Professor on G20 Summit: US-Russia Relations Are Critical But Fundamental to Manage World Tensions

© Sputnik / Denis BolotskyC20 Osaka summit
C20 Osaka summit - Sputnik International
Fabio Massimo Parenti, an associate professor of economic and political geography at the Lorenzo de'Medici Italian International Institute in Florence, Italy, expressed his opinion about the G20 Osaka summit.

Sputnik: US President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit, what can we expect from these talks and how high are the chances that we are going to actually see a breakthrough in resolving trade tensions?

Professor Fabio Massimo Parenti: Okay, this is the key question also for the entire G20 community because the first statements from the group asked for reaching a solution and reducing tension between China and the United States. And hopefully, both countries can reach some new understanding, some new point of negotiation, even though most of the experts and observers do not have so much hope on this possibility. The tensions between China [and] the United States are intense and very wide, going from technological issues to trade with sanctions specifically, but also to geopolitical issues on the Middle East and Far East Asia. So the hopes for reaching some sort of positive solution are very limited, even though we should try to keep optimism alive. The main key point in creating a space for a solution is withdrawing the ban on Huawei and other Chinese tech corporations; this is the perspective, the point of view of Chinese authorities as expressed also officially. So without the United States showing its will to reduce and withdraw ban and sanctions against these technological corporations, there will be surely no deal in a few days but neither in a few months if these sanctions are still in place.

Sputnik: Yes, you have just mentioned the Huawei ban. The Wall Street Journal reported that China would insist that the US lift the ban on Huawei as part of the trade deal. So how likely is this going to happen? How likely is it that the United States will perhaps reconsider its pressure on the Chinese firm and the 5G networks?

Professor Fabio Massimo Parenti: I think right now the United States administration, also for the electoral issue, they are not so much available because they have to keep this posture of getting the maximum from China and showing the muscle, if you want, to the rest of the world. This is a wrong approach that is not helping in any way a new form of coordination and reform at the international level, because the effects and the impact of these Trump administration policies are already very strong in terms of global economic growth and, above all, on trade as reported by World Bank very recently. So, as you have said correctly, the business community in the United States don’t want the sanctions. The business community in the United States, tech corporations above all, they are pressuring the government. Recently, a few days ago, Google said clearly and officially that [the] Trump administration should reconsider very quickly these sanctions and constraints because they are going to harm, to impact in a severe way the US corporations. So this is the first point. Moreover, we should also say that many chip manufacturers and other technological corporations in the United States are already escaping the legal ban [by] finding, looking for legal escamotage (French: escamotage – ploy, trick, catch – ed. note Sputnik) in relation to the “Made in US” requirement. Because the global commodity chain are organising different regions, they are trying to make very small changes in order to keep doing business with Chinese corporations. So it is a very, if you want, contradictory movement and another clear sign of the wrong approach of [the] Trump administration in perpetrating these policies.

Sputnik: Now, I would like to ask you about the recent statement by the Chinese President Xi Jinping. He urged BRICS developing economies to be more alert to external threats while tightening cooperation within the bloc. What kind of external challenges are we talking about here?

Professor Fabio Massimo Parenti: The external challenges are the challenges put by the dollar-centric international monetary system that is going smoothly to change and has always been leverage from the United States to impose to different extent policies and position of minor countries above all but also sometimes great powers. The external threats are also related to international terrorism. The international terrorism that is dramatically impacting not only West Asia, the Middle East, but also is impacting strongly South Asia and South East Asia, not to mention Central Asia. So the threats are related, more generally speaking, to these tendencies to announce protectionist measures for the United States above all in order to fulfil the re-establishment, if we can say in this way, of a unipolar, unilateral system [at the] international level. So the BRICS group along with G20, partially at least, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are committed to promoting multilateralism, are committed to promoting fair and equal inter-state relations against this chaotic movement of the last two and three years based on this new turn from the Trump administration. Anyway, my point is that [the] Trump administration is, in spite of these years’ negative effects on international trade and the global economy, he is giving at the same time, from my point of view a positive contribution, to accelerate the reorganisation of the world system on a much more multilateral direction. So, for example, in Osaka, the trilateral meeting between China, Russia, and India is the most important meeting, according to my understanding, because they represent a very important portion of the world population and they are increasing in different forms [a] consensus, not against the United States, but an alternative to the negative movement of the United States. So they are in line on the main global issues and this is quite positive because changes are always historically needed according to the dynamics of human-being societies - the world is “evolving”. So this acceleration thanks to Trump’s aggressive posture in many situations is positive. Just to conclude, the last FAO Director-General election from China is another confirmation of this emergence of a sort of Beijing Consensus that was claimed by a US economist [Joshua Cooper] Ramo in 2004. And this Beijing Consensus is clear also, to make another example, on the China-Africa relations that are improving not through coercive means but by means of diplomacy and cooperation.

Sputnik: Professor, of course, the volatile situation around Iran has taken centre stage of late and the G20 leaders will hardly ignore tensions around Iran that flared following those incidents with oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. How likely is it that the talks between leaders can lead to perhaps a decrease of tensions in the region?

