RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter May 15 – 22 2023 Group of Seven Meets in Japan The Group of Seven (G7),
Geopolitics Newsletter May 15 – 22 2023
Group of Seven Meets in Japan
The Group of Seven (G7), a forum of advanced economies and liberal democracies, meets in Hiroshima, Japan this week. Heads of state from members Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US are all in attendance, as well as nonmembers Australia, Brazil, the EU, India, South Korea, and Ukraine. Discussions are centered around ensuring economic security and stability, strengthening sanctions against Russia, and maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
G7 members seek to use this meeting to show continued support for Ukraine and clamp down on remaining Russian revenue streams vital to funding their war effort. They have announced new sanctions targeting the Russian diamond trade while strengthening existing sanctions on industrial tech and access to global financial systems.
The surprise in-person attendance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has highlighted the role Western nations have played in supporting Ukraine. President Biden announced  the US would allow Ukrainians to train on F-16 fighters, reversing earlier policies denying them access for fear of escalation. Zelensky’s appearance and Biden’s announcement have increased pressure on neutral countries such as India and Brazil to shift their support towards Ukraine.
However, China also looms large over the meeting. G7 leaders continue to call for peaceful cooperation with China on climate change and trade. They have also chastised Beijing’s protectionist economic policies, human rights violations, and aggressive foreign policy, reaffirming their commitments to preventing coercion in the Indo-Pacific region and maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait. On the side of the G7 summit, Australian, Indian, UK, and US leaders held an informal Quad meeting to discuss regional security. These policies and denunciations have angered both China and Russia, who denounced the G7 meetings as an attempt at Western containment.
Support for Ukraine among G7 nations is likely to remain strong in the short term. Medium-term, it is likely European nations, particularly the UK and possibly Germany, will take a larger role in leading international support, given fears of US withdrawal following its 2024 election. However, it is unlikely neutral nations like India or Brazil, which rely heavily on Russian trade, will shift their support openly toward Ukraine in the short term. They will instead position themselves as potential brokers in future peace talks.
On the China front, G7 members will most likely continue their combined policy pursuing both cooperation and confrontation in the short-to-medium term. They will continue to decrease China’s hold on critical industries and supply chains while seeking to maintain beneficial trade in non-strategic industries. Western leaders will also likely increase calls for Chinese support for peace talks in Ukraine. These policies will most likely change to a harder approach in the medium term should China provide more direct military aid to Russia. Read more here and here.
Chinese envoy arrived in Ukraine – May 15
Chinese special representative for Eurasian affairs Li Hui traveled to Ukraine and Russia to negotiate a diplomatic resolution to the war. Although China has remained neutral on the surface, China retains close ties to Russia. The move to send an envoy to mediate indicates China’s intensifying diplomatic activity on the international stage. Read more
India-EU Trade and Technology Council met in Brussels – May 16
The first India-EU Trade and Technology Council met in Brussels to discuss bilateral cooperation in critical technology, digital government, and clean energy. Both sides aim to strengthen their strategic partnership to reduce vulnerabilities and achieve dominance in critical industries. Read more
Philippines Central Bank discussed interest rate change – May 18
The Central Bank of the Philippines’ (BSP) monetary board discussed interest rate changes this week. Inflation, which was raging last December, has begun to cool but remains higher than desired. Bankers are largely expected to follow US Federal Reserve policies to stay in line with international markets. Read more
Thailand’s unofficial election results expected – May 19
Preliminary results from Thailand’s national election show a victory for Pita Limjaroenrat from the opposition Move Forward Party (MFP). Uncertainty surrounds the transfer of power from the ruling military government to the Move Forward Party. There is also a major risk that Limjaroenrat’s victory will be more symbolic than consequential, as the monarchy has increased its power and the MFP was unable to secure a large enough majority to overrule the military government’s choice of prime minister. Read more
Sierra Leone Foreign Minister David Francis arrived in China – May 15
Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister David J. Francis arrived in China to meet with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang. While ties between the two countries have improved since 2020, local Sierra Leonean fishing communities have expressed frustration with illegal fishing and overfishing by Chinese vessels. In response, China offered a patrol boat to Sierra Leone. Relations between the two countries are expected to continue to grow through lending for development and infrastructure projects. Read more
The Council of Europe summit began in Reykjavik – May 16
Heads of state and government from across the Council’s member states will meet to discuss the ongoing war in Ukraine and how to ensure accountability for possible and confirmed war crimes. While the summit is not expected to immediately resolve current hostilities, it may be an important component to a kind of post-war restitution. Read more
Arab League summit began in Saudi Arabia – May 19
The 32nd Arab League summit concluded in Jeddah today, where heads of state across the Arab world reaffirmed the need for unity to overcome security challenges and increase regional stability. The summit was also attended by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a first since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. His attendance shows the Arab world’s shift towards pragmatic relationships despite outside pressure from the West. Read more
Politics and Society
German train strike canceled – May 16
The German EVG labor union canceled its plans for a two-day strike. The strike would have had a major impact on all long-distance travel as rail workers from across the country were expected to walk out from Sunday, May 13- May,16. The strike was canceled after employers met one of the union’s key demands: a guaranteed minimum wage of 12 euros an hour through basic pay rather than with bonuses. Read more
Nicolas Sarkozy’s wiretapping appeal began – May 17
A French court ruled on wiretapping charges against former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy was initially sentenced to three years in prison but appealed the decision. The outcome of the court’s ruling is not expected to have a major impact on French politics, as his political party has fallen into electoral irrelevance, while far-right movements like Marine Le Pen’s National Front have strengthened. Read more
Russia resumed direct flights to Georgia – May 19
Russia resumed flights to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi have been high in recent years, largely due to Georgia’s growing ties with the West. While Georgia has remained neutral regarding the Russia-Ukraine war, some Georgian authorities have been accused of shifting to a pro-Russia stance. Read more
The Week Ahead
EU-ROK summit to begin – May 22
The EU-Republic of Korea summit begins in South Korea on May 22, marking the 60th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. Talks will focus on regional peace and stability, economics and trade, and sustainable development. Special attention will be paid to Ukraine and North Korea. Read more [EXTERNAL]
Russian PM to begin a trip to China – May 23
Russian PM Mikhail Mishustin will begin a two-day trip to China on May 23. He will likely push for increased Chinese support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, possibly including military aid. China will likely reaffirm its commitment to strong trade relations but is unlikely to provide overt military support to Russia. Read more [EXTERNAL]
Indian PM to visit Australia amid canceled Quad Summit – May 24
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Australia on May 24. The visit was originally intended to include UK and US counterparts as part of the now-canceled Quad Leaders’ summit. Bilateral talks between India and Australia will likely continue to build on security and economic partnership in the region to strengthen both countries against growing Chinese ambition. Read more [EXTERNAL]
Contributions by: Wescott Yeaw, Kyle Rose, and Andrew Alipui