Sweden has set its sights on joining NATO. According to the Swedish press, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson will apply to join the US-led military bloc in early June, which could happen at the NATO summit in Madrid. According to experts interviewed by Vedomosti, By joining the North Atlantic bloc, Sweden and Finland will worsen their own security.
Helsinki is also eyeing NATO membership. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on April 13 that the issue of joining the Western bloc would be considered in the coming weeks, not months. Earlier, Brussels promised to promptly accept Sweden and Finland into the North Atlantic alliance, if they want it.
Stockholm and Helsinki will worsen their own security after joining NATO, Deputy Director of the HSE Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies Dmitry Suslov told the newspaper. Russia will consider the territories of these countries as a possible theater of military operations in the event of a conflict with the US-led military bloc. At the same time, the expert noted, as long as Sweden and Finland remain neutral, Moscow does not consider their territory a zone of potential conflict.
Finland and Sweden already have rather serious military potential, researcher at the Center for International Security at the IMEMO Dmitry Stefanovich said. In the event of joining NATO, this potential will begin to grow. At the same time, Russia will not remain indifferent to the situation, he added.
The United States and the European Union are waging a diplomatic assault against Russia at the United Nations. Moscow was recently ousted from the UN Human Rights Council, and the Security Council will now become the battleground. A special proposed resolution from Liechtenstein seeks to limit Russia's right as a Security Council veto-holder. The motion is also meant to enhance the UN's position, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
According to the proposed resolution, the UN General Assembly must convene within a 10-day period whenever the veto is exercised in the Security Council. A debate on the vetoed issue should be held with an exception only when an emergency session of the General Assembly is held. Of course, this will not replace the decisions of the Security Council, which are binding, but no one has a veto right, the newspaper writes.
The draft resolution was initiated by a small European state - Liechtenstein. "Liechtenstein should not be completely written off. Formally, it is one of the equal UN member states, although in the minds of many it is only a small geographical point," Associate Professor of the Department of Integration Processes at MGIMO Alexander Tevdoy-Burmuli said.
The expert emphasized that the EU, like the United States, would like to weaken Russia's influence in the UN. Technically, it is practically impossible to exclude Russia from the Security Council and from the UN in general. After all, the Russian Federation is the legal successor of the USSR. That is, it is one of the founding countries of the UN.
At the same time, as Tevdoy-Burmuli noted, a lot will depend on the Kremlin’s decisions as the situation further unfolds.
US Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya is scheduled to visit Kyrgyzstan on April 14. The day before, she visited Kazakhstan, where she discussed strategic interaction between Washington and Nur-Sultan. She got acquainted with reforms being carried out in the Central Asian nation aimed at systemic political and socio-economic modernization of the country, discussed anti-Russia sanctions and their impact on Kazakhstan. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted it does not mean that Kazakhstan opposes Russia.
Earlier, Nur-Sultan’s position was outlined by First Deputy Chief of Staff of the President of Kazakhstan Timur Suleimenov, who said that the Central Asian nation would not be a tool to circumvent US and EU sanctions against Russia, but would comply with them.
Although, it would be a mistake to think that Kazakhstan is against Russia. "The main line pursued by Kazakhstan is neutrality. This is a call for an early resolution to the situation in Ukraine, because both Russia and Ukraine are important partners for Kazakhstan. Moreover, the sanctions that are imposed against Russia automatically hit Kazakhstan as well," Senior Researcher at the Center for Post-Soviet Studies at the IMEMO Stanislav Pritchin told the newspaper. "At the same time, Kazakhstan is trying to maintain the prospect of dialogue with the West," he added.
The scholar noted that Moscow is closely monitoring such statements. Just a few days later, a telephone conversation took place between the presidents of the two countries, and most likely this topic was discussed.
Sanctions will also be discussed on Thursday in Bishkek. On the third day of the special operation, President Sadyr Japarov of Kyrgyzstan supported Russia’s actions, the Kremlin press service reported. However, later Kyrgyzstan took a neutral position. Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan and the European Union discuss signing a new agreement on enhanced cooperation, the Foreign Ministry of Kyrgyzstan said on Wednesday.
The Vitol Group, one of the largest independent oil traders, intends to completely abandon purchases of Russian oil by the end of 2022, Bloomberg reported. Thus, the volumes of Russian oil traded by the company could be significantly drop in Q2 of 2022, and by the end of the year Vitol will be able to completely stop purchases. Experts interviewed by Vedomosti noted that Russian oil producers have two options for diverting supplies to the Asian market.
According to Vygon Consulting’s Ivan Timonin, the departure of such a major player as Vitol will certainly complicate the sale of Russian oil. "But while end-users remain interested in Russian energy resources, the trader's decision should not have a significant impact on the volume of supplies from Russia," he told Vedomosti.
The expert added that Russian producers have two avenues to redirect oil supplies to the Asian market. The first is by developing their own trading divisions (for example, such as Rosneft’s Energopole SA) or the second way is to strengthen cooperation with Asian trading houses, like China’s Unipec companies Sinopec, Chinaoil, and so on.
Vitol virtually does not have its own tankers, so the company charters vessels of shipping companies, including Sovcomflot, Director of the ACRA corporate rating group Vasily Tanurkov noted. According to the expert, most sea exports of Russian oil are carried out by ships made in Russia.
He added that a more serious problem, not related to Vitol's decision, would be the need for a sharp increase in exports by sea if Europe refuses oil imports, including through oil pipelines.
Roughly a third of the funds of Russia’s National Wealth Fund in the currencies of unfriendly countries, was frozen, which equals around 4-4.5 trillion rubles ($48.4-54.5 bln), according to estimations from analysts from Center for Strategic Research and Finam. The Ministry of Finance reported that, if necessary, the frozen assets can be converted into rubles and used to support the economy, and money from the Fund can still be invested in projects. Experts told Izvestia 4-4.5 trillion rubles ($48.4-54.5 bln) is a significant figure, but not catastrophic in terms of macroeconomic stability.
Freezing assets means that the Ministry of Finance, most likely, will not yet be able to use these foreign exchange funds, which were formed as a macroeconomic buffer for a rainy day, Head of the Macroeconomic Analysis Department at Finam Olga Belenkaya explained. However, the remaining money in the Fund and additional oil and gas revenues for the current year can used to support the economy in times of crisis, the expert added.
The Ministry of Finance explained that, if necessary, these foreign exchange funds and gold could be converted into rubles to support the economy.
Restrictions on the National Wealth Fund are not a very significant factor compared to the change in the overall macroeconomic situation in the country, and the fund itself, under new circumstances, is turning into a source for covering the budget deficit, research professor at the HSE Department of Politics and Governance Mstislav Afanasiev added.
Technically, it is possible to spend the National Wealth Fund even without access to international reserves, Director of Group of sovereign and regional ratings of ACRA Dmitry Kulikov explained, since almost all expenses of the Finance ministry are in rubles.
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