Kommersant: US may slap sanctions on Saudi crown prince after implicating him in Khashoggi killing
The US administration on Monday will announce a new strategy for relations with Saudi Arabia, which are expected to cool. Washington’s move to reconsider cooperation with its main ally in the Middle East comes after the release of an American intelligence report saying that the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was approved by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It means that after a period of friendship under former US President Donald Trump, relations between the two counties are entering an era of uncertainty, Kommersant writes.
"The release of the US intelligence report, which was postponed under Trump, has confirmed Riyadh’s worst fears that Joe Biden’s election win will mark the beginning of an era of new uncertainty in Saudi-US relations," Professor at Moscow State University’s School of World Politics Grigory Kosach explained. "Saudi Arabia is unhappy with President Biden’s intention to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in relations with Iran and the United States’ reluctance to recognize Yemen’s Houthi movement as a terrorist organization. It is particularly concerned about the Biden administration’s goal of bringing the human rights issue back to the bilateral agenda," the expert added.
Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin pointed out that the chill in relations between Washington and Riyadh might boost Russian-Saudi defense cooperation.
"For years, Russia has been trying to enter the Saudi arms market and sometimes it seemed close to signing major contracts but things went wrong at the last moment. Perhaps, the divergent interests of Moscow and Riyadh in Middle Eastern politics played a role, and to some degree, the Saudis may have sought to take advantage of talks with Moscow in order to put pressure on the West. However, the situation can change, particularly because Saudi Arabia is indeed willing to diversify its defense ties with other countries," the expert emphasized.
Media: Armenia's authorities, opposition seek to settle scores through peaceful rallies
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced that a rally and a march will take place in the country’s capital of Yerevan on March 1, making it clear that "Armenia has a society that is capable of protecting the power of the people and won’t let anyone infringe on its constitutional rights." The statement came after Chief of the General Staff Onik Gasparyan and a number of other high-ranking officers had demanded the prime minister’s resignation. In response, Pashinyan called for the dismissal of the General Staff’s chief but the country’s president rejected the proposal, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.
Editor-in-Chief of the International Analytics journal Sergei Markedonov believes that "neither of the opposing parties have major advantages." "On the one hand, the Karabakh defeat is Prime Minister Pashinyan’s Achilles' heel. On the other, the opposition has no clear leaders capable of heading protests. The people that opposition forces are nominating aren’t popular among young people. At the same time, from a legal standpoint, Pashinyan is squeaky clean, because he honestly won all elections by achieving a majority. The current situation is boosting the role of street protests. However, the important aspect is that Pashinyan knows how to deal with people on the streets and is hopeful that he will be able to win protesters over from the opposition, particularly by taking part in rallies," the expert explained.
Meanwhile, political scientist Grant Mikaelyan told Kommersant that Pashinyan is highly unlikely to retain his post. "It would take a dictatorship and a crackdown on the opposition to secure a victory. However, a ruler that the army is against can’t be a dictator. Pashinyan is part of the problem and the crisis cannot be resolved until he steps down," the expert pointed out, adding that even if the PM resigned, his political force "will continue to cling to power."
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: NATO launches hunt for Russian submarines in Black Sea
NATO’s Poseidon 21 naval drills have kicked off in Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta. The exercise is particularly aimed at practicing ways of combating surface and underwater threats coming from a potential enemy. This is NATO’s first major drill of 2021, which will pave the way for a larger scale exercise, the Defender Europe 2021, scheduled to be held in the Balkans and the Black Sea in the spring and summer, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.
"Almost all units involved in the Poseidon 21 exercise are equipped with devices to detect surface and underwater targets, as well as with weapons capable of hitting such targets. For instance, Romania’s Puma Naval helicopters participating in NATO’s drills carry torpedoes and depth charges capable of destroying ships and submarines. And France’s fourth-generation Rafale fighters proved their worth in operations in Libya and the Mediterranean, as well as in fighting against terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq," military expert Colonel Shamil Gareyev said. "According to social media and news outlets, the threat can come from Russia because it is the only power that has submarines and surface craft in the Black Sea, which are capable of adequately responding to NATO’s possible aggression," he added.
Chairman of the Central Committee of All-Russian Trade Union of Military Servicemen Captain 1st Rank Oleg Shvedkov believes that the goal of the drills "is to keep Russia under constant pressure." However, the expert is confident that Moscow will be able to protect its interests in the region, using political, military and diplomatic methods. "Russia is wasting no time in trying to expand its military presence. More evidence of that is the Black Sea Fleet frigate’s visit to Port Sudan where a logistics base for the Russian Navy is expected to be set up," Shvedkov noted.
Izvestia: World at risk of another Great Depression
Global debt hit a record level of $281 trillion in 2020, which is 3.5 times the size of the world economy. The rapid increase in government spending amid the coronavirus pandemic was the main reason for that. However, this is not the limit and global debt may reach $300 trillion in a year and a half, Izvestia notes.
Developing countries that have limited financial resources and low growth potential have found themselves in the most complicated situation. "The main at-risk group consists of countries with the lowest credit rating and those that announced a technical default in 2020. They include most countries of Tropical Africa, Venezuela and Ecuador in Latin America, as well as Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey and Iran in Asia. In Europe, it’s Ukraine," said Freedom Finance analyst Valery Yemelyanov.
Any hike in interest rates will make markets collapse like a house of cards. And it will happen sooner or later, leading to very serious consequences. In the medium term, we will see developments similar to the Great Depression that occurred in the 1920-30s, VBC Group Director General Semen Tenyayev warned.
As for Russia, its debt rose by nearly 40% last year, reaching 18.99 trillion rubles ($255.5 bln). However, Russia's debt-to-GDP ratio is still one of the lowest in the world (17.8%), which points to the soundness of the country’s financial system.
"The structure of Russia’s public debt is not quite typical. It’s made up mostly of corporate debt, while the debt of the government and the population account for less than a quarter of the total debt. This picture is similar to Scandinavia, Switzerland and Hong Kong. In any case, Russia’s total debt burden amounts to less than one-third of its GDP. The country’s debt load is lower than in Germany, which has one of the lowest debt levels among developed countries," Yemelyanov explained.
Izvestia: Recent US research suggests recovered coronavirus patients may need vaccination
Even recovered COVID-19 patients should get vaccinated, according to the results of a research involving blood plasma antibodies from recovered patients and vaccinated people, which was conducted in the United States. Researchers found out that the blood serum of those inoculated can neutralize the virus 1,000 times more effectively than the blood serum of those who recovered from the disease, Izvestia writes.
"The research highlights the importance of vaccination for those who have and haven’t been infected. The vaccine-induced immune response enhances immunity even in those who recovered from the virus and also neutralizes new mutated strains, at least those that scientists have studied so far," University of Goettingen Professor Konstantin Krutovsky explained.
It would be reasonable to get vaccinated after recovering from the illness, Head of the Virology Department at the Moscow State University’s Faculty of Biology Olga Karpova pointed out. "I get the impression that vaccination provides better protection than infection-driven immunity. People have various forms of the disease and clearly, mild forms don’t create strong immunity," the expert noted.
Meanwhile, head of the genomic engineering laboratory at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology Pavel Volchkov doubts the conclusions of this research. "Our immunity has been protecting us for thousands of years and a vaccine is just a sublimate. Natural infection gives stronger protection as it creates a wider range of antibodies that are located in the right places, for instance, in the nasopharynx. As for the research, the scientists conducted a limited test-tube experiment, which has little to do with real life," the expert emphasized.
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