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Press review: More states seek to join SCO and new Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes erupt

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, August 4th
Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (center) and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (right) EPA-EFE/TAIWAN PRESIDENTIAL PALACE
Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (center) and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (right)

Kommersant: What Pelosi achieved for herself and US by Taiwan visit

After Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan, US-China relations are teetering on a precipice. The visit came under criticism not only in China and Russia, but also in the United States, where the American media, including those loyal to the Democratic Party, slammed Pelosi's move as unreasonable and senseless. Now the Biden administration will have to make huge efforts to mitigate the damage caused by the trip of the lawmaker who is expected to leave her congressional seat soon, Kommersant writes.

Pelosi held a number of meetings in Taipei and made a few statements. On the one hand, she emphasized that the United States' solidarity with Taiwan is more important than ever, but on the other hand, Pelosi stated that Washington adheres to the principle of "one China" and fully supports the status quo. Such reassuring statements did not persuade Beijing, which viewed Pelosi's visit as playing with fire, something Chinese leader Xi Jinping advised avoiding during a recent phone conversation with Joe Biden.

Tensions over the visit to the island are another proof that the Taiwan issue remains at the heart of US-Chinese disagreements, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of International Studies at MGIMO Igor Denisov explained to Kommersant.

According to the expert, the incident begs the question of "does President Biden have a well-thought-out strategy for forging ties with the major geopolitical rival".

The analyst stated that Pelosi's visit highlighted possible volatility on the Chinese-American track and that the old principles of interaction in the Washington-Beijing-Taipei triangle are eroding. "The political foundation of relations has been gravely damaged," he stated. Beijing has no illusions about reaching an agreement with the US on Taiwan, so Pelosi's visit did not change much, according to Denisov. "Many things will depend on how relations evolve in other areas, such as whether trade concerns are sorted out and whether the two countries' pointless technological confrontation comes to an end. While Taiwan remains a source of contention, the ongoing conflict between China and the United States is of systemic nature, with the Taiwan issue being just one of many factors," the expert concluded.


Izvestia: Ten more states seek to join SCO

Ten more countries want to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), including the UAE, Syria, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, according to two high-ranking sources close to the alliance's organizing committee. They clarified that the UAE requested that the SCO member’s status be granted to them immediately, bypassing red tape. This issue will be discussed at the summit in Samarkand due on September 15-16. Myanmar, Cambodia, and Nepal are other candidates for the SCO membership.

"As many as ten countries have asked to consider bids for raising their status in the SCO, including representatives of the Arab world: Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Furthermore, the UAE requested that it be allowed membership in the group immediately," the source said. "As for Southeast Asia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Nepal seek accession, and there are also bids from the neighboring countries - Armenia and Azerbaijan. We see an unprecedented level of interest in the SCO," the source explained.

According to the source, Uzbekistan intends to invite delegates from these countries to the Samarkand summit. Another source close to the SCO's organizing committee confirmed this information, adding that "the procedure for Belarus’ accession to the SCO will be launched in Samarkand".

The State Duma (lower house) partially confirmed the statements and clarified that Azerbaijan and Armenia could join the organization in the near future. "Yes, the expansion is possible. It is linked to the economic pressure by the United States and Europe, and it prompts countries to search for alternative ways," Head of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration, and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov said.

Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris Dolgov told Izvestia that Arab countries have long voiced a desire to join the SCO, "viewing it as a financial and economic alternative to the West".


Vedomosti: Gazprom offers Europe gas in exchange for lifting sanctions

On August 3, a Gazprom representative officially declined to accept a repaired Siemens turbine from Germany for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. The company argues that sanctions imposed by Canada, the EU, and the UK, as well as the inconsistency of the situation with Siemens' contractual duties, make delivery of the engine to the Nord Stream 1 pipeline's Portovaya compressor station impossible. German officials assured the company there are no obstacles to shipping the repaired turbine. However, in order to retrieve the engine, the company requires guarantees from Canada, the UK, and the EU that sanctions will not be imposed, Vedomosti writes.

