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Press review: US drone crashes in Black Sea and Beijing's potential peace plan for Kiev

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, March 15th

MOSCOW, March 15. /TASS/. A US aerial vehicle lost control and crashed over the Black Sea, Beijing may offer a peace plan to Kiev, and Russia and Iran join the rapprochement process between Turkey and Syria. These stories topped Wednesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: What made US drone crash into Black Sea

On the morning of March 14, the United States’ MQ-9 Reaper aerial vehicle lost control and crashed over the Black Sea following sharp maneuvering. The Russian Defense Ministry stated that Russian fighter jets did not use airborne weapons or make contact with the drone. The Pentagon, in turn, said that the aerial vehicle had been on a reconnaissance mission, Izvestia writes.

The five-ton MQ-9 Reaper, designed to replace the MQ-1 Predator, is considered to be the United States’ most multifunctional drone. These vehicles have turboprop engines that allow them to reach speeds of more than 400 km/h and altitudes of 13,000 meters, as well as stay in the air for 24 hours. These are reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicles that can not only conduct reconnaissance but are also capable of carrying an entire arsenal of missiles and bombs, including Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II aerial laser-guided bombs and GBU-38 satellite-guided bombs. There are also plans to equip the drones with air-to-air missiles. The drones will be able to use them not only to defend themselves but also to attack other aerial vehicles.

Military historian Dmitry Boltenkov points out that even before the start of its special military operation, Russia reacted quite aggressively to the activities of NATO aircraft near Crimea. However, such behavior was entirely justified because the North Atlantic Alliance’s aerial vehicles sometimes acted in a very provocative manner.

"Suffice to remember that the actions of a US Artemis surveillance aircraft nearly caused a plane crash over the Black Sea two years ago," the expert noted. "Now, the situation has only escalated. US drones keep hanging around Crimea. They definitely conduct reconnaissance in Kiev’s interests. It’s enough to recall that a NATO reconnaissance aircraft hovered in the sky every time Crimea came under attack," Boltenkov emphasized.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Beijing to offer peace plan to Kiev

Chinese leader Xi Jinping plans to hold a video conference or telephone call with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky after visiting Moscow, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources. According to foreign media outlets, Xi will arrive in Russia next week, though neither Beijing nor Moscow have confirmed these reports yet. Still, Washington was quick to welcome China’s more active participation in efforts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, saying that it would like Beijing to abandon its support for Russia. However, experts believe that the Chinese will continue to pursue their policy of non-intervention in the conflict, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Higher School of Economics Senior Researcher Vasily Kashin notes that "since China has put forward a detailed position on resolving the Ukrainian crisis, it’s logical that it will now communicate not only with Russia but also with the other side."

The expert does not expect the Chinese leader to offer anything new in his call with Zelensky. "It’s because Zelensky insists that talks with Russia can only begin after the 1991 borders are restored. Perhaps, the non-use of nuclear weapons will be touched upon in the conversation. In addition, China may offer some humanitarian aid to Ukraine the way it did before. Anyway, the outcome of the Chinese-Ukrainian talks may benefit Russia. China will confirm that it does not accept unilateral sanctions and it may later support its proposals by presenting new initiatives at the United Nations," Kashin concluded.

Washington will not stand back and watch Beijing’s diplomatic maneuvers. US President Joe Biden welcomed the upcoming high-level talks between China and Ukraine for good reason, stating that he too was interested in scheduling a call with his Chinese counterpart. However, the White House’s intentions only became known when Biden and his team members were flying to San Diego for a meeting with British and Australian prime ministers as part of the AUKUS pact. The project for the construction of nuclear-powered submarines in Australia that received final approval at the meeting will definitely complicate efforts to normalize China-US relations.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow, Tehran find their place in rapprochement process between Ankara, Damascus

Moscow is expected to host talks between Russia, Iran, Syria and Turkey on March 15-16. The meeting will focus on the process to normalize relations between Ankara and Damascus, which began late last year. Experts say that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs to ensure progress on this track ahead of the May general elections, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

Grigory Lukyanov, a senior researcher with the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, points out that the current conditions are ripe for overcoming certain differences. "The global political and economic situation contributes to this," the analyst said. On the other hand, regional trends are also helpful. "Turkey’s elections are approaching. Although Erdogan’s party has managed to achieve some success in resisting the opposition, there are a number of issues on which the opposition forces continue to exert pressure." One of the issues concerns tensions with Syria. Lukyanov noted that earlier, the Turkish opposition’s presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu had emphasized the need to promptly restore relations with Damascus to make sure that Syrian refugees would sooner or later return to their home country.

