Tag Archives: US

VIF News Digest: International Developments (US, Europe and Russia), 01-15 June 2021

I. UNITED STATES

Politics and Society
U.S. Formally Ends Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Asylum Policy, 1 June 2021

The United States has formally ended the Trump-era “remain in Mexico” policy, which forced tens of thousands of Central American asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. court cases, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo sent to agency leaders. The administration of President Joe Biden paused the program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), shortly after he took office on Jan. 20. Since then, more than 11,000 migrants enrolled in it have been allowed to enter the United States to pursue asylum claims.
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Ransomware Disrupts Meat Plants in Latest Attack on Critical U.S. Business, 1 June 2021

A cyber attack on the world’s largest meat processor has forced the shutdown of nine beef plants in the United States, according to union officials, and disrupted production at poultry and pork plants. The attack could upset the nation’s meat markets and raises new questions about the vulnerability of critical American businesses. The company, JBS, said the majority of its plants would reopen on in a day. But even one day’s disruption at JBS could “significantly impact” wholesale beef prices, according to analysts at Daily Livestock Report. The cyberattack is attributed to Russian hackers.
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Biden pushes for US voting rights law as restrictions mount, 2 June 2021

President Joe Biden used the 100th anniversary of Tulsa’s race massacre to make a plea for sweeping legislation in Congress to protect the right to vote as Republican-led governments in Texas and other states pass new restrictions making it tougher to cast ballots.
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Biden suspends oil leases in Alaska’s Arctic refuge, 2 June 2021

The Biden administration has suspended oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reversing a drilling program approved by the Trump administration and reviving a political fight over a remote region that is home to polar bears and other wildlife — and a rich reserve of oil.

The order by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland follows a temporary moratorium on oil and gas lease activities imposed by President Joe Biden on his first day in office. Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order suggested a new environmental review was needed to address possible legal flaws in a drilling program approved by the Trump administration under a 2017 law enacted by Congress.
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US to Swiftly Boost Global Vaccine Sharing, Biden Announces, 3 June 2021

President Joe Biden announced Thursday the U.S. will swiftly donate an initial allotment of 25 million doses of surplus vaccine overseas through the United Nations-backed COVAX program, promising infusions for South and Central America, Asia, Africa and others at a time of glaring shortages abroad and more than ample supplies at home. Of the first 19 million donated through COVAX, approximately 6 million doses will go to South and Central America, 7 million to Asia and 5 million to Africa. Click here to read…

US pullout from Afghanistan half done, but questions remain, 8 June 2021

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is more than half done, and U.S. officials say that while it could be completed by July 4, the final exit of equipment and troops more likely will be later in the summer.
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Senate approves sprawling $250 billion bill to curtail China’s economic and military ambitions, 9 June 2021

The Senate voted has voted to adopt an approximately $250 billion bill to counter China’s growing economic and military prowess. The proposal commits billions of dollars in federal funds across a wide array of research areas. It pours more than $50 billion in immediate funding into U.S. businesses that manufacture the sort of ultrasmall, in-demand computer chips that power consumer and military devices, which many companies source from China. And it paves the way for the next generation of space exploration at a time when Washington and Beijing are increasingly setting their eyes on the stars. lawmakers also approved a host of proposals that seek to limit China’s economic aspirations and curb its political influence. The bill opens the door for new sanctions targeting Beijing over its human rights practices, commissions a new study about the origin of the coronavirus and calls for a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. It even authorizes $300 million specifically to counter the political influence of the Chinese Communist Party.
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Biden opens overseas trip declaring ‘United States is back’, 10 June 2021

President Joe Biden opened the first overseas trip of his term Wednesday with a declaration that “the United States is back” as he seeks to reassert the nation on the world stage and steady European allies deeply shaken by his predecessor. Biden has set the stakes for his eight-day trip in sweeping terms, believing the West must publicly demonstrate it can compete economically with China as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
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US closes Trump-era office for victims of immigrant crime, 12 June 2021

