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Diplomacy
Burning EU Flag

One step closer to the normalization of the far right

by Jaime Bordel Gil

More than a “before and after”, these elections represent a new chapter in the progressive integration of the far right into European politics. On the night of June 9th, the polls for the much-feared 2024 European elections closed. These were the elections of a change of cycle, the breakthrough of the far right, or the end of the grand coalition. In the end, it wasn’t as dramatic as expected, and the worst predictions of a possible right-wing majority did not come true. It is true that the earthquake some predicted did not occur, but for some time now, the tectonic plates of the EU have been moving in the same direction. The far right improved its results for the fifth consecutive time, which should not leave anyone indifferent. The grand coalition will not break, and the European institutions will not collapse due to the far-right tremor. However, for some time now, the European foundations have been shaking due to a far-right tectonic movement that could eventually bring the house down. The far right is growing, but it’s not taking over If we look at the results at the European level, beyond the respective victories in France and Italy, it seems that the far right is not growing as much as expected. The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) of Giorgia Meloni gain four seats but do not surpass the Renew Liberals, who lose 22 seats but remain the third-largest group with 80 MEPs. Identity and Democracy (ID), the group of Le Pen and Salvini, gains slightly more, nine seats, but with 58 seats, it remains the fifth-largest group in the chamber and sees its growth hampered by the departure of Alternative for Germany (AfD), which would have brought it a whopping 15 MEPs. These numbers may vary slightly, and if some deputies currently among the non-affiliated, like Viktor Orbán's Fidesz, are incorporated, the ECR could become the third-largest group ahead of the liberals. However, this would not significantly alter the majorities in the European Parliament, where the grand coalition between the conservatives, social democrats, and liberals will continue to govern the main EU policies. Nevertheless, the European People's Party (EPP) will have a bargaining tool with its partners: the possibility of blocking certain laws by making agreements with the far right. The combined seats of the conservatives and radical right-wing parties are not enough to form an alternative majority that, as Giorgia Meloni intends, would exclude the social democrats. However, the 184 MEPs from the EPP, together with the two far-right groups, could be sufficient to block legislation on key issues such as the green transition. Additionally, around thirty non-affiliated deputies also hold far-right positions (15 from AfD, 11 from Fidesz, and three from Alvise), further complicating the EU's green and social agenda. The radical right will not bring down the European structure for now, but its influence will increase in this new period. They do not yet have the strength to cause everything to collapse, but election after election, their ideas continue to permeate the European agenda. In the previous legislature, they already made their mark on key legislation such as the European Migration Pact, where despite voting against many motions, Jorge Buxadé managed to become the rapporteur for one of them related to the creation of a biometric database of irregular immigrants. This five-year term will likely start with a prominent commissioner chosen by the far-right, and with Giorgia Meloni seated on the European Council, they will have much more to say than in 2019. We shall see where it ends. More than a "before and after," these elections represent another chapter in the progressive normalization and integration of the far-right into European politics. Their ideas are here to stay, and although they do not yet have the capacity to lead majorities or elect presidents of the Parliament or the European Commission, they are managing to alter the frameworks of numerous debates, such as immigration and the green transition. This is the real danger, and this election reinforces that we continue to discuss these issues in the terms desired by Meloni, Orban, or Le Pen. Bipartisanship resists Another point that I believe needs to be highlighted about this election is that bipartisanship is holding up better than many expected. While it's true that the heyday of the two major political families adding up to over 400 members will never return, for the first time since 2004, the People's Party and the Socialists have not lost seats together, breaking a trend that seemed irreversible. The EPP gained nine seats, winning the elections in three of the five most populous states: Germany, Spain, and Poland. The Social Democrats obtained 137 seats, slightly below the 139 they had in the previous legislature, avoiding the drop predicted by almost all polls. The Liberals and Greens, on the other hand, have collapsed, each losing about twenty seats. As I was saying, the heyday of social democratic hegemony passed long ago, but beyond the endurance of the Iberian social democracy — the only ones alongside the Cypriots to independently exceed 30% — there are some good signs that suggest this family may be moderately satisfied. In France and Greece, two paradigmatic examples of the crisis in this space, Pasok and PSF, which seemed long defunct, are now vying for leadership in opposition again. In Italy, the Democratic Party (DP), despite insufficient results, has outplayed the 5 Star Movement in the opposition, solidifying its position as the main opposition force to Giorgia Meloni's government. And in the Netherlands, a coalition with the Greens has managed to surpass the ultra-right Geert Wilders. It's evident that the current situation for social democrats is not ideal, but if we look back ten years, many parties that seemed on the brink of disappearance have recovered and could even become a government alternative in a few years. This directly links to the crisis of an alternative left that in many European countries has shifted from being a viable alternative to a minority space. In France and Spain, these spaces that once made socialists tremble now find themselves divided and subordinate. In Greece, Syriza remains the second force, but in 2019 it led the center-left by 15 points and one million votes, a difference that has now been reduced to just 2%. In northern Europe, things seem to be going a bit better as the green left, formerly the Socialist People's Party, has won the elections in Denmark, while in Finland, the Left Alliance — a member of The Left — is the second force with 17% of the votes. Interestingly, this is where the far-right has fallen the most, being the sixth force in Finland, fourth in Sweden, and ninth in Denmark. These results provide a glimmer of hope and show to the left in other regions a path to defeat the far-right. This is the landscape we find ourselves in. In the face of a far-right that is gradually gaining power and influence in Europe, the only ones seeming to withstand the far-right surge are the two traditional families, the EPP and the Social Democrats. The former, increasingly unabashed in their alliances with the radical right, remain committed to drawing a distinction between the "good" ultras, such as the Atlanticists like Meloni and Poland's Law and Justice Party, and the "bad" ultras, who are anti-European and aligned with Putin, like the AfD or Salvini. This distinction allows them to present agreements with parties that have repeatedly shown scant respect for human rights as respectable. And the latter, either through action or omission of others, have managed to weather the storm following the 2008 crisis and remain in many countries as the alternative to far-right governance. Who would have thought this ten years ago when many were signing the death warrant for social democratic parties. This is the Europe that remains. The rise of far-right influence and the consolidation of bipartisanship are the two main headlines of a night that will go down in history more for Macron's advancement than for immediate repercussions on Union governance, where everything will continue more or less the same. No earthquakes, but with tectonic shifts that may one day bring everything crashing down. The article was translated and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 ES (Atribución-CompartirIgual 3.0 España).

Diplomacy
Putin and Kim

Ukraine recap: Putin love-in with Kim Jong-un contrasts with western disarray over peace plan

by Jonathan Este

Hotfoot from signing a security pact with North Korea on Wednesday, Vladimir Putin has popped up in Vietnam, another of the few remaining countries where the Russian president is still welcome (or doesn’t face arrest under the war crimes warrant issued by the International Criminal Court last year). Here he was congratulated by the president, To Lam, for his election victory earlier this year and for maintaining stability and continuity in Russia. Putin, meanwhile, made much of the Soviet Union’s historical support for the Vietnamese people’s struggle for independence and unity from the 1950s to the 1970s, referring, without a hint of irony, to Vietnam’s “heroic struggle against foreign invaders”. The visit has been billed as part of Putin’s strategy to promote a new “multipolar” world order, free from US control. But it should be noted that the pragmatic Vietnamese have already hosted Joe Biden and Xi Jinping over the past nine months. Hanoi’s “bamboo diplomacy” depends on the country being “actively neutral” – with one eye on China, Vietnam has also upgraded relations with the US, Australia and South Korea in recent times. So, while there will be plenty of expressions of goodwill from Vietnam’s leadership, they are less likely to commit to anything more concrete as things stand. North Korea knows little of such diplomatic niceties, though, and has fewer choices when it comes to its friends. Very little detail has emerged of the new pact with Russia, except that it would require each country to come to the aid of the other if attacked. But it’s likely that close to the top of the agenda would have been Russia’s military requirements. North Korea’s supplies of artillery and ammunition are thought to have been vital in helping Russia overcome the harsh sanctions imposed by the US as well as Beijing’s unwillingness to directly provide arms for the war in Ukraine. Kim, in turn, wants Russian know-how when it comes to sophisticated military tech as well as economic support when it comes to feeding his country’s starving population. But warm relations between the two countries is nothing new. Official pronouncements emphasised the “traditionally friendly and good” relations between Russia and North Korea “based on the glorious traditions of common history”. For Kim, writes Robert Barnes, a senior lecturer in history at York St John University, this is something of a family affair which harks back to the 1930s when the North Korean leader’s grandfather Kim Il-sung was a relatively unknown Korean communist leading a small guerrilla band fighting the Japanese in Manchuria. Kim spent much of the second world war in the Soviet Union, where he joined the Red Army and rose to the rank of major. After the conflict, he was handpicked by Stalin to lead the Korean Workers’ party and then North Korea when it was established in 1948. The Korean war which followed almost led to a nuclear confrontation between the Soviet Union and the west. Hopefully, concludes Barnes, nothing as dramatic will result from this latest iteration of the relationship between the two countries. But pariah states such as North Korea aren’t the only countries where Putin can command a degree of support, if the recent European parliamentary elections are any guide. As Natasha Lindstaedt notes here, the rise of the far right in EU member states such as Germany, France, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria is throwing up an increasingly powerful group that stands in opposition to EU support for Ukraine. It may seem counterintuitive that such an avowed anti-fascist as Putin is courting extreme right organisations such as Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland party (AfD) or Hungary’s Fidesz party. But Lindstaedt believes that leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán have shown little concern for the institutions of democracy – as shown by Hungary’s adoption of a similar foreign agents’ law which acts to curtail press freedom and the work of NGOs. She concudes: “Putin is seen by the far right as a strong and conservative leader that can defend himself against the liberal west, which is trying to undermine these values.” The west, meanwhile, remains divided over the manner and extent of its support for Ukraine. The good news for Kyiv is that the recent G7 meeting in Puglia, southern Italy, ended in an in-principle agreement to use the US$3 billion (£2.36 billion) interest from US$350 billion of Russian assets frozen in the western banking system to underwrite a US$50 billion loan to Ukraine. But Gregory Stiles and Hugo Dobson, experts in international relations at the University of Sheffield, sound a cautionary note suggesting that the details of how this will work are likely to take months to agree. Meanwhile, they write, five of the seven leaders – US president Joe Biden, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, the UK’s Rishi Sunak and Japan’s Fumio Kishida – all face elections this year which none of them are guaranteed to survive. And, to take just one example, if Biden loses in November to Donald Trump, the likelihood of this deal proceeding becomes significantly reduced. Summit on peace Many of these leaders went on to Switzerland at the weekend for the Summit on Peace in Ukraine. Stefan Wolff, an expert in international security at the University of Birmingham, was following proceedings and concludes that it’s hard to judge the meeting an unqualified success. Out of 160 countries and international organisations invited, only 92 attended. Biden was a no-show and Canada’s premier, Justin Trudeau, was the only G7 leader to stay for both days of the conference. The main problem, writes Wolff, was that the only peace plan on the table was that proposed some time ago by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. This calls for the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, including Crimea, and the payment of reparations for rebuilding his country. Seven other peace plans, proposed by the likes of China (which also failed to send anyone), Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, a group of African states led by South Africa and the Vatican were not discussed. Most of these call for a ceasefire, which is anathema to Kyiv and its backers in the US and UK, as it would accept, for the time being at least, Russia’s territorial gains on the ground, including the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Putin, meanwhile, was trolling hard from the sidelines, releasing his terms for a ceasefire deal, which are for Ukraine to accept Russian annexation of Crimea and not just the land his troops currently occupy, but all of the four regions he annexed in September 2022. Putin’s column As previously noted here, a season of relative success on the battlefield, has left Putin in a bullish mood. It emerged recently that (despite being seriously disadvantaged by the war in Ukraine and the harsh western sanctions which have ensued) the boss of Russian energy giant plans to build an 80-metre column in St Petersburg to commemorate Peter the Great’s triumph in the great northern war, after which Russia declared itself to be an empire for the first time. As George Gilbert, an expert in Russian history at University of Southampton notes, anything honouring Peter the Great is a sure-fire way of buttering up the Russian president, who sees himself as a latter-day incarnation of the man who built his home town of St Petersburg, glossing over the fact that Peter saw his capital as a way of making Russia more of a west-facing country. Gilbert gives us some historical context about the conflict, in which Russia lined up alongside much of what would become Poland and Germany as well as Britain, by virtue of its king, George I, also being the ruler of Hanover. The key battle, he writes, was at Poltava, which is in the middle of what is now Ukraine, which involved defeating a crack regiment of Cossack cavalry, which you’d have to imagine is very much grist to Putin’s mill. One suspects, though, that it’s Peter the Great’s imperial achievements that Putin wants to emulate most of all.

