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Press review: Russia uses soft power in Caucasus and Cuba, Uzbekistan to join EAEU

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, September 29
Armenian army destroys Azerbaijani tanks at the contact line of the disputed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian Defense Ministry via AP
Armenian army destroys Azerbaijani tanks at the contact line of the disputed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh
© Armenian Defense Ministry via AP

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia relies on soft power in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

The parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict keep accusing each other of aggression and reporting about enemy losses and the seizures of settlements and strategic heights. Armenia has declared martial law and announced a military mobilization. Azerbaijan has done the same. However, experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta point out that neither of them is capable of achieving a significant military success.

Military analyst Leonid Nersisyan emphasized that the military capabilities of the two countries are almost equal. "Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces are about 80,000 troops strong, while Armenia and the [unrecognized] Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have up to 65,000 troops. A thing to note is that both parties are mobilizing reservists," the expert said. As for military hardware, the odds are somewhat in Azerbaijan’s favor.

Chief Editor of the Arsenal Otechestva (Arsenal of the Fatherland) magazine Viktor Murakhovsky points to another important detail: the terrain of Nagorno-Karabakh makes it impossible to use military equipment and weapons to full capacity. "There are mountains everywhere so tanks, multiple launch rocket systems and other equipment won’t be as effective as on open terrain," he explained.

Academy of Military Sciences Professor Vadim Kozyulin believes that the most important thing is to make sure that third countries don't interfere in the situation. Russia and Turkey have been refraining from any military activities.

"In fact, there is no political, let alone military, way to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. In the 30 years of the conflict, various options were presented to Baku and Yerevan, including the possibility of exchanging territories. But it didn’t work. The only thing that can be done now is to enact a ceasefire and return to political and diplomatic dialogue," Kozyulin emphasized.


Izvestia: Cuba and Uzbekistan may join EAEU in 2020

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is likely to have two new observers by the end of the year, Cuba and Uzbekistan, Izvestia wrote, citing the Eurasian Economic Commission.

The EAEU and Havana began to actively cooperate in 2018 after singing a memorandum of understanding. Russia has been promoting Cuba’s integration into the union because out of the five member states (Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan), Moscow is the one that maintains the closest trade and economic relations with the Caribbean island nation.

"We have never had an observer country from the New World. Cuba is the thought leader for many Latin American countries and it’s like we are opening a window to the New World. Although cooperation is not that big at the moment, providing observer status to Cuba will significantly boost it," said Sergei Glazyev, minister in charge of EAEU integration and macroeconomics.

Tashkent potentially joining the EAEU's activities will boost opportunities for interaction in Central Asia. "Uzbekistan is a rather large and potentially fast-developing market, which can provide additional prospects for the EAEU in terms of expanding regional trade and creating more transport links in the region," Valdai Discussion Club Program Director Yaroslav Lissovolik stressed.

The expert noted that the EAEU had long adopted the path of making alliances with countries and regional associations. "Memorandums have been singed with MERCOSUR and ASEAN. As the EAEU expands its partnership network, other countries and groups are becoming increasingly interested in cooperating with the entire web of alliances that the EAEU is building," the commentator explained.


Kommersant: France, Russia can create new European security structure, senator says

France and Russia could create a new European security structure, Chairman of the French Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee Christian Cambon said in an interview with Kommersant.

He pointed out that such a possibility was mentioned in a joint report that the French Senate and Russia’s Federation Council released in June. According to Cambon, France has been politically inclined to build dialogue with Russia for several years, despite all the difficulties and disagreements. Paris considers Russia to be a global power without whom no conflict or crisis in the world can be resolved and whose important global role cannot be ignored, he stressed.

The French senator noted that as far as the economy was concerned, the parties had lots of opportunities for cooperation because they complemented each other in many areas and could benefit from activities on each other’s market.

Cambon went on to say that France expected Russia to make conciliatory moves so that sanctions could be lifted and cooperation could get a boost. He specified that it was about the situation in Belarus and the implementation of the Minsk Agreements on Donbass, adding that responsibility lied not only with Russia. According to Cambon, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, France and Russia should work hand in hand and play a peacekeeping role in the world.

When commenting on the situation surrounding blogger Alexey Navalny, the French lawmaker noted that no one should be accused without any evidence. In his view, Russia needs to find the masterminds of the poisoning and punish them according to the law, while Germany should bring its evidence forward and allow Russian doctors to join the effort.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Oil consumption to return to pre-crisis levels in two to three years

Oil demand is expected to drop by 10% in 2020 and the industry won’t see a return to the pre-crisis level very soon, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes, citing Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

Experts from Argus Consulting believe that the pre-crisis levels won’t be reached until 2023. The burden of restoring the balance on the market will be shouldered by the OPEC+ countries. It is their efforts that keep oil prices above $40 per barrel, but new coronavirus outbreaks make previous forecasts look too optimistic, research says.

Some market experts note that the increasing use of renewable energy sources could push oil prices further down but not all share this view.

"Renewable energy’s share in the 2020 energy balance should not be overestimated because it was rooted not so much in the growing renewable energy output but in a plunge in hydrocarbon consumption amid the quarantines," said Director of ACRA’s Corporate Ratings Group Vasily Tanurkov. According to him, sooner or later, the lockdowns will end and demand for hydrocarbons can be expected to fully rebound in 2022 at the worst, while the growing use of renewable energy will appear only in the long run, by the end of the 2020s.

As for oil prices, experts agree that they are unlikely to exceed $50 per barrel in the next two years. Even if the situation is in favor of oil exporters, competition will grow and oil producers will have to forget about windfall profits.


Vedomosti: Businesses not ready for return of lockdown restrictions

The number of coronavirus cases is growing in Russia and the return of quarantine restrictions is becoming an increasing reality, which is really frightening for businesses, Vedomosti notes.

"Many small and medium-sized businesses just won’t survive another lockdown similar to the one that was in April and May," President of the Business Russia public organization Pavel Titov warned.

Restrictions will not change people's basic needs, Co-Chairman of Business Russia in Moscow Andrei Pavlov argued. "If someone needs a pair of shoes, they will buy it," he said, adding: "The difference is that in the past, it took three visits to a store on average and now it will be just one." "The main thing is not to shut down businesses again. As an option, it is possible to change their working hours and introduce non-working days, on Sundays, for instance," Pavlov added.

At the same time, businessmen admit that a potential second coronavirus wave does not come as a surprise for them. "The survival strategy is for the government and business entities to make the right conclusions from the spring lesson," First Vice President of the Union of Russian Manufacturers Zurab Mutiyev said.

According to him, businesses need to understand that they can survive only if they change with society. "Conservative businesses have no reason to exist under such circumstances," Mutiyev stressed. "Many view government support as a way to make it through the hard times and then things will be the same again. But they will not. Changes aren’t just a temporary difficulty but a reality that is here to stay," the expert emphasized.


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