The Biden administration has dismantled a Trump-era government office to help victims of crimes committed by immigrants. This symbolises an effort to not link the immigrants with crime. President Trump had created the Victim of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, known by its acronym VOICE, by executive order during his first week in office in January 2017. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it was replacing VOICE with a “more comprehensive and inclusive victim support system” – the Victims Engagement and Services Line.
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Biden, working with U.S. allies, pledges to confront China and Russia, 13 June 2021

President Joe Biden vowed that the U.S. would once again work alongside its democratic allies to fight autocratic governments, singling out both Russia and China for aggressive behaviour at a news conference following the G-7 meeting of world leaders. He spoke about his commitment to reengage America on the world stage after four years of Donald Trump’s “America First” policies.
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Some US allies near Russia are wary of Biden-Putin summit, 14 June 2021

Central and Eastern European nations are anxious about the coming summit meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, wary of what they see as hostile intentions from the Kremlin.Some in the countries that once were part of the Soviet Union or the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact during the Cold War worry that Washington could scale down support for its allies in the region in a bid to secure a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia.
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Health and Technology
President Biden Announces Historic Vaccine Donation: Half a Billion Pfizer Vaccines to the World’s Lowest-Income Nations, 10 June 2021

The U.S. has committed to donating 500 million life-saving vaccines by June next year, including 200 million to be delivered by the end of 2021. Donation will serve as the foundation for a coordinated effort by the world’s democracies to vaccinate people around the world.
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Biden drops Trump attempt to ban TikTok, WeChat; orders new review, 10 June 2021

President Joe Biden on Wednesday withdrew a series of Trump-era executive orders that sought to ban new downloads of WeChat and TikTok, and ordered a Commerce Department review of security concerns posed by those apps and others.
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US lawmakers introduce bills targeting Big Tech, 12 June 2021

US lawmakers have introduced five bills aimed at limiting the power held by Big Tech companies. The bills were drafted after a 16-month investigation into the powers of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. They address topics including data, mergers, and the competitive behaviour of these companies – which could ultimately lead to them being forced to sell some assets. But there is not unanimous support for the bills targeting Big Tech.
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Novavax: Large study finds COVID-19 shot about 90% effective, 14 June 2021

Vaccine maker Novavax has noted that its COVID-19 shot was highly effective against the disease and also protected against variants in a large study in the U.S. and Mexico, potentially offering the world yet another weapon against the virus at a time when developing countries are desperate for doses. The two-shot vaccine was about 90% effective overall, and preliminary data showed it was safe, the American company said. That would put the vaccine about on par with Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.
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Economy
The U.S. Economy Is Sending Confusing Signals. What’s Going On? 3 June 2021

Unemployment is still high, but companies are complaining they can’t find enough workers. Prices are shooting up for some goods and services, but not for others. Supply-chain bottlenecks are making it hard for homebuilders, automakers and other manufacturers to get the materials they need to ramp up production. A variety of indicators that normally move more or less together are right now telling vastly different stories about the state of the economy.
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Perspective
Decoding the NATO summit, 14 June 2021

In the summit communique, NATO members stopped short of labelling China a threat, but did little else to conceal their concerns, referencing “systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers.” The allies criticized Russia directly, saying it has “intensified its hybrid actions against NATO Allies and partners, including through proxies.”
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Biden-Putin summit: Ukraine should not expect miracles, 1 June 2021

Ukraine is set to be high on the agenda when US President Joe Biden holds a hotly-anticipated summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Switzerland on June 16. However, there is little reason to expect any breakthroughs towards ending the Kremlin’s seven-year campaign of aggression against Ukraine. Instead, the meeting will likely highlight the need for Ukrainian policymakers to bolster the country’s own defensive capabilities and strengthen Kyiv’s international position.
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II. EUROPE

Politics and Society
Brussels unveils plans to reform borderless Schengen Area, 2 June 2021

With the aim of preparing the Schengen area for the post-COVID era and making it “stronger and more resilient”, the Commission has unveiled a new strategy centred on three pillars: external borders, internal measures and governance. The plan comes as European economies reopen after lifting coronavirus restrictions and cross-border travel gradually normalises. Schengen’s integrity has been severely damaged by two recent crises: the 2015 influx of migrants and refugees and the COVID-19 pandemic. Both episodes saw many EU countries reintroduce border checks, arguing the extraordinary circumstances required extraordinary measures.
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France’s New Caledonia set for final independence referendum in December, 2 June 2021