Delivering the turbine under the existing restrictions requires permission of the states that have imposed a general ban on the export of such goods to Russia, Managing Partner of Pen & Paper Anton Imennov told the newspaper. He also believes that technical errors in the paperwork justify Gazprom's refusal to accept the engine.

However, lawyers believe that meeting Gazprom's requests will be extremely difficult. Dmitry Gorbunov, partner at the law firm Rustam Kurmaev & Partners, noted that the key issue for Gazprom is obtaining guarantees that sanctions will not be applied. But, according to him, "it is difficult to imagine a situation in which the parties could verbally agree that sanctions won’t be imposed". Another issue is that it will be challenging to obtain such guarantees from the EU, even if some member states clearly want to give them to Gazprom amid the mounting energy crisis, the expert added.

"There is also a lack of trust, which, of course, affects the situation around Siemens. So, it is not clear what exactly Gazprom will agree to consider as guarantees," Researcher Fellow at the Center for European Studies at MGIMO University Artem Sokolov told the newspaper.


Kommersant: New clashes break out between Armenia and Azerbaijan

The situation in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict zone has deteriorated once again. Fighting erupted on Wednesday near the Lachin corridor - a road that connects Armenia and the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic due to Baku's demands that the Armenians from Karabakh abandon this route in favor of a new one built specifically for links with Armenia. After the Armenians refused to do so, Baku declared the start of an operation titled "Revenge", and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic announced a partial mobilization, Kommersant writes.

The Russian peacekeepers, who have been present in the region since November 2020, were expectedly called upon to resolve the situation in Yerevan, according to MP from the ruling Civil Contract party Vahagn Aleksanyan.

However, the Russian peacekeeping contingent's powers in this situation are severely constrained, as increased pressure on Baku may result in a cooling of relations between Russia and Azerbaijan, according to Kommersant. Just the day before, the peacekeepers issued a harsh statement about another incident that occurred on August 1, which Baku interpreted as the Russian peacekeeping mission directly blaming Azerbaijan's military forces.

In an interview with Kommersant, Member of the National Assembly of Azerbaijan Rasim Musabekov confirmed that Baku was dissatisfied with Russian peacekeepers' rhetoric and linked it to Azerbaijani authorities' steps on several issues unrelated to Karabakh. "It’s obvious that Baku’s independent position and behavior on the topic of Ukraine, boosting gas supplies to Europe, providing alternative transit of oil from Kazakhstan, and so on causes a negative reaction from Moscow. But the Russian leadership and military command in the current circumstances can only exert verbal pressure on Azerbaijan," he said.

"We should expect a tough reaction from Baku," political scientist Ilgar Velizade told the newspaper. "However, I do not think that the situation could morph into a crisis in relations. Rather, we should expect a deterioration of the general background for negotiations and that they will be less effective," the expert added.


Izvestia: OPEC+ approves modest increase in oil production

The OPEC+ decision to raise oil output only by 100,000 barrels per day could have been influenced by the deterioration over Taiwan, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. If events develop according to the worst-case scenario, China's oil consumption is likely to fall significantly. In addition, members of the alliance may have taken into account the risks of a recession in Europe, analysts believe. However, the OPEC+ countries won’t be able to significantly step up production in the near future, even if they wish to, experts believe.

Prior to the meeting, media reports said, citing sources, that the parties to the deal could raise the quota by 400,000 barrels, which caused the price of Brent oil to drop to $99 per barrel. However, the alliance's countries emphasized in a statement that free oil production capacities are now limited due to the continuing underfunding of the oil sector around the world.

According to Head of the Energy Development Center Kirill Melnikov, fears of a recession in Western countries have impacted the alliance's decision. This possibility raises the question of whether OPEC+ will have to reduce output in the future if demand for raw materials falls sharply, the expert said.

Furthermore, the impact of a severe deterioration in the situation around Taiwan on the Chinese economy and global demand for oil is unclear. "In the worst-case scenario, China's oil consumption might plummet dramatically. Therefore, the allies are wise to wait before making any serious decisions on increasing or reducing production," Associate Professor at the Financial University under the Russian Government Valery Andrianov told the newspaper. On the other hand, the OPEC+ member countries might not be able to significantly boost production, he added.

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