MOSCOW, December 2. /TASS/. The UN might assist in restarting a key ammonia pipeline. Sergey Lavrov laces into the OSCE, saying the organization is coming apart at the seams and a veteran US diplomat gets ready to serve as the next ambassador to Russia. These topics dominated Friday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.
The export of Russian ammonia through Ukraine via the Tolyatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline will be resumed within one to two weeks, according to Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths. According to the UN official, negotiations on the resumption of exports are going very well and may be completed soon. The West may force Ukraine to agree to this decision, Vedomosti writes.
Exports of Russian grain and fertilizers, including ammonia, were part of the grain deal. Throughout the entire period of its operation, starting from July 2022, Moscow has regularly stated that these points in the deal are not being systematically fulfilled, while the Ukrainian side was able to export its grain.
The key to restarting the ammonia pipeline is not in Kiev, but in Washington, Head of the Ukraine department at the Institute of CIS Countries Ivan Skorikov told the newspaper. The Zelensky regime is completely dependent on the United States.
The Ukrainian authorities dislike the concept of ammonia supplies passing through their territory, but they will not vigorously oppose it, according to Dmitry Ofitserov-Belsky, senior researcher at the IMEMO's section for Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. Gas is still delivered through Ukraine, for which Kiev is compensated, so it will not be difficult to explain the reopening of the ammonia pipeline to Ukrainian authorities if necessary.
The West can have a good influence on Kiev on this matter, encouraging it to take a more cooperative stance. Meanwhile, despite Ukraine's clearly dependent position, it would be incorrect to say that the West has full control over the Zelensky regime, according to the expert. "Kiev is capable of independent action politically, which poses a threat to the operation of the ammonia pipeline," he told Vedomosti. Meanwhile, according to the expert, a scenario in which Ukrainian authorities create a provocation and disable the pipeline, blaming Russia and therefore refusing to comply with their commitments under the grain contract cannot be ruled out.
Restoring joint efforts by Russia and the West on strengthening European security is now impossible and everything would have to be rebuilt from the ground up, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. His statement was primarily aimed at European colleagues, with whom Lavrov would have met in Lodz at an OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers conference. However, Poland, the current OSCE chairman, denied Russia’s top diplomat access to the event. As a result, the conversation was held in absentia, with no likelihood of the participants hearing each other, Kommersant said.
"They want to keep the Russians out of Europe, because the Americans have already enslaved all of Europe," Lavrov explained. The OSCE, he argued, was a largely obsolete institution, and Poland's chairmanship is destroying "the remnants of the consensus culture."
According to Kommersant, Lavrov appeared to be preparing to announce Russia's resignation from the OSCE. But the minister said nothing of the sort. According to the newspaper, various politicians and diplomats who gathered in Lodz would have welcomed the news. While the Russian Foreign Minister was speaking in Moscow about how the OSCE's transformed into a marginalized organization, the participants in Lodz were talking about how Russia was "falling apart". Based on their position, Moscow impedes the OSCE’s functions.
Against this backdrop, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu may be the sole optimist who believes in Europe's future, Kommersant noted. The minister emphasized that Ankara will continue to actively support the OSCE because no other platform is as inclusive as it is.
The next US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy shared her views with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noting that Washington shouldn’t give up on sanctions, but the channel of communication needs to be expanded. The legislators, for their part, admitted that it is difficult to envision a more arduous role for a diplomat. According to experts interviewed by Kommersant, the diplomat's neutral stance may assist US-Russia ties, but no breakthroughs are anticipated.
The conversation with the senators was divided into open and closed portions. It became clear from the publicly available discussion that the future US envoy to Russia is determined to work with Moscow "using a cool head" wherever possible. On the one hand, she argued for the continuation of sanctions and support to Ukraine. Simultaneously, she advocated for the continued use of public diplomacy tools and engagement with individuals of goodwill in both countries. Tracy also has vast work experience in the countries of the former USSR. She speaks Russian and worked for three years at the US Embassy in Moscow in the late 1980s.
President of the American University in Moscow Edward Lozansky told Kommersant he met with Tracy in 2015 and 2016, when she accepted an invitation to participate in celebratory ceremonies. The fact that Tracy did not refuse the invitation, which came after the onset of increased tensions with the West because of Ukraine, may indicate her desire for dialogue, he noted.
"Now, when relations between Russia and the United States have entered an ice age, any positive signal is perceived with some enthusiasm," he said, adding "If the embassy recommends some changes for the better, then the Biden administration might take note of it." However, "any serious changes should not be expected," Lozansky added.
The change in the currency of contract payments with the Chinese and other enterprises boosted the yuan's share from 0.4 to 14%. That said, the ruble's importance also increased, with its share of export payments rising from 12.3% to 32.4%, the Bank of Russia noted. Meanwhile, according to Vedomosti, while Moscow seeks to focus on the currencies of friendly countries, banks must consider the dangers of their unpredictability.
Due to difficulties in payments, the priority for the Bank of Russia now is to achieve a balanced transition to the currencies of friendly countries, particularly setting up new infrastructure. According to Vedomosti, this includes creating a system of correspondent accounts, message transmission methods, and a mechanism for foreign exchange operations.
Establishing a new international financial settlement system will contribute to the restoration of cooperation chains, Director of the Department for Transactional Business and Attraction of Resources at Promsvyazbank Vladimir Efanov said. He believes that developing an alternate payment mechanism is crucial.
Meanwhile, currency volatility is a real risk, Renaissance Capital's head economist for Russia and the CIS Sofya Donets told Vedomosti. Some friendly currencies are regulated and vulnerable to political influences. She added that the process of building infrastructure will not be completed until there is certainty in foreign financial relations.
Tashkent and Astana intend to sign an ally pact. Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is expected to bring the new document to Uzbekistan in mid-December. These Central Asian countries seek to strengthen their economic and political ties, as well as to stand together against potential third-country attacks. According to experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, this defense alliance may aid both countries, but economic difficulties, particularly in the energy sector, remain a concern.
Arkady Dubnov, a political scientist and expert on post-Soviet countries, suggested that the two nations could create their own regional security structure. "Astana shows Moscow that in the event of its aggressive behavior towards it, it would ask for help from a strong neighbor that is not part of the CSTO. The initiative of Tashkent and Astana can also be seen as part of a new regional security system in Central Asia in the event of the collapse of the CSTO," he believes.
"The reason for the revision of the existing agreement was the global geo-economic and geopolitical turbulence. In this situation, the key countries of the region - Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan … are trying to consolidate their positions and also avoid possible and unnecessary competition," he told the newspaper adding that neither Tashkent nor Astana wants to get close to anyone, "adhering to their multi-vector policy".
He believes that the alliance, even if it currently lacks coherence, will help stabilize both states. However, when the document was being drafted, issues concerning economic situations took precedence over security. According to him, the Russian plan to form a gas alliance shows significant elements of future development for Central Asian countries.
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