The French Pacific Island of New Caledonia, which rejected independence in two previous referendums, will have a third and final vote on 12 December, France’s overseas territories minister said. The referendum would be followed by a two-year transition period to allow Paris to clarify its relations with New Caledonia, minister Sebastien Lecornu said. New Caledonia, which houses business operations for Brazilian multinational mining company Vale and French mining group Eramet, has been hit by riots in recent months.
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EU to impose new sanctions on Myanmar junta, companies, 3 June 2021

The European Union will impose a new round of sanctions on Myanmar’s military junta and its economic interests in the coming days, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told Reuters.
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G7: Germany urges vaccine solidarity, 3 June 2021

German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday urged COVID-19 vaccine producers to step up alliances with manufacturers in developing countries. His remarks came ahead of a meeting of G7 health ministers in Britain amid increasing calls for wealthy countries to share COVID-19 vaccines with lower-income nations. Spahn also reiterated Germany’s support for financing the COVAX vaccine sharing program.
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The EU Bans Belarus Airlines and Reroutes Flights Around Its Airspace, 4 June 2021

European and U.S. governments have been engaged in an apparent tit for tat with Belarus and Lukashenko’s government following the arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich by the Belarusian government last month in which it forced the plane he was aboard to land in Minsk. European Union ambassadors have approved a plan to ban Belarus airlines from flying over EU territory or landing in EU airports. European Union airlines will be prohibited from flying over Belarus as well. That affects about 400 civilian flights that usually fly over Belarus every day, according to European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol. That includes 300 overflights, about 100 operated by EU or British carriers.
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Resisting patent waiver, EU submits vaccine plan to WTO, 5 June 2021

The European Union has submitted a plan to the World Trade Organization that it believes will more effectively broaden the supply of COVID-19 vaccines than the intellectual property (IP) rights waiver backed by the United States.India, South Africa and dozens of developing countries are demanding the waiver to address what they say is a “staggering inequity” in access to vaccines and other COVID-19 treatments.
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The EU is planning to end U.S. tariff battle with Biden due in Brussels next week, 9 June 2021
The European Union wants the United States to commit to end their aircraft-related tariffs next week, according to a draft statement seen by CNBC, as both sides look to get the transatlantic relationship back on track. The EU is also hoping that President Joe Biden, who is due in Brussels for a summit early next week, will vow to end steel and aluminium duties before December this year, according to the document from the EU.
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MEPs back action against European Commission over Poland and Hungary, 10 June 2021

MEPs have backed legal proceedings by the European parliament against the European Commission over a failure to trigger financial sanctions against Poland and Hungary for undermining the rule of law. The parliament’s legal service is now expected to prepare a case to be lodged at the European court of justice later this year, pitting two EU institutions against each other in the EU’s highest court, with only the formality of approval by key committees of the chamber now required.
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UK, EU seeking “radical” solutions to N. Ireland trade, 11 June 2021
Britain is working with the European Union to urgently find radical proposals that would solve the post-Brexit trade problems in Northern Ireland, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said. The two sides are at loggerheads over how to ease post-Brexit trade between Britain and its province of Northern Ireland, with both accusing the other of dealing with part of their divorce deal called the protocol in bad faith.
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The EU-US summit, 15 June 2021

The EU-US summit on 15 June 2021 marked the beginning of a renewed transatlantic partnership and set a joint agenda for EU-US cooperation in the post-pandemic era. The leaders committed to regular dialogue to take stock of progress.
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Canada, EU form raw materials pact to cut reliance on China, 15 June 2021

Canada and the EU launched a new partnership to secure supply chains for critical minerals and reduce dependence on China in a push for jobs and to counter climate change. “With EU partners, we talked about what we can do to build a cleaner economy for years to come,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday after meeting with EU chiefs in Brussels. “To begin with, in order to continue creating good, green jobs for the middle class, we must secure supply chains for critical minerals and metals that are essential for things like electric car batteries.”
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U.S. and EU resolve 17-year Boeing-Airbus trade dispute, 15 June 2021

