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Press review: No thaw seen for Moscow, NATO and Russia-China alliance giving Tokyo frights

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, November 29th

MOSCOW, November 29. /TASS/. Russia and NATO will not move to restore relations for the foreseeable future, a senior Russian diplomat said; the possibility of a Moscow-Beijing defense alliance has turned into a nightmare for Tokyo; and Iran has confirmed receiving Russian combat aircraft and helicopters. These stories topped Wednesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: No restoration of Russia-NATO relations seen in near term, senior diplomat says

An armed conflict between Russia and NATO is not outside the realm of possibility, but such an escalation would wholly depend on the actions of the North Atlantic Alliance, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Izvestia. According to him, the bloc’s expansion policy is unlikely to change and, thus, Russia and NATO would hardly be able to restore relations any time soon.

"If anyone in the West thinks that we need these relations and will at some point come begging for their restoration, that is a case of profound wishful thinking," Ryabkov said. The senior diplomat stressed that Russia was prepared to make agreements only based on equality and mutual respect, but NATO has problems with that. He believes that any potential armed conflict between Russia and NATO "depends on the North Atlantic Alliance." "The choice is NATO’s to make. As we have already made clear, we are ready to protect our national interests using all of the resources that we have at our disposal," Ryabkov emphasized.

When asked whether the US was willing to compel Ukraine to agree on a ceasefire, he answered in the negative. "Unfortunately, the US heads the Western group that keeps repeating [Ukrainian President Vladimir] ‘Zelensky’s peace formula’ like a mantra, claiming that it’s the only foundation for an agreement. However, it is not only agreements that are impossible on this basis, but also dialogue itself," the deputy Russian foreign minister noted.

Meanwhile, experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that NATO is not seeking a direct confrontation with Russia, which is why it will not grant membership to Kiev for the time being. As for the NATO-Ukraine Council’s inaugural ministerial meeting, which will convene in Brussels on November 29, this merely signals that Kiev will once again receive fulsome moral support in place of an invitation to join the bloc.

Ukraine has thus far not moved an inch closer to obtaining NATO membership, Vasily Klimov, researcher with the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, pointed out. "NATO countries aren’t interested in a direct confrontation with Russia, which means they will not let a party to an armed conflict join the alliance. Besides, the focus of the political and academic community is shifting from Ukraine to the newly ignited conflict in the Gaza Strip," the expert pointed out.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Possibility of Moscow-Beijing alliance becoming nightmare for Tokyo

A Japanese think tank affiliated with the Defense Ministry has released a report saying that China and Russia are seeking to abolish the world order based on liberal values so as to replace it with one run on undemocratic rules. Moreover, Beijing and Moscow are believed to be strengthening defense cooperation, which could lead to the creation of an informal alliance, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The report claims that Russia and China plan to form a kind of new political international, focused on establishing a global system where authoritarian regimes will set the tone. This would further fuel competition between the US and the Russia-China axis. The only ray of light in this gloomy picture is that the conflict in Ukraine and economic issues do not yet allow China to conclude a mutual defense treaty with Russia.

According to the report, this sort of close relationship between Russia and China is making it possible for Beijing to put forward unilateral claims in the South China Sea and other areas as well as threaten Taiwan, while also untying Russia’s hands to continue military activities in Ukraine. What irritates Tokyo the most is that Russian and Chinese warships and airplanes conduct joint drills in the Sea of Japan and close to the Japanese islands.

So, what are the Japanese to do in such a critical situation? The main thing for them is to boost their military alliance with the United States, hoping that the Americans will never make a deal with China that would impact East Asia, the report says.

Valery Kistanov, head of the Center for Japanese Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of China and Modern Asia, pointed out that, "the Institute for Defense Studies operates under the Japanese Defense Ministry." "It releases reports on East Asia every year. In fact, it is the voice of the Defense Ministry, albeit unofficial. In my view, the new report only serves to raise tensions for no reason. Its authors claim that Russia and China intend to destroy the liberal world order to establish another one, based on ‘the terms of the two dictatorships.’ However, this is clearly impossible," the expert concluded.


Vedomosti: Iran confirms receiving Russian combat aircraft, helicopters for major upgrade

Russian-made Su-35 4++ generation multirole fighter jets, Yak-130 training and combat aircraft, and Mi-28 attack helicopters are entering service with the Iranian armed forces, Vedomosti writes, citing Iranian Deputy Defense Minister General Seyyed Mahdi Farahi’s interview with the Tasnim news agency.

The United Nations’ arms embargo on Iran expired on October 18, 2020. The relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution had completely banned the transfer of advanced weapons to Tehran in June 2010. After the "nuclear deal" was made in 2015, however, UNSC Resolution 2231 replaced the embargo with five-year restrictions, which obligated any country intending to sell weapons to Iran to first obtain UNSC clearance.

