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Press review: What’s on the agenda of SPIEF-2022 and will NATO up the ante with Russia

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, June 15th

Izvestia: Potential business contracts and topics for discussion at SPIEF-2022 unveiled

The business program of this year’s 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will cover issues facing the Russian and world economies, social topics and technology. At the SPIEF plenary session on June 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin will talk about the anti-Russian sanctions and their impact on energy and food prices.

According to the information posted on the forum’s official website, business dialogues will be held with representatives from Africa, the Middle East, Egypt, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, China and Latin America, and economic ties with the Eurasian Economic Union and ASEAN will also be discussed, Izvestia writes.

The list of foreign participants will not be available this year, in line with a decision made by the SPIEF organizers. Invitations to attend were sent to more than 190 countries, and 69 nations and territories have already confirmed their participation.

Experts have so far been unable to estimate the sum of potential contracts to be signed at the forum. Last year, the figure exceeded 3.8 trillion rubles ($65 billion), Alexey Mostovshchikov, a member of the General Council of the Business Russia public organization, reminded Izvestia. This year, it could be lower, he forecasted, citing a number of objective reasons and a reduction in foreign capital. He also referred to the logistical chain disruptions, the sanctions, foreign partners’ refusal to work with Russian suppliers and settlement issues. The bulk of all contracts could be signed in mining and construction, the spheres that manifested growth at last year’s forum despite COVID-19 and problems with the logistics, the expert said.

Otkritie Bank told the paper that the sanctions would not affect the format of meetings and agreements, as participants "are seeking to develop ties with foreign and Russian companies." The bank is planning to sign 10 agreements on cooperation with the Education Ministry, several local governments and large companies.

Discussing the economic situation in the countries and finding ways out will be key for this year’s forum, Director of the Center for Market Research at the Higher School of Economics Georgy Ostapkovich told the newspaper. The forum attendees will have to formulate a common stance given today’s circumstances, he emphasized.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Will Washington, US allies up the ante towards confrontation with Russia

On June 15-16, crucial meetings for the Russia-Ukraine conflict will be held in Brussels, where the United States and its allies will discuss whether they should ramp up heavy armament supplies to Kiev. And if they choose to intensify their military assistance for Ukraine, the latter’s army could win over the strategic initiative, yet chances for a direct military confrontation between Russia and NATO will also increase.

At 17:00 Moscow time a meeting in the so-called Ramstein format to be chaired by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be held at the NATO headquarters in the Belgian capital. The heads of state from 40 countries will attend. And a meeting of the North Atlantic Council’s defense chiefs will also take place in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday. Back a week ago, it was supposed to discuss Sweden and Finland, however, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who concluded a visit to the two Nordic countries on Monday, said the two might fail to get the green light for join at the Madrid summit slated for late June because of the unwavering position of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The US-led bloc has so far failed to persuade him to lift his veto on Sweden and Finland, and it might still have a long way to go. So, the issue of assistance for Ukraine will top the agenda at both meetings in Brussels, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has made it clear that he expects the coming meetings to win over Rome, Paris and especially Berlin that have been insisting on a compromise within the EU. Germany has a large fleet of tanks, and Kiev would like to get its hands on some of them, if Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his government realize that "it’s impossible to strike a balance between Ukraine and Russia" and it’s time to "opt for the side of the truth", as Zelensky said in an interview with ZDF.

This choice also heavily depends on Russia and on the West’s opinion of its future actions. Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies Vladimir Vasilyev told the paper that last spring, Washington has proposed establishing a no-fly zone over Western Ukraine with the help of NATO air forces that could be used for large-scale supplies from the EU and the US. Some Ukrainian troops could also be involved in such military operations, but the idea has not been implemented yet, he said, citing the risk of a direct conflict with Russia.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Georgia might lose its EU candidacy

