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Press review: Erdogan’s demands throttle Nordic NATO bid and Moldova awaits US-UK weapons

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, May 24th
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
© AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

Izvestia: Can Moscow and Kiev return to the negotiating table?

Russia is ready to return to peace talks with Ukraine, but Kiev is against doing so, according to members of the Russian delegation. Kiev does not deny rejecting the dialogue. They believe that any conversation with Russia is possible only after it withdraws its troops from Ukrainian soil. At the same time, third countries are proposing plans to resolve the conflict. According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, there are prerequisites for a distant settlement, however, until the military goals are achieved, any real peace is out of the question.

"The Russian side mentions negotiations at least for two reasons. First, because, generally everyone should say that they are striving for peace in some way. And second, the conflict has reached a stage where, regardless of military plans, it is already necessary to think about exiting the military phase, and it is possible only through mutual consent," Research Director of Valdai Discussion Club amd Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine Fyodor Lukyanov told Izvestia. "Therefore, in my opinion, it is important for the Russian side to emphasize that it supports agreements that will make it possible to set the line and end hostilities. It's just that this line is not yet visible," he added.

One way or another, at the current stage, Kiev refuses to negotiate. Mikhail Podolyak, Zelensky’s advisor, earlier ruled out any territorial concessions and rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire.

"Mikhail Podolyak does not make decisions. It is done by Vladimir Zelensky, [Head of the Office of the President] Andrey Yermak, [Defence Minister] Aleksey Reznikov, [Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council] Aleksey Danilov, as well as foreign advisers to the president," Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for International Studies at MGIMO University Alexey Tokarev believes.

The expert community believes that it is too early to talk about mediation at the moment, Izvestia writes. "All forces are committed to achieving military success. In this situation, stopping hostilities from a military point of view is detrimental. Any kind of operation must go on until some result is reached," Lukyanov added.


Izvestia: US trots out plans to counter China for clout in Asia

The US will protect South Korea and Japan, using amongst other things a nuclear umbrella, and defend Taiwan militarily if China attacks the island, US President Joe Biden said during his first visit to the two Northeast Asian countries. Furthermore, the White House occupant launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Program in Tokyo, which aims to separate Asian countries from China.

South Korea heard what it wanted - the US confirmation of its readiness to ensure the Asian nation’s security with the help of "enhanced deterrents", including nuclear forces, Izvestia writes. Biden gave his allies in Tokyo the same assurance.

During his Tokyo tour, Biden promised to come to the aid of Taiwan. If the island is attacked by Beijing, the United States would intervene militarily to protect it, he assured. With that said, he noted that Washington's responsibility for the fate of Taiwan has become even stronger in the light of Russia's actions in Ukraine.

However, nothing fundamentally new occurred, Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at HSE University Vasily Kashin told the newspaper and noted that past US presidents had also confirmed their readiness to defend Taiwan by military means. At the same time, in practice, the ability of the US to provide effective military assistance to the island has come up against ever greater restrictions, especially in light of the conflict in Ukraine.

"The United States is already forced to deploy additional troops in Europe, spend tens of billions of dollars to help Ukraine, deplete part of its military equipment reserves, and even postpone the delivery of certain types of weapons to Taiwan," the expert explained.

Meanwhile, for all his militant rhetoric, Biden himself noted that he does not expect a Chinese attack on Taiwan to happen.

Meanwhile, the topic of Taiwan and security issues somewhat overshadowed one of the main US goals during Biden's Asian tour, which is to pull its allies into an economic confrontation with China. On May 23 in Tokyo, Biden finally unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a new mechanism to promote regional cooperation in four areas (supply chains, the digital economy, clean energy, and infrastructure investment). Its main objective is cooperation in trade and economy as opposed to Asia's dependence on China.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Erdogan lays out ultimatum to the West

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hurled harsh accusations against NATO. In fact, he made the removal of his block on Sweden and Finland’s admission to the US-led military alliance dependent on a change in the West's policy towards Ankara, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The newspaper noted, however, that Erdogan’s domestic position might not be the strongest, which could make bargaining with the West difficult.

