- Press review: What to expect from Putin’s annual address and NATO boosts eastern presence
- Press review: Why the Czech standoff with Moscow and Russia-West strife heats up Black Sea
- Press review: Diplomatic purges escalate and assassination plot draws Minsk, Moscow closer
- Press review: How Biden’s sanctions impact Russia and what looms on Russia-Ukraine border
Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, March 3, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Moscow gears up to retaliate against US, European sanctions
Moscow must respond to the West’s unfounded sanctions pressure, Russian senators told Izvestia. On March 2, the European Union slapped sanctions on the heads of four Russian law enforcement agencies over the Alexey Navalny case. Later, the United States announced sanctions, targeting seven individuals, in addition to blacklisting a number of entities. Besides, Washington also tightened restrictions on exports to Russia. The US also refuses to provide Russia with any loans, guarantees and any assistance, except for humanitarian aid. Political scientists believe that Joe Biden will keep pushing the human rights issue, exerting even more pressure on Moscow, but both superpowers will still have to cooperate on strategic security.
The news about Washington’s sanctions did not come as a surprise for Russia, Izvestia writes. "The West has been consistently carrying out certain plans regarding Russia. This situation once again proves that the Navalny incident is not just a reason, but a good pretext for keeping afloat the issue of pressure against Russia as the source of evil," First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s (lower house) International Affairs Committee Dmitry Novikov told the newspaper. According to First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council (upper house) Committee on International Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov, Russia should respond to the sanctions, because the West "has crossed all the lines."
These are the first sanctions imposed by US President Joe Biden on Russia, setting the tone for future relations with Moscow. Experts questioned by Izvestia believe that the human rights issue will dominate the new US leader’s policy. "The hallmark of Biden’s foreign policy is the sharp upsurge in the role of ideology in regard to both allies and adversaries. Due to increased attention on the issues of democracy and human rights, we will face far harsher pressure," said Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics Dmitry Suslov. Although Western restrictions exert some pressure on the Russian economy, the new US measures are unlikely to yield a dramatic effect. Moscow has found its ways to diminish their influence. But the most important thing is their symbolic meaning. They demonstrate a growing readiness of the US and the EU to act against Russia from the position of force, said Michael Kimmage, Professor at the Catholic University of America. According to him, Russian President Vladimir Putin will retaliate and ties between Moscow and Washington are likely to plunge to new lows in the near future.
Izvestia: Russia likely to boost oil exports to US
The supplies of Russian oil and petroleum products to the United States in 2021 may be 5% higher than last year translating to an increase of 10 mln barrels, analysts told Izvestia. In 2020, Russia delivered 196.9 mln barrels to the US to the tune of $8-8.5 bln. The United States is a major oil importer and today America produces nearly 11 mln barrels per day and consumes some 20 mln barrels. By the end of the second half of 2020, Russia, Canada and Mexico turned out to be the top three oil exporters to the US, outperforming Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states. Recently, ex-US President Donald Trump said that under the Biden White House, America would depend on Russian and Middle Eastern oil.
The volume of US oil imports, including from Russia, could climb as long as the demand for energy increases and the economy revives after the global crisis, said Deputy Director General of the Institute of National Energy Alexander Frolov. According to the expert, the US produces a rather large volume of the black gold, but due to its features, this product is not good for local oil refineries, Frolov noted. The US produces light and superlight crude oil and it is mixed with heavy oil or petroleum products to make it suitable.
