Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, May 7, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Global community races to raise funds for COVID-19 vaccine
One of the key intrigues of the global agenda for the coming months is who and when will develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Many countries have decided to reach this goal together and have amassed 7.4 bln euro through a fundraising campaign, the Coronavirus Global Response, that kicked off on May 4. The effort was launched by eight countries (the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, Norway, Saudi Arabia, France and Japan) with the support of the World Health Organization and the GAVI and CEPI alliances, which should control the distribution of the funds.
Meanwhile, the United States has vowed to create its own vaccine, while Russia has taken a wait-and-see attitude. Moscow is not refusing to take part in the global fundraising campaign, but it has not stopped its own research, Kommersant business daily writes.
Many countries rely on their own financing and research, and what’s more, dozens of laboratories around the world have declared that they were working on a vaccine and even launched clinical tests. In particular, China and India have not expressed any wish to make a contribution. A US delegate did not take part in the marathon either. The White House expects to get 100 mln doses of the new vaccine this year, and the US has launched a national project to fast-track a COVID-19 vaccine dubbed "Operation Warp Speed".
"We aren’t seeing a scenario from Hollywood disaster movies when in the face of an existential threat, humanity forgets about disagreements and unites. In the fight against COVID-19, national selfishness prevails. This can be seen both in the inability of cooperation within the G20 framework and in the suspension of US contributions to the WHO," said Anna Velikaya, a research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The creation of the vaccine will become a milestone event of the 21st century and the country that will achieve success will show the entire world its attractive conditions for fostering advanced areas of science, and a favorable environment for the development of competent state policy in this sector.
Russia has yet to decide whether it will take part in the global initiative or not, the paper writes. On the one hand, Russian officials have welcomed the WHO’s efforts, but on the other hand, Russia has not announced plans to sponsor global efforts on creating the vaccine, preferring to focus on its own developments.
Izvestia: EU up in arms over Russia’s growing Balkan influence amid COVID-19 pandemic
While some EU member-states complain that Brussels is not providing them with enough financial and humanitarian assistance in combating COVID-19, the European Commission has decided to allocate funds for six post-Soviet states (Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Moldova). The West has never concealed that the goal of the Eastern Partnership is to pull former Soviet countries out of Russia’s orbit. This time, there are plans to earmark 3.7 mln euro to develop civil society and promote political reforms. Besides, the EU is concerned about the rising influence of Russia and China, which have been actively helping the Balkan states combat the coronavirus pandemic, Izvestia writes.
Brussels is sluggishly sticking to its policy to contain Russia in the post-Soviet space, Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics National Research University Dmitry Suslov told the paper. "It’s important for the EU, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, to show that it remains a geopolitical actor and that it is here to stay," the expert said.
In the current environment, building relations with Eastern Partnership countries is one of the major opportunities for European bodies to gain attention, the expert said. Brussels is alarmed by the assistance provided by Russia to EU countries. "So they want to highlight that Brussels is not changing its policy concerning the post-Soviet space. So, it will keep supporting mainly Ukraine, Georgia and other Eastern Partnership countries."
Recently, Brussels has been worried about growing Russian and Chinese influence in the Western Balkans amid the coronavirus pandemic. On May 6, an online summit was held with the aim of showing the Balkan states that Brussels wants them to join the EU. Another goal of this event was also to demonstrate that these countries cannot align themselves too closely to Russia and China and should act accordingly. European diplomats believe that their financial support granted to the Balkans is more important than humanitarian aid provided by Moscow and Beijing. However, the Balkans have a different opinion.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia thwarts NATO’s Arctic push
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Russian and NATO navies have switched to a new stage of vying for the sphere of influence in the Arctic. A NATO naval strike group consisting of four US and UK warships had entered the Barents Sea for the first time over the past decades. The Pentagon notified Russia about the operation last week in order to prevent a misunderstanding, reduce the risks and prevent any escalation. However, the NATO strike group in the Arctic close to Russia’s borders forced the Russian Fleet to act, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
The Russian cruiser Marshal Ustinov, which is designed to attack strike groups, is gearing up for military maneuvers and the area of live firing will be closed for navigation and flights. These exercises are not a coincidence given the steps of the NATO strike groups in the Barents Sea, the paper reports. This not the first time the Russian Navy is using this tactic.