Erdogan’s rhetoric was very tough. He blamed several states that withdrew their air defense systems from Turkey and donated weapons to "terrorists" - that is, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian proxies - for free. Erdogan laid out his list of gripes against Europe, in addition to mentioning problems with his fellow citizens getting US and European visas. He also pointed to how ‘terrorists’ were able to easily get asylum in the US and the EU, while highlighting the misunderstanding of Ankara’s position during the Karabakh war in 2020, as well as Turkey’s actions in Syria and Libya.

According to the newspaper, the Turkish president has virtually delivered an ultimatum to NATO allies, by insisting there can be neither sanctions against his country nor bias in the area of security and defense. Until any specific actions are taken, Turkey will not lift its veto on the admission of Sweden and Finland to NATO.

Leading Researcher of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) Viktor Nadein-Raevsky told the newspaper that Erdogan generally does not have just one goal when he puts forward conditions. "The most important thing for him in this case is to demonstrate Turkey’s role on the international stage. It is extremely crucial for Erdogan to establish his country’s position as a world power, whose position is taken into account," the expert said.

However, the Turkish leader’s stance cannot be called stable and invulnerable to pressure at present, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The confrontation between the Turkish president and the West will take place against a difficult domestic political background for Erdogan, which increases the chances that his veto on Sweden and Finland joining NATO can be withdrawn.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Neutral Moldova waiting for US-UK weapons

Moldova’s Party of Socialists condemned the remarks by the UK Foreign Office about the possible supply of weapons to Moldova from NATO countries. Former Moldovan Defense Minister Vitalie Marinuta told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the EU also would be ready to supply the Moldovan army with weapons and ammunition in order to repel a possible attack by Russia. He believes that such a risk is real and it is time for Moldova to abandon its neutral status.

Representatives of the UK and the US said they were ready to provide assistance to Moldova. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss spoke about this in an interview with the Telegraph and later Chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks said that Washington was ready to provide weapons to Moldova.

Moldova’s Party of Socialists then issued a statement in which it expressed "deep concern over the statement by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss about the need for NATO states to supply weapons to the Republic of Moldova." The party also called on the authorities to renounce any statements that undermine the constitutional status of Moldova’s permanent neutrality.

Marinuta told the newspaper that Chisinau has reason to believe that the military conflict could spread from Ukraine to Moldova. He recalled that a high-ranking Russian military officer said earlier that the second phase of the special operation in Ukraine would be a corridor in the Odessa region towards Transnistria. "We understood that Moldova was on Russia’s military maps, which means occupying a part of Moldova. Meanwhile, he noted that, as a security specialist, he believes that "Moldova needs to abandon neutrality and start preparing for what can actually happen - an attack by the Russian Federation."


Vedomosti: Russia attempts to balance ruble exchange rate

Russia’s authorities decided to soften the requirements for Russian exporters on the mandatory sale of foreign exchange earnings, reducing the threshold from 80% to 50%. This decision was made due to the stabilization of the ruble exchange rate and a sufficient level of foreign currency liquidity on the domestic market, the Finance Ministry explained in a press release. A spokesman for the ministry told Vedomosti that the changes would come into effect on May 24.

The ruble slid towards a rapid devaluation in late February against the backdrop of the special military operation in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia. However, later the Russian currency began to steadily strengthen. By the end of March, the dollar already reached 83.6 rubles, and the euro came to 92.9 rubles. The Russian authorities attributed the ruble’s strengthening to a sharp disparity in favor of a positive trade balance, as well as the suspension of the budget rule.

Changing the threshold would not change the very fact of currency accumulation and it can only be changed by an increase in imports or easing of foreign exchange controls, Investment Director at Loko-invest Dmitry Polevoy told the newspaper.

Reducing the threshold can reduce the daily trading volume on the exchange in euros and dollars by a third, which may lead to a weakening of the ruble to around 72-78 rubles per dollar in around 1-3 months, expert on the stock market at BCS World of Investments Evgeny Mironyuk believes. However, the ruble may begin to noticeably weaken in the coming days, he added.

The period of stable strengthening of the ruble will end in May, Ministry of Economic Development believes. According to its calculations, the trend for the weakening of the Russian currency against the dollar and the euro will begin in June. In December, the dollar could already reach 76.4 rubles, while the euro could come in at 82.5 rubles.

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