Over the past 10 years, American oil production has doubled, but this volume is still not enough, said leading analyst at QBF Oleg Bogdanov. The US demand for high-viscosity oil is growing due to the sanctions against Iran and Venezuela. These states do not supply crude oil to the US and other countries, including Russia, are taking advantage of this, said Artem Deev, who heads the analytical department at AMarkets. "Russia’s Urals brand fits the US refineries and it is cheaper than upgrading the technology on refining its own oil," he explained. Washington’s sanctions against Moscow do not target the supplies of oil and petroleum products from Russia, the expert also noted.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Iraqi crisis pushes Turkey, Iran to the brink of confrontation
Iran has moved to defuse diplomatic tensions, which flared up with Turkey amid the situation in Iraq. Most recently, Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad said in an interview with a Kurdish news outlet that Turkey’s trans-border operations were illegal, thus angering Ankara. The Islamic Republic’s Foreign Ministry spokesman explained that this remark had been misinterpreted. Even though this diplomatic episode seems to have blown over, experts believe the potential for friction between the two regional partners is still rather high, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
According to Senior Director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Aykan Erdemir, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is hatching plans to join forces with the regional authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan in order to gain control over this area, which is considered as the historic motherland of the Yazidis. The key goal is to neutralize the influence of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and deal a blow to links with northern Syria. "Given that Iran would also like to boost its presence in Sinjar through Shiite mediators acting in Iraq - the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) - this puts Tehran and Ankara on a collision course. Back in 2017, Turkey could not even foresee that its partnership with Iran would contribute to enhancing Iranian hegemony in the region due to the regional government of Kurdistan," the expert said.
Now that Iran and its proxies have gained the upper hand at the regional level, all the attempts of the Turkish leadership to restore military and political influence through cooperation with a weaker Erbil will be too late, he noted. "Tehran has apparently used Ankara’s paranoia over Kurdish self-determination in order to gain the advantage not only in Sinjar but also in Mosul and Erdogan’s latest attempt to reverse the tide of Iran’s influence could fail," Erdemir noted.
After the Islamic Republic’s leadership strengthens its positions in some Middle Eastern region through its loyal forces it rarely backpedals and Lebanon, Syria and Yemen are examples that prove this point, the expert emphasized.
Izvestia: Armenia’s opposition demands snap elections in April
The opposition in Armenia will insist on holding early parliamentary elections in April, Head of the Bright Armenia faction Edmon Marukyan told Izvestia. On March 3, he offered this proposal to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. At the upcoming meeting, the opposition will also demand that the decree on sacking the Chief of the General Staff be cancelled. Meanwhile, members of the Movement to Save Motherland, who took to the streets, said they had agreed to hold early elections, but only if Pashinyan stepped down and an interim government was appointed. Meanwhile, the head of the cabinet is set to hold a referendum in October where citizens will decide on whether Armenia should further remain a parliamentary or a semi-parliamentary republic.
"By taking this step, the prime minister is trying to remove the president as a body, which prevents him from gaining full power in the country. And he wants to solve the issue by a direct mandate received from the citizenry," Grant Mikaelyan, a research fellow at the Caucasus Studies Institute, said.
Earlier, Armenian President Armen Sarksyan said he had not signed the prime minister’s petition to sack Chief of General Staff Onik Gasparyan and submitted this issue for consideration by the Constitutional Court. According to the republic’s law, Pashinyan’s petition comes into effect automatically and as early as March 4, Gasparyan will be dismissed.
Edmon Marukyan notes that the dismissal of the Chief of the General Staff will be at the center of attention. The main demand is that the prime minister "gets his hand out of the army" and recalls his decree on firing Onik Gasparyan. However, Pashinyan holds a principled stance on this issue. At a rally on March 1, he accused the Chief of the General Staff of treason.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia lags behind China in terms of GDP per capita
China’s authorities are proud to announce that their gross domestic product per capita for the second year in a row exceeds $10,000. And in Russia, on the contrary, this figure dropped below $10,000. So, Russia returned to the GDP figures of 2007, Nezasivimaya Gazeta writes. International experts forecast that in the coming years China’s economy is quite capable of outshining the US. Economists at the Bank of America believe that in order to double its GDP, China will need to expand 4.7% annually over the next 15 years. Beijing will be able to edge out the US economy as early as 2027-2028.
This year, China’s GDP per capita is expected to reach $11,700, while in Russia this figure will be $10,700. Late last year, Russia took 68th place in the global ranking. Experts believe by 2025, Russia will be elbowed out of the world’s top 70 richest countries and will be outperformed by Bulgaria (in 2021) and Kazakhstan (2025), Macro Markets Inside analytical channel reported.
Over the past 10 years, Russia’s GDP has been nearly unchanged in dollar terms, Head of the analytical department at AMarkets Artem Deev noted. Meanwhile, China’s GDP over the past 20 years grew 11-fold. Since 2010, it has more than doubled from $6 trillion to $15 trillion. Over the past 40 years, China has been consistently fighting against poverty, he said.