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CWA # 707, 27 March 2022

The World This Week
The G7 Summit, and Europe’s new focus on defence

  GP Team

The World This Week #163, Vol. 4, No. 12

Padmashree Anandhan and Ankit Singh


The G7 Summit: Focus on Russia and Ukraine’s defence
What happened?
On 24 March, G7 leaders gathered at the NATO Summit, organized by Germany at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. In the statement released by the G7 leaders: “We, the Leaders of the G7, met today in Brussels at the invitation of the German G7 Presidency, to further strengthen our cooperation in light of Russia’s unjustifiable, unprovoked and illegal aggression and President Putin’s war of choice against independent and sovereign Ukraine. We will stand with the government and people of Ukraine.”

After the summit, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, in his address, said: “NATO leaders agreed that we must and will provide further support to Ukraine. We will continue to impose unprecedented costs on Russia. And we will reinforce Allied deterrence and defence. So NATO leaders agreed to redouble efforts to meet the Defence Investment Pledge we made in 2014.”

US President Joe Biden highlighted three key issues and said: “First was to support Ukraine with military and humanitarian assistance. Second was to impose the most significant — the most significant sanctions — economic sanction regime ever to cripple Putin’s economy and punish him for his actions. Third was to fortify the eastern flank of our NATO Allies, who were obviously very, very concerned and somewhat at — worried what would happen.” During his visit to Poland, along with President Andrzej Duda of Poland, He said: “I strongly believe that this partnership that we have between the United States and Poland in the development of nuclear energy in our country, in close cooperation between our two states, will be implemented and finalized.”

What is the background?
First, the focus on Ukraine beyond the trans-Atlantic. The G7 leaders, along with NATO, the EU, and the US, stand united in condemning Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and imposing massive sanctions to end the war. On Ukraine, the bloc has decided to increase the military capability, air defence, and maritime capacity. They also promised to protect against chemical, biological, and nuclear-related threats. 

Second, the four-way defence. Through the summit, the defence systems in land, air, water, and cyber defences were strategized. On ground, the NATO has been supporting Ukraine militarily. In the air, the NATO leaders have agreed to strengthen through jets, integrated air, and missile defence. At sea, they have approved making the carrier strike groups, submarines, and combat ships. Apart from the three forms, they have also agreed to strengthen the cyber domain, focusing on enhancing exercises, collective defence, and interoperability.

Third, securitizing the region from the Baltic to the Black Sea. NATO, along with the EU leaders and Canada, agreed to focus on eastern Europe with 40,000 troops under NATO command and deploy additional forces along with equipment and supplies in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Poland. NATO Secretary-General confirmed the deployment of eight multinational NATO military groups from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The US and Europe also have agreed to increase their military presence to support NATO.

Fourth, the focus also on conflict de-escalation. While many European countries stepping up their military and troops in eastern Europe and supporting Ukraine have equally ensured not escalating the conflict. In economic measures and deploying security, NATO and its allies have avoided taking an offensive approach. NATO and the allies refrain from involving directly and have opted for “preventive, proportionate, and non-escalatory,” methods in handlining the war. 

Fifth, commitment to NATO policy. At the summit, the leaders reiterated their commitment to NATO’s Open Door policy under Article 5 and Article 10 of the Washington Treaty. This shows the possibility of other European members joining NATO and the bloc’s assurance to guard the sovereignty of its allies.

What does this mean?
First, a united posture against Ukraine. While the efforts of the UNSC failed to reach a resolution to make Russia withdraw its military from Ukraine, the meeting of NATO, the EU, the US, and the G7 has risen to be a separate bloc to stand against Russia. It can be observed as a posture or an alternate force to the UN.

Second, the China question. From the US, the EU, and leaders of the G7, similar to the warning they issued to Russia to stop it from invading Ukraine, can be seen to be doing the same with China. No other preventive measure has been taken to keep China away from Russia.

Third, the stress on self-defence. The top world leader met to discuss military, humanitarian, and defence aid. But when it came to helping Ukraine directly, all the state players have tactfully avoided keeping de-escalation as a reason. On the ground, Ukraine is left to defend Russia alone.


Europe: The new focus on defence
What happened?
On 24 March, while chairing the NATO summit, the NATO Chief mentioned Europe’s ‘new security reality,’ affirming the organization’s resolve to defend its members. On the same day, Estonia’s defence minister announced additional funding for defence with a hike of USD 523 million. The country becomes the eighth in the European Union to have hiked up its defence expenditure for capital investment in conventional warfare platforms. 

What’s the background?
First, the EU’s reluctance to invest in defence expenditure until now. For years, Europe had preferred development over defence; former US President Donald Trump told Europe earlier for ‘not doing enough’ on defence. Now, the Russian aggression in Ukraine has jolted many countries on the issue. 

