All news

Press review: Russia flexes nuclear muscle and Israel signals imminent offensive in Gaza

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, May 7th

MOSCOW, May 7. /TASS/. Russia prepares to conduct nuclear drills amid Western threats; Israel issues an evacuation warning ahead of a planned offensive in southern Gaza; and Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to forge connections with the EU while on a European tour. These stories topped Tuesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Media: Russia to conduct nuclear drills in response to Western threats

The Russian Armed Forces will carry out drills to simulate the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons, the Defense Ministry announced. The exercise’s goal is said to be "increasing the preparedness of the non-strategic nuclear forces to perform combat missions." These kinds of drills have been few and far between since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but they used to be held annually during Soviet times, Vedomosti notes.

Russia’s nuclear doctrine authorizes the first use of nuclear weapons only when the country’s existence is at risk or an attempt is made to wipe out the Russian nuclear forces. The announcement of the drills does not change the national nuclear doctrine, Ilya Kramnik, research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, said. What is most notable is that the drills come amid certain provocative statements from NATO countries' officials.

What we are seeing now is a clear nuclear message, something that has not happened often during Russia’s special military operation, Dmitry Stefanovich, a researcher with the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, pointed out. This confirms a well-known fact: in case of a high-intensity conflict against a superior opponent, Russia will use non-strategic nuclear weapons, the analyst said.

"These drills were prompted by the rising tensions triggered by the West, particularly by statements that NATO forces, including US troops, may be deployed to Ukraine," Admiral (Ret.) Sergey Avakyants, ex-commander of Russia’s Pacific Fleet, told Izvestia.

Alexey Leonkov, military analyst and editor of the Arsenal Otechestva (or Arsenal of the Fatherland) magazine, expects that the upcoming exercise will send a message to any countries who think that Russia does not have the capability to use tactical nuclear weapons.

However, Gabor Stier, Hungarian political scientist and Valdai Club member, believes that Western countries will try to avoid a direct conflict with Russia. Moscow is raising the stakes with its messaging, which is exacerbating the situation, but everyone involved still wants to avoid a serious escalation, the expert emphasized.


Vedomosti: Israeli army issues evacuation warning ahead of planned offensive in southern Gaza

On May 6, the Israeli army called on Palestinians to evacuate from the eastern neighborhoods of the southern Gazan city of Rafah into "an expanded humanitarian zone" 20 kilometers to the north ahead of a planned ground operation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Vedomosti writes.

The evacuation plan was put forward less than 24 hours after peace talks ended between the delegations of Israel and Hamas, brokered by the US, Egypt and Qatar. According to Egypt’s Al Qahera News TV, negotiations stalled after Hamas fired ten rockets at Israeli positions near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, from where humanitarian supplies are coming to the Gaza Strip. The attack killed four Israelis.

The announcement of a partial evacuation of Palestinians from Rafah is a public relations ploy by the Israeli authorities meant to ward off criticism from Western countries, Sergey Balmasov, senior expert at the Institute of the Middle East, noted. In his view, it’s not possible to transfer and accommodate even 100,000 Palestinians in a safe area because refugee camps are already overcrowded.

Since the Washington-brokered peace talks in Cairo fell apart, the Americans must have accepted Israel’s ground operation in Rafah, Lev Sokolshchik, senior researcher with the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics, said. The Americans cannot turn away from Israel because the country is in fact the United States’ outpost in the region. However, the ally is openly manipulating the Americans, dragging them into a conflict they don’t need, the expert noted.

Israel’s operation in the south of the Gaza Strip will aggravate the humanitarian situation in the region, triggering a backlash from neighboring Arab countries, Balmasov went on to say. "The Israeli military is technically capable of leveling Rafah; however, this won’t destroy Hamas, while scores of refugees will pour into Egypt, which Cairo will see as a hostile act by Israel," the analyst added.


Media: Xi seeking common ground with EU

Chinese President Xi Jinping is traveling through Europe for the first time in five years. His itinerary makes it clear that Beijing doesn’t mind driving a wedge between Washington and its European allies. After France, whose president is trying to increase his country’s role in Europe, Xi will visit Hungary, the European Union’s main troublemaker, and Serbia, which is not an EU member and where pro-Russian sentiment is strong, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

"Xi’s mission is quite complicated. It won’t be easy to get concessions from the EU and France, especially because the process involves [European Commission President Ursula] von der Leyen. The parties are more likely to achieve progress in the economic field because both are interested in that," Sergey Fyodorov, leading researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, said.