Iran’s air force cannot currently be called up-to-date compared to those of the Persian Gulf monarchies, Ilya Kramnik, researcher with the Center for Strategic Planning Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, noted. So, by obtaining the Su-35 aircraft, Iran is making clear its plans to significantly upgrade the equipment of its air force while also sending a message to the US and Israel, which have repeatedly talked about plans to carry out strikes on Iranian targets, the expert said.

The purchase of combat aircraft and helicopters is the main goal that Iran has pursued since the embargo was lifted, Yury Lyamin, senior researcher at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, pointed out. According to him, advanced manned aviation equipment has been the country’s weak point. Lyamin explained that being under US sanctions for decades made it difficult to maintain 50-year-old US-made planes and helicopters in combat readiness.

"The Yak-130 training and combat aircraft that were delivered [to Iran] three months ago were the first new combat planes that Iran has received from abroad since purchasing several Su-25UBK attack aircraft from Russia in 2003-2006. In fact, simply studying new Russian planes may prove helpful for Iranian aviation industry specialists," Lyamin concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US not offering Argentina salvation from looming financial disaster

Argentinian President-Elect Javier Milei is currently on a tour of the United States. He has already visited New York and even promised to convert to Judaism. Apart from holding talks with US President Joe Biden’s team and general discussions with Argentinian and US economists, Milei is also in consultations with officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, given the country’s dire economic situation, a smooth transition to austerity measures would be more likely to help the Argentinians than the US, the IMF and external creditors, who are all well aware of the country’s inability to pay its debts, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

It is already clear that Milei will not set the country on the radical path that he pledged to pursue during his election campaign. However, Argentina will certainly move to adopt a regime of economic austerity measures. "The country’s debt currently stands at about $420 bln. Argentina is unable to pay such a debt. As many as 70% of the country’s people agree that the nation needs to start tightening its belt," Andrey Shchelchkov, chief researcher with the Center of Latin American Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World History, noted.

The expert emphasized that any sudden or sharp transformations were impossible, as such moves could give rise to popular discontent and social disorder and rioting given that as much as 40% of the country’s people live largely on government subsidies.

"Although Milei calls himself an anarcho-capitalist, he is actually closer to being a neoliberal, who takes current realities fully into account. At this point, it is impossible to put the country on a [purely] market-based track, and Milei himself admits that it will take at least ten years," the expert said, adding: "One of the difficult challenges that Milei is facing is not to ensure economic growth, which is impossible, but to save the people from hyperinflation."

He believes that the IMF and the White House are unlikely to provide as much assistance as Argentina needs. "The cost-cutting austerity policy that Milei plans to pursue is much tougher than even the IMF’s recommendations. As for the Americans, they will give money, but [Buenos Aires] will have to pay through the nose for it, and, besides, the US can find more attractive assets [elsewhere]. Meanwhile, Milei would be foolish to speak harshly against China, the country’s main economic partner which purchases [Argentinian] soybeans, as well as against Brazil and Portugal. Although he has softened his rhetoric recently and [it appears he] does not plan to make any drastic foreign policy moves either," the expert concluded.


Media: Will OPEC+ change deal on oil output cuts?

On November 30, the attention of the global oil market will be focused on a ministerial meeting of the OPEC+ group, the last one this year. Experts believe that Russia and Saudi Arabia, who play first fiddle in the OPEC+ deal for oil output cuts, will at least reaffirm their commitment to a voluntary reduction of production and exports, Izvestia writes.

The meeting was initially set for November 25-26. However, according to Western media outlets, it was rescheduled for November 30 due to disagreements on output levels for African producers. Angola and Nigeria wanted to increase their indicators, while Saudi Arabia suggested other OPEC+ nations reduce oil production quotas to support global markets.

Alexander Frolov, deputy director general of the National Energy Institute, points out that OPEC+ quotas may be reviewed depending on the situation. "If oil prices begin to plummet, say, falling below $50, OPEC+ may decide to additionally reduce output," he said.

Igor Yushkov, leading analyst at the National Energy Security Fund and expert at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, expects the parties to maintain the status quo. "Everyone understands that bringing the deal to a collapse would be even more harmful. If all countries start producing as much oil as they can, prices would nosedive. <...> If the deal collapses, prices may drop below $50 per barrel, which would deliver a blow to the economies of all oil-producing nations," Yushkov concluded.

Finam analyst Alexander Potavin, in turn, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that there were two possible scenarios. The first one is that, "the current voluntary reductions will be extended, which means that the Brent crude price will either remain at the current level or fall slightly." "The second scenario includes additional output cuts (about 300,000 barrels per day), which will not only support the current prices but will bring them back to the $90 per barrel mark," the analyst said. "The risk that the parties will fail to reach a final agreement is low, because it would mean a collapse of the oil alliance and a drop in prices," he stressed.

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