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Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, February 26, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Estonia abandons territorial claims against Russia
Estonia said that it has no territorial claims against Russia. Local nationalists accused the president of jettisoning the Tartu Peace Treaty in favor of Moscow, according to which a number of territories of modern Russia passed into the hands of independent Estonia in 1920. Thousands of people marched through the center of Tallinn with torches in their hands in support of this agreement. According to Izvestia, this is the most recent development in Estonia’s softer rhetoric on Russia, which could be guided by economic interests.
Moscow and Tallinn agreed on the line of the Russian-Estonian border and signed a border agreement back in 2005. This was preceded by 11 years of intense negotiations. However, after it was submitted for ratification to the parliament of the Baltic country, the lawmakers tacked on a reference to the Tartu Peace of 1920 to it. Russia withdrew its signature, and the agreement for the time being was up in the air.
The recent comments by President Kersti Kaljulaid that Estonia has no territorial claims against neighboring states, including Russia provoked serious disputes in the Baltic Republic. The issue of ratifying the border treaty with Russia and adherence to the Tartu Peace Agreement has become a bone in the throat of many Estonian politicians.
"The President of Estonia is a ceremonial position. However, traditionally one of its informal functions is to stimulate and moderate discussions on important national issues. In the current situation, Kaljulaid intends to take full advantage of this. Obviously, she is creating an image of a politician of a pan-European scale and an ideological supporter of liberalism," expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center Natalya Frolova told Izvestia.
In her opinion, at the end of the presidency, Kaljulaid could well apply for leadership positions in the EU. In addition, Tallinn is trying to establish economic cooperation with Moscow. In recent years, Russia has been actively developing its ports in order to transfer cargo from the Baltics to them. So, for example, Russian companies now carry out transshipment of coal through domestic ports. The departure of Russian transit hurts the economy of Estonia and Latvia, the newspaper wrote.
"Kaljulaid’s words are a game from Tallinn, the Estonian authorities want to get something from Russia. In particular, now they are concerned about the transit of goods, and increasing freight traffic. … If the Estonians remain committed to the Tartu deal, that means they have territorial claims, no matter what they say. This is an attempt to get the better of Russia, to lull our vigilance so that we follow economic cooperation issues and in the meantime they can continue their Russophobic line," a leading expert at the Center for Political and Military Studies at MGIMO Mikhail Aleksandrov told Izvestia.
Izvestia: Russia vows to fight for return of its citizens from US prisons
Russia is going to try to return its citizens from US prisons. Moreover, at every meeting with its US colleagues, Moscow brings up the Americans’ illegal behavior in relation to Russians in third countries, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Vershinin said in an interview with Izvestia. He added that all attempts to inflict athletic and political harm against Russia would be unsuccessful, and without the participation of Russian athletes, any event would simply fail. The diplomat also believes that the Americans forced Russians arrested in the United States into self-incrimination.
"I do not know a single contact with the Americans, where we would not press these questions. We will continue to do this in the international arena. We do this primarily in Geneva at the Human Rights Council, we do this in New York, and we resort to various international human rights procedures," he told the newspaper.
"…the Americans absolutely don’t bother with any civilized methods of communication with Russian citizens. They are forced to make statements, self-incriminate, and so on. We do not accept this, we condemn it and believe that this completely contradicts the attempts of the Americans to present themselves as the adherents of democratic values, including human rights and law enforcement areas," Vershinin added talking about Russian nationals illegally arrested by American authorities on the territory of third countries — Konstantin Yaroshenko, Viktor Bout and Roman Seleznev.
In addition, the diplomat believes that Russian athletes have the right to participate in all international competitions. "It seems to me that ultimately the truth must triumph, the current processes — the arbitration courts and so on — will show that Russia complies with all the requirements of the Olympic movement and other international sports organizations and has a well-deserved right that our athletes should participate in all international events," the politician said.
Vershinin also noted that he did not believe holding international competitions was possible without the participation of Russian athletes. The deputy minister said he did not rule out the intention of inflicting political damage on Russia, despite the fact that these attempts fail.
Izvestia: Global banks fear sanctions against Russia’s state debt
The role of Russian government securities in global markets is so great that a ban on operations with them can set off one of the most negative scenarios for the entire international monetary system, Izvestia wrote. Thus, experts at the Institute of International Finance (IIF), which unites about 450 major organizations, recognized that the possible introduction of US sanctions on Russian public debt is fraught with shock for emerging markets. According to its report, the so-called "sanctions from hell" can result not only in the departure of foreign banks from Russia, but also in turbulence across the securities markets of other countries, as well as problems in international trade.