The expert believes that the main goal of talks between Xi and the French president is to hear each other out and take stock of existing concerns. However, no breakthroughs should be expected.

For China, the number one goal is to maintain economic cooperation with Europe. Number two and on a deeper level is to differentiate Europe from the US in the country’s foreign trade portfolio. With this in mind, it’s crucial for the Chinese to prevent the Europeans from siding with the Americans, Yulia Melnikova, Valdai Club expert and Russian International Affairs Council program manager, told Izvestia.

Resolving the Ukraine issue is becoming a satellite task here. Naturally, it could turn into a bargaining chip, with European leaders trying to trade better conditions for Chinese investors for a reduction in Beijing’s assistance to Russia. "However, I don’t think this is possible at this point; not only because Russia-China relations are on the rise but also because it’s not a strong enough argument to influence China," the expert pointed out.


Izvestia: US forced to relocate military assets from UAE to Qatar

The United States is relocating military assets from the United Arab Emirates to Qatar. Just like other countries in the region, the UAE is seeking to ease tensions with Tehran and does not want to become the site of a conflict between the US and Iran, Izvestia notes.

Kuwait is currently the biggest US basing site in the region, hosting about 13,500 troops at five bases. Qatar is second, with some 10,000 US troops stationed at Al Udeid Air Base. The country also hosts the US Central Command's Combined Air Operations Center and the US Central Command's Forward Headquarters. Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE is the third largest one.

Given the situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israel Defense Forces’ actions are provoking not only the Lebanon-based Hezbollah but also the Yemen-based Ansar Allah movement (known as the Houthis), Vasily Ostanin-Golovnya, research fellow at the Department of Middle and Post-Soviet East of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences, pointed out.

"The Houthis are not a rich, modern army capable of easily using aircraft. Their moniker is to carry out attention-grabbing operations. The UAE is close, it earlier joined the Abraham Accords [with Israel] and remains one of the most important platforms for negotiations with Israel, so it could be a good target," the political scientist noted. He added that the UAE authorities would not want such a scenario to take place. Instability will negatively affect the economy, while the UAE is actively promoting its image as one of the global economy’s financial centers, the analyst stressed.

Middle East expert Andrey Ontikov points out that several years ago, the Houthis successfully attacked the UAE, causing casualties. "The UAE pursues a very pragmatic policy; it’s focused on bringing in investment and building the economy. If the country suddenly became part of a conflict or came under attack from the outside, it would lose its attractiveness for businesses," the specialist explained.


Vedomosti: TurkStream gains momentum as main gateway for Russian gas exports to Europe

Russia’s gas supplies to the European Union via the TurkStream pipeline rose by 38% year-on-year between January and April 2024, Vedomosti writes, citing data from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG).

Russia currently uses only two routes to export gas to Europe, those being TurkStream and a pipeline running through Ukraine. Exports via other gas pipelines have been suspended, with the Nord Stream pipeline out of operation since August 2022 and the Yamal-Europe pipeline non-operational since late 2021.

TurkStream has two lines, one running to Turkey and the other to Bulgaria and other Southeast European countries. Russian gas supplies to the EU via TurkStream exceeded gas transit through Ukraine in the first four months of the year. Meanwhile, Russia’s overall pipeline gas exports to Europe (including Moldova) grew by 26% year-on-year in the reporting period.

Analysts point out that gas supplies via TurkStream are increasing because European customers find Russian gas prices more favorable than spot prices. Ronald Smith, senior analyst at BCS World Investments, views the current level of gas supplies through TurkStream as "generally stable."

A partial redirection of transit supplies may begin in late 2024 as Gazprom’s contract for gas transit through Ukraine expires on December 31. This will lead to a rise in exports via TurkStream, Finam analyst Sergey Kaufman said.

Igor Yushkov, leading analyst at the National Energy Security Fund, does not rule out that Hungary, in particular, may increase gas imports via TurkStream.

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews