Press review: Sudan capitalizes on Russia-US rivalry and whose economy rode out COVID well / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: Sudan capitalizes on Russia-US rivalry and whose economy rode out COVID well

Press review: Sudan capitalizes on Russia-US rivalry and whose economy rode out COVID well

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, June 3rd, prepared by TASS

Izvestia: Geneva summit could bring about return of US, Russian ambassadors

The most positive outcome expected from the upcoming Putin-Biden summit in Geneva on June 16 could be the return of ambassadors from consultations to each other’s capitals. Thus, the two countries will demonstrate their willingness for dialogue on normalizing or at least unfreezing relations from their current level, an informed source told Izvestia.

"There is an intention to do this [return the ambassadors from consultations]. Neither side has any illusions about the meeting, but without the heads of diplomatic missions, the contacts would be reduced to a bare minimum. And this could be at least a result," the source told the newspaper. According to First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Dmitry Novikov, the return of the envoys from consultations would be a major breakthrough in relations. "However, I would not expect any radical shifts. If the meeting safeguards from new waves of tension, then this will be already a result. It can play the role with a delayed effect, as far as mid-term prospects go, the preconditions could emerge for normalizing ties," the politician noted.

Experts are more positive about "diplomatic courtesy," Izvestia writes. Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics Dmitry Suslov believes that the return of the envoys is a rather likely outcome of the summit. "This will be a very positive signal in terms of resuming diplomatic and consular relations," the commentator noted.

In general, the agenda of the upcoming presidential summit seems to be less substantive than the Helsinki event between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in 2018, according to the newspaper. The source familiar with the preparations for the talks said the list of issues was still in the works. According to legislators and experts, the key issues to be discussed at the summit will be strategic stability, the crises in Ukraine and Belarus, the situation around Iran and North Korea, cooperation in the Arctic and diplomatic wars. A step forward could be resuming the work of at least several out of the 27 expert groups on various issues of the bilateral agenda, Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council (upper house) Konstantin Kosachev said.

Kommersant: Fate of Russian military base in Sudan hanging by a thread

Sudan plans to review the terms of its deal on Russia’s military base - a material-technical support facility - in the Red Sea. A statement by Chief of Staff of the Sudanese Army, Mohammed Osman al-Hussein, came two weeks after Sudan was removed from the US list of countries that sponsor terrorism. According to Arab media, Khartoum had warned Russia in advance about this coming development.

Amid a thaw in relations between Khartoum and Washington, the future of Russian-Sudanese relations raised an increasing number of questions, Kommersant writes. Russian officials made cautious comments over the news coming from Sudan. Meanwhile, experts are more skeptical about the situation. "All experts believe that our military base was just another simple element in the oriental system of "buying and selling" influence and services. The seller is Sudan and the US is its desired buyer. In fact, Sudan is blackmailing the Americans by hosting a Russian military base, and demanding in return for giving up our base, multi-billion-dollar injections by the US and West into the dying Sudanese economy, and (if possible) setting up a US military base in Sudan as a guarantee from being once again listed as Washington’s eternal foe," said Sergei Seregichev, a senior lecturer at the Russian State University for the Humanities. The commentator also notes that young people in Sudan, the driving force of the 2019-2020 revolution, are very pro-American. "Now, Sudan is in dire need of money, otherwise the path towards a bright democratic future will be very soon followed by a deadlock of another military dictatorship," he cautioned.

"The US can certainly force us out of Sudan by normalizing its ties with the local elites, but in general only we alone can leave the region. But we need to be present there since this concerns the issues of safe navigation, including our own, and ensuring economic projects in Africa, and propping up potential future deals," said Ilya Kramnik, a junior fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

Izvestia: Russia’s public debt climbs to 17% of GDP

Russia’s public debt has reached nearly 20 trln rubles ($273 bln) or 17% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to a report of the Russian Accounts Chamber on the federal budget in January-March 2021. In two more years, it will surpass 21% of GDP, Izvestia writes. Russia’s internal debt during this period grew by 4.6% to 15.434 trln rubles ($211 bln). Meanwhile, its share in the overall public debt rose to 78.1% from 77.9%. Russia’s external debt dropped by 1.1%, amounting to $56.1 bln as of April 1. However, in rubles it increased by 1.4% since the start of the year to 4.247 trln rubles ($58 bln).

