fact that the world is beginning to grow openly weary of fruitless support for Ukraine, once it is abandoned, the fate of the special military operation will be decided in an obvious way.

And here's the meeting! According to presidential spokesman Lee Do-woon during a press briefing, "The president conveyed the support and solidarity of the Korean government and people for Ukraine and expressed his condolences to the families of victims and the Ukrainian people. The president also spoke highly of first lady Zelenska's efforts to share the horrors of the war in Ukraine with the international community and her efforts to secure aid." This is nothing more than a routine element of diplomatic protocol, as are statements that the ROK will "actively support the Ukrainian people in close coordination with NATO member states and the international community."

Zelenska thanked Korea for the support and solidarity and humanitarian aid the ROK had sent to Ukraine and asked that it be expanded where possible, stressing that she especially hoped for mine detection and neutralization equipment and ambulances. In addition, the first lady asked for Korean businesses to participate in postwar reconstruction efforts in Ukraine.

A curious embarrassment occurred during the visit. At first, reports of the meeting emphasized that Zelenska did not ask the Korean leadership for supplies of South Korean arms and ammunition. On the contrary, the first lady "expressed her understanding of the difficulties that South Korea may encounter in the supply of weapons."

Later that day, however, Zelenska wrote in her Telegram channel that she and Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Svyrydenko "discussed with the President (Yoon) the need for air defense means to stop the missile terrorism of the aggressor country."

In addition, although Zelenska had expressed to Yonhap her intention to invite Yoon to Ukraine, there was no official invitation during the meeting with the president. Of course, Yoon Suk-yeol's office promised to respond accordingly if she later made such a request unofficially, but the absence of such an invitation as an element of protocol suggests that the conversation was not cordial at all.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin also met with Elena Zelenska and discussed expanding humanitarian support and ways to work together on mine clearance and post-war reconstruction. He said, "South Korea will actively respond to the Ukrainian people's need for assistance in the face of a crisis due to the war. South Korea will play an active role in Ukraine's reconstruction based on their development cooperation mechanism."

Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation Won Hee-ryong also promised to share Korea's post-war reconstruction know-how with Ukraine and provide it with a "platform" or rapid growth strategy based on the knowledge accumulated over the past several decades. "Korea's experience and know-how on smart city planning, high-tech industrial complex construction and IT-powered transport networks will be shared, an opportunity for Korea's East European peer to learn from Korea's case and further develop their own models." The assistance may be limited due to thorny diplomatic or military considerations, but humanitarian grounds should be more than enough to help out a peer in need, Won Hee-ryong said.

The next day, May 17, Yoon Suk-yeol gave a speech at the 2023 Asian Leadership Conference event, which was also attended by the wife of the Ukrainian president. Expectedly, Yoon criticized Russia for its "attempts to change the status quo by force and coercive diplomacy. According to him, this is a gross violation of international law and requires a consolidated and harsh response from the international community to prevent it "to become a successful precedent." This is important wording, because all criticism of Russia's actions from Yoon's mouth is along the lines of "violation of a rule-based order."

Referring to his meeting with Zelenska the day before, Yoon said that he had been informed of the suffering and human rights violations faced by Ukrainians because of the "illegal invasion" and stated that countries that share the common values of freedom, human rights and the rule of law "should never allow the illegal invasion of Ukraine and the attempt to change the status quo by force to become a successful precedent." Again, the author would point out that if the president of the ROK wished for a change in arms supply policy, this would be a good time and place.

Zelenska also gave a speech in which she had already openly called on the world to provide her country with military aid, especially air defense systems. "When there is a criminal in your house, who has come to kill your family, humanitarian aid alone will not save the residents. The first thing to do is stop the murderer."

On the same day, May 17, a Conference on Cooperation between South Korea and Ukraine for the Future was held in Seoul to discuss the participation of South Korean companies in infrastructure restoration projects in Ukraine. The event was organized by the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) together with the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Korea. The event was attended by members of the government of different levels from Kyiv, including First Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Economy Yulia Svyrydenko, Deputy Chief of Staff of the President of Ukraine Rostyslav Shurma and others. South Korea was represented by about 10 businessmen from Hyundai E&C, Lotte E&C, POSCO International, Hyundai Engineering, Doosan and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), KITA. The Ukrainian delegation presented the medium- and long-term reconstruction plan after the war with Russia, in which Korean companies could participate.

In her keynote speech, Yulia Svyrydenko said South Korea is a reliable partner with expertise in infrastructure projects and called for further strengthening of bilateral ties in economy and trade in the future.

Rostyslav Shurma said the proposed reconstruction projects are expected to cost about $893.2 billion, and South Korean companies could play an important role in various projects, such as building two new nuclear reactors and infrastructure for hydrogen and electricity production.

