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Press review: China can eclipse US in battle over Africa and new Taiwan bill delayed

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, August 11th
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
© AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US might lose fight for Africa to China

The African tour of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken immediately after similar visits by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron ushers in a new stage in the struggle for the continent, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Although Blinken tries to reconcile the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, Washington's main goal is to prevent Russia and China from gaining greater leverage in the region. However, the White House’s overall strategy to achieve its goals does not seem to be advantageous, the newspaper writes.

"Blinken's trip started from South Africa not by chance. Both Washington and Johannesburg are the capitals of liberal democracies with market economies and competitive elections, while the countries have strong economic ties. The African tour is explained both by objective causes - a surge in the continent's population and potential - and a chance to secure more votes in the UN and growing rivalry with China and Russia," the author of Telegram channel Zangaro Today, Aleskey Tselunov told the newspaper.

Thus, the Pentagon's strategy involves expanding cooperation with the countries of the continent given its increasing cooperation with Russia and China, the expert added. Meanwhile, Tselunov believes that the US will face far greater hurdles battling for influence on the continent with China than with Russia, owing to the latter's lack of an industrial foundation on the continent.

"At the same time, the US and European strategy, aimed at ‘green transition’ of African economies and protecting democratic values, is not always supported on the continent," the expert said. This still makes China a more attractive choice, since Beijing offers investments and credit lines that are not bound by political obligations and requirements, he added.


Izvestia: ‘ornering countries cannot bring peace,’ Cuban envoy to Russia says

Economic and financial sanctions as a tool of pressure won’t solve the current crisis in Ukraine, Cuban Ambassador to Russia Julio Antonio Garmendia Pena said in an interview with Izvestia. In addition, he revealed the prospects for economic cooperation between Russia and Cuba and shared his hopes that direct flights between the two countries may be partially restored by this winter.

"It is impossible to give an unbiased assessment of the situation in Ukraine without carefully analyzing the factors that led to it. The goal of the United States to continue NATO’s gradual expansion to the Russian borders has resulted in a scenario with unpredicted and far-reaching consequences that could have been prevented. It was a mistake to ignore Russia’s legitimate demands for security guarantees for decades and to assume that Moscow would remain indifferent to the threat to its national security," the ambassador said, adding that "encircling or cornering countries cannot bring peace."

According to him, "Havana stands for a constructive and realistic diplomatic solution to the crisis. At the same time, we take into account Russia's legitimate demands for security guarantees, and in this regard we welcome the Russian government's efforts."

"Russia plays a critical role in implementing vital projects for our country's growth in strategic sectors such as energy, transportation, tourism, and biotechnology," the ambassador added. Since 2016, Russia has been among Cuba's top ten trading partners, he noted. "In 2021, Russia became one of our main trading partners, ranking fifth in the world and second in Europe. Compared to 2020, the trade turnover grew by 93% in the face of an increase in imports and a drop in exports," he noted.

Moscow and Havana keep working on restarting direct flights between the two countries. The diplomat highlighted that Russia was almost the only country whose tourists continued to visit Cuba during the pandemic.


Vedomosti: Poland, EU clash over Russia and judicial reform

Poland accuses the European Union and its leaders - Germany and France - of imperialism and compromising with Russia, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote in an article for German newspaper Die Welt. He argued that the EU lacks political will to adequately address Russia's "aggressive policy" and ignores Warsaw's suggestions. According to experts, interviewed by Vedomosti, a low-intensity conflict between the two countries might continue for a long time, but will not have any severe effects for the EU.

Poland's relations with the EU deteriorated drastically in July, when Brussels declined to grant 35 bln euro to Warsaw for post-COVID economic recovery, citing "insufficient measures in the field of a justice reform," the newspaper writes.

The situation with financial assistance sheds light on a long-standing conflict between Poland and the EU, Editor-in-Chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine Fyodor Lukyanov told Vedomosti. "I don’t think that this will have any impact: such squabble has been going on for 1.5 years and is set to continue," the expert said. According to him, Poland and the EU's mutual threats are part of a political game. So far, the possibility of the EU collapse owing to Warsaw's defiant actions is out of the question. The expert believes that the conflict between the Polish authorities and Brussels will continue in the form of mutual reproaches, but will not lead to a sharp escalation.

"There has been a latent war between Warsaw and Brussels for several years. The ruling forces in Poland represent the most consistent and resolute opposition to the values that are perceived as fundamental in the EU," Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov told Vedomosti. According to the expert, Poland is not the only country that puts pressure on the EU’s liberal mainstream - other "dissidents" include Hungary, the Italian right-wing and the Greek left-wing forces. However, Poland has taken the most resolute actions.


Izvestia: Washington moves to delay new Taiwan bill

Tensions in US-China relations have risen considerably in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to Taipei, prompting the Joe Biden administration to put the brakes on passing a Taiwan policy bill at Congress aimed at improving ties with the island. It proposes, in particular, designating Taiwan, which is de jure considered Chinese territory, as the major US ally outside NATO and boosting military support for the island. It also includes a provision for sanctioning Beijing if it engages in any "major escalation" of hostile actions against Taiwan. Experts told Izvestia that the White House currently prefers not to further whip up tensions around Taiwan, continuing instead to fight China through other means.

Director of the Center of Taiwan Studies at the University of London Dafydd Fell told the newspaper he believes that the Biden administration did not favor the timing of Pelosi's visit and is attempting to defuse tensions. He anticipates that the Biden administration will strive to soften or bury the proposed Taiwan bill. At the same time, the expert pointed out that the measures suggested in the document will not necessarily boost Taiwan's security, but China will definitely be in a fury.

The White House regards the policy of Nancy Pelosi and her supporters as dangerous, as well as counterproductive, leading to an escalation in US relations with China, Senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Alexander Gabuev told Izvestia.

"The administration considers that there are already too many points of friction in relations with China, and there is no reason to add to them. Containing China and strategically competing with it is not about provoking tensions around Taiwan, but about winning the technological race and strengthening ties with allies," the expert believes.


Kommersant: Evraz awaits approval from UK regulator to sell its US assets

Evraz, a multinational metal holding under UK sanctions, intends to sell its US division, which generates $320 mln in EBITDA per year. The company intends to collect applications and enter into negotiations with the UK regulator - the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) - to approve the transaction. If the deal goes through, it will be the latest in a series of sales of US assets by Russian metal companies that purchased them at high prices, Kommersant writes. Experts estimate that the company's US division might cost $700 mln.

The company’s largest shareholder, Roman Abramovich, with the share of 28.64%, has been targeted by UK and EU sanctions. The holding itself was included in the UK sanctions list in May. According to Kommersant, the government justified the sanctions against the company by stating that Evraz meets 28% of the Russian market's demand for railway wheels and 97% of the demand for rails, which is critical because Moscow uses the railway to supply ammunition and military personnel to Ukraine.

At the same time, North American assets are subject to a specially issued OFSI license, which authorizes transactions with them until September 2.

According to Sergey Grishunin from the National Rating Agency, Evraz's North American capacities are quite impressive. Even with the projected drop in metals industry's profitability, the company's capital is estimated to be within $1 bln-$1.5 bln. Taking into consideration the debt to the tune of $500 mln-700 mln, the value of assets might reach up to $700 mln, but since the company is under sanctions, the selling price could be lower. According to the expert, the assets might be purchased by large American steel corporations such as US Steel or Nucor.

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