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Press review: US, Russia may renew strategic dialogue and Israel punishes UN with visa ban

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, October 26th

MOSCOW, October 26. /TASS/. The US and Russia may resume dialogue on strategic stability following Washington’s informal proposal; Israel has rolled out a visa ban to punish the UN for remarks on Gaza by the general secretary that rankled Tel Aviv; and Hungary clearly states its opposition to any new financing for Ukraine. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Vedomosti: US, Russia may resume dialogue on strategic stability issues

Russia received an offer from the US to resume systematic dialogue on strategic stability issues, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on October 25. According to him, the proposal was made unofficially and the Russian side is currently studying it in an interagency format.

The problem is that Russia and the US view the possibilities for resuming dialogue very differently, Oleg Krivolapov, chief researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies, said. According to the expert, the US would like to gradually stabilize the bilateral format of strategic relations, whereas Russia has repeatedly made it clear that it is open to a discussion of these initiatives, but only if the US proposes something more substantive than consultations. Krivolapov thinks that reviewing the security architecture in Europe may be among such proposals. Additionally, he notes that the Americans could simply use these proposals as a PR move but this is not the most important thing for them, the expert concluded.

The very fact that the Americans have suggested something can already be interpreted positively, Dmitry Stefanovich, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), said. On the other hand, the fact that these proposals were being prepared over such a long period of time shows the depth of the chasm in Russian-US interaction on strategic issues. That said, the Russian reaction is absolutely expected because, currently, the conditions are hardly conducive to the resumption of a robust dialogue in this field, the expert added. However, any alternative scenarios in the long-term perspective lead nowhere. Accordingly, with the US being ready to settle a wide range of issues, the search for solutions in the area of strategic stability should become a key priority, the expert concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Israel wields visa denial club to punish UN for secgen’s Gaza remarks

Representatives of the United Nations will not be issued Israeli visas. This is how the Israeli authorities reacted to remarks by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who condemned the actions of both Hamas and Israel. Theoretically, however, the visa flap could have rather serious consequences, at the very least because it is happening right at the time when the issue of a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip is being discussed. Guterres supports a pause in the fighting, while Israel is against it.

Could Israel’s decision to deny visas to UN staffers interfere with a brief truce? It is hardly likely. "In my personal opinion, in this case, nothing horrible will happen either for the UN or for Israel. The refusal to issue visas cannot be viewed as a major problem that will affect anything," Irina Zvyagelskaya, head of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

After all, it is possible to enter the Gaza Strip not only through Israel but also via Egypt, where the authorities are reluctant to let Palestinian refugees into their territory, but are not against facilitating deliveries of humanitarian aid to Gaza. And if Israel’s tiff with UN chief Guterres does not undermine a potential ceasefire, the likelihood is high that it will not continue into the future. In any case, neither the UN nor Israel nor any other influential country is interested in this.


Izvestia: Hungary opposes new financing for Ukraine, calls for peace talks

Budapest is against increasing financing for Ukraine if US support for the Kiev regime dwindles and is urging the immediate launch of peace talks, the Hungarian government told Izvestia. That said, Hungary is not the only country that may object to growing Ukraine-related expenditures. At the very least, Bratislava will likely be joining Budapest in the Ukraine-skeptic ranks as newly installed Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico earlier called for halting support for Kiev. Meanwhile, Washington itself is still yet to resolve the issue of approving a combined aid package for Israel and Ukraine.

"The main issue is whether the US House of Representatives will break the aid package document down into, say, two to three bills, or whether they will vote on it as a whole. The request, submitted by the Biden administration as an administrative and budgetary management measure, has been very cleverly drafted, making it tough to carve up in any way. Providing aid to Ukraine is opposed by some Republicans led by [former US President] Donald Trump, who is openly saying that he is against any [more] money for Kiev," Vladimir Vasilyev, senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies, pointed out in a conversation with Izvestia.

"Making concessions to those countries that object to growing expenses, if US financing is not fully restored, the EU bureaucratic system will decrease the amount of this additional contribution and then make a decision through compromise. So, yes, the EU will increase financing but for a lesser amount than initially claimed," Vadim Trukhachev, associate professor of international relations at the Russian State University for Humanities, told Izvestia.