Diplomacy
Rome, Italy - March 22, 2019: Xi Jinping, China's president, speaks as he attends an Italy-China business forum with Sergio Mattarella, Italy's president, at the Quirinale Palace in Rome.

Xi Jinping's "Civilization State" and Anti-Americanism in Europe

by Ihsan Yilmaz , Nicholas Morieson

It is not surprising that China’s Xi Jinping should visit France, Europe’s second largest economy and one of the dominant nations within the European Union. But why should he visit comparatively small and economically less important nations such as Hungary or Serbia? The answer lies not merely in the economic opportunities such a visit may bring to all parties, but in the increasingly anti-American themed politics of the three nations, and their governments’ belief that the future of international politics is a multi-polar order dominated by “civilization states.” These two factors make China, which promises to free the world from American political, economic, and cultural dominance and establish a new multipolar order, an attractive partner for France, Serbia, and Hungary. Equally, it makes them attractive to China, which seeks to divide Europe and the United States, and build greater economic and political ties with European nations desirous of a “new” Europe free of American dominance. Xi portrays China as not merely a nation-state, but a continuation of Ancient Chinese culture merged with Marxism. Xi is adamant that China must draw on its civilizational heritage, and reject the values of Western civilization, which are not – he argues – universal, but indeed particular to the West and thus unsuitable for China. Xi’s remark that China “will work with France to deepen China-Europe mutually beneficial cooperation,” and that the two are “major forces in building a multipolar world, two big markets that promote globalization, and two great civilizations that advocate cultural diversity,” underlines this civilizational perspective on global politics. Civilizationism, as a construct, is thus a tool of liberation through which Xi will free China of non-indigenous values and ideas, and through which it will overcome the United States and make the Chinese nation Asia’s dominant power. The leaders of both China and France, despite their differences, are drawn together due to shared antipathy towards the United States, and their shared civilizational perspective on global affairs, a perspective intrinsically connected with their anti-American politics. Naturally, China and France do not share the same opinion of the United States. China views America as a rival; France views America, perhaps, as a perfidious ally forcing “Anglo-Saxon” culture upon an unwilling French people. Experts have noted the importance Emmanuel Macron places on rejuvenating what he calls European Civilization. Indeed, where right-wing populist Marine Le Pen calls for the protection of France’s Judeo-Christian yet secular civilization, Macron is moving beyond the nation-state paradigm and speaking of centralising power within the European Union in order to protect otherwise moribund European civilization. Macron is very concerned about the future of European civilization, and believes that it represents the best of humanity and must therefore protect its “humanist” values. For Macron, European civilization has many enemies. But perhaps the key enemy is the United States, which is an enemy precisely because it is an anti-civilizational power that defends the nation-state paradigm, insists that its values are universal, and desires a relatively weak Europe. Macron argued that Europeans should take inspiration from the “civilisational projects of Russia and Hungary” and what Macron called their “inspiring cultural, civilisational vitality.” He says European civilization is “humanist,” and that to survive it must reject the “Anglo-American model” which permits the private sector to gain enormous power over human life. This position, of course, also rejects the Chinese model, in which the government is given total control over human life. Hungary and Serbia Victor Orbán is drawn to Xi in much the same way as Macron: both believe the rise of civilization states, such as China, as ineluctable, and both believe that China’s rise provides an opportunity for their respective states – if not civilizations – to free themselves from Anglo-American norms. Although Orbán possesses a civilizational rejuvenation project, it is of an entirely different nature to Macron’s “humanist” plan for Europe. Orbán calls for the re-Christianization of Europe, and for the strengthening of the nation-state and its borders, and he speaks not so much of European civilization but of Judeo-Christian civilization. Orban says, “the US ought to permit illiberal states – such as Hungary – to determine their own futures rather than impose ‘universal values’ upon them in an effort to prevent war.” China’s rise comes at the expense of Orbán’s liberal democratic foes (i.e. Washington and Brussels), decreasing their ability to pressure Hungary to return to liberal democratic norms. Equally, because China is ruled by an authoritarian populist who has a civilizational perspective on international relations, the rise of China legitimises Orbán’s own authoritarianism and his civilizational rejuvenation project. It should come as no surprise that the date Xi chose to visit Serbia coincided with the 25th anniversary of the American-led NATO bombings of Belgrade’s Chinese embassy. The two nations have become increasingly close since the 2012 election victory of the governing populist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which sees China as both a source of economic growth and technological development, and also as a partner that is less likely to criticise Serbia’s refusal to sanction Russia, and its often socially conservative politics. Thus, President Aleksandar Vučić received Xi in Belgrade in a ceremony during which he promised the Chinese leader that he would receive in Serbia a degree of “reverence and love” not “found anywhere else.” He further promised that his government would only increase cooperation with Beijing, saying “the sky is the limit.” Xi authored an article in Serbia’s Politika news outlet noting that China and Serbia have similar positions on many important international and regional issues. In the piece, Xi is indirectly calling for Serbia to assist China in challenging US and Western dominance in the international sphere. Experts noted that “Serbia’s hosting of Xi is connected to broader efforts — notably by Moscow and Beijing — to challenge U.S. influence and potentially reshape the international order.” Conclusion Xi’s tour of France, Hungary, and Serbia demonstrates the growing influence of China in Europe. But it also tells us much about how some Europeans are responding to China’s rise as a self-styled civilizational power. This rise has inspired some European leaders to challenge US dominance in international politics and embrace the core values of “European civilization.” Many of Europe’s states thus may seek to emulate China, or help it rise and attempt to politically and economically benefit from it. Moreover, China’s rise seems to demonstrate how by rejecting normative Anglo-American (or more broadly Western) values, and embracing the traditional values and culture of one’s own civilization, these states can overcome American imperialism and cultural hegemony. Whether rejecting Western Anglo-American norms and embracing their own civilizational values can give these entire nations a shared purpose, and inspire reindustrialization, remains an unanswered question. Ihsan Yilmaz is a research professor of political science and international relations at Deakin University’s ADI (Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation). Previously, he worked at the Universities of Oxford and London.  Nicholas Morieson holds a Ph.D. in politics from the Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, and a Masters in International Relations from Monash University. He is the author of Religion and the Populist Radical Right: Christian Secularism and Populism in Western Europe, and a Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.

