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Press review: NATO affirms open-door policy for Kiev and who’s restraining Turkey in Syria

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, November 30th

MOSCOW, November 30. /TASS/. NATO reiterates its promise to keep its door open to Ukraine, Russia and China continue to boost cooperation and Moscow is restraining Ankara from launching a military operation in northern Syria. These stories topped Wednesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: NATO reiterates open-door promise to Ukraine

A two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers kicked off in Bucharest on November 29. After 14 years, the bloc once again pledged that its doors were open to Ukraine. Turkey, in turn, announced the continuation of consultations with Stockholm and Helsinki on their membership. Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that the two Northern European countries’ accession to NATO is a done deal.

Both Helsinki and Stockholm certainly would like the ratification process to conclude as soon as possible, Foreign Policy Advisor in Finland’s National Coalition Party Henri Vanhanen told the newspaper. According to him, Finland and Sweden should be ready to continue talks with Ankara next year. But in any case, they are already viewed as part of NATO’s collective security, the politician stressed.

Turkish political scientist Kerim Has points out that Ankara is unlikely to approve NATO membership for Sweden and Finland in the coming weeks. Turkey has been mostly bargaining with the United States on the issue. Erdogan is currently trying to make sure that the US approves Ankara’s ground operation in Syria, the expert noted.

Meanwhile, the topic of Ukraine was also in the spotlight at the NATO meeting. The Baltic states, Romania, Poland and a few other allies are in a rush to accept Kiev into the bloc.

Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov emphasized that it was too early to talk about Ukraine’s full-fledged NATO membership. "There are no preconditions for it. Ukraine is engaged in a military conflict and politically, it’s not ready to become a member. Besides, a number of NATO countries doubt that it will strengthen the bloc’s security," the expert said. However, in his words, NATO will step up efforts to expand cooperation with Kiev. That said, the US-led military bloc can be expected to boost its activities in Ukraine without providing membership to the country.


Media: Russian-Chinese cooperation keeps growing

Russian energy companies are ready to make offers to their Chinese partners in all key areas, including gas, oil, coal, electricity and nuclear power as part of the country’s pivot to the East. In 2021, China became Russia’s main trading partner, Rosneft’s Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin said at the Fourth Russian-Chinese Energy Business Forum held in Moscow on November 29, Vedomosti writes.

Trade between Russia and China reached $153.9 bln in the first ten months of 2022 (or 33% higher than the same period of 2021) so the annual goal of $180-190 bln looks achievable. This year, Russia sharply reduced trade with Western countries, focusing on the Global South and the East, Macroeconomic Analysis Chief at Finam Olga Belenkaya told Izvestia. "This positive development shows that Russia is gradually finding ways to adapt itself to sanctions," said Alexander Abramov, Head of the Laboratory of Institutions and Financial Markets Analysis at the Institute for Applied Economic Research of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. According to him, the Chinese yuan has become one of the most traded currencies on the Moscow Exchange.

The economy has to work so a decline in Russia’s trade with the European Union led to a rise in trade with China, Executive Director of the Capital Markets Department at Iva Partners Artem Tuzov emphasized.

As for oil and gas, investment market analyst at BCS World of Investment Igor Galaktionov told Vedomosti that an increase in LNG supplies depended on whether Russia would manage to find a replacement for imported large-capacity gas liquefaction technologies. Managing Director at the NRA rating agency Sergey Grishunin believes that the odds are high that the construction of the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline will begin earlier than planned because Russia and China are increasingly recognizing the importance of unhindered gas supplies that don’t depend on the geopolitical situation.


Izvestia: What can stop Turkey from launching military operation in northern Syria

Syria is ready to hold peace talks with Turkey in Moscow but Ankara’s plans to carry out a military operation complicate relations between the two countries, a Syrian lawmaker told Izvesita. Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that Ankara will not launch a military operation without Russia’s consent.

