MOSCOW, June 9. /TASS/. The US and UK breathing new life into "special relationship" with Sunak visit; Erdogan sees opening for Ankara to mediate situation around Kakhovka HPP incident; and China building anti-US ties with Iran and Pakistan. These stories topped Friday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.
Washington and London have agreed on a new economic partnership aimed at pushing Russia out of the global nuclear energy market, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said following talks with US President Joe Biden at the White House. The two leaders also decided to immediately launch talks on supply chains for critical minerals. Of course, the conversation also touched upon the hot topic of Ukraine, and the leaders vowed continued support for the Kiev regime.
Above all, Sunak went to the US to breathe new life into the historical "special relationship" between the US and UK, says Saeed Khan of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. According to the expert, the level of cooperation between Washington and London has been rather weak over the past several years. He pointed out that the Biden administration has purportedly adhered to a more standoffish position vis-a-vis the current Conservative government in London, especially on economic issues since Brexit became a reality. The expert noted that since leaving the EU the UK has run into serious economic issues and is looking to compensate for improving trade ties with the US.
Jeremy Kuzmarov, managing editor of CovertAction Magazine, noted that the public US-UK dialogue is currently at a rather good level, but that no matter how good official relations may be, many European countries are striving for greater independence from Washington. He told Izvestia that the US was not particularly happy about Brexit, while trust in Washington’s global leadership is currently on the wane. On the other hand, the UK may want to improve ties because the US economy continues to demonstrate dynamic growth trends and offers opportunities to boost the volume of trade and investment. Additionally, the UK may want to revive the version of NATO that existed in the immediate post-WWII era to counteract the growing influence of China, Russia and the BRICS.
According to Khan, it was obvious that Ukraine would be on the agenda. Additionally, the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant on June 6 alarmed the governments of both countries, especially due to the sharp escalation in the region. The expert thinks that currently both Washington and London are analyzing ways to express their support given that they are the Kiev regime’s biggest backers in the conflict.
Kuzmarov adds that Sunak’s visit coincides with the Ukrainian counteroffensive. He thinks that the visit is meant to create the impression of strong US-UK unity on Ukraine and other issues, noting that Western public support for the Ukrainian conflict and billions in military aid largesse has been wavering. The expert thinks that the shifting mood was being driven by document leaks revealing that Ukraine’s military performance has been less stellar than advertised.
On June 8, Turkey’s Security Council convened under the chairmanship of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the first such meeting since he won re-election in May. Among other issues, the agenda touched on some international topics, including the situation around the dam collapse at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP). Recently, Erdogan proposed establishing an international commission to investigate the incident, which in addition to Moscow and Kiev would include representatives from Ankara and the UN. This represents Turkey’s first major challenge in its role as a mediator since the post-election cabinet reshuffle.
The destruction of the Kakhovka HPP called for yet another intervention by Turkey’s diplomatic corps, now led by ex-intelligence chief Hakan Fidan. Under these circumstances, not only is Turkey concerned about the prospects of extending the Black Sea grain deal, which expires next month, but also about new initiatives on the Ukrainian track.
Kirill Semyonov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that in the situation around the Kakhovka hydro plant, Ankara is trying to play out its traditional mission as a go-between for mediating conflicts. "It would have been strange for Turkey not to suggest any steps on this track," he noted. "This is what defines Turkey’s approach to the Ukrainian crisis: playing the part of an objective intermediary in all critical moments. It seems to me to be the only right position in principle, especially when other countries began to pin the blame on Moscow, while Moscow accused Kiev." The expert emphasized in particular that Turkey came forward with the idea of an investigation, rather than jumping to give its preliminary conclusions about the situation.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will arrive in New Delhi to make arrangements for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to Washington. The US officially stated that it wants to bolster military and industrial ties with the world’s biggest democracy despite the two countries’ differences of opinion on events in Ukraine. Washington’s goal is to use India to counterbalance Beijing’s domination in Asia. However, Chinese diplomats have not been sitting idle. They have agreed with Pakistan and Iran to counteract forces threatening their sovereignty.
