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Press review: Russia’s goals for the decade and possible US-led boycott of 2022 Olympics

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, July 22


Izvestia: Russia updates its decade-long national development goals

Despite global economic turbulence, it is possible to implement the goals set out in the Russian president's decree on the national development goals through 2030, which was signed on July 21, lawmakers told Izvestia.

According to the document, life expectancy, which was 73.4 years in 2019, should reach 78 years in ten years’ time. Another goal is to halve poverty compared to the 2017 level. In addition, Russia will seek to enter the world's top ten countries in terms of general education quality.

"The economy is rapidly changing, and so are the needs of the labor market. People move between occupations two to three times in their lifetime, and they need to have continued learning opportunities in order to remain competitive," Progressive Education Institute Director Anna Marks told the newspaper.

The decree also covers environmental issues. In particular, there are plans to create a sustainable system to manage solid municipal waste. "There is a need to focus on building and renovating waste treatment facilities and pay special attention to handling the emission of industrial pollutants into bodies of water," said Timur Usmanov, a member of the Central Board of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation.

The document also sets other important goals. These include plans to make sure that the number of workers employed in small and medium-sized businesses climbs to 25 mln, and that capital investment expands by at least 70% compared to 2020. Similar expectations cover non-commodity and non-energy exports, too.

"The development goals are realistic, even with the current global economic turbulence. The coronavirus crisis has complicated the implementation of the government’s plans, including the National Projects. This is why, for instance, the document does not reiterate the goal of entering the top five global economies, which was mentioned in the previous presidential decree for the period through 2024," State Duma member Viktor Zubarev explained. According to him, what is essential is that the focus is on the human aspect, including the need to improve life expectancy and the quality of life. "It will give a boost to all other areas, from healthcare to education," the lawmaker emphasized.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US legislators eye Olympic boycott against China

A number of US congressmen are calling for boycotting the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games. A similar move was made against the Soviet Union 40 years ago, when Washington and its allies cited Moscow's intervention in Afghanistan. And now, they might point to Beijing's crackdown against Muslims in the Xinjiang autonomous region, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has spoken out against all boycotts, saying that they negatively affect athletes. However, George Magnus, a researcher at the University of Oxford China Center, says that the 2022 Olympics are becoming a potential bone of contention. The United States, Canada and Sweden have tense relations with China and may want to quash the hype over the Games or boycott them.

Senior Fellow at the Washington-based Institute for China-America Studies Sourabh Gupta believes that as far as an Olympic boycott is concerned, the US will have the final say, particularly given its influence over the other members of the Five Eyes intelligence pact - the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

"It is a common belief in the US that Americans made a mistake by taking part in the 2008 Olympic Games. Back then, Washington was guided by the illusions that China’s economic growth would create a middle class that would demand more political rights and freedoms. And China would turn into a country like Japan, just larger. Those hopes were dashed," Vladimir Batyuk, Chief Research Associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies, told the newspaper. "This is why, perhaps, the US would like to prevent China from hosting the 2022 Olympic Games.

The elections are just around the corner and those who will make the final decision will be guided by domestic political factors and not by the need to promote sports," the expert pointed out.


Izvestia: EU members agree on pandemic recovery fund

European Union countries have agreed on an economic recovery plan. They will create a 750-bln euro pandemic recovery fund as planned, while grants for the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus have been reduced from 500 bln euro to 390 bln, Izvestia notes.

The new fund establishes a principle that EU bodies don't rely solely on the member states as far as resources are concerned. Besides, it provides specific proof of solidarity among EU nations, Vincent Della Sala, Director of the Jean Monnet Centre at Italy's University of Trento, told the paper.

According to the expert, the agreement has something for every country but none of them got everything they had hoped for.

The recovery package shows the EU's ability to act and the advantages its members have. The important thing is to make sure that it helps the areas hit hardest by the pandemic crisis since its ultimate impact is yet to be assessed, Finnish member of the European Parliament Eero Heinaluoma told the newspaper.

The lawmaker emphasized the importance of balancing between loans and grants. In his view, the recovery fund should be used to support economic growth and investment, particularly in the digital and green transition.

In addition, a prerequisite for using these funds is that at least 30% of the grants and loans are spent on positive climate projects. The reason is that apart from the need to restore the economy, the EU also has an ambitious plan to free it from carbon emissions by 2050. Debates on the plan are yet to take place.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US targets another weak spot in Nord Stream 2 project

American lawmakers have found more weaknesses in Russia’s gas pipeline projects. The US Congress plans to sanction bodies expected to issue certificates to the Nord Stream 2 and the TurkStream pipelines, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The threat of sanctions is becoming more real because Berlin has no plan of retaliation to fight it.

"We need to wait for the law to be adopted and see how it will be implemented," said Igor Yushkov, a leading expert from the Russian government’s Financial University. According to him, Germany and other lobbyists are trying to make sure that the final version of the document concerns only construction work. "There is no harm in that because sanctions on construction activities already exist. And the fact that Gazprom has sent its own vessels to the site shows that the company is ready to handle sanctions as long as Nord Stream 2 is completed," Yuskov noted.

However, if new restrictions seek to prevent the pipelines from entering into service, some things won't depend on Gazprom, the expert went on to say. "Imagine that Gazprom has completed the construction of Nord Stream 2 and submitted all its documents to German regulators in order to get permission to put the pipeline into service. The regulator will have to decide whether to be guided by national laws or by US sanctions. This is the legal conflict that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is critical of," Yuskov added.

"The US legal framework for sanctions makes it possible to impose restrictions on specific companies, but it is not a mandatory thing to do. This is why, the Americans may decide against taking chances for fear of putting too much pressure on relations with Europe and dealing an excessively strong blow to Europe," emphasized Stanislav Mitrakhovich, another leading expert from the Financial University.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia’s Pole of Cold experiences record ‘heat wave’

A heat wave in Russia’s Eastern Siberia has carried on for over a month, sending temperatures in Verkhoyansk, the world’s Pole of Cold, to 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit). A group of researchers from Russia, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland tried to find our why it happened.

"An abnormally low pressure area was recorded over the North Pole between January and April," one of the group’s members, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics Olga Zolina told the paper. "Winter temperatures in the Arctic and northeastern Siberia turned out to be much higher than usual. As a result, the high pressure area declined, which is usually formed there. A reverse process began in the region in early June, when the pressure started to get higher," she explained.

According to Zolina, if there was no human impact, a natural anomaly still could have emerged but it wouldn’t have been record-breaking.

Researchers believe that thawing permafrost is particularly dangerous. According to estimates, up to 1.5 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide are preserved in the taiga forests of Russia and Canada, which is 40 times the level of annual global emissions. If these reserves are released, global warming might gain pace.

Professor Sonia Seneviratne believes that humankind has little time left to contain climate change within the Paris Agreement. In order to do that, the world needs to at least halve carbon emissions by 2030. Meanwhile, an increasing number of scenarios provide skepticism on the possibility of reducing emissions, and the phenomenon in Verkhoyansk merely dims the prospects.


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