Head of the Syrian parliament’s international committee Butrus al-Marjan told Izvestia that Damascus was open for talks with the Kurds but if they wanted help, they should allow the Syrian army to take positions in the region before a Turkish invasion began. Syrian lawmaker Muhannad al-Haj pointed out that Damascus sought to create conditions for talks but part of the Syrian Defense Forces still depended on the United States who prevented them from engaging in dialogue with Syria’s official authorities.

Damascus does not rule out the possibility of restoring relations with Ankara though the fact that the Turks control some Syrian lands and support members of the Al-Nusra group (outlawed in Russia) in the Idlib province makes it difficult to hold talks.

The position of the US and Russia is the only thing that is keeping Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from launching a full-scale ground operation in northern Syria. Both Washington and Moscow don’t approve of a military solution to the issue, the International Crisis Group’s Program Director for the Middle and North Africa Joost Hiltermann said.

Russia is the key player in Syria’s north so Turkey has to reckon primarily with Moscow, Turkish political scientist Oytun Orhan explained. According to him, the Russian military controls the airspace over the region, which also hosts a number of US military bases. However, it is Russia’s forces that have the dominant position.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: First batch of blocked Russian fertilizers heading to Africa

The pressure of sanctions on Russian food and mineral fertilizers may be starting to ease. The first batch of Russian fertilizers, which are blocked in the Netherlands, has been shipped to Africa. In addition, there are plans to lift sanctions on the Russian Agricultural Bank in order to ensure payments for agricultural products, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

"Apart from us, our customers from countries in need are also suffering from hidden sanctions. It’s crucial for us to ensure prompt payments under export contracts in order to increase export amounts and the pace of shipments in line with our record crop," Chairman of the Russian Grain Union’s Board of Directors Eduard Zernin stressed.

Removing sanctions against the Russian Agricultural Bank is likely to allow the bank to directly make some payments related to food and fertilizers, which, however, does not guarantee that these payments will not be blocked because of the compliance of correspondent banks, Associate Director for Bank Ratings at Expert RA Nadezhda Karavayeva noted. However, in her opinion, the partial lifting of sanctions will have no impact at all on individual clients.

According to Finam analyst Igor Dodonov, the very process of lifting sanctions is a complicated and lengthy one. Besides, it doesn’t mean that the US and the UK will agree to follow the EU’s example and do the same. In this case, the Russian Agricultural Bank will probably continue to have issues with payments because foreign banks will still be wary of doing business with it for fear of secondary sanctions. However, it may become easier for Russian agricultural producers to carry out certain external trade operations, Dodonov added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Permafrost thawing poses risks to infrastructure in Russia’s north

The Russian government plans to create a system to monitor permafrost. The ground thawing in the country’s north is already causing much damage. About 40% of Russia’s northern infrastructure has been deformed from the melting permafrost, the Ministry of Natural Resources points out. Researchers estimate global damage from glacial recession at between $25 trillion and $67 trillion, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

A comprehensive system to monitor permafrost will be created in Russia for the first time in history. The system is expected to be launched in three years as 140 stations will be established in Russia’s north during this time.

Experts believe that Russia needs to keep an eye on the thawing of glaciers and permafrost, as well as to pour investment into strengthening and upgrading infrastructure. Project Director at Greenpeace Russia Vladimir Chuprov noted that the risks are already growing for oil and gas facilities, as well as for nuclear power sites.

Permafrost covers about 60% of Russia’s territory and the looming warming brings with it enormous dangers for residential homes and buildings in such areas, as well as for roads and pipelines, Associate Professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Nikolay Kulbaka emphasized. "The risks include road accidents, pipeline ruptures and the collapse of apartment and industrial buildings, which may cause casualties, disrupt supplies to remote areas, and pollute the environment as a result of oil spills and also increase spending on dealing with the consequences," the expert explained.

Meanwhile, large-scale construction endeavors are underway in the Arctic that are mostly related to the oil and gas industry. Construction activities in permafrost regions require costly strategies to make sure that the frozen ground does not thaw and remains stable.

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