Andrey Karneyev, head of the Higher School of Economics’ (HSE University) School of Asian Studies, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta: "For many decades, Pakistan has remained a close ally of Beijing, where Islamabad has been dubbed an ‘all-weather partner.' Iran also works with Beijing, including on security issues. So, it comes as no surprise that a trilateral format is now emerging. Relations between Pakistan and Iran are also not bad. All these countries are constantly encountering challenges to their domestic stability. China, the most potent power, is shaping its strategy for years to come. And, in this case, it is participating in forming a new trilateral mechanism with long-term prospects. Russia is also interested in developing this three-sided interaction because it is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization along with China, Pakistan, India and Iran."
Irina Fyodorova, senior researcher at the Institute of Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that interaction between China, Iran and Pakistan is related to their concerns over where Afghanistan is heading. Both Iran and Pakistan are interested in this interaction, especially because there are terrorist groups based in the Baluchistan region, which neither Tehran nor Islamabad controls. However, Pakistan is now facing a dire economic situation and is highly dependent on Washington’s recommendations, which naturally creates obstacles to creating a potential trilateral coalition.
Representatives from the US and EU said "serious consequences" would follow if Kosovo and Serbia do not take steps to de-escalate in the northern part of the partially recognized autonomous region where Serbs reside. According to Reuters, this warning was issued during a joint visit by EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Gabriel Escobar to Kosovo and Serbia. The Western envoys held talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani and Prime Minister Albin Kurti in order to prevent further exacerbation of the situation in the region.
Such statements by Western emissaries, which are relatively flattering to Serbia, represent an element of political bargaining aimed at convincing the Serbs to return to Kosovar state institutions, says Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University) researcher Anastasia Maleshevich. "The Americans are pretending that they are on the side of Serbia in this conflict. [However,] they do not intend to put any serious pressure on Pristina in order to push it toward reaching a compromise with Serbia," she thinks.
That said, the West is also putting pressure on Belgrade so that it would distance itself from Moscow and join the common European agenda on Ukraine, thinks political scientist Oleg Bondarenko, founder of the Balkanist project. According to him, Serbia adheres to neutrality and tries to balance as much as possible between different centers of power. "Serbia is the only country in Europe which remains on the list of Russia’s friends. It preserved air links with our country and did not join any anti-Russian sanctions and, by all appearances, is not going to. The Serbian leadership will try to retain its chosen foreign policy path," the expert concluded.
Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov says that Serbia is a small, poor country aspiring to join the EU for a lack of other alternatives, and so its leadership is inclined to turn away from Russia but cannot do so right away due to the Serbian people’s strong affinity for Russia and the still-fresh memory of NATO bombings in 1999. So, instead of one big betrayal of Moscow by the current Serbian leadership, many small ones should be expected, the expert concluded.
The dollar exchange rate has ended up above 82.50 rubles for the first time since April 2022. The weakening of the Russian currency is happening amid plummeting oil prices due to a recession in a number of European countries. That said, weak currency supply on the part of exporters and continued demand on the part of consumers and foreign companies are triggering accelerated growth in dollar quotations. Market players expect the ruble to partially recover its positions closer to the end of the month amid more active currency sales by exporters.
Given relatively low oil prices since mid-April, the volume of export earnings is not sufficient to accommodate recovered imports, which raises foreign currency quotations, notes Dmitry Babin at BCS World of Investments.
Private investors getting ready for the vacation season as well as foreign companies leaving Russia facilitate capital outflow. "It is possible that yet another foreign company is planning to leave Russia and is buying up currency as far as the recently established $1 bln per month limit allows," says Daniil Bolotskikh of Tsifra Broker.
According to Sovcombank Lead Analyst Mikhail Vasilyev, the ruble might grow stronger in the last week of June when exporters start to sell their foreign currency earnings to pay their tax bills. Then, in his opinion, the dollar rate may return to the lower boundary of 80-85 rubles per dollar.
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