European Commission officials in Brussels have distributed sealed reports to EU states’ ambassadors describing the potential impact of EU-Russia sanctions on their countries if the plans go ahead.
New US sanctions punishing Russia for its actions in Ukraine are to be announced on Friday, April 25. The next round is likely to target influential people or companies in sectors such as energy, engineering and financial services, as spelled out in an executive order US President Obama issued last month.
The US diplomacy is also working behind the scenes. According to Russian Kommersant daily, the United States unsuccessfully tries to make China join the sanctions against Russia.
The White House press-service refused to comment but it did not negate the report. It’s a well-known fact President Obama discussed the possibility of China joining the West on March 24 while meeting Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the G7 summit in the Hague. Visiting China on April 15 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov thanked China for its «unbiased position on Ukraine» and added that Beijing-Moscow ties had reached an «unprecedented height».
The visit of Russian President Putin to China is expected on May 20…
China has made known its intention to invest in large-scale ventures in Crimea after the region was reunited with Russia. The plans include two major Crimean projects: the «Power of Siberia» gas pipeline and a 25 meter deep Crimean deep water port.
The gas pipeline as a mega-project that will pump 60 billion cubic meters of gas annually from the Kovykta and Tchayandinskoe gas fields to Russia’s Far East, where a branch line will deliver 38 billion cubic meters a year to China. Russia’s top natural gas producer Gazprom plans to start supplying China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas per year – around a quarter of Russia’s exports to Europe.
Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told the EUobserver on April 16 that Gazprom and China’s CNPC have a «legally binding» agreement from 2013 and that exploitation of the Tchayandinskoe field should start in 2019.
«The project is aimed primarily at delivery of gas to Russian regions and at developing industry in the Russian Far East. The export of gas is considered in this context as a factor which improves (significantly, one should admit) the economics of the project, but not as a prerequisite for its realization», he noted.
On April 14 Russian deputy premier, Arkady Dvorkovich, fresh from talks with Chinese counterparts, confirmed Russia and China are to wrap up talks on gas supplies. According to him, China is interested in alternative energy projects in Crimea.
«The gas talks are wrapping up. There is a common intention to complete this work before the Russian President’s visit to China in May this year», Interfax news agency quoted Dvorkovich.
He added that Russia and China plan to boost cooperation in oil and oil products, as well as in coal and power supplies. According to him, Russia’s top oil company Rosneft aims to triple oil supplies to China from the more than 300,000 barrels per day it sent last year.
«The key decisions have been taken, but both the Chinese partners and we have a desire to boost cooperation».
Russia and China will continue with plans for Chinese firms to build a 25 meter deep port in Crimea as part of a new transport corridor from Asia to Europe called «The Economic Belt of the Great Silk Route». Chinese builders will dig an enormous trench near the Crimean town of Frunze and fill it with sea water by demolishing a dam.
The $3bn first phase would involve the construction of a deepwater port and reconstruct the sea port of Sevastopol, according to materials provided by Beijing Interoceanic Canal Investment Management Company.
A second, $7bn phase would include an airport, LNG terminal and shipyard. China will abandon a planned $5 billion solar power plant in Nevada and invest the money in Crimea, instead.
Besides, there are plans to lease about 10,000 hectares of agricultural land in Crimea.
On April 11 Deputy Head of Roscosmos Sergey Saveliev said in a video conference devoted to Astronautics Day that Russia and China are coordinating on major future research projects in space, «Russian-Chinese cooperation is already happening. Last year we agreed to discuss expanding it, to work on one, two, or three large-scale research projects, and now we are looking at proposals and waiting for updates from both sides», he said.
Saveliev suggested the partnership arrangement should be the same as on the ExoMars program with Europe. «We should divide the responsibilities, and each side would finance the part that it is developing. And the results will be used without restrictions by both sides», Saveliev concluded.
On April 3 US NASA announced the suspension of cooperation with Russia in connection with the situation in Ukraine, with the exception of the International Space Station. Many NASA officials expressed displeasure with the decision, noting that scientific cooperation should not be politicized.
On April 18, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin took part in a meeting of co-chairs of Russian-Chinese committee for preparation of regular meetings between the countries’ prime ministers, which took place in Vladivostok. He told reporters Russia and China see prospects of cooperation related to satellite navigation systems GLONASS and BeiDou in regional support and development of chipsets.
Russia and China have advanced quite far in a project of creating a joint wide-bodied, long-haul airplane, Dmitry Rogozin said. Detailed design variants of the project and plans to set up a joint venture were presented at the event. Rogozin noted that this was a strategic project for Russia.
«Today a detailed design of the project was submitted. There are some variants of it», the Deputy Premier said, adding that «A working project of a joint venture was produced».
In the view of Rogozin, creation of this airliner would allow bringing domestic aircraft-building industry to a new qualitative level. «If the project is implemented, I do not doubt that this will be so, but in general this may open up access for us to production of a series of airplanes of different classes, but on a basis of modularity», Rogozin added. He noted that the both partners had great prospects for joining together in implementation of air-space industry projects, such as joint production of heavy cargo helicopter.
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The West seems to be hurting itself with sanctions against Russia, while the Russia-China multilateral ties get a mighty impetus for the benefit of the both nations. With a host of joint projects to be implemented, the bilateral cooperation is in full swing. There is nothing the US and its Western allies can do about it.
Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation