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G7 leaders are taking steps to counter Beijing as Russia fuels its war with Chinese imports


From the social media of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, center front, takes part in a discussion about the Russian invasion at the G7 summit in Italy on Thursday.

BARI, Italy – Aiming to weaken Russia’s military, the Group of Seven major industrialized nations has taken steps to counter China, which is indirectly supporting Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine.

On Friday, the second and final day of the G7 summit in Italy, leaders spent a full 90 minutes discussing economic security and the Indo-Pacific region. As the confrontation between China and Russia on the one hand and liberal countries on the other becomes sharper, the G7 is being tested.

Leaky sanctions

“China does not provide weapons, but the ability to produce those weapons and the available technology to do so. So it is actually helping Russia,” US President Joe Biden said at a press conference on Thursday.

Despite export restrictions and sanctions against Russia by Japan, the United States and countries in Europe, semiconductors and electronic components that could be used for military purposes continue to flow into Russia through third countries.

Chinese companies are the key to this flow. As sources of civilian goods that could be put to military use are restricted by the G7, about 90% of Russia’s imports of such goods came from China in 2023, according to research by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a policy research institute.

Ahead of the G7 summit, a senior US government official expressed serious concerns, saying China has increasingly become Russia’s military factory.

During the summit, G7 leaders shared their concerns about these issues and reaffirmed the G7 as a whole’s opposition to them. They also agreed to strengthen sanctions against China. For its part, the United States has announced sanctions against more than 300 individuals and groups, including those in third countries such as China. Japan said it would join sanctions against China.

Now that more than two years have passed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Western countries are beginning to show ‘donor fatigue’. As US support falters, Kiev is running out of ammunition and forced to withdraw.

Meanwhile, Russia has drawn closer to “anti-American and anti-European” forces such as North Korea and Iran and turned to a strategy to exhaust Ukraine.

Behind the G7 leaders’ decision to now play the sanctions card against China lies a sense of crisis over Ukraine that will worsen the longer Russian aggression continues. The summit has become a venue for the G7 to demonstrate their determination for a protracted war.

G7 leaders reached a basic agreement to extend a massive $50 billion (about 7.8 trillion yen) loan to Ukraine using frozen Russian assets by the end of this year. The United States and Japan both signed 10-year security agreements with Ukraine on the sidelines of the summit.

Insecurity

Of course, any commitment to long-term aid to Kiev could be influenced by domestic politics.

In the United States it is unclear whether Biden will be re-elected. The country’s support for Ukraine could weaken if former President Donald Trump, who advocates an “America First” policy, is elected in November’s presidential election.

Trump also said this year that he would encourage Russia to “do whatever they want” to any NATO member country that does not spend enough on defense.

The G7 leaders’ push to tap frozen Russian assets “by the end of this year” is aimed at ensuring the loans will be made before Trump takes office if he is elected.

The 10-year security agreement the United States signed with Ukraine could be revoked if Washington gives Kiev six months’ written notice. Trump could even unilaterally terminate the agreement. In reality, there is no guarantee that the G7 pledge of long-term support for Ukraine will hold.

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