Federal loan bonds (OFZs) are included in all major global indices of developing countries. Moreover, Russian sovereign securities occupy a key position there. Western banks have recognized that sanctions will trigger a sharp outflow from emerging markets where their funds are invested, the report said. According to the document, US restrictions on the purchase of Russian government bonds will compel investors to change their strategies. Market players will have to withdraw money from emerging markets and invest in less risky ones.
Another negative consequence of the sanctions against the Russian financial market, and in particular, the OFZs, is the possible departure of subsidiaries of foreign banks from the country, Izvestia wrote. Another threat from Washington’s anti-Russian measures is that the new sanctions can create significant difficulties in international settlements, IIF noted, as the ruble is one of the most actively traded currencies of developing countries.
Chief analyst Anton Pokatovich from BCS Premier agrees with the point of view of IIF. According to him, sanctions against federal bonds will not only harm Russia's interests, but will also form a set of negative consequences for other global market participants, including American investors.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Sarraj administration nudges Washington towards taking on Russia
The Government of National Accord in Tripoli advocates the resumption of US military presence in Libya, Minister of Interior Fathi Bashagha announced, suggesting that the Pentagon revive its military facilities on Libyan soil. The situation could help the US Department of Defense effectively counteract the growth of Russian and Chinese influence in Africa, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.
The White House previously announced plans to regroup forces around the world in order to deprive Russia and China of the opportunity to expand their influence. In particular, it was reported that Pentagon chief Mark Esper was looking into beefing up US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region by rolling back its contingent in other parts of the world.
Grigory Lukyanov, senior lecturer in the political science department at the Higher School of Economics, noted that Bashagha was talking not about creating a new military base, but restoring Washington’s military presence, which was in place before the outbreak of hostilities in April 2019. "Prior to this, US monitoring units were based in Tripoli that coordinated the war on terror together with local security agencies," the analyst recalled. "This center was engaged in constant monitoring and, according to the United States, coordinating attacks against the forces of the Islamic State (terrorist organization banned in Russia). In 2019, these forces were evacuated," Bashagha said.
Lukyanov noted the desire of the Tripoli government to take advantage of the general climate in Russian-American relations, and stimulate the continuation of the discussion on sending military aid to Haftar by various international players, including Russia. "On the other hand, this does not negate the fact that the United States, like Russia, is trying to take a balanced position between the conflicting parties, and the state does not make any particular preferences for either Tripoli or Tobruk — neither Prime Minister Sarraj, nor Marshal Haftar," the expert said. "Both countries are trying not to interfere in the situation and not to take full responsibility for what is happening in Libya now," he added. Radically, this policy of the US and Russia has not undergone any changes in recent months, even as hostilities in Libya intensified, Lukyanov noted.
Vedomosti: Study shows approval of Russian foreign policy on the rise worldwide
In 2019, Russian foreign policy received more approval in the world than the year before, according to the data from an annual study by Gallup International and its representative in Russia, the Romir Research Holding. The survey involved about 50,000 people from more than 50 countries. Almost half of them (49%) believe that Russian foreign policy will destabilize the world. However, back in 2018, this figure stood at 52%, Vedomosti wrote.
About a third of respondents (32%, 5 pp more than in 2018), on the contrary, called Russia's influence a stabilizing factor. Kazakhstan showed the greatest support for Russian foreign policy (79% of positive assessments), as well as Vietnam (73%) and Serbia (68%). The least positive opinion of Russia was shown in Finland (4%), Japan (5%), and the United States (6%). In general, the approval index of Russia’s foreign policy (the difference between positive and negative assessments) increased from -25 to -17 percentage points.
US foreign policy received similar estimates. More than half of the respondents (54%) consider it to be destabilizing, and 31% saw Washington's course in a positive light. The Philippines (80%), Nigeria (77%), and Vietnam (74%) indicated the biggest approval, while Germany (10%), Finland (7%), and Syria (5%) showed the least. Thus, the American foreign policy index also remains negative (-23 pp), but compared with 2018, it grew by 5 pp.
These opinions can be interpreted more broadly than simply assessments of foreign policy, Andrei Milekhin, who is president of Romir told the newspaper. "This is more of an endorsement or disapproval of the values and the world order that are declared by superpowers or blocs." Despite informational globalization and political localization, "the world is clearly becoming tripolar," the sociologist said. "Of course, the European Union is also present in monitoring, but its role in global politics is difficult to compare with the influence that Russia, the US, and China have on the world," he added.