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Press review: Israel mulls response to Iran's strike and Ukraine plays shot-caller with US

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, April 16th

MOSCOW, April 16. /TASS/. Israel weighs a retaliatory strike on Iran as the West and the EU hope cooler heads prevail, Kiev tries to dictate terms to Washington, and Scholz tries to make nice with China. These stories topped Tuesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Vedomosti: US, EU try to rein Israel in as it weighs response to Iranian attack

The Israeli war cabinet led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon decide on its response to Iran’s attack on Israeli soil, ABC News reported on April 15, citing sources. Reuters said that the Israeli government held an emergency session a couple of hours after the Iranian strike on April 14 but its participants did not agree on the time or scale of a retaliatory strike.

Earlier, Reuters, Axios, CNN, the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, citing sources in the White House, wrote that the US would not support an Israeli attack on Iran. That said, Politico, citing an anonymous US official, wrote that Washington urged the Israeli authorities to take some time before deciding on a course of action. According to the news outlet, in order not to fan the flames in the Middle East, US President Joe Biden deliberately did not make any televised public statements following the attack.

The probability of a symmetrical strike from Israel on Iran is very low, said Lyudmila Samarskaya, researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS). According to her, strikes on pro-Iranian formations in third countries would carry the lowest risk for any further escalation, while attacks on nuclear facilities on Iranian territory have the highest risk potential. On the one hand, Israel does not want to escalate the conflict, while on the other, Tel Aviv believes the intensity of the attack by the Iranians warrants a reaction, if only to prevent a recurrence in the future, Samarskaya thinks.

According to Dmitry Maryasis, researcher at the Department of Israel Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, Israel’s response strike may not happen both due to limited resources amid the war in the Gaza Strip and to pressure by the US and its moderate Middle Eastern Arab allies who are trying to convince Tel Aviv not to respond in kind.

In the Iranian-Israeli conflict, the Arab world will try to "tone the situation down," said Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) expert Kirill Semyonov. If the escalation vortex expands, it will above all affect the Persian Gulf monarchies, he thinks. "At the next stage, Iran may begin attacking civilian maritime traffic as it did during the detention of Western vessels earlier," the expert noted. And even though the authorities in Arab countries have kept a cool head thus far, the elites will have to take into account the position of the "Arab street," which, putting aside any religious or ethnic differences, is rallying behind Iran following Tehran’s attack, Semyonov added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukraine takes diplomatic gambit by trying to dictate terms to Washington

Kiev is demanding that Washington provide it with new Patriot missile systems in exchange for Ukraine not striking Russia’s oil-refining facilities as the US has requested, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said. He also said that Ukraine may ask Poland to join in defending Ukrainian airspace even though this would mean a NATO country getting involved in the conflict with Russia. Experts think that Warsaw will defer to Washington and London about Ukraine’s proposal and also ask to be paid.

Commenting on the statements by the top Ukrainian diplomat, Center for Political Information Director General Alexey Mukhin noted that his remarks are outright blackmail against the US. "The Kiev regime believes that since Ukrainians are laying down their lives in the conflict with Russia, now all Western countries participating in the anti-Russian coalition owe a debt for this. And the US is no exception. While apparently the US thought it was the one dictating terms to others, Kuleba made it known that no, Ukraine is calling the shots here," the expert explained.

Nevertheless, at this point, Washington views Ukraine as a "pebble in the shoe," he continued. The US has bigger problems such as the upcoming presidential election, relations with China or aiding Israel in the Middle Eastern crisis. "Kuleba had nothing to lose by being so snippy with Washington. Most likely, this will go unnoticed there because they have bigger fish to fry," the analyst said. As for remarks about Poland, according to his assessment, apparently, Ukraine has already resigned itself to the fact that it is on its own despite its allies’ assurances. That said, Kiev would like nothing more than to drag Poland into a direct armed confrontation with Russia. But Warsaw will redirect such proposals to Washington and London, driven by the same motivations as Ukraine: if Western leaders want it to throw its hat in the ring, they have to pay, the expert concluded.


