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Press review: Sweden in NATO door as Erdogan gives up and war costs stymie Israel’s growth

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, October 25th

MOSCOW, October 25. /TASS/. Sweden is expecting to formally join NATO by late November after Turkish President Erdogan approved the formal protocol necessary for green-lighting Stockholm’s accession bid; the cost of Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip will put a significant dent in the Jewish state’s economic growth prospects; and the likelihood is growing of a meeting between US President Biden and Chinese President Xi at the APEC leaders’ summit in San Francisco in November. These stories topped Wednesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Media: Sweden seen joining NATO soon, after Erdogan green-lights Stockholm’s accession bid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signed a protocol on Sweden’s accession to NATO and submitted it to Turkey’s Grand National Assembly (parliament) for ratification. The document will first be considered by the parliament's foreign affairs commission, but the timeframe for voting on the protocol has yet to be announced, Vedomosti writes.

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in May 2022. Helsinki joined the alliance in April 2023, while Stockholm’s membership was blocked by Turkey and Hungary. Budapest said it would approve the bloc’s expansion to include Sweden only after Turkey lifted its veto. Meanwhile, Ankara accused Stockholm of pursuing an overly permissive approach to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and providing shelter to Turkish nationals allegedly involved in the failed coup attempt in 2016. In July, Sweden tightened its counter-terrorism legislation and agreed to more closely cooperate with Turkey on security issues. The Swedish authorities now expect that the Nordic country will become a full-fledged NATO member by late November.

Despite the escalation of violence in the Middle East, where Ankara rhetorically supports Palestinians while the West backs Israel, the Turkish authorities will ratify Sweden’s NATO membership bid without insisting on any additional conditions, Ikbal Durre, associate professor at Moscow State Linguistic University, said. "The temporary confrontation with the West [over Sweden’s NATO bid] was not a goal in itself, but simply a means of applying political leverage to bargain for benefits," the expert explained.

According to Arif Asalioglu, director general of the International Institute of the Development of Scientific Cooperation, given Turkey’s economic crisis, Ankara is interested in normalizing relations with the EU and the US. Additionally, Turkey is also seeking to step up the sale of US fighter jets for the Turkish air force, the expert said.

However, there remains the possibility that further escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (in particular, the launch of Israel’s much-discussed ground operation) will have an impact on the progress of Sweden’s NATO membership bid. Specifically, Turkish public opinion may put pressure on the country’s leadership, Grigory Lukyanov, a researcher with the Center of Arab and Islamic Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Asian and Eastern Studies, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. By making the decision now, Erdogan may be seeking to avoid friction in the near future from acting contrary to Turkish public opinion. "The Turkish authorities realize that they have gotten as much as they are likely to get out of the Swedish issue and it’s critical now not to take things too far," the expert summarized.


Izvestia: War’s price tag to weigh on Israel’s economic growth path while US aid up in air

While Israel is making preparations for its much-discussed ground operation in the Gaza Strip, analysts are drawing conclusions about the country’s economic situation. The Israeli economy has been growing steadily in recent years but the prospect of a long military conflict promises to bring significant change, Izvestia notes.

According to the Israeli Producers Association, the country’s budget has dropped by 4.6 bln shekels ($1.132 bln) since October 7. It is not so much defense spending as the mass mobilization of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservists that is causing the squeeze. About 360,000 people have been called up for IDF service. The subsequent decrease in production is leading to a decline in a number of key economic indicators. Military activities are also affecting stock indexes. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange 35 Index of blue chip stocks (TA-35) has fallen by 9%. The shekel has weakened by 15%. While the total budget hit is currently estimated at 2-3%, the forecast will clearly be revisited. A major energy crisis may turn out to be the most negative factor for both the Israeli economy and the global economy.

US financial assistance is another issue. "The US is one of the key donors and sources of military and other assistance to Israel, and we have seen the Biden administration request an increase in funding," Middle East expert Andrey Ontinov said. According to him, however, questions arise about the future scale of this support. "To be fair, further assistance to Palestinian institutions, no matter if it’s the West Bank administration or Hamas in the Gaza Strip, will also be somehow called into question. In fact, this is the reason why many are interested in a continuing conflict," the expert concluded.

Israel’s need for assistance will grow, said Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University). In his view, given the prospects of a creeping escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the issue of providing assistance to allies will hang over the US Congress. "As soon as a speaker is elected, the House of Representatives will definitely allocate funds to support Israel, but I don’t think that the White House’s bill combining it with Ukraine aid will pass. The Republicans in the Senate are also opposing it. On the other hand, the Democrats will not support a Republican bill. The political horse-trading will be long and hard," the analyst noted.


