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Press review: Russia’s gesture of goodwill and takeaways from NATO’s Madrid summit

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, July 1st

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: NATO’s Madrid summit launches new standoff

The Madrid-hosted NATO summit, which has concluded, may be considered a turning point in the alliance’s history. Not only will it accept new members, with the process of the Euro-Atlantic integration of Sweden and Finland being launched, but also the statements and documents approved in Madrid, including NATO’s new Strategic Concept, indicate that the US-led military bloc adopted a stance opposing the West’s geopolitical rivals chiefly Russia and, to the lesser extent, so far, China. NATO members agreed on an arms race, the expansion of its ranks and its beefed-up military presence in certain countries, that is, to all the steps that previously had been problematic for the military alliance.

Associate Professor of the Department of Integration Processes at MGIMO Alexander Tevdoy-Burmuli told the newspaper that, although increasing defense spending requires substantial budget policy adjustments in many NATO countries, they will gradually achieve it. "The necessity of doing so up to a certain point did not seem obvious to them. Now it does. Evidently, the countries of the alliance won’t move towards this at the same rate. This trend is absolutely clear," the expert thinks. According to him, the largest member states will be in the lead. The expenses of smaller countries will depend on how much the leaders are ready to spend.


Izvestia: Moscow embarks on goodwill gesture to ease global food dilemma

Russia has pulled out its garrison from Snake Island in the Black Sea. Moscow embarked on this goodwill gesture and demonstrated to the global community that it is not preventing the exports of agricultural products from Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said on June 30. Experts note that it didn’t make much sense to hold on to the island from a military point of view. The Russian Navy has complete superiority over its adversary in the Black Sea and if needed, Russia’s forces can be swiftly redeployed to the island.

Once Ukraine gets MLRS and SPGs from the West, the island will be shelled constantly, according to military expert Dmitry Boltenkov. In his opinion, the Ukrainian army will definitely attempt an amphibious assault on the island because in the absence of real victories they need a media triumph. "They won’t miss a chance to show off on Snake Island," the expert said, noting that Russia is capable of completely eliminating any assault troops or of retaking the island at any time.

"The entire narrative that Russia is preventing grain exports from Odessa and fueling world hunger is artificial and contrived," says former UN Deputy Secretary General Sergey Ordzhonikidze, stressing that the situation was created to pressure Russia. "Ukraine provides about 1% of the world’s grain. The figure looks significant in tonnes but in the global format it is absolutely unsubstantial. Additionally, Snake Island did not pose any threat to maritime traffic in that area of the Black Sea, but mines laid by Ukraine in those waters do. They’ve been told over and over again to demine the Odessa port yet they haven’t done that," the diplomat said, adding that the vessels carrying grain should be inspected for weapons. According to him, Ukraine smuggles arms using passenger trains and civilian trucks and will attempt to do the same at sea.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Takeaways from the Sixth Caspian Summit

The Caspian Summit of heads of state has concluded in Ashgabat with the signing of a communique. The presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran gave high marks to the level of cooperation, expressed concern over the shallowing Caspian and agreed upon maintaining the necessary level of security in the region. Moscow managed to resolve an important issue of preventing joint naval drills in the Caspian with participants from extra-regional countries.

Despite preliminary statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the importance of the Sixth Caspian Summit, no significant documents have been signed upon its completion. Moreover, the 2018 Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea remains suspended since Iran still has not ratified it.

"It is precisely the incomplete nature of this document that allowed, for example, Azerbaijan to hold military drills on the Caspian coast and in its waters, with the participation of non-coastal countries, primarily, Turkey and Pakistan. And the military of NATO member states from time to time indicate their presence within the framework of various joint programs, and on the Caspian coast as well," expert on Central Asia Serdar Aytakov told the newspaper.

The summit, even without signing any new important documents, was extremely essential to Russia for several reasons, according to Senior Researcher at the IMEMO Center for Post-Soviet Studies Stanislav Pritchin. Among them he lists the failure of Western countries to isolate Russia on the international stage and the readiness of Russia’s neighbors and partners to continue political dialogue and cooperation despite all the sanctions and Western pressure. Additionally, the summit confirmed the basic principles of regional security and the absence of any third-party military presence. According to the expert, the summit made it possible to discuss specific economic projects, new transportation routes and opened new horizons for cooperation in the absence of any prospects of interaction with EU countries. "The Russian president noted that in 2021 the trade volume with the region’s countries grew 35%, totaling $34 bln, while by April 2022 it increased by another 12%," the expert told the newspaper.


Vedomosti: Indonesian leader tries to settle issue with Putin’s participation in G20 summit

On June 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin began a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo with a reminder that in a phone conversation the latter was interested in the issue of settling the Donbass crisis and promised to inform him about "our vision of this problem." In the open part of the conversation, Widodo focused on problems with grain and fertilizer exports.

Indonesia ranks fourth worldwide in terms of population, thus, it carries certain obligations in the global community and wants to increase its status to become a global power, according to Leading Researcher of the Center for Southeast Asia at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies Alexey Drugov.

The expert noted that currently Indonesia is chairing G20 with the group’s summit scheduled to take place in Bali on November 15-16. Due to this, Indonesia has to regulate the issues related to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and Putin’s participation. According to him, Indonesian elites see the Ukrainian situation not as a bilateral conflict but as a struggle between NATO along with the West against Russia, with Indonesia being the first possible Asian mediator in the conflict. Widodo was the first Asian leader to visit Kiev after the onset of Russia’s special military operation, Drugov noted.

The choice of participation format at the G20 summit is now up to Putin and depends on his intentions. The invitation from Indonesia has been received and it hardly involves remote participation, according to Russian International Affairs Council Director General Andrey Kortunov. Yet a face-to-face format, even though it establishes Russia's presence more explicitly, also involves a possible escalation and is fraught with a display of unfriendly attitudes by about 50% of the G20 leaders, the expert noted.


Kommersant: OPEC+ deal’s fate hangs in the balance

As expected, the biggest oil producers agreed to boost production in August by 648,000 barrels per day within the framework of the OPEC+ deal. Despite the current sanctions which entailed difficulties with raw materials exports, in the summer, Russia hopes to go from the current 9.9 mln barrels per day to 11 mln barrels according to its quota. The critical issue is whether the coordination of efforts by OPEC+ participants will continue after September when the deal is formally over.

According to Director of the ACRA corporate rating group Vasily Tanurkov, Russia and Saudi Arabia will stop closely coordinating their efforts on the market but this is not particularly important since the vast majority of OPEC+ countries already do not have free capacities to significantly increase production. He thinks that oil prices may stabilize but this is rather due to the global economy slowing down and not because of the growing market supply.

According to Anton Usov of Kept, the OPEC+ countries will continue to adhere to the deal’s parameters even after it is formally over. He even does not rule out the possibility of a formal extension of the agreements in order to maintain an acceptable price "while there is an opportunity to make money." The analyst stresses that the alliance participants are interested in maintaining a high price in order to increase their earnings.

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