- 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
- Press review: Why the Taliban backed out of talks and Russia wary of Biden’s summit bid
- Press review: Biden calls Putin asking to meet and will new EU sanctions harm JCPOA talks
Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, February 24, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Turkey seeks to return to F-35 fighter jet program
Ankara still hopes to rejoin the US F-35 joint strike fighter program, and in order to attain this goal Turkey has hired an American lobby group. However, the success of this effort is now questionable. Even under President Joe Biden, the White House is not planning to bring Ankara back to the project, leaving it "punished" for purchasing Russia’s S-400 missile systems. Turkey’s return to the program could be good grounds for normalizing ties between the two NATO partners, Izvestia writes.
According to Amur Hajiyev, a research fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Director of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies, it’s wrong to say that the F-35 issue is just political, the project also has an economic side to it. The Erdogan administration has poured a significant amount of money into it, and some parts were produced in Turkey. So, Washington’s move to kick Turkey out of the program will have certain economic consequences, he explained. Ankara is hinting that it could find a way to come to terms with the US. In February, Turkish defense chief Hulusi Akar announced that a compromise on the S-400s could be found if Washington reviewed its stance on the Kurdish armed units. The US is cooperating with the Kurds in Syria, yet Turkey brands them as terrorists. Akar’s proposal would allow the Erdogan government to act according to the so-called "Crete scenario," the expert said. This refers to the situation after Cyprus bought the S-300 missiles in 1997. The purchase triggered protests in Turkey and Cyprus agreed to send the system to the Greek island of Crete. Later, Greece formally bought these systems from Cyprus.
"Turkey is ready to remove these systems - possibly to its base in Qatar or Sudan," the specialist said. "Ankara is trying to take the first step towards settling this issue, but so far this step has not received any response from the US." The expert suggests that Turkey should hold consultations with Russia and "maybe some common solution could be found." "But it seems to me that neither the Turks nor the Americans are ready for this."
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington’s gamble to turn G7 into anti-Chinese alliance floundering
US President Joe Biden addressed a video conference twice on Friday as a leader who seeks to unite the West against external foes - China and Russia. At the G7 forum, Biden called for a collective response to Beijing’s challenge, while at the Munich Security Conference he spoke about how to curb the Kremlin. Beijing views Washington’s ambitions as an attempt to trigger a new Cold War, where China will be the key rival. According to Chinese experts, the US won’t be able to lure Germany and Japan to its side, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The stance of Biden and other G7 leaders could significantly differ. For Berlin, the Asian powerhouse is a major export market for its automobiles, while Japan also has a huge trade volume with China. These two countries are unlikely to weaken their ties with Beijing to coddle the US, the China-based Global Times says.
Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations Alexander Lomanov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the Americans and the Europeans share an interest in having a lever for containing China which would be more like a bargaining tool. "This motivation is especially strong as far as the Europeans are concerned, since they do not want to look weak. I believe that regarding negotiations and statements on human rights, an alliance will be formed. But this won’t be a real alliance, which could cause economic or military and political damage to China. The Europeans don’t want to lose profits by curtailing economic ties with China."
According to the expert, a new model of the Cold War is being created. "Economic interaction between the two sides will continue. However, the high-tech sector is increasingly being isolated from this interaction. It is turning into a prohibited zone. This is the kind of model that will be created throughout this decade," Lomanov said.
Izvestia: EU opts for the mildest possible sanctions against Russia, experts say
The European Union has endorsed new sanctions against Russia over the case of opposition figure Alexey Navalny. Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that Brussels has chosen the mildest possible scenario. The restrictions will target certain representatives of Russia’s authorities and won’t trigger any real consequences for the leadership in Moscow. Meanwhile, Brussels is preparing for a summit to further design its Russia strategy. Most likely, the EU’s approach towards Russia will be just a declaration, since it cannot take any real steps against Moscow, experts said.