Diplomacy
Pedro Sánchez

Spain recognizes the Palestinian state and reaffirms its friendship with Israel despite genocide in Gaza

by Redacción El Salto

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Although the gesture from Spain, Ireland, and Norway has been welcomed by Palestinian authorities, the past week has highlighted the Zionist determination to obliterate any possibility of a genuine Palestinian state. Pedro Sánchez announced early this morning what has been awaited since it was announced almost a week ago: the recognition of the Palestinian State, which, in the words of the Prime Minister, "must be a viable state, with the West Bank and Gaza connected by a corridor, with East Jerusalem as its capital, unified under the Government of the Palestinian National Authority," he stated. The president also sought to appease Zionist opposition and dispel accusations of supporting Hamas: "This is a decision that is not against anyone, least of all against Israel, a friendly people whom we respect and appreciate, and with whom we want to have the best possible relationship. This decision reflects our outright rejection of Hamas." The announcement of the recognition of the State of Palestine will be made, as the president communicated in the press conference, after it is approved today by the Council of Ministers. Meanwhile, the coalition government partner, ‘Sumar’, has welcomed this step, reminding that other actions are still necessary. "Arms embargo, suspension of diplomatic relations, supporting ICJ measures, and supporting the South African denunciation," have been enumerated in its X account. Today, May 28, 2024, was the date that Spain, Norway, and Ireland had marked on the agenda to take this diplomatic step in support of the Palestinian people. Ireland, for its part, will proceed with the recognition of the State of Palestine following a parliamentary debate to be held during the day. The decision taken by these three European countries, made public last Wednesday, May 22nd, joins them with the 144 countries that already recognized the State of Palestine within its 1967 borders, following the commitment to the coexistence of two sovereign states that can peacefully coexist, a principle underlying the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993, and which, however, three decades later, seem unrealistic given Israeli policies of colonization of the West Bank, isolation of Gaza, and appropriation of East Jerusalem, the territories that should compose an already disjointed Palestinian state. The Spanish recognition of Palestine as a state — a recurring commitment made by the PSOE that has taken time to materialize — coordinated with Ireland and Norway, implies that European countries, traditional allies of Israel, are joining what the Global South and colonized peoples had largely done decades ago. In Europe, Sweden took that step in 2014, many years after several countries in Eastern Europe recognized the Palestinian state in 1988, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The former Czechoslovakia is a striking case; while the Czech Republic considers this recognition no longer valid, Slovakia reaffirms the decision made in the 1980s. Currently, Belgium, Malta, and Slovenia are other European states that have expressed their intention to recognize the Palestinian state, without specifying a specific date. For Israel, it is important that this trend does not spread. Zionist Foreign Minister, Israel Khan, wasted no time in attacking the Spanish government (again) on social media for its decision, accusing the prime minister of being complicit in "inciting the murder of the Jewish people and war crimes." The decision of the heads of government of Ireland, Norway, and Spain came after the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution for the recognition of the Palestinian State, calling on the Security Council to accept Palestine as a full member after the US veto. The gesture of these three European countries has been welcomed by the Palestinian authorities, it responds to a historical demand, and contributes to put pressure on those countries that claim to advocate for the two-state solution but have not yet recognized Palestine as such. But beyond its symbolic value, for now, it doesn't seem likely to change the reality of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank, or East Jerusalem. In fact, Israel has punished Palestinians precisely after the decision of the three European countries: for example, by prohibiting the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem from assisting Palestinian individuals. On the other hand, the fact that most states recognize a Palestinian state has not translated into anything resembling its materialization: many of these states are also important allies of Israel, as emphasized by Sánchez himself this morning, recalling their closeness to the Zionist state. However, Israel, with its foreign minister at the forefront, has not ceased its attacks on Spain, Ireland, and Norway in the last week: in addition to recalling their ambassadors for consultations in the European states, there has been a constant response on social media, with videos accusing the three states of collaborating with Hamas. Meanwhile, violence against Gaza and the West Bank has intensified. Last Sunday, Israel attacked refugee camps in Rafah, leaving around fifty Palestinians dead and causing global outrage at the images of people burned alive, including children. It seems that in response to the symbolic gesture of recognizing Palestine, Israel continues with its plan to make a real Palestinian state impossible. In yesterday’s report (May 27th), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) pointed out that one million people have been forced to flee again, following Israel's ground invasion of Rafah on May 6th. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health in Gaza has already reported over 36,000 deaths and more than 80,000 injuries, which, along with the missing persons, would account for 5% of the Strip's population. The United Nations has warned that it will take at least 80 years to rebuild Gaza. The fact that Israel is ravaging Palestine doesn't seem to concern the opposition as much as the worsening of bilateral relations with the Zionist state. While the leader of the opposition, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, stated yesterday that the government's decision "empowers" Hamas, Isabel Díaz Ayuso echoed a similar sentiment, saying, "They are calling for the extermination of Israel and are justifying what Hamas terrorism intends against that state. The offenses from the Government are continuous (...) The State [of Israel] will not respond with flowers," said the president of the Community of Madrid yesterday after the publication of a video released by Israel in which, with flamenco music in the background, it was reiterated that Hamas appreciates Spain's decision. But the recognition of the Palestinian state is not the only open front against the Zionist state: following the ICJ's order to halt the offensive against Gaza, the EU convened a meeting with Israel for the first time yesterday, and mentioned a tool that the EU has had from the beginning, the review of the preferential agreement between Brussels and the Zionist state. Meanwhile, civil society expands its mobilizations; yesterday, demonstrations condemning the bombings in Rafah took place worldwide, overflowing in cities like Paris. Meanwhile, the momentum continues from the encampments, which, as seen in yesterday's action at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, are bringing to light all the ties with Israel, achieving concrete victories, and exposing the extent of the economic interests and networks of influence that Israel has deployed in the university sphere. The article was translated and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 ES (Atribución-CompartirIgual 3.0 España).

Diplomacy
Paris, France, 25-04-2024 : Visit of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, for a major speech on Europe at the Sorbonne.

2024 Election Watch: France, the European Union, Germany, and Mexico

by Collin Chapman

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Elections in Europe demonstrate the growing popularity of far right parties as key outsiders gain on critical votes. In France, President Emmanuel Macron has moved to dampen Marine Le Pen’s success in the European Parliament with a snap national election. The election calendar for June has already thrown up some surprises, particularly in the northern hemisphere. To be sure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was re-elected, though with a much-reduced majority which will place limits on his power. But the biggest shock is in Europe where French President Emmanuel Macron decided to call a snap election for 30 June after his most notorious far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, pulled off a decisive victory in the French election for the European Parliament. Macron is taking a massive gamble—that in a national election he can recover some of the popularity he has lost since his re-election as president in 2022, squashing Le Pen’s challenge to his leadership. The initial reaction of the commentariat is that Macron will manage a return to the Élysée palace, largely because the centrist parties holding the middle ground were the overall winners and the Left and the Greens failed to increase, or lost, shares of the vote. “I’ve decided to give you back the choice,” Macron said in an address to the electorate from the Elysée palace. In France, the Rassemblement National (RN) party led by Le Pen won 31.5 percent of the country’s vote, according to early results. In Germany, the three parties in Olaf Scholz’s fragile coalition—the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, and the liberal FDP—were all overtaken by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which came in second behind the conservative CDU-CSU opposition. Significant gains by nationalist and ultra-conservative parties were also anticipated by exit polls in Austria, Cyprus, Greece, and the Netherlands. In Italy, prime minister Giorgia Meloni cemented her position in her governing coalition, and potentially her hand in negotiations with other European leaders, with her hard-right Brothers of Italy party taking over 28 percent of the vote in the European parliamentary elections. Attention will now turn to the campaign by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, to win another five-year term in office. She has a good record and currently no obvious challenger. Nonetheless, her re-election will hinge on her ability to make uncomfortable choices and deals, taking into account the EU’s clear shift to the right in parliamentary elections on 9 June. Though her centre-right European People’s party won the election, securing 189 seats in the 720-strong assembly, von der Leyen’s allies fared worse and the hard right surged from a fifth to nearly a quarter of seats. Her fate is likely to be decided at an EU summit on 27 June when she will seek the personal backing of the EU’s 27 leaders and aim to demonstrate to them that she has the required support in the European Parliament. Mexico Another remarkable election result this month was in Mexico where the ruling left-wing Morena party won a landslide victory in presidential, congressional, and state elections. While president-elect Claudia Sheinbaum and Morena’s victory on 2 June was not a surprise, the scale of it was. Sheinbaum won more votes than the centre-right Xochiti Galvez across genders, age groups, and in every state bar one, coming in 31 points clear of her rival. After decades of high poverty, glaring inequality, and low wages, the ruling Morena party more than doubled the minimum wage and expanded social programs, endearing itself to Mexico’s long-neglected have-nots. The result has left Mexico’s conservative elite struggling to understand the left’s landslide win, living as they do in gated communities far removed from the lives and feelings of average Mexicans. There are unlikely to be any surprises in the other major election this month—that of Iran on 28 June. Iranian authorities have disqualified prominent moderates as candidates in the snap presidential election, called following the helicopter crash that recently claimed the life of Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s president, and other senior ministers. The field of candidates has been narrowed to five hardliners and one mid-ranking reformist. The United Kingdom has seen a frenzy of election activity this month following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s surprise decision to call an early election on 4 July. Polls show that there is likely to be a change of government to the opposition Labour party, which is currently holding a 22 percent lead, after 14 years’ Conservative government.

