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Press review: Tensions rise on Serbia-Kosovo border and Russia unveils maritime doctrine

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, August 1st

Izvestia: Tensions rise along Serbia-Kosovo border

The implementation of Kosovo’s decision that would force Serbs in the northern part of the region to use Kosovo license plates instead of Serbian ones has been postponed until September 1. Earlier, Serbs residing in the northern part of Kosovo began to protest against the plan, Izvestia writes.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in an address that Belgrade continued to strive for regional peace at any price and urged Serbs to resist provocations. He also called on the countries who had recognized Kosovo’s independence to exert influence on the self-proclaimed republic’s authorities.

The provocation in Kosovo and Metohija was staged by the North Atlantic Alliance in order to get rid of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, political scientist Dmitry Solonnikov told Izvestia. "It is indeed a made-up situation. We do remember that in June, [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz presented an ultimatum to Vucic, demanding that Serbia impose sanctions on Russia and recognize Kosovo. Vucic did not do that, so consequently, the current developments are actually a provocation planned and carried out by the European Union, Germany, Brussels and NATO," the analyst pointed out.

According to him, NATO seeks to make Vucic choose between letting his compatriots go through "hell" in Kosovo and Metohija or interfering in the situation. In the first case, protests may flare up in Belgrade that would be aimed at ousting Vucic, while in the second case, NATO may launch an intervention in the region.

The timing is right to try to establish a new government in Belgrade that would be loyal to Washington and Brussels, Solonnikov noted. He believes that the Vucic administration’s independent foreign policy, which runs counter to NATO’s wishes and thus is inconvenient for the alliance, is the real reason behind the situation.


Izvestia: Russia’s new Maritime Doctrine set to change global balance of power

Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved the country’s new Maritime Doctrine. The document defines the zones of Russia’s national interests that the country will defend by all possible means. According to the doctrine, main threats include NATO’s advancement towards Russian borders and the United States’ policy aimed at gaining dominance of world oceans. In addition, upgrading weapons remains a crucial goal with the Russian Navy expected to start receiving Tsirkon hypersonic missiles in the coming months, Izvestia notes.

In theory, there is no target that hypersonic anti-ship missiles can’t hit, editor of the MilitaryRussia portal Dmitry Kornev explains. "They are capable of striking targets with a high accuracy and they are very hard to shoot down. The missiles that are expected to enter service are designed for surface ships and they have been fully tested. Missiles designed for submarines will probably follow soon, in about a year. Submarines of the Yasen-M project are most likely to be fitted with Tsirkon missiles, and other types of submarines will get them later," Kornev said.

The Maritime Doctrine outlines plans to establish logistics support centers for the Russian Navy in Asia-Pacific countries. Besides, Moscow is interested in setting up similar facilities in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

The doctrine sets ambitious goals for Russia in terms of the Navy’s comprehensive development, military expert Viktor Litovkin pointed out. Moscow has also once again underlined its highly negative view of NATO’s expansion. According to the expert, given the current geopolitical situation, Russia will first and foremost focus on cooperation with its partners in the Asia-Pacific region, namely China and India.


Media: US house speaker’s plans to visit Taiwan nearly spark a conflict

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Asian trip dominated the news headlines over the weekend. Her destinations include Washington’s key allies in the region, namely Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. However, all eyes are on Taiwan, where the American delegation could make an "unannounced" stopover, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

Director of Moscow State University’s Institute of Asian and African Studies Alexey Maslov points to several aspects of the timing chosen for Pelosi’s Asian tour. "It is crucial for the Americans to rock the boat in China ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and put the Beijing authorities at a disadvantage. If China, say, moves to take very tough measures against Taiwan, it will be possible to accuse Beijing of aggression," the expert noted.

Besides, in his view, the visit "is aimed at completing the formation of an anti-China coalition in the Pacific region." "Her route lies through the countries who can in theory stand up against China or support the US policy. Given that at least a few pro-US military blocs are active in the region, primarily the QUAD and AUKUS, even if Pelosi ends up not visiting Taiwan, it will in any case be a new challenge for China," Maslov emphasized.

Russian International Affairs Council Director General Andrey Kortunov, in turn, told Vedomosti that the US has trapped itself in a corner by announcing Pelosi’s plans to visit the island. If she eventually makes a trip to Taiwan, it will lead to a serious escalation of US-China tensions. On the other hand, giving up the idea would not put the US in the best light. It is particularly important for the Democrats because the Taiwan visit is part of their election campaign, Kortunov added.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: What next heating season has in store for Europe without Russian gas

The next winter season will prove to be if not very cold but surely extremely costly for Europe due to issues with Russian gas supplies. High gas stock prices are leading to a rise in heating and electricity tariffs, which are accelerating overall inflation, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

Authorities in most European Union countries will be able to contain energy prices for the population, which are unlikely to rise to a critical level but still may cause moderate social unrest. The main blow has been already dealt to businesses. Entities that use natural gas as a raw material, as well as energy-intensive industries, have been affected so far. However, other sectors of the EU economy will also feel the impact of rising energy prices by the winter. Sanctions on Russia will also contribute to that. According to some estimates, Europe’s gas stock prices may exceed $3,000 per 1,000 cubic meters by the fall.

In this case, a lot will also depend on the European Central Bank’s monetary policy, as well as on the amount of subsidies for energy-intensive industries and people, Portfolio Manager at Alfa Capital Dmitry Skryabin noted. At the moment, there are talks of the need to reduce gas consumption in Europe by 15%. The goal is achievable but a further reduction may create social problems stemming from the shutdown of production facilities and an increase in tariffs for households, the expert stressed.

EU countries will certainly be able to fill their underground storage facilities with gas in the three months remaining before the next heating season begins. However, they will have to do that at prices several times higher than the average levels recorded in recent years. In fact, Europe is reducing its own room for a political maneuver. If the EU stopped stonewalling Russian gas exports and gas supplies failed to grow, it would have been possible to put the blame on Russia. But so far, it is the Europeans that are responsible for price hikes.


Kommersant: Russian oil production rising amid shrinking exports

Russia keeps increasing its oil output. All the additional oil produced in July was sent for processing, which is currently more profitable than exports. Oil exports dropped by 1.4% compared to June, with oil supplies to Europe rising despite the sanctions and exports to Asia declining, Kommersant notes.

According to the newspaper’s sources, the drivers behind the rise in Russian oil exports to Europe include seasonal demand and the EU countries’ preparations to impose an embargo on Russian oil. As for the decline in demand for Russian oil in Asia, it could be due to a sharp reduction in discounts for purchasers.

Russia may continue to gradually increase oil production, Partner at Kept Strategic and Operational Consulting Practice Maxim Malkov noted. In his words, Russia’s oil industry is in search of a new point of balance, restoring output after a drop in April and reshaping logistics chains amid a new situation. The levels of output and processing have not reached that point yet, the expert explained, noting that the OPEC+ deal made it possible for Russia to step up production. At the same time, the continued high seasonal demand for oil products may push processing slightly up.

Deputy Head of Gazprombank’s Center for Economic Forecasting Dmitry Pigarev believes that export levels will remain a key factor defining Russian oil production in the near future and output will depend on the rate of boosting exports to the markets other than Europe.

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