The United States and European Union have resolved a 17-year-long fight over aircraft subsidies, agreeing to suspend tariffs for five years stemming from the Boeing-Airbus dispute. “This meeting has started with a breakthrough on aircraft,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who met with President Joe Biden at a U.S.-EU summit in Brussels. “This really opens a new chapter in our relationship because we move from litigation to cooperation on aircraft -after 17 years of dispute.”
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EU-China investment deal is still possible-but not before 2023, analyst says, 15 June 2021

An investment pact between the European Union and China is still possible, but both sides may wait until 2023 at the earliest to ratify the deal, said an analyst from risk consultancy Eurasia Group. The EU and China agreed on the deal in December after seven years of negotiations. But tensions between the two-which saw both sides imposing sanctions on each other-led the European Parliament to freeze the deal until Beijing lifts sanctions on EU politicians.
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Economy

EU reaches deal on tax transparency for multinational firms, 2 June 2021

European Union government and parliament negotiators have reached a deal on rules that will force large multinational companies to disclose how much revenue and tax they pay in the 27-nation bloc and how much in countries considered tax havens by the EU.
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The hurdles to German investments in India, 2 June 2021

Germany is the seventh largest FDI provider in India since April 2000. The fast-track mechanism of problem resolution, however beneficial, has not led to a quantum leap in German investments. First, inter-governmental collaboration led to an increasing support for India’s development through governmental funding. However, Germany does not tie its ODA to its enterprises, unlike Japan, whose companies use ODA projects to create business in India. This is detrimental to converting ODA projects into greater trade and FDI into India. Secondly, large old German companies such as Siemens, Bosch, Bayer and Daimler have been in India for more than a century, reinvesting profits more than bringing in new FDI. There is also a regional dimension to this lack of diversification. There is also the problem of the lack of a bilateral investment treaty.
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Europe’s social peace requires a return to fiscal discipline, 2 June 2021

“In the long run we are all dead,” wrote John Maynard Keynes 98 years ago. He believed short-term economic intervention was necessary in times of crisis to stabilise the economy. New stimulus programmes, including the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, are in line with this tradition. I was in favour from the outset — to the surprise of some people”, writes Wolfgang Schäuble-president of the Bundestag and a former German finance minister.
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Perspective
As the EU debates rules for its economy, a more ambitious political vision is inevitable, 3 June 2021

Ayear ago, the European Union arrived at a Hamiltonian moment. The sense of human solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deaths it was causing pushed European leaders to make unprecedented choices. The heart attack suffered by the economy justified a surge of concrete and mutual support. To manifest it, fiscal rules constraining member states’ social expenditures were suspended and a sizable and shared EU financial facility was established through the issuance of common debt. Europeans seemed ready to follow in the footsteps of the agreement engineered in 1790 by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton that transformed the United States into a true federation with a stronger central government.
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III. RUSSIA

Politics and Society
Putin highlights relations with ex-Soviet nations as Russia’s foreign policy priority, 1 June 2021

Relations with former Soviet countries are among Moscow’s foreign policy priorities, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a video conference meeting with the permanent members of the country’s Security Council. “Relations with our closest neighbours, the former Soviet countries, are among Russia’s most important foreign policy priorities,” the president pointed out.
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Russia is ready supply at least 40 mln tonnes of coking coal to India, 1 June 2021

India asked Russia to supply at least 40 mln tonnes of coking coal annually and Russia is ready to provide this volume, Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky told reporters on the sidelines of the Russian Coal and Mining exhibition. “We have prepared a draft memorandum of cooperation between the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Steel Industry of India. While preparing this document, we held several meetings via videoconferencing because of the pandemic and our Indian partners said, that they would like to purchase at least 40 mln tonnes of coking coal from Russia.
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President’s meeting with heads of international news agencies, 4 June 2021

On the sidelines of the 24th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Vladimir Putin met by videoconference with the heads of the world’s leading news agencies.
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First line of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline now laid – Putin, 4 June 2021