Diplomacy
Vladimir Putin: Answers to questions from journalists following a visit to China

Vladimir Putin: Answers to questions from journalists following a visit to China

by Vladimir Putin

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Vladimir Putin replied to questions from Russian media representatives on the outcomes of his two-day state visit to the People’s Republic of China. Question: It would not be an exaggeration to say that the whole world watched your visit here, as evidenced by a spate of news reports and publications. It is clear that the future of the rapidly changing world largely depends on the positions of Russia and China. Following your talks in China, we would like to know whether Moscow and Beijing have a shared understanding of how the future system of international security and politics should evolve. Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to thank President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping and the leadership of China for this invitation and for creating a very favourable and warm atmosphere for our joint work. On the whole, the talks were very meaningful and very substantive. This was an official state visit, but it was also very much a working trip. From morning until evening, we spent virtually the entire day with the President of China and his colleagues. We raised multiple issues for discussion. You said that the future depends on Russia and China, but this is only partly true. The future of humankind depends on the whole of humanity. Certainly, Russia and China are important components of modern civilisation. We have our own views on how we should develop. Certainly, our advancement will influence the advancement of all partners on the planet. We believe that development should be constructive and peaceful, no doubt about it. Apart from our interests, it should heed the interests of all parties to international interaction. Of course, it is necessary to strengthen the emerging multipolar world. There is absolutely no doubt that a new world is taking shape before our eyes and becoming multipolar. I believe all the people are aware of this. It is important that those who are trying to maintain their monopoly on making decisions on all issues globally should realise this (I believe that they do realise it perfectly well). Understanding this, they should do everything possible to facilitate this natural process. I repeat, this process should be peaceful and conflict-free, with the opinions of all parties to the international process fully considered. All of us should seek compromises while making the difficult decisions that lie ahead. We are committed to this approach and to precisely this kind of work. I have discussed this repeatedly, and the President of China has also emphasised this: our interaction, cooperation and strategic partnership with China, Russia-China partnership, is not directed against anyone. Our aim is solely to create better conditions for the development of our countries to improve the well-being of the peoples of China and the Russian Federation. Question: How did your informal meeting with Xi Jinping go? Your aide said it took place in a super-narrow format but was attended by Defence Minister Andrei Belousov and Security Council Secretary Sergei Shoigu. Did you discuss Ukraine? What would you personally consider convincing evidence of Ukraine’s readiness for talks? Earlier both you and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeatedly said that the Western partners could no longer be trusted. Vladimir Putin: Yes, this meeting took place in the narrow format. We really discussed many issues that are important for bilateral relations. We discussed the issue of settling the Ukrainian crisis. The President of the PRC told me the main theses of what he discussed during his recent visit to Europe. He set forth his position linked with Chinese peace initiatives. We have said more than once that we believe that China is sincerely striving to settle this problem. It offers different options and is very flexible. I believe it is sincerely striving to resolve this problem. We discussed this at some length. As for our counter partners, let’s say in this case these are Ukrainian leaders and their European and overseas bosses. Well, we have spoken about this many times. When our troops stood near Kiev, our Western partners told us: it is impossible to sign documents when the other side puts a gun to your temple. “What should be done?” we asked. “It is necessary to withdraw troops from Kiev.” We did this. On the following day, they threw all our agreements into the dustbin and said: “Now we will fight to the end.” Their Western curators occupied the position that is now known to the whole world – to defeat Russia on the battlefield, to inflict a strategic defeat on it. It wasn’t us who behaved in this way. These were our partners. Ukrainian officials confirmed this, in particular, the head of the Ukrainian delegation at the talks in Minsk and later in Istanbul, said this. The then Prime Minister [of Great Britain] Mr Johnson came to Kiev and advised Ukraine to continue hostilities. Mr Arakhamia, the head of the Ukrainian delegation, who now leads the ruling parliamentary party in Ukrainian parliament, said that otherwise all hostilities would have been ended a year and a half ago. He said this in public, I believe, at his meeting with journalists. Nobody actually had doubts about this. So, let’s sum up this part of my answer to your question – we were cheated again. Now we need to understand whom and how we should deal with, whom we should trust and to what extent. Of course, we are analysing now everything that is taking place in this regard. Of course, we are looking at what is happening around the universally announced meeting in Switzerland, in Geneva. I believe this is the venue of the meeting. We are certainly not going to discuss any formulas about which we know absolutely nothing. But as distinct from Ukraine, we have never rejected talks. It is they who have quit the negotiating process. They announced that they are going to inflict a strategic defeat on us. It is they who said they were “going to fight to the end,” actually not to the end but to the last Ukrainian. They did everything with their own hands. We have a foundation for the negotiating process – what we agreed on in Istanbul and a signature of the head of the Ukrainian delegation under an excerpt from this large document. He initialed it. We have this document with his signature on it. What are these other additional terms about which we have never heard and know nothing? The goal of this event is clear. They want to gather as many countries as possible, declare that everything has been agreed upon with everyone and then present it to Russia as a resolved issue, as an ultimatum. This will never happen. Question: Keeping with the theme of Ukraine… Yesterday, Vladimir Zelensky visited Kharkov and held a general headquarters meeting there. At the same time, we are involved in heavy fighting near Kharkov and our troops seem to be gaining success. Vladimir Putin: The word “seem” is wrong. They are gaining success. Each day, they advance in strict conformity with the plan. Question: What is the plan all about? Are we going to seize Kharkov? Or does our objective consist in creating a sanitary zone, as you said earlier? Thank you. Vladimir Putin: I do not know what the head of the Ukrainian state was saying. The only thing I know is that in the final analysis, they are to blame for what is happening. The origin of the current Kiev authorities is the coup d’etat [that occurred in 2014]. This is the source of the present-day authority in Ukraine. This is my first point. Second, [Kiev’s] Western sponsors allowed the coup to happen by facilitating and orchestrating it. They created the conditions for a smoldering conflict to grow into an armed conflict. They are to blame for this. They are attempting to lay the blame on someone else and make Russia responsible for the current tragic developments. But this is the result of their own policies. As far as the developments in the Kharkov sector are concerned, they are also to blame for these, because they shelled and, regrettably, continue to shell residential areas in border territories [of Russia], including Belgorod. Civilians are dying there, it’s clear for everyone. They fire missiles right at the city centre, at residential areas. I said publicly that if this continues, we will be forced to create a security zone, a sanitary zone. And this is what we are doing today. As for [the seizure of] Kharkov, there are no such plans for now. Question: It has recently been reported that Chinese banks stopped accepting payment transfers from Russian banks. Did you discuss this issue with the Chinese leader? If so, have you reached an agreement? Have you coordinated a potential scheme of settlements that would be immune from Western sanctions? Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Sanctions imposed on third countries engaged in economic activities are doubly or triply illegitimate because sanctions are absolutely illegitimate when adopted without the approval of the UN Security Council. This goes beyond common sense when it comes to third countries. Incidentally, the Americans or Europeans are even using such sanctions against their own allies. Europeans are not using them against the Americans, but the Americans apply such sanctions against European economic operators and often follow them through not only with regard to Russia but also against other countries in other situation. It is a common practice, and Europeans bear with this, proving yet again their vassal dependence on the sovereign over the sea. Well, whatever! As for such decisions, they certainly do direct damage to the global economy, not just to the countries they are adopted against or their economic operators, but also to the global economy as a whole, including energy and other spheres of economic operation, and primarily the issues of settlements that are discussed by the economic operators. Solutions are possible, and there are such solutions. Of course, they should be supported at the level of governments, and I hope that this is how it will be. The reasons behind the behaviour of large financial institutions are understandable: nobody wants to sustain losses because of US actions, even if they are illegal. However, I would like to repeat what I said before: it is silly and a huge mistake of the American political elites because they are inflicting big harm on themselves by undermining trust in the US dollar. They are gradually undermining the status of the dollar as a global settlement and reserve currency, even though they are deriving huge profits from this now. First, they adopted the Bretton Woods system. Then they abandoned the gold standard of the dollar and [formalised a floating exchange rate system under] the Jamaica Agreement. What is it based on? It fully depends on the money printing press, or putting it more gallantly, on the might and quality of the American economy. Yes, this is exactly how things stand. All countries in the world trust the American economy, its might and stability, which is why they accept the dollars. This gives a huge and seemingly inexplicable advantage to the American economy and financial system. However, it can be presented in figures. According to our economists, it amounts to over 10 trillion dollars that have not been earned but are a gift from heaven that comes from the use of the dollar as a global reserve currency. Overall, the obligations of the US financial system to the rest of the world have been estimated at $53.4 trillion. However, by undermining trust in the dollar for political reasons, the US authorities are weakening the main and the most powerful and important instrument of their might – the dollar itself. They are doing irreparable damage to themselves. Using one of popular sayings, they are quarrelling with their own bread and butter. This is thoughtless, but they seem unable to stop doing it. The disadvantage of this for us is that we have to look for other solutions. However, there are also advantages, because it is unacceptable when one side is using financial and economic instruments to force its will on the rest of the world, including on the political stage. I assure you that all countries are aware of this; you only have to look at how fast their dollar-denominated reserves are diminishing. The world is responding. I believe that the [de-dollarisation] process is inevitable. We have started doing this, and it is a correct process. It entails certain shortcomings and problems, but it is correct in general, when we speak about making settlements in national currencies or creating other settlement instruments jointly with other countries. The process is underway; it has begun, and it cannot be stopped. Question: Mr President, let me return to the subject of Ukraine and certain Western initiatives. You have mentioned yesterday’s lengthy discussion with Xi Jinping on this issue. Could you please tell us whether you touched upon Macron’s initiative to declare an “Olympic truce”? Do you believe an Olympic truce is possible now? Or is this another attempt by the West to lure Russia into a trap, especially amid its military successes? Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Yes, President Xi Jinping mentioned this, and we did discuss this issue briefly. What I think is, first, the principles of Olympism, including the Olympic truce concept, are very sound principles. There is a reason the international community has spent centuries working them out. True, few countries ever invoked this particular principle, with the exception of Ancient Greece, but in general, the idea itself is good and constructive. The issue lies elsewhere. It has to do with the current international sports officials themselves violating the principles of the Olympic Charter. They are politicising sport, which is absolutely unacceptable, because the purpose of sport is to serve as a platform for communication between people and for negotiating compromises on other issues, including political ones. They are violating their own rules, now with regard to Russia, by excluding our athletes from the Olympic Games, not allowing them to display their flag, anthem, or national colours. They are violating the rules with regard to us, but they want us to comply with the rules that they dictate to us. Has anyone given this a thought? Is this in line with the elementary norms of justice? No. They are violating the rules but they demand that we comply with them. Well, friends, this is not getting us anywhere. No one has ever reached agreement like this. Before demanding anything or expecting others to do something, one needs to follow these rules. Overall though, sports are certainly progressing, and this progress will continue. I don’t know how the Olympic movement will fare now, with such officials. If they put money first, if money is the only thing that motivates or drives them, if sport becomes a commercial enterprise solely aimed at making a profit, I cannot see a bright future for the Olympic movement. Look, sport has actually transformed into a for-profit corporation. What is their top priority? To raise money from sponsors and to have large information companies pay for broadcasting. This is just a big business profiting from sporting events. But the principle of Olympism is something else – it is about humanitarian values. Question: This week, the US imposed duties on a number of Chinese goods – chips, semi-conductors, metals and solar batteries. Most important, it raised the duty on Chinese electric cars, I believe, four times, up to 100 percent. Can these moves be considered sanctions against China? Is Russia-China cooperation helping counter such attacks? Vladimir Putin: Of course, on the surface, they look like sanctions but these are already elements of an economic war to a certain extent. This is not the first time they have been used. Incidentally, I can assure you that politics, the character of Russia-China relations and the situation in Ukraine have nothing to do with this. These are just elements of unfair competition. We were making an MS-21 aircraft. We agreed on purchasing certain components that we had to put into its wings. These components have nothing to do with military production. They simply denied them to us by including them into a sanctions list. Indicatively, this list was linked with military production whereas the components we wanted had nothing to do with it whatsoever. Yes, we lost time and this production was pushed back by about a year and a half. But eventually, we made these components, these aircraft wing carbon fibre tows. We made them and they are even better than the American ones in quality and durability. The result will be the same in this case. I have just explained at the meeting with students why such restrictions were introduced against the Chinese auto industry, against electric cars. Just because they have become better and cheaper than European or American ones. That’s it. They are simply killing competitors, in this case, the Chinese rival and do not let it into their market. This is a prohibitive duty. The same is taking place in Europe, of course. As soon as some country, a global development centre, as we often put it, is developing and becoming more competitive, they stop it and put it down, they try to make it happen. Can Russia-China cooperation counter this in some way? To prevent this from happening, they are creating problems in financial items because we could purchase more. But we are restricted in purchasing these products because of money transfer problems. Is it possible to do something about this? Yes, it is. We will develop joint productions. This requires time, just as it was with aircraft components when we had to delay their production by half a year. This is the same case. We will go for joint production. This is the most erroneous and stupid way of building an international economic system. The correct idea is that the market decides everything and they were drumming it into our heads for decades, if I may put it this way – pardon the fancy language. But the market will still push them down. Do you understand what the point is? They are creating this problem for themselves with their own hands. What will this lead to? They have introduced sanctions against various goods. What will it lead to? Inflation in the US. This is what they will get. Because they will try to make these products themselves, at their own sites, paying wages to their own workers, paying for their expensive metal and their expensive energy. This is the result – the German economy in Europe is already operating nearly in the red while the French economy is teetering on the brink of recession. If the German economy starts coughing and feels bad, the entire European economy will not feel quite well, putting it mildly. This is the result of such decisions. These are not market decisions. They are completely stupid and have no prospects whatsoever. Question: Please, tell us at what conditions you would attend a peace conference on Ukraine in Switzerland if you should receive such an invitation. Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Well, politics does not know the subjunctive mood: “if only.” We will not continue. You know what would have happened there in other cases. But there are no “ifs.” They do not invite us. Moreover, they say they cannot imagine us being there. So what will we be [talking] about? “If you do this” looks like we are trying to get invited. “But if you do this, and if this is the case, then we would make these decisions.” Well, if they cannot imagine us being there, so much the better. This is first. The second, very important thing, is that we are not going to discuss right away what we do not know. As I said, we had been holding painstaking talks for a long time, almost a month and a half; first in Minsk, then in Istanbul, and reached certain compromises. The Ukrainian side signed an abstract of these documents. The package alone is so thick, but the summary with the fundamental issues outlined there were initialed by the Ukrainian side. So, we worked on it. Now there are some formulas but what are they based on? Based on some wishes and not on the real situation. Well, it is impossible to discuss. However, we are ready for discussion. We never refused. I have just said that, and this is not a joke, I did not make it up. As soon as the troops withdrew, the Westerners immediately told Ukraine: “Do not sign anything. Fight.” They snapped a salute and are following out. While we were immediately told, “Now we will fight to the last man.” This is what we were told. There will be no more talks. Now they see that they cannot succeed. Perhaps they will be able to fight to the last man but they cannot inflict a strategic defeat on Russia, and they can see that. Now they are beginning to squeak . “Let us urgently convene a conference.” – “Sure.” – “Will Russia participate?” “We are ready to participate in peace talks.” “But we will not invite you.” Here you are, Good Lord, there we go. And Russia is being accused of being reluctant to take part. But we have not been invited. You are asking: on what conditions? Why should I be proposing terms and asking to let me come where we are not wanted? And what is it that they want to do? Gather as many countries as possible, convince everyone that the terms proposed by the Ukrainian side are the best offer, and then present this to us as an ultimatum, saying, “You see, the whole world thinks so. Thus you must agree.” Is this a way to conduct substantive and serious talks? Of course, not. This is an attempt to impose. There was an attempt to inflict a strategic defeat, but it failed. The attempt to impose will end the same way. Remark: But still, as I see it, your condition is that the agreements reached must be in force. Vladimir Putin: Of course. This is the basic condition. They initialed it, but the document was not fully signed. It includes very serious issues related to ensuring Ukraine’s security. They are worded in such a way that requires subsequent consideration. But overall, this is the basis. They have been initialed by the Ukrainian side. I think, not least, probably, if not under the diktat, then with the consent of their Western sponsors. But everything is rigorously worded there regarding their interests. There is also something that has been taken into account concerning Russia’s security interests. There are a lot of questions there, which I do not want to go into right now. I remember if not all of them but all the main provisions. We are ready to discuss this. But then they dumped it because they wanted to gain an advantage on the battlefield and achieve a strategic position, which did not work out; so now they are handing out their terms. Have they gone nuts? Why on earth? Of course, we will proceed from the realities on the ground. This goes without saying. Question: My question isabout China and supplies of our hydrocarbons to it. Has an agreement in principle been reached on the Power of Siberia 2 project? When will construction start: this year or next year? Have there been any talks about a possible increase in supplies? Vladimir Putin: Yes. I am not ready to speak about technical details now, but both sides have confirmed their interest in implementing these projects. Since the Chinese economy is growing, it requires, accordingly, more energy resources needed to maintain this growth. Nothing is more reliable (I think this is clear) than supplies from Russia. We have a huge common border, and no one will interfere here: neither sanctions against the tanker fleet, nor even sanctions against financial institutions. We will buy and sell everything in national currencies. Therefore, the interest on both sides has been reaffirmed. On the one hand, there is interest in receiving additional volumes, on the other hand, there is interest in selling on the Chinese market. This is always a complicated process, involving the question of prices, the question of who will earn and how much. However, strategically we are absolutely interested, both the countries, in implementing these projects, and we will move forward with them. Gazprom and our oil companies will certainly come to terms. There are different routes. One of them runs via Mongolia, and both gas and oil pipelines can be laid in the same corridor. Specialists will have to decide how best to proceed. It is possible to use the Northern Sea Route. We can buy extra tankers and set up supplies via the Northern Sea Route, which is almost the same as the pipeline. All these alternatives are possible. They are all acceptable and economically expedient. It is necessary to choose the best ones. I am confident that this work will be completed as well. Question: My question is also about Ukraine, if I may. Vladimir Zelensky’s term of office is about to end, it expires on May 20. Will Russia no longer consider him a legitimate president after that date? And would it matter to you, will you be ready to talk to him afterwards? Vladimir Putin: We used to talk with him; we were in constant contact with him before the conflict entered the extreme phase of armed struggle. As for legitimacy, this question must first of all be resolved by the political and legal systems of Ukraine itself. There are all sorts of options in their Constitution. This is a question of assessment. This assessment, of course, should be primarily made by the Constitutional Court and in general, by the political system of Ukraine. But for us, of course, it matters, because if it comes to signing some documents, we certainly will have to sign documents in such a crucial area with the legitimate authorities, this is an obvious fact. But, I reiterate, this question must be answered by the political and legal (juridical) systems of Ukraine itself. Thank you very much. Question: Did you discuss with President Xi Jinping the fact that China had been invited to this international conference? Vladimir Putin: We discussed this issue as part of the package. Thank you very much for your attention. Question: Mr Putin, what about the French army in Ukraine? Vladimir Putin: I am not the president of France. Why are you asking me this? I am not the one to make this decision. Question: Mr Macron has repeatedly conveyed that he was ready to send troops there. If regular French troops move to Ukraine, will it mean a direct conflict, a war with the French? Vladimir Putin: First, you should have him answer your question about the French troops in Ukraine. Once you get the answer, we will start considering the consequences of this step. Question: Mr Putin, may I ask about the figure of [Defence Minister Andrei] Belousov? Excuse me, please, this is my last question. Why was Belousov appointed the Defence Minister? We are now at a critical juncture of the special military operation. Vladimir Putin: I covered that already. Mr Peskov covered that, too, because I asked him to do so. I will go over it again. This year, the level of defence spending for the Defence Ministry alone amounted to 6.7 percent of GDP. If you combine that with the amounts spent on law enforcement and security agencies, the total amount will slightly exceed 8 percent. The Defence Ministry accounts for the bulk of the spending meaning that the amount of spending of law enforcement and security agencies depends on how much the Defence Ministry spends. The Defence Ministry is the first to make purchases followed by law enforcement and security agencies. Their choices depend on the Defence Ministry’s choices. In addition, the Defence Ministry is charged with building the national defence system which is does with the enlistment of other security agencies. Their spending depends on that, too. So, with the Defence Ministry spending 6.7 percent, and the total defence and security spending coming at slightly over 8 percent, this amount of spending is not critical. Defence spending in the Soviet Union in 1985–1986 stood at 13 percent. Taking into account the state of the economy, macroeconomic indicators, and budget revenue forecasts, combined defence and security spending at slightly 8 percent is not critical and is absolutely safe. Experts are even saying it could be larger since the budget is robust enough to handle that. But this level of spending is what we currently have. As you are aware, Mr Belousov served as the Minister of Economy. He is considered a good economist, one of the best in the country. He was my aide on economic matters. He also served as the First Deputy Prime Minister. In this sense, he is, without a doubt, able to coordinate the Defence Ministry’s work with other ministries and agencies, as well as the regions. This is important as well. I am talking not only about the border regions, but other regions as well, because they, too, to a certain extent, are economic agents. This is my first point. My second point covers his mission. He must open the Defence Ministry to constructive interaction with the research centres and economic agents in the broad sense of the word, the manufacturers of the military-technical products and components that are needed for the production of military equipment. His job is to open the Defence Ministry to innovation. Indeed, Mr Shoigu has taken the initial steps towards this end. However, I believe that given his job functions in the recent past, the former Deputy Prime Minister will find it easier to accomplish this. These were the motives behind appointing him to this position. You all saw Mr Shoigu – it was widely covered – often visit and tour enterprises. He is fully aware of what is going on. He knows what the Armed Forces need in the medium and short term, and knows our industrial capabilities. To a certain extent, he was involved in the contacts with our foreign defence cooperation partners, because the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation was under the Defence Ministry, and he oversaw it. Considering this, he will have an enormous layer of work to deal with. It is all combined now. If you paid attention, I supported the idea of appointing Mr Manturov First Deputy Prime Minister precisely because we plan to focus the administrative resources on achieving the main objective facing the country today which is gaining the special military operation results that we need. Thank you very much.

