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Press review: Will Egypt, Turkey clash over Libya and can Russia return spooked investors

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, June 22th
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi  Natalia Fedosenko/TASS
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi
© Natalia Fedosenko/TASS

Izvestia: Experts see Biden gaining ground in US presidential race

Voter support for US President Donald Trump has been slowly slipping away ahead of the presidential election. Nationwide polls show Democrat contender Joe Biden having a lead of between 3% and 14% over Trump. However, the incumbent president’s team is not rushing to ring alarm bells. American experts polled by Izvestia explained that the 2016 scenario when the overwhelming majority of opinion polls were mistaken in their forecasts could repeat again. Besides, the White House occupant’s supporters often prefer to keep silent about their political choice, like during the previous campaign. However, obviously the Republican incumbent is not a clear favorite anymore in the race against the former Vice President like before the coronavirus pandemic and the protests that engulfed the country. The Black Lives Matter movement dominating the US agenda over the past month and Trump’s approach delivered a serious blow to his rankings.

Meanwhile, it is too early to write Trump off or even dismiss him. Neil Newhouse, a co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies think tank, told Izvestia that there is no doubt that Biden is now in the lead over Trump, but the race is not yet in full swing. Voters still don’t know a lot about Biden, although he has been in politics for more than 30 years. What is happening today will surely differ from what will be in September. Besides, the current protests are unlikely to greatly impact voter attitudes toward Trump, the expert noted. He is convinced that some voters prefer not to tell sociologists that they support Trump. This was the case four years ago and could also repeat in the current situation, he noted.

Expert at The Atlantic Council Anders Aslund believes that the situations in 2016 and 2020 differ. First, Hillary Clinton was considered "the elite", while Joe Biden is seen as a blue-collar candidate. Besides, many disliked Trump’s ex-rival, but this is not so in the case with the current Democratic candidate. Meanwhile, the nationwide US protests pose a threat to the former Vice President since they drag him further to the left on racial, law enforcement and social issues. So, not all voters like that.


Kommersant: Foreign investors flee Russian market, but search for cheap assets bound to bring them back

After a three-week pause, international investors started rolling back investments in the Russian stock market. In the past week, they withdrew nearly $60 mln. This outflow can be seen in many regional funds and is explained by the desire to record profits after the vibrant growth over the past few months. Meanwhile, experts believe that amid the large-scale monetary stimulus from major global central banks, the search for cheap assets will resume and the demand for investing in the Russian market will be restored, Kommersant business daily writes.

"Several years ago, such levels [of outflow] could cause panic around the world and total sales of everything," Region Asset Management’s Alexei Skaballanovich told the paper. Now, with investors stung by the epidemic, this just resulted in a situation when they stopped hunting for cheap assets around the world. The reason for recording profits could be the destabilization in the United States triggered by the protests and the widespread looting as well as Donald Trump’s shattered position. Investors are also worried about the economic forecasts by the Federal Reserve System, which predicts a 6.5% economic slump this year.

Many experts doubt that the current situation will last. According to Skaballanovich, the second wave of the pandemic has so far been limited to just talk, while major measures taken by central banks around the world on reducing rates and filling the system with money are still in place. Capital will keep searching for high-profit assets and the Russian stock market, which has the highest dividend profitability in the world, will keep attracting investors, he noted. Dmitry Kosmodemyansky, an Otkritie assets manager, agrees that the flow of international money to the Russian market "is just a matter of time."


Izvestia: Amendment to prioritize Russian Constitution over international law could trigger new sanctions

The amendment on the supremacy of the Russian Constitution over international law is a natural follow-up of the existing Russian norms, members of a working group on the amendments to the Constitution questioned by Izvestia said. Earlier, the Venice Commission at the Council of Europe recommended giving up this initiative recalling that Russia had undertaken particular commitments when joining the organization. This is just a recommendation and that’s why it will be taken into account last of all, politicians and experts noted. However, the adoption of this amendment could be a new reason for imposing more anti-Russian sanctions.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee and a member of the working group on amendments to the Constitution, explained that the initiative does not annul Russia’s commitments to other countries and the changes are linked to just interpreting the clauses of intergovernmental agreements between Russia and supranational institutions.