According to the expert, in addition to Hungary, this decision will be resisted by Slovakia’s new government, as well as, potentially, by Cyprus and neutral Austria. At the very least, on October 25, the new Slovak government took office, headed by Fico, who has frequently been branded in the West as being "pro-Russian" because earlier he also urged calling a halt to financing for Ukraine.


Kommersant: Top Chinese diplomat on mission to Washington ahead of APEC leaders’ summit

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will arrive in the US on Thursday for a three-day visit. His trip is taking place a mere three weeks ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in San Francisco in mid-November, which may involve a second face-to-face meeting between the leaders of the two countries, Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. However, it is still unclear whether the Chinese president will attend the summit, so the sides decided to position Wang’s visit as a response to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to Beijing this summer. Given the new geopolitical situation, the conflict in the Middle East will become one of the most important subjects on the agenda. As with the Ukrainian conflict, the US will attempt to "prod the Chinese to [take] a more constructive approach" to this issue.

According to Nikolay Surkov, researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), the information component will be equally important for the Americans. "A massive international campaign against Israel is already underway. And it is working, particularly in developing countries. If China actively joins it, being the only great power that over recent years has been actively and consistently standing up for the Palestinians’ interests, then the Global South will definitely condemn the actions of Israel as well as the US as its main ally. And this would be inopportune for the US given its standoff with Russia," the expert told Kommersant.

Therefore, one of the goals for the Americans at the upcoming talks will be to prevent China from loudly defending Gaza residents and the Palestinians in general, which could paint Israel, along with the US, as aggressors in the eyes of the developing world, Surkov concluded.

However, resolving its own issues with China, not somebody else’s, may be a higher priority for the US. Thus, one US official, in a conversation with the media, admitted that the US is still concerned about the absence of a direct communication channel between the two countries’ militaries. Meanwhile, China may not be particularly interested in having such a communication channel. "First of all, the Chinese proceed from the fact that the Americans need such a channel more than they do. And, secondly, China thinks that the Americans often aspire to establish such a channel for interaction in the military sphere when they are actually switching to a policy of escalation and pressure with regard to China so that, if the situation gets out of hand, they will have the opportunity to talk to the Chinese directly and walk things back. Thus, in some instances, the existence of such a channel could paradoxically facilitate more blatantly aggressive actions by the US; so, China approaches the creation of such channels with great caution," Vasily Kashin, director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), told Kommersant.

According to the expert, China may agree to create a military communication channel only if the US side makes some substantive concessions, but the chances for such a development are clearly low.


Vedomosti: Gas production in Russia rising for second straight month

Gas production in Russia (including associated petroleum gas, APG) has been increasing for two months in a row after a prolonged downturn, according to data from Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) from October 25. In September 2023, the country produced 47.6 bln cubic meters, which is 2.7% more than during the same month last year, with 458.8 bln cubic meters over nine months, representing a 9% drop year on year.

Finam Financial Group analyst Sergey Kaufman explains that negative dynamics in Gazprom’s production in September could "come to naught" because it was precisely September of 2022 that was the most disastrous month for the company. By that time, all negative factors had already affected the lowered production, and the downturn was at its deepest trough.

Ronald Smith, senior analyst at BCS World of Investments, added that Russian projects in LNG production also reached their full capacity in September following maintenance. Analysts link lowered LNG production in Russia with maintenance work at LNG production plants.

Experts forecast that gas production will also see year-on-year growth in October-December. Kaufman thinks that growth rates in 4Q will be "comparable to the September ones."

Gas production in 2024, with exports to the EU remaining at the current level, will grow somewhat, Smith says, because Gazprom will continue to boost deliveries via the Power of Siberia pipeline. According to Kaufman, due to the scheduled increase in supplies to China and exports to Central Asia, pipeline gas exports next year may grow by 9-11 bln cubic meters. According to a forecast by Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, gas production in 2023 should increase by 3.8% to 666.7 bln cubic meters.

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