Diplomacy
Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rouhani, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Iran’s role in the world: from isolation to alliances?

by Revista IDEES

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Rising tensions in the Middle East, with the risk of escalation in the confrontation between Israel and Iran against the backdrop of the Gaza conflict, represent a major change in the unwritten rules of this underground war between the two countries. From Iran’s perspective, the change in Israeli strategy violates the tacitly agreed rules of engagement. In particular, it removes the ambiguity that prevented attributing direct responsibility for attacks to either side, allowing the attacked party to limit the damage to its image and dissuading it from retaliatory actions that carry the risk of dangerous escalation. Iran’s response has also revealed a shift in its own strategy. For years, its position towards Israel and the US revolved around what was termed ‘strategic patience’, a long-term approach that involved strengthening the influence of its proxies in the region. In this sense, Hezbollah is its main export product, its most successful destabilisation model in that it is much more than a militia in Lebanon, even more than a state within the state: it is a state above the state, as it has the capacity to impose its own strategic objectives on the Lebanese state. This strategy of patience was based on the conviction that the networks Iran had been building allowed it to project its power without risking direct confrontation and its associated costs. However, the current dominance of conservative political figures in Tehran who see this strategic patience as a sign of weakness has led to the prevalence of more intense retaliation than usual, albeit below the critical threshold of outright conflict. This strategic shift has been evident in recent months. Thus, in January, Iran attacked targets in northern Iraq and Syria, claiming they were linked to Israel or the Islamic State, and a few days later launched strikes on Pakistani soil, demonstrating that the era of strategic patience is over. Broadening the focus, this episode reveals the dangers that prolonged tension between the two countries poses to an international security system suffering from prolonged US and EU inaction on the Palestinian issue and poisoning regional relations, as an open conflict between Iran and Israel would set the entire Middle East on fire and could degenerate into a nuclear crisis. With regard to Europe, this would pose a serious danger to its security and economy, as it could provoke large waves of migration to the EU, jeopardise the trade routes on which its economy depends and threaten energy supplies. The EU should therefore adopt a common policy to contain the risks associated with these dynamics. This means devoting more effort to resolving the Palestinian question and reactivating its conflict management capacity, keeping channels of communication open with all parties involved. Ultimately, it is urgent for the EU to intervene decisively and support inclusive dialogue in the Middle East to minimise the risk of full-scale war, before it is too late. These strategic shifts are taking place against a backdrop of growing internal contestation in Iran, where the Women, Life, Freedom movement has put an end to the idea that the regime was reformable and created a situation where both sides are at an impasse: on the one hand, a regime that disowns the majority of society and, on the other, a popular majority that disowns the regime. On the other hand, these tensions explain in large part why the regime continues to avoid a full-scale war, as it perceives that it is in a weak position with a population that has been in open revolt for almost two years. In addition, the destabilising role of ethnic minorities (Azeri, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Baluchi) who represent more than half of the population, with their long history of grievances, such as systematic repression, poverty, poor access to public services, environmental degradation and the eradication of their languages and cultures has also increased. Iran’s multi-ethnic nature is thus also an important part of Iranian politics and a source of tensions that has usually been omitted from Western readings. Western pundits tend to look at Iran through the eyes of its Persian elite, just as they used to look at Russia from Moscow’s point of view, ignoring these different realities and their disruptive potential. However, the Iranian regime is well aware that if the majority of Persians who dominate the opposition hate the regime, they hate the prospect of losing control over the provinces even more, and Tehran is appealing to Persian nationalist sentiment to try to divide the opposition, claiming that only the current government can maintain control over the minority areas of the country. We will have to pay attention to the political, social and generational implications these movements have in a context where years of sanctions by Western powers have impoverished the main agents of change, namely the highly educated, open-minded and pro-Western middle class. These sanctions have been the main factor in strengthening economic ties between Russia and Iran, which share strategic objectives such as facilitating bilateral trade, accelerating the completion of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and strengthening the banking systems of both countries to facilitate financial transactions. In addition, what will be the impact of Iran’s entry into the BRICS+, along with its great regional rival, Saudi Arabia. In this regard, Iran has demonstrated its diplomatic flexibility by initiating since 2021 a process of normalisation of relations with the great powers of the Middle East, most of which had broken off diplomatic relations with Tehran, sometimes since the very founding of the Islamic Republic. Faced with the threat that the consolidation of the Abraham Accords and the normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab world could pose, Iran embarked on a new diplomatic strategy, where Egypt has become one of the main targets, after Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies. In this sense, a normalisation of relations between the two countries would constitute a second major diplomatic victory for Iran after its successful rapprochement with Saudi Arabia. Also relevant is that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has recently visited Pakistan and Sri Lanka, two countries that have faced one of the worst economic crises in the region in recent years, and which hope to benefit from cooperation with Iran. Raisi’s trip demonstrates to the world that Iran remains diplomatically active despite instability in the Middle East, while reflecting a notable geopolitical trend: Iran is increasing its ties with South Asia with the intention of pushing an anti-Western and anti-Israel agenda through strengthening bilateral relations with certain countries in the region, most notably India and China, In parallel, Iran also seeks to diversify alliances in Latin America through a soft power strategy that allows it to position itself as a victim of Western harassment and to gain sympathy, political and strategic support in a region where, despite cultural and political differences, regimes such as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela share the goal of establishing a new world order. In short, the Tehran regime is emerging from the isolation in which it has been immersed since the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, on the one hand by establishing alliances of circumstance such as the one it has been forging for some years now with Russia in the military and economic spheres and, on the other, by taking advantage of the loss of influence of the United States and the West in the region to normalise its relations with its great regional rival, Saudi Arabia, and other relevant actors such as Egypt and the Gulf monarchies, taking advantage of the loss of influence of the United States and the West in the region to normalise its relations with its great regional rival, Saudi Arabia, and other relevant actors such as Egypt and the Gulf monarchies, and betting on expanding its international influence through its membership of the BRICS+, thus taking the long road from isolation to strategic alliances.

Diplomacy
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) attend the welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, June 25, 2016.