Politico has published unpleasant news for Tbilisi. The US publication reports that while the European Commission is expected to recommend granting Ukraine official EU candidate status, and Moldova might also get its status with reservations, the jury is still out on Georgia. This post-Soviet nation has been suffering from political unrest and a clear drawback in democracy. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishina, who is in charge of integration with Europe, recently expressed her concerns over the potential consolidation of Ukrainian, Georgian and Moldovan bids. She said this could complicate things for Ukraine, claiming that it had left the two other countries far behind in terms of integration.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili disagrees. At a recent a government meeting he said that his country should be the first to receive EU candidacy status, ahead of Ukraine and Moldova. "We have been seeking this status, since the people of Georgia have deserved it due to the 30 years of their fight for democracy," he said. The premier said he expected a final decision to be made on June 23-24, and threatened to reveal the truth about the whole process, unless Georgia is granted this status.

Political analyst Giorgy Rukhadze said the authorities in Georgia had been doing their best for the country to forfeit its EU candidacy. "If they do get the status, it should be treated as a fantastic gift," the expert in international relations told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

His colleague Giya Khukhashvili said much in and around Georgia was currently happening behind the scenes, and it was impossible to predict anything, he said, citing the situation in Ukraine and the uncertainty surrounding it. "Very complicated processes have been evolving. The world has split in two again. We should stay with either Europe or Russia, and there is no other choice," the expert said.


Izvestia: Bundestag says sanctions hurting Germany, not Russia

Steffen Kotre, a member of the Bundestag committee on climate protection and energy, said in an interview with Izvestia that Russia had always been a reliable and inexpensive energy exporter and that it would be good to continue having Russia as one, while the EU sanctions and embargo hurt Germany and not Russia.

Kotre said the partial oil embargo was also harmful for his country’s economy. German industries are already facing limitations amid soaring energy prices, and deindustrialization will likely accelerate, he predicted. Some mid-sized businesses have said they would have to increase their prices by 20-30% due to energy costs, which will hamper their competitiveness against foreign rivals, he said.

Speaking of Russian gas, the Bundestag committee member said Germany wouldn’t be able to do without it. Alternative suppliers are available, yet it will take time to secure a full-fledged replacement, since gas exporting countries have long-term contracts with other customers, and it would take a couple of years to find new suppliers, and they will charge higher prices too, he said.

Though Kotre is not aware of what could await Nord Stream 2, but judging from the recent irrational moves by the German government acting against its own interests, he dared to assume the pipeline would not be used for years to come. Meanwhile, the situation in Ukraine is being used for an accelerated transition to renewable energy, Kotre said. The EU’s harmful Green Deal is being promoted as well as carbon taxes and the WEF-led idea of a Great Reset, that implies a sustainable economic recovery from the pandemic. The economy is being restructured to a planned one that would amount to wealth, democracy and jobs being dismantled and the EU’s role would gradually fade away, the German politician said.


Vedomosti: OPEC expecting more uncertainty over Russian oil

In its monthly report published on June 14, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said the oil market would face more uncertainty in the fourth quarter of 2022 because of coronavirus risks and the onset of heating season in the Northern Hemisphere amid the EU’s embargo on Russian oil and its plan to reduce Russian gas imports. OPEC also pointed to uncertainties facing the global economy and the oil market as caused by the still rising inflation and the monetary tightening by leading central banks.

The organization kept its oil demand forecast of 53.8 million barrels per day, or 1.6 million bpd more than in 2021, and cut its Russian oil supply forecast by 250,000 bpd from its May estimate to 10.63 million bpd.

ACRA’s Vasily Tanurkov told Vedomosti it was hard to say whether COVID-19 would remain a risk, yet the factor remained. The pandemic has moved to the background for Asset Manager at BCS World of Investment Vitaly Gromadin, who said there was much more uncertainty over the attempts to have Russian oil exports isolated.

The forecast of 10.6 million bpd looks very optimistic to Tanurkov, especially against government estimates. He said it would be more feasible to speak about 480-500 million tonnes, or 9.5-10 million barrels per day. And the OPEC scenario could rather imply a price decrease. The discount for the Russian oil could narrow too, Tanurkov told the paper. He said it could remain at 4-5%, or higher than the historic level, and yet it would be far less than $30 per barrel.

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