The pipes for the first line of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline have now been laid, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. “I am pleased to announce that today, 2.5 hours ago, the laying of pipes for the first line of the gas pipeline was successfully completed,” he said.
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Putin signs law denouncing Open Skies Treaty, 7 June 2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on Russia’s denunciation of the Treaty on Open Skies. The document was published on the official web portal for legal information. The law denouncing the Treaty on Open Skies was unanimously adopted by the State Duma on May 19 and approved by the Federation Council on June 2. Moscow has said that its denunciation of the treaty is connected to the United States’ own withdrawal from the treaty.
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The Foreign Ministry on about the expectations from the meeting between Putin and Biden, 8 June 2021

A number of issues related to the organization of the summit of Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden are at an advanced stage of development, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Russia hopes that the result of the meeting between the presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States, Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, will fix the movement forward in the field of strategic stability and stabilize relations with the United States, he added.
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Full transcript of exclusive Putin interview with NBC News’ Keir Simmons, 14 June 2021

NBC News interview with Russian President Vladimir Putintook place in Moscow on June 11, 2021; NBC’s Keir Simmons posed several questions on Russia’s view on global and regional developments in the days leading to the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva.
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Erdogan sticks to his position on Russian missile deal after meeting with Biden, 14 June 2021

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave no indication that Ankara’s deal with Moscow for the S-400 missile system, which triggered U.S. sanctions on the NATO ally, would be reversed. Erdogan’s comments came on the heels of his first face-to-face bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the NATO leaders’ summit.
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Russia ready to reciprocally transfer US convicts, Whelan not among them – diplomat, 15 June 2021

Russia is ready to hand over US citizens, convicted in Russia, via the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons mechanism; however, US citizen Paul Whelan, convicted in Russia for espionage is not among them, says Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
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Health and Economy
CoviVac vaccine efficacy tentatively estimated at over 80% – developer, 2 June 2021

The efficacy of the CoviVac coronavirus vaccine developed by the Chumakov Center exceeds 80%, however, the final stage of clinical trials is still ongoing, the Chumakov Center said in a material presented at the stand of the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
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Russian GDP growth in April tops 10%, Econ Ministry could revise annual forecast in June – minister, 3 June 2021

Russian annual GDP growth in April exceeded 10% compared to the decline in April of last year, the recovery of the economy is slightly ahead of expectations, and the annual forecast for 2021 could be revised in July, Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov told reporters on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).
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Gazprom Neft considers Arctic development relevant; oil prices and tax regime facilitate this, 15 June 2021

The current oil price environment, the tax regime for Arctic projects in Russia, and Gazprom Neft’s portfolio of shelf assets allow the company to consider development of the Arctic shelf as relevant, in connection with which dialog with the state on supporting geological exploration on the shelf is necessary, Deputy CEO for Upstream Vadim Yakovlev told reporters. “The tax regime [in the Arctic] creates good stimuli for projects at the production stage. This is primarily a lower rate of mineral extraction tax. At the same time, such projects are characterized by a very long investment cycle from the stage of seeking an estimate, geological exploration to commissioning. For this, we believe stimuli need to be created at the geological exploration state too, so that this part of the country’s resource potential also gets the opportunity for development,” Yakovlev.
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Perspective
Will Russia Put China’s Arctic Ambitions on Ice? 5 June 2021

Despite its enthusiasm, China’s efforts to become a key voice in Arctic affairs have been met with skepticism, even alarm by Arctic states, and few of its investment initiatives have borne fruit. Are China’s fortunes turning with strategic partner Russia assuming the role of chair of the Arctic Council, a two-year rotating position? For China, an observer in the organization since 2013, Russia’s new status as of May 20, 2021 provides opportunities as well as risks.
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Russia-US Summit: Global Is More Important than Bilateral, 15 June 2021

The most positive expectations from the upcoming Russia-US summit are associated with the fact that neither side is approaching it from the position of maintaining peace and improving relations at any cost. Unlike a number of contacts of this level in the past, now Moscow and Washington are not ready, and do not seek, to compromise their principles in order to make their own lives calmer and more comfortable, and those around them – more confident in their future. The maximum diplomatic achievements of the summit (one can expect, for example, the return of the ambassadors to both countries) will not change the nature of the relationship.
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