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Press review: Kiev 'formula' fated to flop at Davos and new Taiwan leader to tread softly

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, January 15th

MOSCOW, January 15. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky's so-called "peace formula" is fated to be a flop at annual Davos confab as Global South nations remain unconvinced of Kiev’s case; Taiwan's new pro-independence leader is likely to tread softly against an ever-vigilant China; and a new bill before the US Congress is aimed at blocking global exports of Russian agricultural goods. These stories topped Monday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: 'Zelensky’s peace formula' fated to flop among Global South players at Davos

The Ukrainian proposal to resolve the conflict with Russia cannot serve as the framework for a potential peace settlement or agreement with Moscow because the majority of Global South nations do not support it, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. Analysts stressed that these countries are unwilling to hold negotiations to address the Ukrainian issue without Russia's participation and have no interest whatsoever in deteriorating relations with Moscow. Furthermore, Russia and Moscow-friendly countries in the Global South share the desire to undermine the overweening hegemony of the West.

The 54th World Economic Forum (WEF) will take place on January 15-19 in its traditional venue, the Alpine ski resort of Davos, Switzerland. Despite the fact that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has been invited to the key global event, the topic of Ukraine will no longer dominate the Davos agenda. On January 14, the "peace formula" first presented by Zelensky in 2022 was given yet another public airing, but this time it was downgraded to an event outside of the formal Davos program. The Ukrainian plan encompasses ten points, the most important of which is the demand that the borders of Ukraine be restored to their status as of 1991, a condition which is absolutely out of the question for Russia.

The specific WEF events geared toward discussing Zelensky’s plan are largely designed to win over the countries of the Global South, particularly China, to openly back Kiev’s plan, the newspaper writes. At the same time, however, experts believe that, despite over two years of armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Western powers have failed to persuade developing countries to support Kiev. According to Ukrainian political scientist Alexey Yakubin, many nations in the Global South see the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine as a battle between Russia and the West, which is congruent with the overall anti-Western mood among such countries.

"Countries in the Global South have their own grievances and claims against Western nations. Some of them suffered from colonialism," he told Izvestia.

According to ex-Bundestag (German parliament) member Waldemar Gerdt, another reason why people in the Global South are opposed to the "Zelensky formula" is their desire to maintain political and economic relations with Russia. Furthermore, there are growing calls within the West itself to reassess NATO and the EU's stance toward Russia. According to Gerdt, Western countries are increasingly becoming weary of the Ukraine crisis.


Vedomosti: Taiwan's new pro-independence leader to be stymied by opposition-led parliament

Lai Ching-te, also known as William Lai, the candidate for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won Taiwan's presidential election on January 13. The party has historically advocated full independence for the island, which has not been de facto ruled by Beijing since 1949. At the same time, Lai has consistently stated that he has no intention of upsetting the status quo, and that there is no need to declare independence or change the island's official name. In the latter case, China would almost certainly take strong measures, Vedomosti writes.

After the past weekend’s Taiwanese presidential and parliamentary elections, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated that the island is part of China, will not become a separate country and will be returned to Beijing’s full jurisdiction. According to Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow also considers Taiwan to be an integral part of China.

According to Vasily Kashin, director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), the election results have both positive and negative implications for Beijing. The fact that a representative of the DPP will hold the presidency for another four years reinforces the long-term negative trend for Beijing. In the medium term, however, the newly elected opposition-led parliament could be a significant factor that poses major challenges for the minority president.

Andrey Karneev, head of the Asian Studies Department at HSE University, noted that Taiwan's ruling party is ready to take stronger measures to uphold the island's international political independence. The current situation is unique in that the DPP will hold the presidency for a third consecutive term, which indicates a shift among Taiwanese voters and complicates Beijing’s position, according to Karneev. However, the new president's precise actions, as well as China's reactions, are likely to be extremely cautious. Military exercises by China’s People’s Liberation Army are pushing Taiwan to become even more antagonistic toward Beijing. Thus, according to Karneev, China might try a less confrontational tack by attempting to establish informal contacts with the island's ruling party.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Arab world becomes hostage to Western attacks on Yemen-based Houthis

Saudi Arabia’s royal house attempted to distance itself from the armed escalation in Yemen by offering mediation services to the administration of US President Joe Biden, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. This is despite the fact that, according to Arab publications, Riyadh has provided airspace for strikes against the Yemen-based Houthi movement Ansar Allah. Meanwhile, the Gulf states also find themselves in a difficult situation, the newspaper writes, because, on the one hand, they perceive the Yemeni rebels as a legitimate threat, but, on the other, they wish to avoid any unnecessary conflict with Iran, which has backed the Yemen-based Shia movement.

Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese publication close to Iran and its regional allies, noted, citing sources, that Saudi Arabia was involved in the US-British effort to destroy Houthi positions. On the night of January 12, US and British forces launched attacks on Ansar Allah positions in many Yemeni locations. The Houthis may retaliate in the near future. At the same time, the organization accused Bahrain of treason, claiming that it was the only Arab country to support the attacks on Yemen. Recently, the Gulf monarchy, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, was able to join the US-backed Guardians of Prosperity coalition, which secures regional and international trade routes.

In an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Kirill Semenov, an analyst with the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), noted that trying to strike Bahrain would most likely prove to be too far of a reach for the Houthis. At the same time, they have no particular reservations about Saudi Arabia. "Riyadh does not participate in the Guardian of Prosperity coalition and, on the contrary, called on the US leadership to attempt to settle the underlying cause of the problem and eliminate the real reason why the Houthis are waging warfare in the Red Sea: to force Israel to stop its aggression in Gaza, instead of building new anti-Houthi alliances," he said.

According to the analyst, however, this does not rule out friction between Riyadh and Ansar Allah, as the Houthis are capable of striking Bahrain through Saudi airspace.


Vedomosti: US wants to prevent export of Russian agricultural products

The No Russian Agriculture Act, passed by the US House of Representatives on January 12, requires the US Treasury Department, through US representatives in international financial institutions, to "use its voice and influence" to support investments in projects aimed at reducing individual countries' reliance on Russian agricultural goods, specifically fertilizers and grain. The Treasury secretary may make an exception for some projects involving Russian participation if they benefit US national interests, but the cabinet secretary must first notify Congress, Vedomosti writes.

According to Eduard Zernin, chairman of the Russian Union of Grain Exporters, problems may arise mainly from a broader interpretation of the No Russian Agriculture Act, rather than the precise execution of the bill’s provisions. "The name itself has a very strong negative connotation. Based on the example of hidden sanctions and ongoing issues with banking facilitation of Russian grain transactions, we understand what a [negative] impact the underlying messages, as opposed to the formal contents, of various documents can have," the expert told Vedomosti.

However, Ivan Timofeyev, director of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), believes the bill adds nothing new to US sanctions policy against Russia: "The US already does not support anything Russian in international organizations, including in the field of agriculture." According to him, the US executive branch has more serious sanctions weapons in its inventory, such as blocking sanctions or import bans, which have only been employed in limited cases in connection to Russian agribusiness. Timofeyev pointed out that the bill is also intended for domestic consumption by an American audience.

US sanctions in the form of specific acts taken through international bodies are a typical occurrence. However, for such a large country as Russia, they typically go unnoticed, the expert added. Timofeyev stated that Russia could respond by publicly criticizing the bill and mirroring moves taken through international groups.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: World population expecting wars and economic conflicts in 2024

Approximately 40% of the global population expects 2024 to be less quiet than last year, with residents of the European Union (56%), the United States (59%) and Canada (53%) showing the most concern. In Russia, every eighth respondent (12%) anticipates a calmer year. The global economic elite is also concerned about the rise in threats and conflicts, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes, citing reports sponsored by the World Economic Forum (WEF), now meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Compared to two years ago, when the global peace index had nearly equal numbers of optimists and pessimists, contemporary surveys reveal a clear predominance of more worried expectations around the world, according to the global study. According to the latest WEF research, the growing number of wars around the world has become one of the most significant global hazards. Other concerns include environmental risks, and the risks of disinformation and social polarization, which survey respondents believe are most closely related to the danger of an economic slump.

According to experts, the primary risks to the global economy now are the possibility of stagflation and a global recession. "The biggest global economic risks are breaks in economic ties caused by the aggravation of inter-country and inter-religious conflicts," Elena Ustyuzhanina, head of the Central Economics and Mathematics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the newspaper.

Timur Sadykov, an expert at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, believes that one of the most significant hazards to the global economy would be a systemic crisis of trust and the continuous deterioration of international technological and commercial relations, as well as transportation corridors. "The trigger for an avalanche-like degradation could be the hot phase of the struggle for Taiwan, where most of the world's production of microprocessor technology is concentrated," the expert said.

At the same time, investment strategist at BCS World of Investments Alexander Bakhtin believes that Russia's primary threats stem from geopolitics and climate change. "For centuries, Russia has been the most powerful participant in the global political landscape. Its geography, vast resource base, enormous influence, and ambitions will undoubtedly continue to produce conflict on geopolitical lines. In terms of climate, the problem of thawing permafrost, which covers vast parts of northern Russia and Siberia, is also significant," the expert noted.

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