Press review: New US sanctions loom for Belarus and consumer demand picks up in Russia / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: New US sanctions loom for Belarus and consumer demand picks up in Russia

Press review: New US sanctions loom for Belarus and consumer demand picks up in Russia

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, June 18th, prepared by TASS

Izvestia: Russia, US can take cooperation to another level

Agreements reached in the cybersecurity field are the main achievement of the recent Russia-US summit, say experts interviewed by Izvestia, stressing that the threat these new types of weapons pose to the world could even be more serious than the threat of nuclear arms.

According to experts, strategic stability is another issue on which the two countries may launch talks in the near future. Leading Researcher at the MGIMO Institute for International Studies Viktor Mizin pointed out that the parties could soon be expected to start constructive discussions to define what a new strategic arms reduction treaty could look like.

Political scientist Edward Lozansky says that strategic stability is certainly important but the fact that the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was eventually extended for five years makes it clear that there is no direct nuclear threat at the moment, which cannot be said for cyberspace. "Until the meeting, talks had always been about nuclear weapons. It is important that now the parties are also talking about cybersecurity. Given the pace at which information technologies are evolving, cyber weapons may become more dangerous than nuclear arms. There is a need to consider bringing up a new generation of experts," the analyst noted.

According to head of the Washington-based Center for Global Interests Nikolai Zlobin, the prospects for Russian-US consultations on cybersecurity are good. They can be expected to begin soon because "the Americans have a serious interest in this subject." The expert believes that both Russia and the United States are vulnerable to cyber threats so they could both benefit from meaningful bilateral discussions of the issue.

Another achievement of the Russia-US summit was the decision to allow the two countries’ ambassadors to return to their posts. Lozansky emphasized that work on other tracks would be crippled unless the two countries brought diplomatic relations back to normal.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US set to impose more sanctions on Belarus

The meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Joe Biden of the United States has had no impact on Washington’s position on the situation in Belarus as Washington plans to impose more sanctions on the country. Likewise, Moscow’s stance remains changed. Under the circumstances, experts see no positive scenarios for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland announced Washington’s plans to impose new sanctions on Belarus at the GLOBSEC forum on security on Thursday. According to her, restrictions will be introduced next week.

As for Moscow, some experts believe it will seek to encourage Lukashenko to transfer power through constitutional reform, while others say that Russia could benefit from a weak and dependent Lukashenko. "Although he is a difficult, stubborn and cunning negotiator, Putin probably won’t find a more anti-Western figure that would be tied to Moscow more closely," political analyst Alexander Klaskovsky notes. He, therefore, believes that for now, "Putin and his close circle have no plans to facilitate a change of government in Belarus." However, the Kremlin "is considering various scenarios for Belarus" and "in this regard, Lukashenko can hardly feel at ease," the experts pointed out.

On the whole, the situation is becoming increasingly complicated for Alexander Lukashenko, political scientist Valery Karbalevich emphasized. In his view, after the emergency landing of a Ryanair flight, Belarus crossed an important line "not only in terms of relations with the West but also in terms of Belarusian political life in general". The expert expects future sanctions to be rather tough. At the same time, he views Minsk’s efforts to improve the situation as clumsy and ill-considered. The country’s political leadership is currently in a state of frustration, Karbalevich concluded.

Izvestia: Bitcoin can reach $100,000 in 2021

Bitcoin’s price grew by 30% in the past week, surpassing the $41,000 mark on June 15. The rise was driven by El Salvador’s move to make bitcoin legal tender, MicroStrategy’s plans to invest $1.5 bln in the cryptocurrency, and Elon Musk’s announcement that Tesla will accept Bitcoin for car purchases if miners make sure that 50% of the energy they use comes from renewable sources. Given the positive news trend, experts expect the token’s price to reach $100,000, Izvestia notes.

The approval of bitcoin exchange traded funds may provide a significant boost to the cryptocurrency, said Leading Strategist at the Exante investment company Yanis Kivkulis. If central banks continue to pursue soft policies, new crypto-offshores emerge and bitcoin is adopted as legal tender in more fields, its price can rise to $100,000 this year, the expert pointed out.

Head of the J2TX broker Artem Moiseyev also expects bitcoin’s rate to reach the $100,000 level in 2021 as the use of the token in everyday life expands. Drivers behind the process will particularly include fast cryptocurrency transfers, one of the advantages that tokens have.

Chief Analyst at CEX.IO Broker Yuri Mazur agrees that Bitcoin’s price can hit an all-time high this year, reaching $70,000-75,000 amid positive news for the cryptocurrency field and countries’ gradual moves to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. However, a technical correction may follow, bringing bitcoin below $46,000. The token’s price will also be significantly affected by an update of the Ethereum network, based on the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, as well as by decisions to either maintain or wrap up stimulus measures that central banks and governments will make and restrictions on digital assets, for instance, in China and the United States, the expert added.

Kommersant: Russia records rising consumer demand

It looks like the Russian Central Bank’s consistent tightening of monetary policy has become an additional factor in boosting the country’s consumer demand. Consumer activities began to grow again in May 2021 both in retail and the services sector, the Central Bank points out. That said, private consumption is likely to return to the pre-pandemic level in the early summer, Kommersant writes.

Apart from high inflation expectations and low deposit rates, restrictions on overseas travel and the rapid growth of retail lending are also pushing consumption up. According to experts from the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, "in the current circumstances, individual lending is the most profitable activity for commercial banks." This is the reason why credit institutions will seek to maintain high levels of lending, the experts noted.

The labor market recovery is another factor adding to the rise in consumer expectations. According to the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Sort-Term Forecasting, labor demand has already overcome the consequences of the "coronavirus shock" and returned to levels recorded in the first quarter of 2020. "Another important development is that some balance has been achieved on the labor market as the number of job offerings has exceeded that of registered unemployed people," analysts emphasized.

As a result, although the year-to-year inflation rate continues to grow, private consumption is likely to have already exceeded the pre-pandemic level. "The recent spike in cases may somewhat spoil the positive vibe but if we manage to avoid lockdowns, chances are high that the recovery process will go on," said experts from Higher School of Economics’ Center of Development.

Izvestia: Russian regions may mandate coronavirus vaccination

Russia’s Sakhalin region has mandated the coronavirus vaccination for 60% of those employed in the service sector, following similar measures in Moscow, and the Moscow and Kemerovo regions. Other regions of the country are also considering mandatory vaccination, Izvestia writes.

Many Russian regions will most likely learn from the experience of Moscow and the Moscow regions, which were the first to make vaccination compulsory, DSM Group Director General Sergey Shulyak said. "I would like to point out that Yakutia was actually the first to initiate mandatory vaccinations but the regional authorities soon changed their mind and the word ‘mandatory’ disappeared from official documents. However, if Moscow, the Moscow region and other regions manage to successfully implement the initiative, others will follow," the expert noted.

The Russian public expects the authorities to make systemic decisions to ensure vaccination, Director of the Nizhny Novgorod Fund for Creative Economic Development Yuri Veselyev stressed. "One of the options for rapid vaccination is to divide large and medium-sized cities into squares where mobile teams would vaccinate local residents and those working in the relevant quarters," the expert said. The right conditions need to be created for vaccination, so further lockdowns can be prevented, Veselyev emphasized, adding that each day of the pandemic-related crisis is costly for the economy, as well as for employers and employees.

In order to bring the pandemic under control, it is important to establish herd immunity as soon as possible, Scientific Editor at Mikhail Kagan said. According to him, if it takes a year, thousands - even tens of thousands - will die, while mandatory vaccinations can help to reach herd immunity much faster.

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