Second, the priority of air-defence platforms. The Russian invasion has brought attention over superior air warfare platforms. The EU member states have sought to secure their air defence capabilities as a primary objective. Estonia, for example, has majorly contracted for short- to mid-range air defence systems.

What does it mean?
First, the EU’s new attention on defence to face the military might of Russia. The Eurasian landmass military balance has been skewed in favour of Russia. Now, the war in Ukraine has woken up the EU. JPMorgan also framed a “fundamentally changed” landscape of the Europe Defence Sector, and defence spending would be an important parameter in the ratings of the multinational consultancy for its assessment of prospects in the EU market. 

Second, the return of land warfare. Russia is waging fifth-generation warfare using fourth-generation platforms. The emphasis on tanks and missiles will reinforce the conflicts across the world. A return to territorial defence will propel territorial nationalism, leading to conservative leaders gaining traction. This development would divert the commitment to the common problem of climate change and transition to net-zero emissions. 

Third, the renewed zeal for sixth-generation warfare. Europe’s defence spending would push the member states to research and invest more in advanced artificial intelligence platforms and drone swarming. Ongoing projects would be fastened; there would be an increased divide over technologies of war between countries across the world.


Also in the news...
By Ashwin Dhanabalan, Angkuran Dey and Meghna Manoj 

East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: Wang Yi meets Palestinian Foreign Minister at the OIC
On 23 March, Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Palestine’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting held in Islamabad. During the meeting, China agreed with the OIC’s calls on the Palestinian issue and stated that the issue could not be forgotten and that injustice that had been delayed for over 50 years had to be addressed. Wang further reiterated that China would stand with Palestine. 

North Korea: Pyongyang test-fires its ICBM Hwasong-17
On 24 March, in a Hollywood-style launch broadcasted on the North Korean Central Television, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un unveiled the country’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile. The ICBM flew to an altitude of 6,000 Kilometers and covered a distance of 1,080 Kilometers in a flight time of 71 minutes before plunging near the Japanese Western coast. Along with Japan and South Korea, the US condemned the launch and asked North Korea to refrain from such destabilizing acts.

Vietnam: Triangular cooperation in Francophonie
On 24 March, Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc met with the Secretary-General of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) Louise Mushikiwabo in Hanoi. Vietnam, a Francophone country, emphasized the importance of cooperation with fellow African countries. The triangular cooperation collaborates with traditional donor countries and multilateral organizations that facilitate initiatives between the South-South countries. Apart from South-South cooperation, Phuc appealed to the Francophone countries to hold training and military exercises with the Vietnamese soldiers and police officers for UN’s peacekeeping missions in African French-speaking countries.

Cambodia: ASEAN special envoy visits Myanmar 
On 21 March, the Cambodian Foreign Minister and the current Special envoy of ASEAN Prak Sokhonn visited Naypyidaw as a part of an official tour. The mission was intended to address the issues of violence, and ensure unwavering support to the domestic humanitarian agencies for rehabilitation. The visit also aims to encourage talks between all the parties and implement the ASEAN five-point consensus agreed in April 2021. However, Myanmar’s activists who are opposed to the regime perceived the visit to legitimize the military government and called the ASEAN "shameful."

Cambodia: Cooperation with Japan on building Sihanoukville Port
On 22 March, Cambodia’s Prime Minister agreed to work with Japan’s Prime Minister on building a deep seaport that would allow more ships to dock in Cambodia. In addition, both leaders discussed the need for extending their cooperation on human resource development and economic infrastructure. They also emphasized the port’s importance for the entire Mekong region to improve trade and connectivity.

Myanmar: New coordinated sanctions by Canada, the US and the UK 
On 26 March, Canada, the US, and the UK enforced sanctions on several military officials, including the recently appointed air force chief of Myanmar. The new sanctions also covered personnel involved in the arms trade, such as the arms dealer Tay Zaw. In addition, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned: “We will continue to impose costs on the military regime and those who support it until it ceases the violence and restores Burma’s path to democracy.” The sanctions imposed were intended to restrict the supply of arms used to target civilians and opponents of the military regime. 

Australia: Space command defence agency launched
On 23 March, Australia unveiled a space defense agency to serve its interests and counter threats from Chinese and Russian activities. The agency will be headed by Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, as Australia is looking to avert a theoretical take out of the National Broadband Network by a Chinese satellite. She also stated: "We are really tight with the US...we can rely on them to an extent, but we need to accelerate the capability so that we can deal with the threats." The agency will fall under Australia’s air force's command. 

Solomon Islands: Honiara confirms drafting of a security deal with China
On 25 March, leaked papers indicated the setting up of a military base on the island nation to the north of Australia. In addition, the Solomon Islands recently confirmed the development of a draft security policy with China. This has alarmed neighbouring Australia and New Zealand. The Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, stated: “We would be particularly concerned by any actions that undermine the stability and security of our region, including the establishment of a permanent presence such as a military base.”

