Vasilenko S.A. – The influence of the crisis in Ukraine on Russian-Australian relations

231926

Vasilenko Sergey Andreevich, 5th year student of the Faculty of Oriental Studies and History, Pedagogical Institute of the Pacific National University (Khabarovsk)

Abstract: The crisis in Ukraine has changed not only Russia’s relations with European countries, but also with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia. The sanctions imposed by Australia against Russia and the downed Malaysian Boeing MH17 on the territory of Ukraine left their mark in the context of international relations between countries.

For a long time, the positions of Russia and Australia in the international arena were close. This concerned issues such as the fight against terrorism, climate change, the development of cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. [1]

Before the crisis in Ukraine, the volume of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries had a steady growth trend. Since 2007, when the first in the history of Russian-Australian relations visit of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin to Sydney, which has become a powerful catalyst in building cooperation between the two countries.  The commodity circulation has increased from almost $ 700 million a year (2006) to over 2 billion dollars per year (2013).

However, unfortunately, the Ukrainian crisis has violated the stability of the development of relations. The achieved volume of trade between Australia and Russia is difficult to restore in case of its recession. At the same time, the sectors of the mining industry, frozen meat and livestock supplies suffered, most likely, to a greater extent. Therefore, in developing its diplomatic response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the Australian government needed to take into account how their statements would affect these industries.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, the dominant position in the structure of Australian exports to Russia in the period from 2012 to 2013 belongs to the export of beef ($ 113 million), in the import of Australia from Russia, crude oil imports prevail ($ 688 million). Also, the growth of economic cooperation in the healthcare and mining sectors was noted. According to the statistics “Trade relations of the G-20 countries, prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia in 2012, the direct Russian investment in Australia was the fastest growing in comparison with all the other countries in the world. At present, Russia’s net investment in Australia is more than Saudi Arabia, and 7 times more than Indonesia.

Despite the wide range of opinions about Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the condemning comments of Australian politicians influenced the vector of trade relations with Russia. A striking example is the temporary restriction, which came into force on April 7, on the delivery of frozen and chilled beef from Australia to the Russian Federation due to the discovery of Russian inspectors of the growth hormone – acetate tranbolone.

Alexei Alekseenko, adviser to the head of the Federal Service of Rosselkhoznadzor commented on this situation: “The reason for the ban on import of beef from Australia is still the same: we discovered a tranbolon in the meat – that is a kind of steroids. It is used to increase the mass of meat. Why is it dangerous? It affects men, reducing their libido and reducing the sex glands. This is a harmful substance that is banned in the entire civilized world. We have had many negotiations with the Australians, they promised not to use the tranbolon, but we find it again and again. Recently, the Australian Minister of Agriculture made a funny statement: he said that the ban is connected with the situation in the Crimea. Although in fact, we warned the Australians about the possible consequences two years ago, and a year ago, and in June. ”

Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce in his interview on ABC radio really doubted that the reason why Russia imposed restrictions on the importation of Australian beef was the discovery in the meat of growth steroids. In fact, according to Mr. Joyce, the actions of the Russian side are explained by international political tensions in connection with the events in the Crimea. “They say they found it in beef, which is highly unlikely,  – Mr. Joyce said in an interview. Import of frozen beef from Australia to Russia is only 5-10% of total imported frozen beef to Russia. The main suppliers are the countries of South America. However, Australia is a key player in the meat premium market and almost a monopolist in supplying chilled beef to the best Russian restaurants.

In other fundamental areas of trade between Australia and Russia, the impact of the political crisis is not palpable at the moment. Thus, in the mining industry, business is conducted in the operating mode. Craig Perry, executive director of Tigers Realm Coal and one of the members of the Australian-Russian dialogue, expressed the hope that “both sides will keep their heads cold.” He added that events in Ukraine, fortunately, did not affect the projects of his company in the Chukotka and the Far East of Russia. Perry said that he has recently completed several major transactions: Baring Vostok Capital Partners invested $ 36 million in Tigers Realm Coal, and the Russian Fund for direct investments – $ 16 million.