He also expressed hope for Seoul's help in rebuilding his country's transportation system, manufacturing clean steel products, producing electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles and developing battery technology.

In their turn, the representatives of Korean companies, who took part in the event, noted that the experience and technologies of Korean companies in the civil engineering and housing and utilities sector may contribute to the reconstruction projects in Ukraine. They also expressed hope that Korean companies would be able to demonstrate their capabilities in modernizing Ukraine by restoring social infrastructure, building nuclear power plants and developing smart cities.

Earlier that day, during a meeting with Svyrydenko, Seoul Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho signed a preliminary agreement to provide Ukraine with an additional $130 million in material assistance from the Economic Cooperation and Development Fund (EDCF). More precisely, we are talking about a long-term loan at a low interest rate to support economic and industrial development. However, as the author's colleagues point out, any project under the EDCF must comply with the Fund's goals, which are spelled out quite clearly "the development of the economy of the Republic of Korea through export promotion." So, first the EDCF will get a list of requests from Kiev (be it equipment or infrastructure) and then will place orders with South Korean companies, or hire South Korean contractors, paying for their services. Ukraine will not get any real money – only the ordered equipment or facilities and a debt to service and pay back.

Thus, despite the loud stories about the separated children and the resolute condemnation of the special military operation by Yoon, the Ukrainian president's wife left the Republic of Korea "empty-handed". No weapons were given (and probably a counter-attack by the AFU is postponed), no gratuitous aid either, and the author got confirmation of his assumptions that the ROK president is not particularly willing to cross the red line indicated by Vladimir Putin.

The question is however that the pressure of Washington and Kiev on Seoul is clearly not abating and, having said goodbye to Zelenska, Yoon Suk-yeol is flying to Hiroshima to participate in the G7 summit, where he will meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles Michel. A separate event on the sidelines of the meeting is a summit of US, Japanese and ROK leaders.

"Clearly, Seoul's potential military support for Ukraine is likely to feature prominently in Yoon's diplomatic schedule in the coming weeks," conservative ROK media outlets wrote, which means Yoon will face a new round of pressure. Whether or not he will stand firm is for the audience to find out in the author's next texts.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, leading research fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of China and Modern Asia at the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook."

Сообщение On Olena Zelenska's visit to South Korea появились сначала на New Eastern Outlook.

New Eastern Outlook
Tue, 30 May 2023 15:59:48 +0000

5. The Bidens received millions of dollars from their “frenemies” in China

The scandal concerning the US Congress investigation into President Joe Biden and his family's "influence peddling" has reached new heights.

Just a few months ago, at the beginning of February 2023, in his State of the Union Address, Joe Biden described China as his country's main opponent, adding that if Beijing threatened US sovereignty then the administration would act to defend America.

And now, on May 10, James Comer, Republican Representative from Kentucky and Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has revealed sensational details of the investigation into "shady business deals" capitalizing on Joe Biden and his family's influence and benefitting China. The Republicans accuse the Bidens of using the President's public position to enrich themselves, and in so doing, putting national security at stake.

"Instead of being honest with the American people, President Biden has claimed since the 2020 election that his family has not received money from China. That was a lie in 2020, and he continues to lie to the American people now.  The Bidens have received millions of dollars from China. It is inconceivable the President didn't know about it," claimed Rep. Comer.

In his speech he stated that bank records show that while Joe Biden served as vice-President the Biden family unlawfully received over $10 million from foreign nationals, primarily China. The Republicans accuse the Biden family of deliberately trying to hide, confuse, and conceal their influence peddling schemes. "The Bidens made millions from foreign nationals providing what seems to be no services other than access and influence. From the thousands of records we've obtained so far, we know the Biden family set up over a dozen companies when Joe Biden was vice president. The Bidens engaged in many intentionally complicated financial transactions to hide these payments and avoid scrutiny," said Rep. Comer.

Members of the investigation team claim that at least nine members of the Biden family received payments, and that their associates created a complicated and suspicious web of more than 20 companies. Hunter Biden also received money directly into his company's account from a Chinese-controlled entity.

Readers will remember that back in March this year the Republicans announced that they had identified financial documents showing that between 2015 and 2017 members of the Biden family – Hunter Biden, James Biden and Hallie Biden and companies belonging to them had received a total of $1.3 million in payments from the Chinese energy giant State Energy HK Limited.

Bakhtiar Urusov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook."

Сообщение The Bidens received millions of dollars from their "frenemies" in China появились сначала на New Eastern Outlook.