Media: Likelihood of Biden-Xi meeting continues to increase

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to arrive in the US on Thursday. This marks another step by the two powers to ease tensions in relations. An agreement may be reached for the two countries’ leaders to hold talks on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting in San Francisco in mid-November as Beijing seeks to stabilize its ties with the US, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Meanwhile, Alexander Lomanov, head of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), points out that, "had China and the US been confident about improving relations, an announcement of [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s visit to the US would have been made in October, if not in September." "The problem is that China probably does not expect anything positive from the visit. <...> Wang Yi is going to China to test the waters. It will become clear after his trip if it makes sense for Xi to travel to the US," the expert added.

An economic agreement is possible but Washington is unlikely to lift its restrictions on the export of high-technology products to China and remove trade barriers introduced by former US President Donald Trump. One of the reasons is that presidential elections are looming, first in Taiwan and then in the United States. Incumbent US President Joe Biden would not want to give his Republican opponents an opportunity to paint him as a weak leader and accuse him of kowtowing to Beijing should he make any concessions to China, Lomanov noted.

The top Chinese diplomat’s visit is also connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "The US seems to be trying to engage China in mediation efforts, given Beijing’s successful experience in reconciling Iran and Saudi Arabia. Notably, Washington is unable to handle the new Middle East crisis alone. Arabs, including Palestinians, have little trust in the US," Viktor Pirozhenko, an expert with the intercultural research center at China’s Huzhou University, told Izvestia.

Still, Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), believes that it is too early to talk about any US-China cooperation on the issue. "The parties have completely different approaches. The United States supports Israel, who insists that the Hamas movement must be eliminated, and sees weakening Iran as a solution to the conflict. China, in contract, calls for a ceasefire and sees a solution in the creation of a Palestinian state," he said.


Vedomosti: Experts expect oil, gas prices to remain high

The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects that the consumption of the world’s three main fossil fuels - oil, gas and coal - will peak by 2030, Vedomosti writes, citing the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2023 report.

The golden age of gas is about to end, IAE experts say. They note that global gas consumption started to grow by two percent on average annually in 2011, but in 2023 the growth rate has dropped to 0.4%, and it will continue on a downward trajectory until 2030.

Andrey Kochetkov, leading analyst at Otkritie Investment, believes that the IEA’s estimate of gas demand is "too conservative." According to him, gas will be in demand in the electric power industry "for a long time."

Ronald Smith, a senior analyst at BCS World of Investments, assumed that even if demand for hydrocarbons really peaked by 2030, it would decline at a much slower pace than that predicted by the IEA.

"Global hydrocarbon consumption will grow in the coming years. Asian nations that aren’t members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, primarily China and India, will be the driver of the process," said Finam analyst Alexander Potavin.

Kochetkov believes it is premature to say that demand for coal will peak in the coming years. He points out that high gas prices have made even some European countries revert partially back to using coal. As for regions such as Africa, Latin America and Asia, coal demand may peak no sooner than in ten to 15 years, the expert predicts.

Smith adds that governments in a number of countries are actively hindering investment in hydrocarbon production. As a result, in his view, oil and gas prices will remain relatively high in the next ten years.


Vedomosti: Russia, UAE to cooperate in developing Northern Sea Route

Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation and the United Arab Emirates’ DP World have established a joint venture, International Container Logistics LLC, as a vehicle for developing the Northern Sea Route, Vedomosti writes, citing the corporation’s press service.

DP World, one of the world’s major logistics operators, belongs to Dubai World, which in turn is controlled by the UAE government. The company operates more than 80 container terminals in over 40 countries. Rosatom, in turn, was formally designated as the infrastructure operator for the Northern Sea Route by the Russian government in 2018.

"Rosatom’s cooperation with DP World, the leader of integrated digital logistics, is aimed at creating the first regular Arctic container shipping line along the Northern Sea Route. It will improve the stability of global supply chains and provide global traders with another effective and environmentally sustainable route," a Rosatom spokesperson said.

According to him, International Container Logistics will provide maritime container shipping services in Arctic waters along the Northern Sea Route between eastern and western Eurasia. The work will involve a series of ice-class container vessels, which plans call for building.

The joint venture’s immediate goals include completing the design of infrastructure facilities along the route, as well as clarifying the volume of investment and work schedules.

Infoline-Analytics Director General Mikhail Burmistrov believes that partnering with DP World will help Rosatom to promote the Northern Sea Route among foreign shippers and logistics companies. "We can state that things are finally moving forward in terms of forming a transit route," the expert said.

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