MOSCOW, November 29. /TASS/. Russia-US talks on New START canceled, Kazakhstan is building new logistics corridors and Turkey sets insurance requirements for passing through the Bosphorus. These stories topped Tuesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.
A meeting of the bilateral consultative commission on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between Russia and the US which was supposed to be held November 29 - December 6 in Cairo was suddenly canceled. The US Embassy in Moscow told the newspaper on Monday that Russia had unilaterally postponed the meeting and said that it would propose new dates. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed this information. At the consultations, the parties planned to discuss mutual complaints within the framework of this key bilateral security agreement, above all, the issue of renewing inspections.
Meanwhile, many observers had certain hopes for these talks. The commission’s meeting was supposed to be the first one since the onset of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine and would have meant that despite the sharp confrontation, Russia and the US were ready to discuss issues in the sphere of mutual interests, such as arms control in this case.
For the Americans, the issue of inspections is the most important one. The treaty provides for regular mutual inspections at the bases of intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic submarines and strategic aviation as well as at loading, storage and maintenance sites. From 2011 to 2020, the sides conducted 328 inspections of this kind. Since 2020, they have not been conducted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, in the summer of 2022, Washington informed Moscow of its plans to send its inspectors to Russia "without prior arrangement" which the Russian side perceived as an "open provocation." Following this, Moscow officially announced the suspension of inspections within the framework of New START.
Since then, the US has repeatedly expressed its desire to renew the mutual inspections since Washington is interested, among other things, in Russia’s newest weapons systems which fall under the New START deal. Moscow made it known that it was ready to discuss this issue if its concerns are cleared up.
"The main issue now is how the US will react," Senior Researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research Andrey Baklitskiy told Kommersant. "Despite the absence of inspections over the past two years, the Biden administration has confirmed that Moscow was fully implementing its obligations under the New START and said that the issue of renewing the inspections was technical." According to the expert, Washington may continue along these lines and try to settle differences but it may also accuse Russia of not fulfilling its obligations under the treaty.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held talks in the Kremlin and participated in the 18th Russia-Kazakhstan Interregional Cooperation Forum in a video format. This was Tokayev’s first official visit after his reelection which, according to him, had "a deep political meaning" and "a certain symbolism." From Russia, the Kazakh leader will head to France for talks with Emmanuel Macron. Thus, a balance in Kazakhstan’s multivectored policy promoted by Tokayev will be observed.
According to Senior Researcher at the IMEMO Center for Post-Soviet Studies Stanislav Pritchin, China is an important partner for Kazakhstan comparable to Russia in terms of the level of investments and trade. So it would have been more logical to pay a subsequent visit to Beijing and not to Paris. "Yet China, as opposed to the West, is more conservative, and the visits are planned ahead of time and not timed to presidential elections. Actually, Tokayev’s visit to Moscow has also been in the works for a while since the two heads of state were supposed to participate in the interregional forum which was planned long before the snap presidential election was announced in Kazakhstan," the expert told the newspaper. Additionally, according to the commentator, there is a tradition established by Tokayev’s predecessor, where the first visit is paid to Moscow in order to uphold the special nature of bilateral relations.
"Nowadays, the European Union is trying to get involved in Central Asia as much as possible, Recently, European diplomats have been visiting Astana almost every week. Cooperation is becoming activated along a whole range of tracks, for instance, in the areas of transportation, energy and so on. By all appearances, France is the most comfortable partner in the EU for Kazakhstan," the expert thinks.
As for creating new logistics corridors that bypass Russia, Astana is being guided by Baku and Ankara. Recently, in Aktau, the top diplomats of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey signed a "road map" for 2022-2027 on the development and use of a "Middle Corridor" which passes through these three countries in accordance with the Baku Declaration. The document provides for cooperation in the sphere of transportation and communications.
"The statistics show that transit has increased but not as much as to say that this route became an alternative to the existing ones which go through Russia," the expert stressed.
