Russia and China sign 30-year natural gas deal; Thai military attempts to mediate between political rivals; Chinese PM argues Asian security problems should be handled by regional players; flooding in Balkans exposes landmines; US to reveal legal justification for drone strikes; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Russia, China Sign Natural Gas Deal

Russia and China agreed to a thirty-year natural gas deal on Wednesday as Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, met in Shanghai. The meeting signaled closer diplomatic and economic ties between the two countries as Moscow seeks to cut its dependence on the West. Under the deal, Russia's state-owned Gazprom will export thirty-eight billion cubic meters of gas a year, but the price, long a sticking point of the decade-long negotiation process, was kept secret (FT). The European Union, meanwhile, urged Russia on Wednesday not to disrupt gas flows to Ukraine over a pricing dispute (WSJ), while the United States added twelve Russians to sanctions rolls for human rights violations related to the Magnitsky Act (RFE/RL). In eastern Ukraine, conflict fatigue appeared to set in ahead of Sunday's presidential election (NYT).

Analysis

"Both countries have moved closer together in recent years, but Moscow and Beijing have also traditionally hedged their relations with each other. China, of course, does not want to damage its much more lucrative ties with the West by joining Russia on a bold anti-Western crusade, while Russia is fearful of being drawn into the Chinese orbit and eventually reduced to the position of Beijing's junior partner. Has the Ukraine crisis, however, changed the dynamic of the Sino-Russian relationship?" asks Nikolas K. Gvosdev in the National Interest.

"Russian domestic politics is surely influencing Moscow's behavior—how could it not?—but if I had to pick a single class of events to which this episode belongs, I would put it in the bin with the many, many other instances of aggressive self-help in response to the insecurity endemic to an anarchic international system. Observers of world politics have noted this pattern for literally thousands of years. Meanwhile, the nationalist turn we're seeing in Russian domestic politics could be as much consequence as cause of these international tensions, and the idea of Russia as pathologically expansionist is hard to square with the limited scope of Russian irridentism we've actually seen over the past 20 years," writes Jay Ufelder.

"The atmosphere, especially in eastern and southern Ukraine, is likely to be highly charged over the coming week as the election approaches. Unlike past Ukrainian elections, however, tensions are less likely to emerge due to illicit activities designed to secure victory for one of the candidates. Rather, the process will be under intense scrutiny because some actors are seeking evidence of a failed election while others are hoping for a credible process under extraordinarily challenging circumstances. The quality of Ukraine's election will ultimately be determined on the ground by the efforts of hundreds of thousands of election workers and security personnel, as well as the millions of Ukrainian citizens who come to the polls," writes Erik Herron for the Monkey Cage.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Thai Military Attempts Political Mediation

The Thai military took on a mediation role between political rivals on Wednesday, one day after it declared martial law (Bangkok Post), but failed to reach an accord. Officials said talks would resume again Thursday afternoon (AP). Meanwhile, the military warned media to self-censor criticisms of martial law and asked fourteen television stations to stop broadcasting.

CHINA: President Xi Jinping argued in an address in Shanghai on Wednesday (Bloomberg) that Asian security problems should be solved by regional actors. "To beef up military alliances targeted at a third party is not conducive to maintaining common security in the region," Xi said, weeks after U.S. president Barack Obama visited the region to bolster alliances (Reuters).

CFR's Scott Snyder discusses the deepening of Sino-South Korean relations.

ELSEWHERE:

Flooding in Balkans exposes landmines 

US to reveal legal justification for drone strikes

This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org

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