Heightened tensions overshadow G20
By Sam Adams
The annual meeting of the world’s major economies took place this past week against the backdrop of mounting tensions across the globe.
On December 1, Chinese president Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump shook hands to the applause of their closest advisors, reports the New York Times. Over a diplomatic dinner, the two agreed that the U.S. would refrain from a 15 percent tariff increase on $200 billion of Chinese goods for a 90-day period.
During this period, both sides hope to reach an all-encompassing deal to end the ongoing trade war between the two, reports the New York Times. In exchange for the large concessions made by Mr. Trump, Mr. Xi agreed to an unspecified purchase of American exports across industries like energy and agriculture.
Responding to the seemingly good news of the agreement, stocks stabilized and trade war worries cooled. Unfortunately, these sentiments were short lived. On the same day, Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities, reports CNN.
Stocks tumbled and fears returned as Huawei scrambled to understand why their CFO found herself in custody. Chinese inquiries into the arrest have returned empty as Wanzhou likely awaits extradition to the United States and charges in Federal Court.
The charges, which have not been confirmed, are speculated to be related to the Chinese tech giant’s alleged maneuvering around Iranian sanctions that were re-imposed by President Trump.
Another point of tension at the meeting was the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, who headed the Saudi delegation. The crown prince has come under increasing pressure from Western allies for his alleged involvement in the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.
On December 5, the head Turkish public prosecutor called for the immediate arrest and extradition of two top Saudi officials thought to have acted directly in the death of Khashoggi, according to Al Jazeera.
The American Congress weighed in by voicing bipartisan denouncement of bin Salman’s association to the killing. While ostracized by Western allies, MBS found a friend at the G20 in Vladimir Putin, as the two were photographed smiling and high fiving in the face of Western scorn.
On the other side of the globe, tensions are escalating in the Black Sea. On November 25, Russia seized three Ukrainian Naval vessels along with their twenty-four crewmembers.
The incident occurred in the Kerch Strait, a thin passage of water connecting the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea and separating Crimea from mainland Russia. Ukraine, which has ports on both seas, must use the Kerch Strait to travel between ports like Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.
Moscow accused Kiev and western powers of being behind “orchestrated” ship movements in an attempt to demonize Russia, reports Reuters. At the same time, Ukrainian Prime Minister Petro Poroshenko has called for NATO support in the region.
In response to the seizure, Poroshenko instituted martial law among Ukrainian regions bordering Russia. Military reserve forces have been activated and are undergoing training in an effort to stem the seemingly free flow of Russian action around Ukraine.
Further, on December 7, the Ukrainian Border Guard Service reported that up to 140 Ukrainian civilian ships had been stuck on either side of the Kerch Strait due to Russian “bottlenecking” of the passage, reports Radio Free Europe.
In further support of Ukraine, the United States is rumored to be considering a plan to send a naval ship into the Black Sea, although they first must achieve permission from Turkey to pass through its territory.
Lastly, on December 6, the U.S. completed a reconnaissance flight over Ukrainian territory through the jurisdiction of an international reconnaissance treaty. The Pentagon stated it was in response to “increasingly provocative and threatening activity by Russia.”