Turkey’s decision to block the passage through the Bosphorus Strait to vessels without P&I insurance may complicate food deliveries because specialized companies won’t risk cooperating with any carriers from Russia, the Russian Grain Union told Izvestia. Ankara intends to introduce the new law as early as December 1. Over 95% of the P&I global tanker fleet is insured by the UK which on December 5 will stop working with vessels transporting Russian oil. The Russian-Turkish Business Council thinks that Ankara may create a new insurance company independent of Western sanctions. The Turkish Parliament assured the newspaper that the country definitely won’t make any decisions which would harm its trade with Russia.
This measure should not involve food products, however, as head of the Russian Grain Union Arkady Zlochevsky told Izvestia, it may make it even more difficult for any carriers from Russia to get insurance which eventually would affect prices. "Russian companies still have insurance," he explained, specifying that it has gotten more expensive and concluding contracts have gotten more complicated. "If Turkey decides that only certain types of insurance may go through the Bosphorus, this would significantly increase damages to all Russian companies, and in the agrarian sphere as well," he added.
Russian-Turkish Business Council Director Alexey Yegarmin told the newspaper that Ankara’s innovation was creating a dead end. "Organizations from Russia are unlikely to insure cargo with the unfriendly attitude of the main company [from the UK] while it is unlikely to make any concessions which would make it possible to insure this cargo after all," he explained.
The expert added that some compromises were likely such as creating a new insurance company or urgently letting some new players on the insurance market.
With a week to go before OPEC meets, oil prices have sagged 3% and reached a yearly low. This drop was caused by probable decreased demand in China which is balancing between quarantines and anti-quarantine protests and bolstered by Western sanctions against Russian oil. The situation may improve if oil exporting countries decide to reduce production at their Sunday meeting.
Experts expect that oil prices will continue to drop. "Oil prices will continue sinking in the coming months. There are practically no other options for oil quotations, they will continue to drop in the next 4-6 months with a high probability," Teletrade analyst Alexey Fedorov says.
He reiterated that in early October, the reaction by OPEC+ to a worsened macroeconomic environment worldwide helped stabilize oil prices. However, the analyst pointed out that the macroeconomic situation exacerbated due to the economic activity indicators in the US, the EU, the UK and other large economies dropping practically to new lows since the pandemic and the worsened epidemiological situation in China.
"Given the current situation, it is possible to presume that rumors that OPEC+ will increase production following its meeting are not likely to materialize and the cartel, on the contrary, will decrease production," says Andrey Maslov, an analyst at Finam.
OPEC may interfere and lower production quotas to support the budgets of member states which may partially alleviate the effect of the anti-COVID restrictions in China, concurs Stock Market Expert at BCS World of Investment Valery Yemelyanov. According to him, together with the price cap on Russian oil, the drop in oil prices may be temporary while Russia will continue its supplies at lower prices but in larger volumes. "In all, this practically won’t be felt at all in the budget, business and among the population," he concluded.
Russia’s Armed Forces have delivered a strike on the Moiseyevka railway station in the Dnepropetrovsk Region. During loading, eight units of armored equipment, five vehicles and more than 100 Ukrainian servicemen were eliminated, the Russian Defense Ministry said on November 28. Experts note that strikes on railroad hubs in the enemy’s rear make it easier for Russian units on the line of contact in the special military operation’s zone. Also on Monday, the Russian military fended off a number of attacks on important strategic areas.
The attacks on railway hubs directly impact the state of affairs on the line of combat engagement, military expert Vasily Dandykin told Izvestia.
"A disruption in rail traffic complicates bringing in personnel, military equipment, munitions and other materials," he explained. "These strikes do not let Ukrainian forces regroup, take the equipment to the interior and to European countries for repairs or bring munitions to the line of engagement. The logistics of the Ukrainian forces has already been seriously impaired by problems with the power supply to the railroad system and the use of Soviet-and NATO-standard munitions. The destroyed railway hubs complete this picture," the expert concluded.
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