Meanwhile, the expert points out that in recent years, Russia and Iran have pursued a policy of rapprochement, which also facilitates dialogue on a number of issues, including Syria. "There is a growing awareness that Iran is also in no hurry to leave Syria," Lukyanov said. According to him, the Iran-Saudi deal, recently brokered by China, is moving the process towards a comprehensive and public dialogue on Syria as well.

Besides, Lukyanov views humanitarian issues as another factor that promotes the negotiation process. "The costs of dealing with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake are extremely high and they cast doubt on the ability of both Turkey and Syria to spend their resources on military activities," the analyst stressed.


Media: What grain deal extension means for Russian, global markets

Russia won’t see any practical benefits from extending the grain deal, said experts interviewed by Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Russian food exports continue to face obstacles, while it is Russian grain that is crucial for the global market.

The extension of the grain deal is of little importance to Russian business as the increasing export of Russian grain and other food products is due entirely to domestic exporters, said Anatoly Tikhonov, Director of the Center for International Agribusiness and Food Security at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. The Union of Grain Exporters stated earlier that payment, freight and insurance issues remained, but the industry had adapted to them.

On the other hand, this time, the deal was extended for 60 days instead of 120 days. This is a warning to the United Nations and the West that if the second part of the agreement is not implemented during this time, Russia may reverse course, Tikhonov noted.

However, Director General of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies Dmitry Rylko sees some benefits in the deal’s extension as a refusal to prolong the agreement may have led to an increase in the amount of Ukrainian grain in Europe, forcing already declining prices to nosedive.

The future of the grain deal depends on the ability of Russia and Ukraine to reach a compromise, Anatoly Sviridov, an expert at Higher School of Economics’ Center for African Studies, told Izvestia. He pointed out that it was hard to say how long the grain initiative would last in general because there were a great many factors that could radically change the situation. "The parties will probably spend the next two months holding talks and consultations as both Russia and Ukraine aren’t pleased with all the aspects of the current deal. Its future depends on whether the parties will be able to achieve a compromise, as well as on Turkey’s role as a mediator," Sviridov emphasized.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: US banking mini-crisis may impact dollar, euro, ruble rates

Only a week ago, global market players and analysts had no doubt that the European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve would continue to raise interest rates. However, the outlook may change given the mini-crisis in the banking industry in the United States and the upward inflation trend in the eurozone. All global financial systems and currencies, including Russia’s ruble, will feel the consequences, Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes.

The banking mini-crisis in the US came as a surprise to investors, resulting in a significant revision in forecasts for the interest rates of leading central banks, Sovcombank Chief Analyst Mikhail Vasilyev said. According to him, it was the recent cycle of tightening monetary policy, the sharpest in the past 40 years, that played the biggest part in the collapse of two US banks.

"We expect the situation in the US and global financial systems to deteriorate further. The higher the US Federal Reserve raises the key rate and the longer it remains at peak levels, the greater the risk of a financial crisis and a global recession," Vasilyev pointed out.

"Western sanctions have largely cut Russia’s financial system and economy off from the Western financial system. That is why, unlike the 2008-2009 global crisis, the current situation won’t have any kind of direct impact, with most Russian banks no longer connected to banks in the US and Europe. However, a potential financial crisis may lead to a global economic downturn," Vasilyev notes.

A global economic recession would probably reduce commodity prices and consumption. It is through the commodity sector that the West’s potential financial crisis will indirectly affect the Russian economy and Russian investors, Vasilyev said. The crisis will most likely lead to a local weakening of the dollar and the euro and a strengthening of the ruble.

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