"This amendment is being introduced into the Constitution to reinforce the federal law on the powers of the Constitutional Court. It excludes any cases when there are attempts to exert additional pressure on us," Kosachev specified.

In 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing the Constitutional Court to consider it impossible to fulfill the decisions of international courts in Russia if they violate the principle of the supremacy of the nation’s top law. The amendment raises the provisions, now functioning in the country, to a new level, making them more important, said Suren Avakyan, a member of the working group on the constitutional amendments.

Meanwhile, the initiative could be seen as Russia attempting to isolate itself from the rest of the world, said Vladimir Entin, a corresponding member of the International Academy of Comparative Law and attorney at Klishin & Partners firm. "For other countries this will be a trump card for imposing sanctions and other restrictions on Russia."


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Egyptian leader responds to Turkey’s move in Libyan civil war

Egypt has a full right to deploy its forces to Libyan soil and will do so in case there is such a necessity, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said responding to the bellicose statements and actions of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Libyan supporters. Ankara has rejected a plan for peaceful settlement in Libya, known as the Cairo Initiative, which was supported by the majority of organizations and countries, including Russia and the United States, and is apparently bracing for a military solution to the conflict, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Most recently, after lengthy battles, the forces of Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the Government of National Accord, repelled Khalifa Haftar’s troops from Tripoli with Turkey’s assistance. Later, the GNA’s Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said any talks with Haftar were possible only after the Libyan National Army’s pullout from Sirt and the Jufra District. The Egyptian president said these two cities were a red line, which cannot be crossed.

"Al-Sisi did not hesitate to declare to the whole world that he is interested in preventing Turkey from entering the territory of [Libya's] Oil Crescent. Ankara and Cairo have had tense relations for a long time. Now, Turkey has announced its long-term plans in Libya. Egypt has been relying on Libyan oil and its economy for several decades. Despite the civil war, many Egyptians are still working in Libya," said Senior Lecturer at the Higher School of Economics' School of Oriental Studies Andrei Chuprygin. The future scenario depends on foreign actors, the expert noted. So far, only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Al-Sisi’s long-time allies, have declared their support for his stance. Neither the US nor Russia have commented on the Egyptian leader’s statement.

"Everyone is considering what to do next. But the big players are unlikely to keep aloof. Hardly anyone of them is interested in a war between Turkey and Egypt. This would be a major conflict, which the Middle East has not seen since 1967. Everyone will lose in the end," the expert warned.


Kommersant: Russia boosts meat exports to Asia

Expanding to Asia offers new opportunities for Russian meat producers. Analysts of the National Rating Agency predict that Russian meat exports could rise 50% to 470,000 tonnes by the end of 2020. President of Agrifood Strategies Albert Davleyev said the NRA’s forecast reflected the current export dynamics and supplies could even grow 80-100%, Kommersant writes.

The surge in pork supplies is mostly related to sales to Vietnam amid a decrease in production in Asia due to African swine fever, the research said. Last year, pork production in China dropped 21.3% to 42.5 mln tonnes, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. As African swine fever keeps spreading in China, meat production plunged by 20 mln or 30 mln tonnes and it’s impossible to compensate for this decline through the efforts of several key exporters, Davleyev noted. So, Russian companies are eyeing prospects on boosting the volume of supplies through Vietnam and Hong Kong, he said. Sergey Yushin, who heads the National Meat Association, said the key drivers of high rates of meat exports would be the dynamics of prices on the Vietnamese and Chinese markets as well as continued growth in meat production in Russia.

However, trade restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could prevent Russia from fulfilling its export potential, the research noted. According to Davleyev, the growth in meat exports could free the domestic market from excessive volumes, which currently affects prices.

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