New Eastern Outlook
Tue, 30 May 2023 11:59:36 +0000

6. ASEAN Pushing Itself Away from the US

ASEAN Pushing Itself Away from the US

In the 42nd ASEAN summit held in Indonesia in May, the group decided to "not become a proxy for anyone." This was with reference to the increasing pressure the group on the whole is currently facing from the US to counter and contain China in the Indo-Pacific region. This comes on top of the idea that Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim recently floated to create the Asian Monetary Fund alongside a regional payment mechanism that promotes the use of local currencies. This, in a nutshell, is a step towards the de-dollarisation of ASEAN – a move that effectively shows how ASEAN as a region is resisting becoming a pawn in the US geopolitics of building a global coalition against China. In fact, the move shows how ASEAN is pushing itself away from the US-led great game.

This growing thinking is thus markedly different from what was said during the US-ASEAN special summit held in May 2022. The summit was the first time the US hosted ASEAN leaders in Washington as, perhaps, an indication of the US seriousness vis-à-vis the region. But, more importantly, the Biden administration's goal was to secure ASEAN support for the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, which saw US ties – or competition – with China as a Zero-Sum game. In November 2022, in another summit held in Cambodia, the US delivered yet again a wrong message – a message that hardly anyone from Biden's audience from Southeast Asia wanted to hear. Biden, while emphasising the need for avoiding a war with China, still reinforced the idea of tackling China to guarantee the so-called open, free and rule-based run Indo-Pacific. The same summit also saw the US-ASEAN ties getting an upgrade into a "comprehensive strategic partnership."

But despite this upgrade, ASEAN has now doubled down on non-alignment with the US. While ASEAN isn't interested in aligning with China at the expense of its ties with the US either, its decision to not support the US against China has the effect of rolling back proactive diplomacy the Joe Biden administration seemed to bring to the region immediately after Biden's election in 2020.

In fact, it is blowing back. ASEAN's decision – reached in the 42nd summit – to make an agreement to start using local currencies to boost trade within the block is an outcome of an increasing worry within the bloc about the role the US dollar plays in sanctions. The US sanctions on Russia and the latter's exclusion from the SWIFT system have had a boomerang effect insofar as it seems to have pushed many other countries to contemplate alternative arrangements. ASEAN is, therefore, making its own preventive moves. The region expects that it might end up facing similar sanctions if, in a future conflict between the US and China, it refuses to support Washington.

As it stands, trade in local currencies is already happening in the region, and the 42nd Summit's decision merely reflects that. As reports show, the central banks of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand have already begun using contactless QR code payment systems for goods and services between the countries. By using this method of payment to settle transactions, these countries are not only promoting greater financial inclusion but also insulating themselves, although partly so far, against the geopolitical uncertainties involving possible future sanctions.

The move also shows to the US very clearly once again that ASEAN countries cannot be, and must not, be forced into taking a pro-US position on keeping a "rule-based order" – which is nothing short of a proxy for containing China, i.e., the country supposedly violating the so-called "rulers" set by the US – intact.

In fact, the US is using the narrative built around the idea of a "rule-based system" from the Cold War playbook. During the Cold War, the US divided the world into "free" and communist blocs. Today, the US divides the world into countries (e.g., the US and its allies) that follow the rules and countries (e.g., China) that do not. Accordingly, instead of promoting trade and connectivity, the US is militarizing – and even nuclearizing via such treaties as the AUKUS – the Indo-Pacific region to maintain and protect the "rule-based" order.

But this strategy is unlikely to yield positive results. Even according to the March 2023 report of the United States Institute of Peace, the US, by mindlessly following this strategy,

" … may once again end up alienating some countries in the region or even driving them into China's embrace. In other instances, insisting on greater alignment with the United States will lead to a loss of American credibility. Ultimately, there is little that Washington can do that would significantly reduce China's already deeply entrenched economic and political presence in the region. Indeed, it can be destabilizing and even dangerous given the high level of interdependence that already exists. Insisting that Asian leaders follow the guidance that they are likely to reject will only highlight the limitations of American power and influence."

The 42nd ASEAN summit manifests this US failure in so many ways. Instead of endorsing the US rhetoric of 'Cold War 2.0', the ASEAN summit statement reinforced "multilateralism" and "regionalism" in ways that "no one is left behind" i.e., not even China.

There is far from an ambiguous message. Given the clarity and the way ASEAN has repeatedly refused to become, on the whole, an ally of the US against China, there is little denying that the US must review its policy fundamentally. Where it can hope to really compete with China and where it can really hope to elicit genuine support from ASEAN is in the field of trade and economy rather than war, arms race, ballistic missile build-up, and nuclearization. In the absence of an effective economic policy, the US has – and will continue to – receive only superficial support from ASEAN, mostly confined to occasional summits producing nothing tangible.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan's foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook."

Сообщение ASEAN Pushing Itself Away from the US появились сначала на New Eastern Outlook.

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