The Finance Ministry emphasizes that Russia will still remain among the countries with the lowest amount of debt, noting that the levels of about 20% of GDP are safe. Indeed, compared with other markets, Russia’s borrowing figures look better than good. For example, Japan’s public debt in 2021 hit 237.54% of GDP, in Italy - 133.43%, in the US - 106.70%, in France - 99.20%, in the UK - 85.67%, in Germany - 56.93% and in Ukraine - 62.03%.

That said, Russia can borrow more and this would be absolutely safe and painless. The world considers 60% of GDP as normal, so Russia could allow itself to increase public debt to 30-40%, the newspaper writes. "Russia's public debt is at a stable level - the volume of domestic debt has reached 84% of the upper limit of the domestic public debt, and the volume of external debt is 77.9% of the upper limit, which means that the country has sufficient reserves to build up its debt obligations. Such an increase in public debt is predictable and is caused by the need to finance the costs of the economic recovery in the post-crisis period," said Vladimir Krasilnikov, partner of the consulting company Rights Business Standard.

Kommersant: Airline service suspension between Germany and Russia not linked to Belarus

A brief conflict between Russian and German air regulators, which led to a mutual cancellation of flights, was not related to Belarus. Sources told Kommersant that the recent spat occurred over Aeroflot’s plans to obtain permission for additional cargo and passenger flights to Germany, which Berlin refused to offer. During the talks, the Federal Air Transport Agency tried to turn up the pressure by cancelling approvals for two Lufthansa flights, prompting a tit-for-tat response from the German regulator. Now the parties, who did officially clarify the reasons for the dispute, say that it has been ironed out. Yet, Aeroflot has failed to get additional flights.

The conflict that kicked off at the beginning of June was unusual for the Russian and German air regulators over the past years. However, it was settled rather quickly. Media reports linked it to previous disputes over flights above Belarus, but according to Kommersant, the current problem had no relation to this. The conflict started over Aeroflot’s desire to increase the number of cargo and passenger flights to Germany in early June, the newspaper says. However, traditionally in international air service, the number of flights performed by each country’s carriers is on a parity basis. "Germany refused to issue permission at the stage of preliminary talks and after this, Rosaviatsia [the Federal Air Transport Agency] initiated tit-for-tat measures," a source familiar with the situation said. Russia was the first to cancel permissions for Lufthansa.

"Amid the challenging external political situation, any problem with air carriers’ applications could lead to a refusal due to formal reasons. If earlier the sides were able to find common ground, now they just say there is a mistake [in the application form] and refuse to allow a flight," Executive Director of Aviaport Oleg Panteleev said.

Cargo and passenger flights require a one-time permission and that’s why the two countries’ agencies could delay this citing ‘excessive load’ as a reason, he believes. If Aeroflot indeed sought to carry out additional flights, in general it could get them without any special conflict, Panteleev said. But the situation with Belarus "triggered general tensions, and amid this the relations deteriorated".

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia overcomes COVID-19 crisis faster than many developed states

Russian officials are sure that the country’s economy has fully overcome the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. By the end of 2021, processing sectors will grow by 4%, Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov predicted. The structure of Russia’s economy is so that the country is indeed not falling deep into a crisis, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

In general, the nation’s economy is recovering from the COVID-19 crisis much faster than many Western countries, economists from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) pointed out. They estimate that by the end of 2021 Russia’s GDP will grow by 3.5% after a 2.6% drop last year. The analysts say that starting from the third quarter, Russia will return to its pre-pandemic GDP per capita level. This forecast lists Russia among the four best performing countries in terms of returning to pre-crisis figures. According to the OECD, China as well as South Korea will recover after the second quarter of this year. Turkey will return to the pre-pandemic level after the third quarter, the commentators say.

It’s noteworthy that Russia, where the vaccination pace remains rather low, will be recovering faster from the crisis than the UK, where 90 out of 100 people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 jab. Russia will also outperform Germany, where 54 out of 100 people have been inoculated.

Meanwhile, Russian economists do not regard such a quick economic recovery as a miracle. "The quick restoration of Russia’s economy is first explained by the lack of rigid lockdowns. Second, by the structure of our economy - a high share of the state sector and large enterprises, a rather small share of services and medium-sized businesses, and a low dependence on tourism," Finam analyst Olga Belenkaya notes.

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