Six Reasons for Vladimir Putin to Go to China

by Andrey Kortunov

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском In mid-May Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will fly to China on an official state visit. A sceptic would say that this visit is not really a big deal: the Russian leader and his Chinese counterpart, Chairman Xi Jinping had bilateral meetings at least forty times since 2013, when Xi was first elected as Chairman of PRC. The Russian President was in Beijing last time no longer ago than in October of 2023, when he participated to the high level “One belt, one road” Forum. Still, there are a couple of reasons for him to come to China again at this particular moment; the trip is likely to be quite special and important. Let us outline some of the most important motivations behind the planned trip. First, courtesy. In March of 2023, after he had been reelected as 7th Chairman of the People's Republic of China, XI Jinping chose Moscow as his first foreign destination. This decision was duly appreciated by everyone in Russia, including even those who do not follow international affairs. Vladimir Putin was reelected as 3rd President of the Russian Federation in March of this year and it is only natural that he wants to pay back courtesy to his longtime partner and friend by going to China prior to exploring other travel itineraries. Symbolically, this decision underscores the importance of Beijing to the Kremlin. After having met Xi Jinping, the Russian leader may consider visiting a number of other non-Western capitals, including Ankara, Tehran and Pyongyang. Second, bilateral relations. It is essential for the two leaders to compare notes on the current state of the bilateral relations that evolved significantly since their last meeting in October. 2023 turned out to be a very successful year for the Russia-China economic cooperation with the bilateral trade reaching the all-time record of 240 billion US dollars. However, the West remains firmly committed to disrupt this trend and the Western pressure on Beijing is constantly growing. Not surprisingly, the Chinese private sector is getting increasingly concerned about the scope of the likely negative impact that secondary sanctions might have on their business prospects. After the European Union had introduced its 12th package of restrictive measures against Moscow, a number of the leading China’s banks became reluctant to accept dollar payments from Russia; as a result, in March the bilateral trade suffered a mild setback of 2%. With the Chinese export to Russia going down by 14% on the yearly basis (from USD 8,9 billion to USD 7,6 billion), while the Russian export to China continued to grow and reached USD 12 billion. The most recent trip of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China in April confirmed once again that the Biden Administration will continue to complicate the Russia-China economic interaction to the extent possible. Apparently, Putin and Xi should focus on how to make sure that the United States will not succeed in its efforts and that the bilateral trade by the end of 2024 will indeed amount to USD 280–290 billion as planned. Summit meetings usually serve as powerful catalysts for bilateral trade and investments; let’s hope that this pattern will be confirmed once again by the forthcoming Putin-Xi summit. Third, global developments. Those who hoped that 2024 would become a turning point in global politics shifting it from conflicts and confrontation to peace and reconciliation were bitterly disappointed: we have entered yet another dramatic year with many tragic events taking place in various corners of the world. The Russian-Ukrainian and the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts are not stopped, the Houthis continue to target military and commercial vessels in the Red Sea, Sahel countries and Sudan are simmering and can explode at any moment, global defense spending and global arms trade in 2024 reached their historic highs. On the other hand, 2024 also offers a number of opportunities that should not be overlooked. It is the year for BRICS to properly digest and absorb its recent enlargement, and Russia will have to manage the process chairing the club and hosting the next BRICS summit in fall. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization might also start changing by accepting Belarus as a member and exploring new opportunities for multilateral cooperation. Clear enough, the Russian and Chinese leaders have a lot of issues to discuss on the volatile global situation and to coordinate their reactions to swift changes. Fourth, frictions with the West. The two leaders will definitely not omit an opportunity to talk about their nations’ respective uneasy relations with the West. By the time he meets President Putin, Chairman Xi will still be quite fresh from his trip to Paris, Belgrade and Budapest, which is scheduled for May 5–10 and is the first such tour in five years. He is likely to share his impressions with the colleague from Moscow. My feeling is that the two leaders have not quite opposite, but somewhat different views on Europe: while Putin remains highly skeptical of any ‘strategic autonomy’ of European nations from the United States, Xi apparently still hopes that Beijing’s cooperation with major European powers as well as with the European Union in general, can be preserved even if the China-US relations continue going sour. The jury is still in session on this critical question, but a candid exchange of views on Europe and on the political trends within the United States, the likely outcome of the November elections including, should constitute a significant item of the Putin-Xi agenda. Fifth, emerging world order. The two leaders are also likely to discuss more general matters of the emerging new world order, such as the preferred role of the UN system, the future of strategic stability along with various dimensions of global and regional governance. Many specific dimensions of the new world order remain very vague and ambiguous; for instance, it is not clear what might happen to the existing nonproliferation regime, how to coordinate efforts to defeat international terrorism and to contain the reckless arms race, what can be done to enhance the efficiency of international law and so on. However, it is crystal-clear that one of the key challenges for both Moscow and Beijing is about how to provide tangible global commons in a highly volatile and unpredictable world with no universally accepted hegemonic power in charge. The Russian and the Chinese visions on the desirable international transition are not identical, but they are very close to each other; it is therefore essential to discuss both converging and diverging views on major components of the emerging world order. Sixth, human dimensions. The trip might well produce some other positive results, which do not look really breathtaking, but nonetheless are very important not only for ordinary Russian and Chinese citizens, but for the two nations at large, because they are weaving the social fabric of the relationship. The approaching 75-years anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Beijing is a nice opportunity not only to stage a standard chain of public fora, cultural events, business-to-business meetings and academic conferences, but also to promote grass-roots people-to-people contacts. In particular, the two leaders are likely to pay special attention to expanding bilateral links in higher education, in R&D projects and in transborder interactions. Personally, I would like Putin and Xi to make a breakthrough on moving to the non-visa regime between the two neighboring countries. It is hard to understand why, given the excellent state of the Russia-China relations, many of us on both sides of the border still have to stand in long lines waiting for single-entry visas to be stamped in our passports. A lot of Putin-Xi conversations will take place behind closed doors, which is only natural under the current challenging geopolitical circumstances. However, the two leaders can release a political statement or a joint declaration that would reflect the areas of consensus and the list of priorities that their nations share. When and if such a document becomes publicly available, it will definitely deserve a very careful and attentive reading by everyone interested in monitoring the Russia-China relations. These days, even foreigners know that in China the number 'six' is associated with the meaning of "smooth" as it shares the same pronunciation as the character 溜. This number promises a successful and productive conclusion of business. Let’s hope that all the above mentioned six items of the anticipated Putin’s agenda in China will be properly covered and considered. Yet, we should stay realistic and manage our expectations. A single meeting between two political leaders, even if the two leaders happen to be Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, cannot possibly reverse all the ongoing negative trends in the global developments. The meeting will not produce miracles or replace the need for a continuous and meticulous work of bureaucrats, diplomats, military, media, baseness and civil society leaders. Neither stable and productive Russian-Chinese relations can be considered a substitute to inclusive and efficient multilateral arrangements. Still, it cannot be denied that a strong personal bond between Putin and Xi serves as a significant factor contributing to the overall stability in our less than stable world.

Diplomacy
PARIS, FRANCE - February 8, 2023: French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Elysée Palace

The Impact of the War in Ukraine on the European Union

by Tomasz G. Grosse

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском French and German credibility has reached new lows on the Ukraine issue, risking European security as each seeks to sure up political and geopolitical influence. Solidarity is weak, and arms corporations have proven influential in national decisions for EU integration on security matters. In the numerous crises that hit the European Union (EU) in the 21st century – the role of the so-called “integration engine,” as the French-German duopoly is called – was crucial. However, after Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine in 2022, both integration leaders from Western Europe receded into the background. The leaders of aid for fighting Ukraine were mainly the countries of NATO’s eastern flank, led by Poland and the Baltic states. Germany and France defended themselves against too radical sanctions imposed on Moscow, did not support Kiev, and did not want, among other things, either Ukraine’s accession to the EU nor to NATO. Why did Paris and Berlin distance themselves from Russian aggression in 2022, which violated European values and human rights and also threatened the EU itself? In short, the war hit various economic interests that France and Germany conducted with Vladimir Putin’s regime. An example of this was the expansion of Nord Stream, a gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea, after Putin’s first military aggression against eastern Ukraine in 2014. It is worth recalling that the entire climate transformation in the EU in its initial phase was based on cheap Russian gas. Economic ties were not the only reason for the strange behavior of Berlin and Paris in the face of Moscow’s aggression. Geopolitical considerations were even more important. The elites of Western Europe have traditionally, with minor interruptions, cooperated with Russia and considered it an important economic and political partner. The geopolitical goal of both Western European countries was to seek strategic autonomy from Washington and rapprochement with Moscow and Beijing. Historically, Central Eastern Europe has been treated as an area of influence of Berlin and Moscow, which they share or (less frequently) compete for. Before 2022, for Berlin, this sphere of influence included the Central European countries and the Baltic states; for Moscow, this included Belarus and Ukraine. This is why, among other things, Western Europe distanced itself from Moscow’s aggression in 2022. It did not want to spoil relations with Moscow. It also did not want to provoke even greater Russian aggression, fearing a full-scale war with NATO. Western Europe wanted to reach an agreement with Putin as quickly as possible and return to the previous economic and geopolitical arrangement. However, in 2024, there was a clear change in Western Europe’s position towards the war in Ukraine. First, Germany increased its financial and military assistance, although it continued to block the delivery to Kiev of the most modern weapons requested by President Volodymyr Zelensky. France and Germany increased the scope of sanctions imposed on Moscow, although they were still full of loopholes that allowed the Kremlin to avoid them. Meanwhile, Berlin and Paris unblocked their veto on Ukraine’s accession to the EU, nevertheless they continued to maintain their opposition to Kiev’s membership in NATO. Under the influence of both Western European countries, the EU’s financial and military assistance to Kiev increased. It was still too small in relation to Ukraine’s needs, and Brussels faced great problems and delays in fulfilling aid declarations. The most radicalized person was President Emmanuel Macron who announced in 2024 that he would send troops to Ukraine. In the same year, German politicians proposed that NATO troops should protect the sky over western Ukraine from the territory of Romania and Poland. What caused this radical turn in Berlin and Paris? First of all, it turned out that both countries were losing credibility in NATO and the EU, and thus political influence in Central Europe and Ukraine. What was no less dangerous – especially for German politicians – was the growing dissatisfaction with their attitude in the US. The Germans feared that Washington would lose trust in Berlin and focus on NATO’s eastern flank, mainly Warsaw. Furthermore, Germany and France believed less and less in renewing good relations with Moscow. They also had little hope that their “neutral attitude” could protect Europe from further aggression by Putin, including his attack on NATO and EU countries. At this point, both Western European countries launched a diplomatic offensive to introduce changes in the European Union. It was primarily about revising EU treaties to strengthen the political influence of the two largest countries in Western Europe. Therefore, it was proposed, among others, the abolition of voting based on unanimity in foreign and defense policy, which gave a decision-making advantage to the countries with the greatest voting power (Germany and France). In addition, efforts were made to strengthen the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). The main goal was to increase the production of ammunition and weapons from EU funds. Typically, such actions were aimed at strengthening the potential of arms corporations in Western Europe, as well as limiting arms exports from outside the EU, including from the US and South Korea. It goes without saying that in the event of a real threat from the East, the EU should not limit the transportation of weapons from non-European allies, because Europe itself produces too little ammunition and weapons. Nevertheless, subsequent actions of the European Commission after 2022 clearly rewarded aid for German and French corporations, as well as restricting access to arms imports from outside the EU. These attempts to strengthen the strategic autonomy of the EU against Washington are short-sighted in the face of a real threat on the EU and NATO. Moreover, instead of primarily supporting coordination within NATO, France and Germany have sought to duplicate the structures of the North Atlantic Alliance, focusing on the expansion of EU’s rapid reaction forces (rather than NATO’s rapid reaction forces), which were much more modest in terms of numbers and equipment. In other words, their goals were political, not real defense. The idea was to strengthen Franco-German leadership in Europe, and this was to be achieved by supporting the development of EU structures in the area of security. All these aspirations to expand the CSDP could encounter serious obstacles in implementation. First, Germany and France often disagree on EU security considerations, particularly when it comes to their own national interests. For example, the French were disappointed with Germany’s decision to purchase the American F-35 multi-role fighter capable of carrying nuclear warheads. This affected plans to build a sixth-generation aircraft in cooperation between German, French, and Spanish corporations. Moreover, Berlin was developing its own anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense project in the EU (European Sky Shield Initiative), to which it did not invite the French, and even competed with their own European defense program (La défense aérienne du continent). Therefore, Macron criticized the German shield initiative, which he considered hasty and incomplete. Instead, he promoted a truly “European initiative,” where the French arms industry is the dominant force. Secondly, the actions of France and Germany in the field of defense have been delayed and ineffective. More than two years after the announcement of the famous Zeitenwende, the modernisation of the Bundeswehr, the federal government in Berlin managed to order only eighteen Leopard 2 tanks and twelve Panzerhaubitz 2000. Thirdly, it became increasingly clear early on that Germany and France were not ready to defend NATO’s eastern flank in solidarity, wanting rather to show initiative and leadership in order to maintain geopolitical influence in Europe. In terms of real security, their subsequent ideas were controversial. They were certainly beneficial to their arms corporations. For all these reasons, the credibility of Germany and France has been trending downwards on eastern EU security considerations. For the time being, it is difficult to predict whether the plans of Paris and Berlin will ultimately be implemented and whether cooperation within the CSDP will be strengthened. However, if this does not happen, it will paradoxically be a good solution for the security of the eastern flank. Efforts to defend it will be focused within NATO and, above all, located in the countries most at risk from Moscow’s aggression. This analysis is based on a recent article published by the Journal of International Affairs.