South Asia This Week
India: New Delhi abstains from two UNGA votes on Ukraine
On 24 March, India abstained from the two United Nations General Assembly resolutions concerning the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and a draft resolution that held Russia responsible for the crisis. India’s permanent representative to the United Nations (UNPR), TS Tirumurti, defended New Delhi’s position by stating that the world needs to focus on the cessation of hostilities and urgent humanitarian assistance. He further argued that the draft did not fully reflect the country’s expected to focus on the crisis. However, without naming Russia, he stated there was a “need to respect the UN Charter, international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.” 

India: China’s Foreign Minister visits New Delhi
On 25 March, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to discuss the restoration of normal ties between New Delhi and Beijing. Jaishankar stated that: “if we are both committed to improving our ties, then this commitment must find full expression in the ongoing disengagement talks.” The leaders discussed the frequent border skirmishes among the countries and emphasized the essentiality of a ceasefire and diplomacy in the Ukraine crisis. Wang Yi also interacted with India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to talk about the complete disengagement of troops in Ladakh. Doval commented: “Restoration of peace and tranquillity will help build mutual trust and create enabling environment for progress in relations.”

Nepal: China’s Foreign Minister visits Kathmandu
On 25 March, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Nepal amid the emergence of issues in Nepal-China ties. Nepal accepted the USD 500 million MCC grant, even after China’s calls to reject the package. His visit is expected to boost China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative projects), as there has been little progress in it since Nepal had signed the agreement in 2015. 

Afghanistan: Wang Yi visits Kabul  
On 25 March, Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with the Taliban interim government's Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Kabul. Wang Yi discussed Afghanistan's independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity and how China respected the same. Furthermore, Wang Yi added: "China never interferes in Afghanistan's internal affairs, nor does it seek a sphere of influence in Afghanistan." 

Pakistan: 70-point Islamabad Declaration adopted by the OIC
On 23 March, the two-day meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) concluded by adopting the 70-point declaration and affirmation of support for Palestine and Jammu & Kashmir. The OIC Secretary-General, Hissein Brahim Taha, at the end of the 48th OIC meeting, stated: “Palestine remains high on the agenda of OIC and was discussed thoroughly. The question of Jammu and Kashmir was thoroughly discussed. This is a just cause. It has our full support.” 800 delegates from forty-six countries participated in the meeting. 

Sri Lanka: Colombo to set up a North-east development fund 
On 25 March, Sri Lanka’s President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, agreed with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members in Colombo to look into cases of land grabs and disappearances. The Sri Lankan government also announced the creation of a Northeast development fund to increase investments in war-torn areas while looking at the chief concerns of the Tamil minority. The President further emphasized numerous issues that the government has been looking into and launched a ‘truth-finding mechanism’ toward solving the Tamil question.
 
Sri Lanka: Colombo seeks assistance from IMF and the World Bank 
On 24 March, Sri Lanka stated that it would seek assistance from the World Bank and IMF. Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa is scheduled to visit Washington in April to meet with the officials of the two organizations. Sri Lanka is only left with 30 per cent of its foreign exchange reserves and is struggling to pay for essential imports. In addition, the country has to pay USD four billion in debt in 2022 and USD one billion in sovereign bonds that will mature by July. It has only USD 2.31 billion in its reserves. 

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week 
Armenia: Clashes in the Nagorno-Karabakh region
On 25 March, Armenia called out the Russian peacekeepers to provide answers for the death of three ethnic Armenian soldiers. Authorities at Nagorno-Karabakh blamed Azerbaijan for violating a Russian-brokered cease-fire. A member of the ruling Armenian Civil Contract faction Eduard Aghajanian said: “advancing Azerbaijani armed forces appeared behind the Russian peacekeepers’ backs.” Aghajanian further stated that the Russian peacekeeping troops were on the ground then, and the Armenians were expecting clear answers about the conditions 

Jordan: Abdullah II hosts leaders from Egypt, Iraq and the UAE
On 25 March, Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with leaders from Egypt, Iraq, and the UAE for “consultative talks” in the port city of Aqaba. Not much was discussed at the session. However, the consultative meeting comes when Israel is due to host the historic Abraham Accords summit involving the US and Arab diplomats. The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also scheduled to visit the West Bank, Morocco, and Algeria. According to an AFP report, most parties in this meeting have been Washington’s close allies and maintained deep ties with Moscow.

Ethiopia: Tigray rebels agree to a cessation of hostilities 
On 25 March, the Tigray rebels announced a cessation of hostilities, marking a turning point in the 17-month long war in the northern region. On 24 March, the government announced an indefinite humanitarian truce. The rebels, in a statement, reinforced their commitment to the truce and also urged Ethiopia to deliver aid to Tigray urgently. UN's Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric hailed the ending of hostilities and stated: “These positive developments must now translate into immediate improvements on the ground.” 