At the moment, we can only hope that the impact of the crisis situation will not be fatal for business relations between Russia and Australia. The business circles of both countries are focused on cooperation and dialogue, and, probably, will agree that any reaction to the Ukrainian crisis should be carefully through. [2]

On June 19, 2014, the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a list of 50 Russian and Ukrainian officials and politicians and 11 companies, against which sanctions were imposed in support of Ukraine in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The people included in the sanctions list will be prohibited from entering Australia, and their accounts in the country will be frozen.

The decision about imposing sanctions Australia reported in the spring, but the personal list was published only on June 20, 2014. In May, 38 people and 11 companies were selected. A little later, they added 12 names more.

The list includes, for instance, the ex-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich, the Prime Minister of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov, the deputies of the Russian State Duma Elena Mizulina and Alexei Pushkov, the aides of the Russian President Vladislav Surkov and Andrei Fursenko. Many of those who have been sanctioned by Australia already appear on the lists of other states. [3]

When Vladimir Putin was invited to the G20 summit, his figure was in the focus of the meeting, which he had not initially been invited to. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has subjected Russia to harsh criticism for the support of Ukrainian separatists. British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also threatened Russia with tightening sanctions. [4]

Premature and harsh comments of the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop have caused a deterioration in the business climate between countries.

Australian Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb was more diplomatic in his statements. Thus, on March 27, in his interview to Bloomberg, he described Russia’s actions in the Crimea as unsuccessful, but stressed that imposing sanctions against Russia would be a premature step. “Russia is an important market for us,” said Andrew Robb. – It is not huge, but if we talk about beef and other areas of trade, it is significant. We want to have good trade and political relations with Russia. ”

Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Russia not only as an aggressor due to the actions of Moscow in Ukraine.

In 2014, Abbott’s government sent military advisers to Ukraine; meanwhile, Australian transport aircraft began the transfer of weapons to the Kurds in northern Iraq. The aircraft of the Australian Air Force were also ready, if necessary, to take part in air strikes against militant positions from the “Islamic state”. However, if the foreign policy course of the conservative prime minister of Australia becomes more and more interventionist, there were fears that the Australian military might not have enough resources to conduct it.

Senator Cristina Milne, leader of the Green Party, told lawmakers that any military action abroad requires parliamentary approval in order to avoid a situation in which a country may be involved in a long-term military operation. As an example, she cited how humanitarian assistance in Iraq has turned into a large-scale military operation. “The Prime Minister is engaged in what we might call” the dispersion of resources, “Milne said. “We started with humanitarian assistance, which the Greens fully support, delivering water and food to people who are in urgent need of them.”

Senator Cristina Milne, leader of the Green Party, told lawmakers that any military action abroad requires parliamentary approval in order to avoid a situation in which a country may be involved in a long-term military operation. As an example, she cited how humanitarian assistance in Iraq has turned into a large-scale military operation. “The Prime Minister is engaged in what we might call” the dispersion of resources, “Milne said. “We started with humanitarian assistance, which the Greens fully support, delivering water and food to people who are in urgent need of them.”

Such an active reaction of Australia to international crises is due to a long-term military alliance with the United States, which dates back to the early 1950s. Analysts believe that Canberra has become one of Washington’s main partners in terms of strengthening security and resolving crises in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. [5]

According to the interview with the Russian ambassador in Australia Vladimir Morozov, the year 2014 was a serious test for the relations between the two countries. Their relationship was reset. At the initiative of the Australian side, political contacts were suspended, consultations on topical issues of modern international relations between foreign ministries were suspended, negotiations on security issues and the ministerial commission for trade and economic cooperation were abolished, and sanctions were imposed on a number of Russian legal entities and individuals. Thus, all the positive potential accumulated over several years has been crossed out.