Izvestia: Scholz tackles trade tensions between EU, China

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will attempt to decrease tensions between the EU and Beijing over trade disputes during his visit to China. This will be Scholz’s longest foreign visit since taking office. Germany wants to resolve its own economic issues amid inauspicious forecasts, experts think. However, relations between Beijing and Brussels are heading downhill fast - the EU plans to launch yet another investigation into purported unfair business practices on the part of China. It is also expected that the German chancellor will discuss the situation in Ukraine with Xi Jinping, as the two are slated to meet on April 16.

According to Li Xin, director of the Center for Russian and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Academy of International Studies and board member of the SCO National Research Center, among EU countries, only Germany, France and Italy have a relatively independent stance in international relations, while most European countries depend on the US. The expert noted that China, as the world’s largest market, is taking a more laissez faire attitude towards conducting business and this European trio doesn’t want to be left behind. Neither does China, for whom Europe is the second most important trade partner. Beijing cannot afford to lose this standing and Germany is key to preserving this partnership, Li said, adding that it is possible that major trade deals may be concluded during the visit to bolster China’s economic ties with Germany and Europe in general.

German political scientist Eike Hamer told Izvestia that the main goal of the chancellor’s visit is to get Germany a bigger piece of the Chinese market. German industry became rather unwelcome on the Chinese market due to ridiculous sanctions with regard to Russia and the Eurasian region in general, the expert explained. According to him, Scholz had no choice but to travel to China because the current situation is not just desperate but catastrophic for the German government.

The expert pointed out that Scholz is not respected in political circles with the exception of his Western partners, stressing that Xi had not welcomed him personally and no high-ranking officials had greeted the German chancellor at the airport. According to Izvestia, the highest-ranking official who greeted Scholz in China was the deputy mayor of the city of Chongqing.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Who will replace Iran on oil market following attack on Israel?

Even though oil quotations did not soar after Iran’s strike on Israel despite numerous forecasts, one should not expect the incident to have no effect on the oil market at all. Iranian oil exports are banned under US sanctions. It is hardly possible to make them harsher but what the US can do is toughen their observance. Another issue is whether the US needs this on the eve of the presidential election.

According to Freedom Finance Global analyst Vladimir Chernov, a decrease in oil export volumes from Iran, if it does happen, would lower demand on the global market and trigger an imbalance in supply and demand leading to an increase in global oil prices.

Chernov thinks that the US may take up the share of Iranian oil on the market because it is increasing production and export volumes while OPEC+ countries continue to reduce their production. In 2023, US production volumes grew by 9% year on year, while exports increased by 13% year on year, to 4.1 mln barrels per day.

Valery Andrianov, associate professor at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, thinks that at this time, the US authorities need to do an about face. In the medium term, the US should set an opposite goal: to return some of the Iranian oil to the market without "losing face" or bringing any political benefit to Tehran by doing so, the expert thinks. Iran can become a real counterbalance to the Russia-Saudi Arabia duo which is currently regulating the prices.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US sanctions spark surge in price of nickel, aluminum

US-UK sanctions against Russian non-ferrous metals have had a much greater effect on global markets than the escalation of the Iranian-Israeli military conflict or the increased risks of oil transport via the Strait of Hormuz. Global metal prices reacted sharply to the sanctions while the oil market was largely unaffected following Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel. Purchasers are now ready to pay more for nickel and aluminum due to the risk of supplies from Russia being reduced.

"The supplies of Russian metals are unlikely to stop. Their main flow will be redirected away from the US, EU and UK and head to the Southeast, West and East Asia, to China. One can expect the volume of supplies to increase 1.7-2 fold which will make up for the loss of the US, UK and, potentially, the European markets," said Mikhail Khachaturyan, associate professor at the Financial University.

"Currently, Russia is coping with seeking new markets for metals and a gradual increase in their supplies. Thus, over 2023, the volume of Russian aluminum imports to China doubled (from $1.37 bln to $2.87 bln) which fully compensates for the loss of the US and UK markets for Russian metals," stressed Antonina Levashenko, head of the Russian Center for Competencies and Analysis of OECD Standards at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). Khachaturyan noted that London Stock Exchange still has extensive supplies of Russian metals for trade.

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