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Press review: Can Lula’s win boost Russia ties and who wants to keep the grain deal alive

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, November 1st
Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva  AP Photo/Bruna Brado
Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva
© AP Photo/Bruna Brado

Media: Russia seeks to reconcile Armenia and Azerbaijan

Russian President Vladimir Putin held meetings with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Sochi, which were followed by trilateral talks. According to the Russian leader, the parties agreed to a statement though failing to reach a full agreement on the Karabakh issue. Still, in Putin’s words, this step creates conditions for further actions to resolve the situation and Russia will do everything possible to put an end to the conflict, Vedomosti writes.

Although no breakthroughs were achieved in Sochi, the parties confirmed that Russia was a key player as far as efforts go to resolve the Armenia-Azerbaijan issue, Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov noted. The crucial thing is that the statement highlights the need for a further negotiation process where Moscow will actively participate, the expert added.

During the open part of his meeting with Putin, Pashinyan welcomed the approaches offered in Russia’s project for establishing relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are based on respect for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity but recognize the rights of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. Meanwhile, from Baku’s point of view, the status of this area is already resolved, Head of the Caucasus Sector of the Center for Post-Soviet Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of World Economy and International Relations Vadim Mukhanov pointed out. This is why the Armenian prime minister says that he’s ready to extend the mandate of Russian peacekeepers without any preconditions as their presence is the only safety guarantee for the Karabakh Armenians, the expert explained.

Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashninkov, in turn, told Izvestia that resolving the situation in the region would depend on the political will of the parties. However, meetings between Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani politicians should eventually help end the conflict, the lawmaker emphasized.


Media: Ukraine, Turkey, UN trying to preserve grain deal without Russia

Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations agreed on a plan for the movement of 14 ships based on the Black Sea Grain Initiative without Russia who had announced its withdrawal from the deal. Moscow explained the move by pointing to the October 29 attack on Crimea’s Sevastopol, where Ukrainian unmanned surface vessels had used the safe grain corridor after potentially being launched from a cargo ship. The Kremlin is skeptical about the future of the grain deal without Russia, but it hasn’t given up on it just yet, Vedomosti notes.

Further developments will depend on whether Russia will crack down on Ukraine’s export of agricultural goods in a unilateral manner, Deputy Director of the Institute of International Studies at Moscow State Institute of International Relations Victor Mizin explained. Clearly, Russia-West ties have practically reached their lowest point, but the parties are unwilling to break off dialogue.

Russia has military tools to influence the situation in a tough way but there aren’t enough tools in this particular area, said naval expert, Captain Third Rank in the Reserve Maxim Klimov. Apart from ships, there is also a need for a group of forces involving aviation, the expert pointed out.

Meanwhile, the Russian Union of Grain Exporters has confirmed its readiness to provide grain to countries in need in the Middle East and Africa, despite the sanctions barriers. In fact, Russian exporters have adapted to restrictions, as evidenced by a rise in grain exports in October, Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes. "Our export potential is much higher than the previous season and we can double our grain exports, offsetting any shortages on the global market," Chairman of the Union’s Board of Directors Eduard Zernin stressed.


Kommersant: Washington, Beijing maintain unresponsive dialogue

The US and China are trying to revive dialogue ahead of the G20 summit in Bali. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has held a telephone conversation with Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi. However, relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate. New restrictions against Beijing, announced by US President Joe Biden, are aimed at driving China out of the US microchip market. Strategic stability, with Taiwan in the spotlight, remains the only field for dialogue. Meanwhile, the main question has in fact boiled down to whether the parties will be able to avoid a major war in the Pacific, Kommersant notes.

While some members of the Biden team are knocking on China’s door, others keep pointing to failed attempts at dialogue. US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins stated that talks on those issues were taking place on various international platforms but the quantity of meetings was not turning into a new quality of mutual understanding.

"The efforts by the United States to build dialogue with Beijing while tightening the screws on trade, the economy, and science and technology have led China to conclude that it no longer makes sense to wait for any concessions and compromises in this area, Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations Alexander Lomanov emphasized. He is confident that in such a situation, strategic stability can be the only field for any possible dialogue between Washington and Beijing, the way the Soviet Union and the US used to negotiate during the Cold War. The parties should focus the dialogue on Taiwan.

"Chinese media outlets, bloggers and experts seriously fear that the Ukrainian scenario may be repeated in the Indo-Pacific region with Washington first provoking Beijing to carry out a special operation on the island and then involving allies in a proxy war against China. Talks on Taiwan could provide the parties with the opportunity to make an agreement and prevent the issue from becoming the trigger for a big war in the Pacific," Lomanov said.


Media: Will Brazil’s relations with Russia change under new president

Former Brazilian head of state Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva once again won the country’s presidential election. As far as Russia is concerned, he is most likely to continue his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro’s policy of mutually beneficial cooperation, refraining from joining any sanctions or siding with Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

"As for foreign policy, Lula will regain Brazil’s high status on the international stage. There is reason to expect that our bilateral relations, which have always been positive, will gain momentum and a new meaning," Head of the Department of European and American Studies at Moscow State Institute of International Relations Lyudmila Okuneva pointed out.

"While Bolsonaro has good relations with Putin, Lula has good relations with both Russia and Putin, which is why the Kremlin was calm about the election process. Relations won’t be as close as with Venezuela but Brasilia won’t join sanctions and will call for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, perhaps even acting as a mediator because Lula has the necessary experience," Director of the Center for Ibero-American Studies at St. Petersburg State University Viktor Kheifets stressed.

"Before the election, the question arose as to who is better for Russia as Brazil’s president. The remark that Russian President Vladimir Putin recently made at the Valdai Club’s session that we are ready for cooperation with either of them reflects the view of many experts. Lula was the founder of the BRICS group together with Russia and our countries successfully cooperated under him," Okuneva told Izvestia. According to her, Russia and Brazil will maintain productive cooperation though Lula will pursue a multi-vector policy. "He is also interested in cooperating with the US and the EU. Bolsonaro actually fell out with the European community and Lula will have to fix that," the expert added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Advocates for Iran nuclear deal about to make U-turn

European countries are considering the possibility of blacklisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s most influential military and political institution, as a terrorist organization, the German authorities said. Until recently, EU member states advocated relatively soft approaches to the IRGC as part of talks on restoring the nuclear deal, so labeling the corps as a terrorist organization would mean a departure from earlier policy, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

It was the former US President Donald Trump’s administration that first designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity. Incumbent US leader Joe Biden, who supports the idea of restoring the Iran nuclear deal, did not rule out that status-related sanctions could be rejected in order to facilitate dialogue. However, the White House later faced pressure from the public demanding that no concessions be made to the IRGC. As a result, talks on Tehran’s nuclear program remained suspended and the protests in Iran eventually became another factor affecting the West’s readiness to maintain dialogue.

Europe has recently shown a tendency to view the Iran issue through the prism of human rights, Russian International Affairs Council expert Nikita Smagin pointed out. "It means that the pragmatic economic interests that used to dominate Europe’s policy towards Iran will at least shift to the back burner," the analyst said. According to him, "the move to blacklist [the IRGC] increases the possibility of confrontation because such a decision will untie the hands of the armed forces in terms of strikes on entities labeled as terrorists." In this situation, the risk rises that "a red line" will be crossed, the expert emphasized.

"In addition, there may be some restrictions against companies linked to the IRGC," Smagin said. There were no such firms in the US but in Europe, many maintain business ties with entities affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Still, on the whole, these sanctions will have little impact because numerous restrictions have already been imposed on the IRGC, particularly by European countries, the expert noted.

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