Diplomacy
Chess from flags of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Relations between Russia and China and military cooperation

China, Russia, Iran, North Korea: the new autocrat pact?

by Radu Vranceanu , Marc Guyot

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском It has to be said that the "liberal democratic" model, combining political democracy and a market economy, has struggled to gain traction on a global scale. Instead, in some countries, a hybrid type of regime, which could be defined as "autocratic liberal", has imposed itself over time. This model is based on leadership with little or no democracy, which nonetheless relies on a mix of dirigisme and a market economy to ensure economic growth. The "CRINK" or the alliance of authoritarian powers In contrast to liberal democracies, authoritarian regimes prioritize economic growth as an end in itself. For instance, in China, growth targets are often set by the authorities, with society expected to adapt regardless of the sacrifices involved. The leaders' priority is supremacy in civil and military technologies and control of resources. In such a framework, improving people's standard of living is merely a collateral benefit, subordinate to the primary objective and dispensable as deemed necessary. While respect for human rights is a fundamental pillar of liberal democracies, it is neither a priority nor a constraint for the leaders of these authoritarian nations. In general, their leaders are openly opposed to "Western hegemony". Many leaders of emerging countries show their sympathy for these authoritarian countries; at the very least, they trade with them without any problem. On the military and defence front, the liberal democracies of Europe and North America are grouped around NATO. The United States, as the leader of this organization, has consistently allocated more than 3.4% of its GDP to military spending for many years and boasts substantial armed forces, exemplified by its operation of eleven aircraft carriers as of 2023. Until a few months ago, in Western countries, the invasion of Ukraine was seen more as an isolated Russian action, blamed on Vladimir Putin's hubris. The possibility of coordination between autocrats was not envisaged. However, this perspective is rapidly evolving. In a report to the Senate in April 2024, General Chris Cavoli, Commander of the US Armed Forces in Europe, highlighted the emergence of an "axis of adversaries", which includes China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. On 6 April, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the BBC in an interview that China, Russia, Iran and North Korea were increasingly cooperating against Western democracies and were now forming an "alliance of authoritarian powers". We propose to use the acronym CRINK to denote this informal coalition sharing common economic and strategic interests. Beneath the surface of various incidents, there appears to be tangible coordination among the CRINK countries. Beyond coincidences Since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has deployed a significant portion of its armed forces to advance into Ukrainian territory, marking the largest conflict in Europe since the Second World War and resulting in numerous military and civilian casualties. Ukraine has recently reported the loss of 31,000 servicemen since the conflict's onset, a figure that may be underestimated, while Russian losses are believed to be even higher. Despite these casualties, Russia continues to maintain the intensity of its war effort. To date, the Russian army in Ukraine estimated to consist of around 470,000 personnel, representing a 15% increase since the invasion began. Meanwhile, China has escalated the frequency of its military maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait and increased surveillance activities in the region. The simultaneous occurrence of Russian expansionism toward the West and China's heightened communication efforts regarding Taiwan does not appear to be coincidental. This hypothesis gains credence from the numerous summit meetings between the leaders of both nations in 2023, as well as their resounding declarations of unwavering friendship, particularly evident when they announced their "comprehensive strategic partnership for a new era" on November 11. On April 12th, the United States publicly disclosed classified documents revealing that Beijing was supplying Russia with engines for drones and cruise missiles, in addition to military electronic components and satellite surveillance technology. Iran has been escalating its production of enriched uranium and, according to the US military, is providing support to Hamas and attacks on commercial vessels by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. In response to targeted Israeli strikes, Tehran launched a swarm of drones and missiles against military targets in Israel on the night of April 13th - marking its first direct attack. The destabilization of the Red Sea region and the ongoing conflicts in the Gaza Strip, as well as increasingly in southern Lebanon, appear to signify Iran's efforts to weaken the United States' military effectiveness. This strategy forces the US to maintain a presence on multiple fronts, which in turn reduces the availability of American arms and munitions for Ukraine. Meanwhile, North Korea is intensifying its provocations by conducting launches of very long-range ballistic missiles and issuing threats of nuclear attacks against South Korea. Mutual sanctions In economic terms, the "war" between the two blocs has already begun. The United States and its allies have been implementing though economic sanctions on Iran for several years, and on North Korea and Russia since 2022. Primarily, these sanctions aim to restrict the ability of these nations to modernize their defense industrial base. In the case of Iran, to slow down its military nuclear program. While there is no overt conflict between China and the West, both the United States and European countries have been pursuing economic decoupling from China for some time. In 2017, convinced that China was not adhering to its commitments regarding free two-way trade, Donald Trump initiated an economic offensive against China by imposing heavy tariffs. Beijing responded by imposing equivalent tariffs on US products. Trump's strategic objectives were twofold: first, to reduce American economic reliance on China, and second, to slow down Chinese technological advancements in the military field by embargoing the export of militarily sensitive American technologies. Joe Biden has not only continued but also reinforced the policy of economic decoupling, intensifying the tariff war and advocating for a "made-in-USA" strategy. Additionally, he has tightened controls on military components bound for China, extending beyond the strict embargo on exports to Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Since December 2023, companies benefiting from subsidies under the microprocessor development program (CHIPS Act of 2022) have been barred from engaging with countries deemed “concerns”. The official list of these countries includes all CRINK members. Europeans have also adopted a strategy aimed at diminishing their reliance on China and revitalizing their industrial sector. It is noteworthy, for instance, that 50% of the world's nitrocellulose fiber exports originate from China, despite these fibers being crucial components for shells, which are currently in short supply on the Ukrainian front. In 2022, the EU implemented a directive safeguarding the single market against subsidized imports from third countries, primarily targeting China. Subsequently, in September 2023, the EU established an anti-coercion mechanism designed to counter countries attempting to dictate policy changes within EU Member States by imposing trade restrictions. Lithuania, for example, faced restrictive trade measures imposed by China after signing a trade agreement with Taiwan in 2021. On the other hand, Russia relied on the threat of cutting off gas supplies to weaken European economic and military support for Ukraine—a strategy that ultimately failed as Europe swiftly diversified its gas sources by turning to alternative countries. Nevertheless, CRINK members, alongside nations like India and Brazil, facilitated Russia's resilience to economic sanctions by not only replacing its former customers and suppliers but also by redirecting trade flows towards Asia. In the first quarter of 2024, Russia's trade surplus reached $22 billion, compared to $15.4 billion during the same period in 2023. According to The Economist, China's imports of Russian oil have surged from 100,000 barrels per day before the war to 500,000 barrels per day at present. In exchange, Chinese exports to Russia are projected to exceed $100 billion in 2023. Since autumn 2023, China has also implemented restrictions on graphite exports, a crucial conductor for electronic components. Satellite imagery indicates that North Korea and Russia have established an arms-for-oil swap program, while Iran is supplying substantial quantities of drones and military technology to Russia as part of an extensive commercial partnership, which includes the construction of a railway line between the two nations. American ambiguities and hesitations During the peak of the Cold War, the United States prepared to engage in two major conflicts simultaneously. The National Defense Strategic Review of 2022 outlines the goal of securing victory in a potential confrontation first in the Indo-Pacific region, given the threat from China, followed by Europe, in response to the Russian challenge. This somewhat ambiguous prioritization and the realities of the global arms race may indicate potential challenges for the U.S. if faced with fighting two major wars concurrently on separate fronts. As the conflict in Ukraine persists, Western public support for the nation appears to wane. Divisions within the US Congress regarding public spending, influenced by Donald Trump's Republican allies, led to a six-month delay in the approval of the latest aid package for Ukraine. On April 20, the US Congress finally approved $60 billion in aid. The shift in stance from US Congressman Mike Johnson, a close ally of Donald Trump who had long opposed aid for Ukraine, and the subdued response from Trump himself, hint at a potential shift in awareness, possibly influenced by new military intelligence. In the interim, European leaders have partially stepped into the fray, despite constraints stemming from the fragility of their defense industry. Figures like Rishi Sunak, Emmanuel Macron, Georgia Meloni, and Olaf Scholz, alongside other EU leaders, have exhibited robust support for Ukraine, underscored by the signing of decade-long bilateral agreements in February 2024. The Czech Republic has succeeded in setting up a European program for the purchase of artillery ammunition and is due to deliver the first stocks in June. Propelled by European impetus, NATO is contemplating a five-year initiative to fund the acquisition of weapon systems and munitions, with an agreement reached in April to deploy new air defense systems. By 2023, Europe's military spending will have reached $588 billion, 62% more than in 2014. Although European arms and munitions production still trails behind Russia, it is gradually gaining traction. In this context, an increasing number of voices are emphasizing the mistake of viewing the war in Ukraine in isolation, without considering the broader geopolitical landscape and coordination among the CRINK countries. This argument has likely resonated with more hesitant members of the US Congress. Should Russia succeed in asserting its dominance in Ukraine, it's highly probable that this would serve as the initial move in a troubling domino effect. Empowered by this triumph and riding on a favorable momentum, other autocratic regimes could follow suit, embarking on similar actions in territories they lay claim to. The cost of stemming this process would be far greater than that of preventing the first piece from falling.