The EU Foreign Affairs Council on February 22 approved the sanctions, which had been promised by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. Ahead of the meeting, experts said three scenarios were likely: restrictive measures against officials, restrictions against officials and businessmen and stronger sectoral economic sanctions. The first option was seen as the most likely one and it was implemented, the newspaper writes.
Program Director of the Russian International Affairs Council Ivan Timofeev noted that the grounds for these sanctions was a mechanism for violating human rights. "In this case it’s unreal to punish businessmen under the Navalny case," the expert said, stressing that they have nothing to do with this situation. If they had been blacklisted, they would have filed lawsuits the day after with the EU judicial system and they would have won the case, he noted. This would have dealt a serious blow to the EU Council’s reputation. In this case, the magnitude of the sanctions would have expanded and Russia would have retaliated.
"Now these are to a large extent ritual steps at the level of statements. In fact, the EU cannot do anything and frankly speaking, it does not want to since it has not established contact with the new US administration yet," said Chief Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Europe Vladimir Shveitser. According to the expert, the upcoming summit will be a repetition. No real steps can be taken now - the EU has done everything it was able to do since 2014. Besides, the alliance is facing many other problems.
RBC: Three major outcomes of Biden’s first month in the White House
During his first month in office, US President Joe Biden has managed to boost the pace of the US vaccination program and reverse the anti-immigration policies of his predecessor Donald Trump. Along his foreign policy track, Biden pledged to pursue a course aimed at partnering with Europe and maintaining NATO’s integrity, RBC writes.
The Biden administration decided to rejoin international treaties, which the US left under Trump, namely the Paris climate agreement. The new US leader also halted Washington’s departure from the World Health Organization. Washington is also ready to return to talks on the Iran nuclear deal.
Biden also decided to continue Washington’s policy on Russia. In his speech at the Munich conference, he accused Moscow of trying to weaken NATO and the EU and vowed to counter these attempts. Meanwhile, he declared his readiness to maintain dialogue with Russia on arms control and one of the first decisions of the new administration was to extend New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) for five years.
So far, the Biden administration’s steps on Russia meet the expectations of analysts in general, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy Fyodor Lukyanov told the newspaper. "As expected, there is harsh criticism against Russia with accusations of violating human rights and democratic values. On the other hand, there is readiness to cooperate with Moscow on such issues as arms control, the Middle East and environmental protection," he told RBC.
According to Lukyanov, as predicted, a major irritant in Moscow’s relations with Washington would be the issues related to Russia’s neighboring countries, namely Ukraine. "It’s hard to say if this is just a coincidence or not, but as we can see, since the new US administration’s rise to power, Kiev’s position both on Donbass and relations with Russia has been toughening," the expert explained.
Kommersant: North American coal suppliers compete with Russia for Chinese market
North American coal companies are vying with Russia for the Chinese market of coking coal. In late 2020, they boosted supplies after China had halted imports of Australian coal. Earlier, China purchased a scant volume of coal from North America due to more expensive logistics. At present, the rise in coal prices has encouraged an increase in supplies, however, the opportunities of North American coal companies on further stepping up output are limited due to insufficient investments in production capacity over the past years, Kommersant writes.
According to the Argus global price reporting agency, Canada increased its supplies in November by 76.8% to 311,000 tonnes compared to November 2019. In December, it exported 510,000 tonnes, a record high figure over seven months (a 55-percent annual increase). In December, the US supplied 115,000 tons of coking coal to China, 80% more than in November (in December 2019 there were no supplies at all).
So, North American suppliers have become major rivals for Russian producers on the Chinese coal market, which is the world’s largest. Russia remains the biggest supplier of coking coal to China, but these deliveries are facing problems over logistic restrictions. Out of 200 mln tonnes of China’s annual coal imports Australia accounted for some 70 mln, while Russia accounted for another 30 mln tonnes, Moody’s Vice President Denis Perevezentsev said. China also imports a significant volume of coal from Indonesia and Mongolia, he noted.