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Press review: Bundestag fears forsaking Nord Stream 2 and Russia charts new Syria strategy

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, September 8
A transport vehicle moving a tube for the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, Ruegen, Germany Jens Buettner/dpa via AP
A transport vehicle moving a tube for the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, Ruegen, Germany
© Jens Buettner/dpa via AP

Izvestia: Bundestag fears abandoning Nord Stream 2 could cause major economic damage

Linking the Nord Stream 2 project to the Alexey Navalny case would mean succumbing to Washington’s threats and harming the economy, Bundestag lawmaker from the ruling CDU/CSU coalition Manfred Grund told Izvestia, noting that Chancellor Angela Merkel is now facing a lot of heat. German politicians interviewed by Izvestia noted that suspending the gas pipeline's construction would force German and European gas consumers to pay through the nose for energy supplies. Representatives from Nord Stream 2 AG told Izvestia that the sanctions against the project would jeopardize about 12 bln euro in investments in the EU's energy infrastructure, since gas delivery through the project is planned for markets throughout Europe.

Grund told Izvestia that because of the uproar over the Navalny case, Merkel is now under severe pressure from the opposition, the media and even representatives of her own party Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In his opinion, if Germany ties Nord Stream 2 to the blogger's case, it will succumb to threats from Washington and damage its own economy. Germany and Europe need an additional 55 bln cubic meters of gas now and for the next few years, he noted

"The sanctions against the project will jeopardize about 12 bln euro in investments in the EU's energy infrastructure. This infrastructure was built to deliver gas from Nord Stream 2 to gas markets throughout Europe," the Nord Stream 2 AG operator told Izvestia. The company noted that given the difficult global economic situation in the wake of the pandemic, the project’s suspension would block almost 700 mln euro of investments towards the completion of the gas pipeline.

Klaus Ernst, who heads the Bundestag Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy, told Izvestia that this is a private sector project that has been approved long ago and is almost completed. If it stops, German and European companies will suffer colossal damage.

Steffen Kotre, a member of the Bundestag’s energy committee, told the newspaper that European consumers will be the first to suffer from the pipeline’s suspension. According to him, they would have to pay more for gas from other countries, especially from the United States.


Izvestia: Belarus might slap sanctions on EU leadership

Minsk may impose sanctions against EU leaders in response to their restrictive measures against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an answer will be prepared within the next few days, the House of Representatives of Belarus told Izvestia. The country would like to avoid a sanctions race with the European Union, the legislature specified, but it will not leave any possible actions unanswered. Meanwhile, Lukashenko plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to hash over the Union State.

"We oppose sanctions, and consider them to be a relic of the 20th century, a remnant of ‘political bloc’ thinking. But on the other hand, there is the principle of reciprocity, so we reserve the right to provide a symmetrical or even asymmetrical answer, and a decision will be made in the coming days," said Andrey Savinykh, chairperson of the Standing Commission of the House of Representatives on International Affairs, to the newspaper. He added that the measures could include sanctions against the leaders of EU countries.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian leader plans to pay a visit to Russia. The exact date of the talks with Putin has not yet been disclosed. One of the key topics of the negotiations will be further integration of the Union State, Belarusian political scientist Aleksey Dzermant told Izvestia. According to him, the two leaders will focus on economic issues, namely the possibility of switching to a single currency within the union, as well as the tax maneuver.

"But it cannot be ruled out that the Belarusian side will also make statements about support for Russia's foreign policy. Symbolic gestures from Belarus are possible, for example, recognizing Crimea as part of Russia. However, this potential move could deprive Minsk of the status of a negotiating platform for Donbass and complicate relations with Kiev, the political scientist explained.