Sudan: The US sanctions on Sudan’s Central Reserve Police 
On 21 March, Washington issued sanctions on Sudan’s Central Reserve Police, accusing it of using excessive force to put down peaceful demonstrations against the military coup. The US Department of Treasury stated: “The Central Reserve Police, a heavily armed division of Sudan’s police force, has been at the forefront of the violent response of Sudanese security forces to peaceful protests in Khartoum.” The US further mentioned that the police had used live ammunition, chased, arrested, beaten, and shot at protestors. 

Europe and the Americas This Week
The UK: A high-level visit to India called off
On 24 March, a high-level visit by a UK delegation led by the House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and his Deputy was cancelled after New Delhi refused to take steps condemning Russia in its actions against Ukraine. The Speaker’s visit aimed to increase the diplomatic association between the Parliaments. Instead, UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have a strong stance against Moscow regarding the Ukrainian invasion. 

Russia: The Moscow Exchange reopens 
On 23 March, the Russian Central Bank announced resuming the country’s stock market. The Moscow Exchange had been closed since 25 February, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This was the longest time the exchange had remained closed since the fall of the Soviet Union.  The Moscow Times reported: “The trading day will be shortened to just over four hours, with deals starting at 9:50 a.m. Moscow time and closing at 2 p.m. Short selling will also be banned, the regulator announced, to limit speculative bids that could send the market into freefall.”

France: Paris launches inquiry on Emirati General Al-Raisi
On 25 March, an inquiry was initiated on the alleged actions of torture perpetrated by Interpol head and Emirati General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi. An NGO legally forwarded the complaint, and it mentioned “acts of barbarism” and “torture” against a political opponent of the Emirati government Ahmed Mansoor. However, the UAE Foreign Ministry denied complaints of Mansoor’s detention conditions, citing them as “without foundation”.

The EU: Gas deal with the US finalized
On 25 March, the EU announced a gas deal with the US to supply liquified natural gas to reduce its dependence on Russian energy sources. By the end of 2022, the deal would see the US supply the EU with ten per cent of the gas it previously depended on Russia. The deal was announced during the three-day visit by US President Joe Biden to Brussels. While announcing the same, he stated: “I know that eliminating Russian gas will have costs for Europe, but it’s not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it’s going to put us on a much stronger strategic footing.” 

The EU: A new Digital Market Act unveiled
On 24 March, the EU Parliament and Council agreed on new reforms to limit big techs. The new Digital Markets Act (DMA) aims to limit the influence of the major tech companies to allow smaller businesses to compete with them. The DMA requires that digital companies make their messaging systems interoperable and provide business users access to their data. In addition, the rules forbid corporations from promoting their services and blocking consumers from uninstalling pre-installed software or apps. The new obligations will apply to companies termed “gatekeepers” - a category defined by the legislation as firms with a market capitalization of at least EUR 75 billion with 45 million monthly users. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Meta, Amazon, and Apple are included.

Nicaragua: Organization of American States’ ambassador resigns
On 23 March, Nicaragua’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Arturo McFields, submitted his resignation. He condemned the President, Daniel Ortega, for repressing political opposition, human rights abuses, and his government’s continued crackdown on freedom of speech. McFields, while announcing his resignation, stated: “Denouncing the dictatorship of my country is not easy, but to continue remaining silent and defending the indefensible, is impossible.” The OAS Secretary-General, Luis Almagro, applauded the courage shown by McFields and praised him for taking an ethically correct position.

Chile: Deadline to the constitution deadline 
On 21 March, the assembly in Chile authorized to create a draft of the new constitution has pushed its deadline to July. This comes as the assembly members struggle to summarize a lengthy set of proposals surrounding environmental and social issues. The one-time extension approved by the assembly has pushed the date of disclosing the first draft of the new constitution to 5 July. The President of the constituent assembly, Maria Elisa Quinteros, on the delay, stated: “Despite our progress, we know we have a long constituent process that has to be done in a short time.”   

Argentina: Posco to invest USD four billion in a lithium mining project 
On 21 March, the South Korean steelmaker Posco announced its plans to invest USD four billion in a lithium mining project in Argentina. The company seeks to tap into the soaring demand for the vital rechargeable metal, extensively used in batteries. The mining project will take place on a salt flat between the Northern Salta and Catamarca provinces. A statement released by Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez stated: “Export value from the project is seen totalling $260 million per year over the next 30 years.”
 



About the authors
Ankit Singh is a PhD Scholar at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan and Padmashree Anandhan are Project Associates at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Angkuran Dey and Meghna Manoj are Postgraduate scholars at the Centre for South Asian Studies at Pondicherry University.
 

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