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Press review: Russia reveals when nukes can be used and Putin, Xi may meet in Uzbekistan

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, August 22nd
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping
© Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

Izvestia: Senior diplomat says Russia could use nukes only in response to attack

In an interview with Izvestia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Moscow could use nuclear weapons only if it is attacked: "for self-defense in an emergency." Commenting on US attempts to force China into talks on nuclear weapons control, he rejected this move as counterproductive, since both bilateral and multilateral cooperation in this sphere should envisage joint efforts seeking mutually acceptable results, he said. However, unlike the dialogue on the New START treaty, Russia and the United States had almost run out of ways to promote nuclear disarmament further bilaterally, the senior Russian diplomat said.

Though the risk of a nuclear war is high amid the current turbulence, it should not be inflated artificially either, Ryabkov warned. According to him, the inadmissibility of any war between nuclear powers is not only relevant, but the postulate is even more acute now that the Ukrainian crisis, which he blamed on the Kiev regime and its Western patrons, has escalated. The deputy foreign minister also described as highly dangerous NATO’s destructive course towards ignoring Russia’s red lines and getting involved in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and called for efforts to prevent any further escalation.

Furthermore, any future prisoner swaps between Russia and the United States public is similarly inadmissible, Ryabkov told Izvestia. He said Moscow had repeatedly called on Washington to respect the rules of low-key diplomacy so as not to hamper the professional work of relevant agencies in both countries. He pointed to the successful exchange recently involving Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko and US citizen Trevor Reed and said the United States would hopefully refrain from leaning towards propaganda and act responsibly here.


Kommersant: UN chief skeptical about future Russia-Ukraine relations

Wrapping up his tour to Lvov, Odessa, Chisinau and Istanbul last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he did not expect peace on Ukrainian soil any time soon and that it was too early for the leaders of Russia and Ukraine to meet. Meanwhile, the United Nations has been focusing on fulfilling the second part of the Ukrainian grain deal that envisages Russian food and fertilizer exports to the global market. This is an issue that seems more feasible to address.

On August 18, when Guterres was joined by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks in Lvov with Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky, the Turkish media started spreading reports alleging that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Zelensky could meet in the foreseeable future. However, there has been no confirmation of such an opportunity, with such claims increasingly being refuted.

The Joint Coordination Center is currently the only platform for contacts between Russian and Ukrainian officials. And the contacts look peculiar, UN officials told Kommersant. There has been no direct communication between representatives of Russia and Ukraine who either talk via UN officials or resort to the mediation of their Turkish counterparts. However, Russian and Ukrainian inspectors have been sharing motorboats to oversee bulk carriers for signs of smuggling.

When asked by a Turkish reporter if he thought the conflict would be solved through diplomacy and handshakes or through the use of bullets and missiles, Guterres said he felt that achieving any peace so far is out of reach, since the conflicting sides still very much differed in their approaches.

The UN chief was skeptical about the chances for the presidents of Russia and Ukraine to meet - a necessity that had been much promoted by the Turkish leader. Guterres said it would take much time and changes in the current situation for such a meeting to become possible. "I think we are not there yet," he concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Putin and Xi could meet at Uzbekistan-hosted SCO summit

President Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping could meet at the forthcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. According to the US media, Beijing is making arrangements for Xi’s first foreign trip since the pandemic started. At this potential tete-a-tete meeting in Samarkand, the two leaders could discuss the situations in Ukraine and around Taiwan.

Samarkand could also become a venue for talks between Central Asian and Middle Eastern leaders. India’s Express reported that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pakistani PM Shehbaz Sharif and even Turkey’s Erdogan could attend the summit in Samarkand.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, it may be logical for the leadership of India and Pakistan to participate in the event since both countries are SCO members. What’s more, Indian experts assume that the arrival of so many leaders could contribute to vital bilateral contacts: Modi and Xi, for one, could discuss ways to settle their border dispute.

Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the SCO summit could be a major international event, indeed. However, he said he was unaware if Russia and China could make a statement on Ukraine there. "The Americans certainly would hate having the Chinese army take part in the Vostok drills. However, these will be scheduled joint exercises with China, and the conflict in Ukraine did not play a role here," he said. As for intercontinental missiles being trotted out on Chinese streets, this, he said, was a Russian-style threat aimed at highlighting Beijing’s resolve.

Commenting on the initiative by Deputy Duma Speaker Irina Yarovaya to consider the SCO as a major platform for fighting Nazism, the expert said the SCO was an alliance between different countries, with some of those not involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. And since the bulk of SCO member countries would like to stay aside, for Russia, it would be counterproductive to try and influence this position, he warned. SCO decisions are based on a consensus, and if any country says no, nothing will work, Kashin concluded.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Why Russia could benefit from dropping dollar and euro in commodity trades

Selling natural gas for rubles, a proposal that originally outraged the European Union, hasn’t turned out to be a disadvantage for buyers of Russian commodities. Turkey has volunteered to partially pay for Russian gas in national currencies, and some companies in India and the Middle East have stopped using the dollar and the euro for Russian coal and oil imports.

Alexander Silakov, partner at Business Profile group, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that paying for commodities in dollars and euros could help reduce the impact of foreign exchange volatility in the revenues of Russian exporters. He said the greenback and the euro had become toxic currencies amid unilateral restrictions against Russia, and even though they would maintain the status of global reserve currencies, their role would be diminished.

Friendly trade partners could benefit from transferring settlements to national currencies amid geopolitical tensions and risks being posed by toxic currencies, Mikhail Zeltser, a stock market expert at BCS World of Investments, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. According to him, those Western countries who imposed anti-Russian sanctions had discredited themselves, so the trend of replacing the euro, the dollar, the yen and the British pound would increase both in bilateral economic contacts and in building Russia’s foreign exchange reserves. While the yuan will be a priority in trade with the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, the share of other national currencies in settlements with Russia’s trade partners would gradually rise, Zeltser said.

Certainly, the currencies of friendly countries are mostly risk assets and quite volatile too, since those are issued by emerging economies. "This is why any inclusion of the lira or the dirham into the National Wealth Fund is highly unlikely or even impossible," Andrey Maslov, an analyst at Finam, told the newspaper. And yet using currencies with a de facto peg to the dollar, such as the Hong Kong dollar or the UAE dirham, could provide a loophole, he said. To him, the yuan could also be used for diversification. Even though the Chinese currency is quite volatile and very much dependent on the country’s domestic policies, it is more stable than most of the other friendly currencies.


Vedomosti: Europe panicking over Gazprom’s warning to halt Nord Stream gas supplies for repairs

Spot prices on the European gas market have been on the rise since August 19, when Russia’s gas giant Gazprom announced it would halt gas supplies via the Nord Stream pipeline for three days due to repair and maintenance at the Portovaya compressor station.

Kommersant quoted German gas companies’ estimates according to which their aggregate losses between October 1, 2022 and April 1, 2024 would total 32 billion euro. Alexey Grivach, Deputy Director General of the National Energy Security Fund, told Vedomosti that before the energy crisis the sum could cover Germany’s entire gas consumption for 18-24 months. And a loss for German gas importers could be heavier, he warned, since gas was priced at $1,000-1,500 for 1,000 cubic meters. "We are witnessing a rise in spot prices, so it is impossible to assess potential losses," he emphasized.

Though a three-day stoppage would deprive the EU of just 100 million cubic meters of gas, which he said was not much, this is the latest signal that energy security of the entire EU could be at stake over political decisions, the analyst concluded.

And the situation could push spot prices above $2,500 per 1,000 cubic meters, Anton Usov, a managing partner at Kept, said.

Pavel Ikkert, managing partner of the Ikkert & Partners law firm, believes that even though the use of any sanctions could hamper the servicing of the turbine at Portovaya, the EU is not interested in resorting to any restrictions. However, returning the turbine from Germany to Russia has already become a more complicated issue and it would require political decisions from the bloc, the lawyer said.


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