Fabio Massimo Parenti: Difficult to say also in this specific geopolitical area because Iran has always been – during the last at least 30-40 years I would say – a target of the United States’ geostrategic agenda. So periodically this issue emerges in a much more evident way as is happening in these weeks. And most of the G20 countries according to my understanding are claiming also in this case to lessen tensions and to work on the negotiation layer, on dialogue, on exchange by diplomatic means, a new form of cooperation. The United States military presence and some strong hawk position from the administration are really dangerous but above all, according to my point, they are dangerous for the United States consensus at the international level. Also, in this case, they are reducing their international legitimacy. And so also some statements from the first meetings in Osaka ask for finding a solution on the Iran issues. We don’t know, I don’t know specifically what the secret talk or details about some bilateral talks, because we know already that Iran has been discussed in Japan. But the international community, also represented significantly by the G20, would like to see solutions, alternatives, dialogue and most of them do not support – I would say a great majority – the United States movements. So we can hope that the United States for domestic election interests, for international legitimacy interest, will understand that it is not possible to treat Iran in this way and Iran’s international allies. So we will see. I don’t have details specifically right now.

Sputnik: US President Donald Trump has also had talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and they discussed problems in other nations: Libya, Sahel region of Africa, Eastern Ukraine, Iran of course, and they addressed the trade issues between the European Union and the US. In your opinion, how will we see relations between the United States and European countries develop in the future amid all these existing disagreements?

Professor Fabio Massimo Parenti: Yes, you are right. It is true that the United States is not only criticising strongly China for many issues, from Xinjiang to Hong Kong, to trade, technological theft and so on. But also this administration is becoming even more aggressive against the European Union. Some recent statements also demonstrated this self-referential view of world issues and the world order. I mean self-referential because they say: “The United States supported the development of Japan, of China, of Europe”. And Europe is considered also worse than other countries right now in really showing reciprocity, in being really a trustful partner for the United States.

So the Trump administration is criticising strongly also the European Union and the EU is living in a difficult historical phase. So we do not have a uniform and clear position, even though on trade issues and other issues the European Union started to move not in agreement with the United States. And with Iran also for the ban and the sanctions on Iran oil, the European Union tries to find an escamotage, a new system of payment, that is not working very well, but is another sign to again of the US losing credibility also among its first partners, allies, I would say historical friends in the last decades of contemporary history. So there are tensions between the US and Europe, and the future is not so clear. The meeting with Merkel was positive according to the official statements. Now we heard Trump say a shared vision on many issues and so on, but also in this case we don’t have details. But we know that there are many divergences. Maybe personally they found a good moment of talking about some issues but nation-states within the European space have different levels of agreement and disagreement with the United States. So this meeting right now between Trump and Merkel is not giving new insights to better understand these schizophrenic, I would say, relations between the United States and Europe.

Sputnik: And of course, the United States president has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to the White House, the two presidents discussed issues of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Ukraine. How much of an influence will these talks have in your opinion on bilateral relations?

Professor Fabio Massimo Parenti: Bilateral relations between Russia and the United States are critical but fundamental to manage tensions in the Middle East, above all in East Europe and so on. We are seeing, according to these different movements that I was mentioning, a sort of European rapprochement with Russia in a positive way beyond sanctions that are still an issue on the table not solved yet. But the Council of Europe reconfirmed Russia’s membership recently. The many so-called populist countries in some cases, first of all, Italy, are trying to support this strong international recognition of the Russian role in international relations, in the international order. So something is improving.

Also, I read some statements from experts, military experts in the White House, that consider it fundamental to cooperate with Russia in Syria and in other sensitive areas. However, Russia phobia and the pretext to use Russia to justify other geopolitical, geostrategic and military manoeuvres by the US, is still according to my understanding predominant. So probably, the space for discussion and mutual understanding between Trump and Putin exists, as already happened in the past, but the industrial military apparatus (military–industrial complex – ed. note Sputnik), what is called the deep state, does not support enough this rapprochement for lessening tensions and really working for a peaceful coexistence. I would say clearly China and Russia are showing this commitment as great powers more than other countries in many issues where they are involved in different forms. So how much impact this meeting will have in the next future relations between these countries, according to the sensitive areas in the Middle East, North Africa, and Venezuela, we will see. [It is] not easy to predict.

Sputnik: And finally, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, is also meeting with the UK’s Theresa May on the sidelines of the summit. In your opinion, can we expect a thaw in UK-Russia relations, which have been severely damaged by the whole situation surrounding the alleged Salisbury poisoning and following events?

Professor Fabio Massimo Parenti: I think so. As I mentioned, many previous hot cases to blame Russia will be reabsorbed as soon as possible. The UK situation is very chaotic, in a very long-term transition, so it is not in the interests of the UK to re-open sensitive issues or strong criticism internationally against Russia. This can help to lessen tensions. Also, this case in this bilateral relationship between Russia and the UK can help to reduce tensions and create more space for dialogue between Russia and the United States.

The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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