"The naval proving ground where live firing from the Marshal Ustinov cruiser will be conducted is located in the neutral waters to the north of the main naval base of the Northern Fleet. The closure of a certain area of the Barents Sea for navigation will serve as one of the obstacles in the maneuvers of NATO ships, especially if they move towards Russia’s borders," said Chairman of the Central Committee of All Russian trade union of servicemen Oleg Shvedkov. He also stressed that the NATO strike group’s operation in the Barents Sea is an unfriendly act. The US guided-missile destroyers USS Porter and USS Donald Cook are equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles, and important Russian military and strategic areas are within their strike radius, including naval bases on the Kolsky Peninsula, such as the key base of the Northern Fleet, Severomorsk, where Russian surface ships and nuclear-powered vessels are concentrated.
Izvestia: US seeks to mine Moon without Russia
Washington has started drafting an international agreement to outline the terms of mining on the Moon. The potential partners of the so-called Artemis Accords will be Canada, Japan, European nations and the United Arab Emirates. However, Russia, the world’s major space power, will be excluded from this deal. The Pentagon is against Moscow’s participation claiming that Russian satellites in near-earth orbit conduct maneuvers allegedly posing a threat to US spacecraft.
Meanwhile, Russia is not planning to give up its interests on the Moon, Izvestia writes. The White House’s plans have stirred up a negative response from Moscow. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that US President Donald Trump’s comments on exploiting lunar resources need to be analyzed by lawyers, but any attempts at "space privatization" were unacceptable. Deputy Director General at Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos Sergei Saveliev also emphasized that any efforts at expropriating space and aggressive plans on capturing the territories of other planets would hardly contribute to productive international cooperation.
Washington’s scheme for lunar mining amid the current coronavirus pandemic seems at least premature and even not quite appropriate, and could be just another populist move by the Trump administration, the paper writes. According to Program Director at the Valdai Discussion Club and the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Ivan Timofeev, given that countries lack opportunities for a full-fledged Moon exploration mission during the pandemic, "it’s just ridiculous to write some agreements and fantasize who will occupy territories, so this adds nothing but extra irritants to relations, for example with Russia."
Anyway, currently there are no means of delivering lunar resources to Earth. That’s why, the US plans are nothing more than "chest-thumping and pulling the wool over everybody’s eyes," said Vyacheslav Dokuchayev, a leading research fellow at the Institute for Nuclear Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Kommersant: Russia should step up efforts on going green, experts say
The Energy Center of the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo has laid out scenarios of Russia’s response to other countries’ policies in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, even amid declining Russian hydrocarbon exports. According to researchers, the best choice for Russia would be to lead efforts in this direction, opting for ambitious goals on cutting emissions and redirecting investments in extracting fossil fuels in favor of low-carbon technologies.
The research cited by Kommersant business daily notes that the key role in the environmental agenda is not only how it is implemented and regulated in Russia but also the plans of other countries (many of which are major importers of Russia’s fuel-and-energy sector) on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The key theses of the report are that over the past 40 years global warming in Russia has been 2.5 times quicker than on average on the planet (and 4.5 times quicker in the Russian Arctic). According to the forecast, this pace is going to climb. At the same time, the global environmental agenda creates a long-term threat to key Russian exports such as oil, petroleum products, coal, natural gas, metals and products from the timber and chemical industry. "The hydrocarbon trace" of goods is becoming not only an important consumer feature but also a basis for introducing border hydrocarbon regulations such as the Border Carbon Tax in the EU. "Russia's reaction to the climate threat may depend on the pace of the global response to climate change and the attitude of Russian society and the state to this problem. The key choice arises between two extreme scenarios — "Continuing Current Policies" and "Global Climate Unity," the study said.
In both scenarios, Russian hydrocarbon exports will drop 15% by 2040 by volume and 17% by value. According to this research, the decline in energy exports creates a threat that Russia’s annual GDP growth rate will fall to 0.6-0.8% by 2040. These estimates were made before the coronavirus pandemic and given COVID-19’s influence on energy markets all these forecasts will be more negative, the authors said.