The decision to ban the supply of uranium to Russia, adopted by the Australian leadership in a package with other sanction measures, is purely political.

There has been a tendency for the progressive strengthening of trade and investment ties over the last years. A number of large Russian companies (Rusal, Norilsk Nickel, etc.) acquired significant assets (the total amount of accumulated Russian investments in Australia exceeded $ 2 billion). In 2014, we saw an opposite trend. Turnover has halved, and major players, Norilsk Nickel in particular, are gradually folding their operations. That is due to both unfavorable macroeconomic conjuncture in resource markets, and not always comfortable business environment in Australia. I think that tense political relations and sanctions played a certain negative role. However, contacts in business circles confirm that the business is determined to be continued if it is profitable. Thus, the prospect of intensifying trade between our countries is quite real. [6]

Also, the boiling point between the two countries was the collapse of the Malazi Boeing MH17, with the citizens of Australia. Giving his speech on October 12, Tony Abbott explained that he intended to tell the Russian president about the crime that had been committed against citizens of Australia on July 17. According to Abbott, at a bilateral meeting with Putin the “killing” of Australians in the Boeing disaster in the Donbass will be discussed. According to ‘The Australian’ [7], as a result of the crash of Malaysia Airlines airplane, which flew from the Netherlands to Malaysia, there were 28 Australian citizens among 298 dead. As the British newspaper The Guardian [8] reported in the note about the future meeting between Abbott and Putin, among victims of the tragedy were 38 Australians. “I intend to tell Putin that the Australians were killed,” Abbott said. The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper notes that Abbott became one of the main critics of Russia immediately after the tragedy of July 17, saying that Russia supports separatists in the Donbass. Initially, Abbott even threatened not to let Putin to visit the summit in November, but after consulting with other G20 participants, the Australian authorities refused to cancel the invitation, which had been sent to Russia.

At present, stable relations have been established between Russia and Australia, despite the fact that the rate of their development is rather slow. The Australian economy suffers losses by supporting the EU’s sanctions policy, but can not refuse it, because it is under pressure from the United States, a more powerful player in this economic and political game, and is a springboard for their political motives and actions. In order to establish more stable relations between countries, it is necessary to conduct a dialogue without the mediation of external states, except for EU countries such as Great Britain and Germany. Only in this case there is a possibility of creating strong friendly relations between Russia and Australia.

Source:

  1. Агенство ТАСС. Москва-Канберра: история и перспективы российско-австралийских отношений. http://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/4539122
  2. Sanctions in support of Ukraine commence. https://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2014/jb_mr_140619b.aspx
  3. Австралия ввела санкции против 50 россиян и украинцев. http://www.bbc.com/russian/rolling_news/2014/06/140619_rn_australia_sanctions.shtml
  4. На саммите G20 в центре внимания – украинский кризис и напряжённые отношения с Россией. https://ru.publika.md/na-sammite-g20-v-centre-vnimaniya—ukrainskiy-krizis-i-napryazhyonnye-otnosheniya-s-rossiey_1495931.html
  5. Голос Америки. Украинский кризис и Австралия. https://www.golos-ameriki.ru/a/australlia-millitary-aid-to-ukraine-raices/2439344.html
  6. Посол РФ в Австралии: мы готовы обсуждать возобновление сотрудничества. https://ria.ru/interview/20150205/1046028585.html
  7. The Australian. 28 Australians among 298 killed on MH17 crash in Ukraine http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/aviation/28-australians-among-298-killed-on-mh17-crash-in-ukraine/news-story/088154c732bd4393b14836204578c0d9?nk=7faa271beb250e0cc7bcb31ed3eca358
  8. The Guardian. Flight MH17: Australia and Malaysia want to revisit crash site for remains https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/07/flight-mh17-australia-and-malaysia-want-to-revisit-crash-site-for-remains
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