Kommersant: Russia’s top diplomat focuses on new cooperation framework with Damascus

Moscow has opened a new page in its relations with Syria, with economics topping the agenda. This was the impression after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Damascus for the first time in eight years, Kommersant writes. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov visited the Syrian capital with him. Both of the Russian diplomatic VIPs noted that it would be difficult to establish effective economic interaction due to the West’s sanctions, but as Borisov noted, Moscow and Damascus will try to break the blockade of Syria together. The diplomatic bigwigs did not mention whether Moscow would nudge the Syrian authorities towards political reforms that will help Damascus emerge from international isolation.

Borisov promised that Moscow and Damascus would try to break the blockade of Syria, noting that Western sanctions impede investment in the Syrian economy. Russia has already managed to do a lot in the war-torn Middle Eastern country, he added. In particular, within the framework of the energy roadmap signed in 2018, Russia plans to restore about 40 infrastructure facilities there.

However, the sanctions affect cooperation as well, Kommersant writes. According to the newspaper, under the current conditions, Damascus cannot have the slightest hope of restoring dialogue with the West and lifting sanctions, which means there will be a shortage of funds for rebuilding Syria.

"If Assad does not start reforms, he will be left without money and only with a part of Syria. This will be his decision. But at the same time, a lot in Syria depends on what the future policy of the United States will be, and what will happen after the elections," a source in Moscow, familiar with the Syrian peace process, told Kommersant. At the same time, the source noted that the time had come for Russia to decide on the strategy of its presence in Syria in any situation, more precisely, on what conditions it will remain in this Middle Eastern country.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia’s service sector still struggling to get out of coronavirus crisis

The threat of a new coronavirus wave and the deterioration of the financial situation of Russian citizens are holding back the service industry from fully recovering following the removal of most of the quarantine restrictions, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. According to SberIndex, Russians’ spending on entertainment in August was almost 1.5-fold less than a year ago, and spending in restaurants, cafes and beauty salons lagged behind last year’s figures by more than 20%.

According to the newspaper, despite most of the quarantine restrictions being lifted and the fact that after the lockdown some people went to satisfy their "hunger" for many types of services from hairstyling to entertainment, demand is still far from the pre-lockdown levels. The public still has serious fears about the coronavirus, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. In addition, falling incomes and unclear labor market prospects in general serve as a disincentive.

The demand for services fell in early summer, restrained by a noticeable drop in the income of Russians, which continues to this day, analyst at Finam Alexey Korenev told the newspaper. "The return of consumer demand has been extremely bumpy. Thus, the entertainment sector is still far from recovery, and the volume of proceeds from film distribution is only 5% of the pre-crisis times," the expert added. At the same time, in his opinion, if new restrictions are introduced, then they may turn out to be less widespread.


Vedomosti: US can’t say no to Russian oil products

The export of petroleum products (gasoline, diesel fuel, fuel oil, naphtha, gas oil) from Russia to the United States by the end of this year may grow by 25% compared with last year to 175 mln barrel in physical terms and 1.5-fold to $6 bln in terms of value, Vygon Consulting analysts told Vedomosti. In the second half of the year, Russia will increase exports of oil products by 20-30%, experts said. At the same time, oil exports by the end of the year may decline 1.7-fold to 28 mln barrels and by a quarter in monetary terms to $1.5 bln, according to Vygon Consulting.

In early July, US presidential candidate Joe Biden spotlighted the sharp increase in hydrocarbon imports from Russia. The politician noted that this threatens the national security of the United States, and proposed restrictive measures.

However, in the next six months it will hardly be possible to do this, according to Vygon Consulting. The United States in 2019 refused to import raw materials from Venezuela. According to analysts, many refineries in America cannot run on light oil from Texas and shale fields. To avoid stopping production, the US is forced to buy raw materials from Russia.

In June 2020, Russia ranked fourth among major suppliers of crude oil and petroleum products to the United States, after Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Exports in June from Russia amounted to 16.54 mln barrels, the Energy Information Administration of the United States Department of Energy (EIA) said. According to Vygon Consulting, the total volume of oil and oil products exports from Russia to the United States in 2020 will be about $8 bln against $6 bln at the end of 2019.



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