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Press review: Russia, DPRK sign strategic pact and Israel authorizes offensive in Lebanon

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, 20th

MOSCOW, June 20. /TASS/. Russia, North Korea sign new strategic pact, Israel approves ground offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and arms from Seoul may be being indirectly funneled to Ukraine. These stories topped Thursday's newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: What comprehensive partnership agreement between Russia, North Korea means

Russia and North Korea have signed a new strategic document laying the groundwork for relations between the two countries in the long-term. For instance, the agreement involves providing mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties. Given their rocky relations with the collective West, the two countries want to take cooperation to a higher level, an idea that has Brussels and Washington concerned.

"It is natural that the West is displeased with the rapprochement of our countries, constantly reducing Russian-North Korean ties merely to military cooperation," Kim Yen Un, leading researcher at the Center for Korean Research of the Institute of China and Contemporary Asia of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Izvestia. "But Moscow does not worry about what others think when trying to maintain normal relations with other countries," he added.

Given the state of current affairs and Russia and North Korea’s similar geopolitical situation, such as their sharing a border and being under international sanctions, both countries need to seek alternative economic partners. Here, Moscow and Pyongyang have the potential to reach an entirely new level of cooperation on energy, tourism and labor migration, Maria Sokolova, an expert on Korea at the National Coordination Center for International Business Cooperation, told Izvestia.

Traditionally, Russia exports grain and petroleum products to North Korea. During Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia last fall, potential tracks to expand cooperation were indicated, such as tourism, construction, energy and healthcare. Potentially, it is quite possible to conclude new trade agreements, expanding exports from Russia to North Korea, including pharmaceuticals, food products and energy resources, Sokolova added.


Vedomosti: Israel approves ground operation against Hezbollah in Lebanon

Overnight on June 19, the Israeli army command approved a plan to carry out a ground operation in Lebanese territory against the Lebanon-based Shia party Hezbollah and announced that it is putting its northern group of forces on combat alert, the army press service said.

The US is unlikely to reduce the tension between Israel and Hezbollah, and should Israel put boots on the ground in southern Lebanon, the Americans will have to back their ally, said Lev Sokolshchik, researcher at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies. According to him, Washington previously attempted to de-escalate the situation in the Middle East, but to no avail. "The Americans even put diplomatic pressure on their allies, threatening to suspend their arms supplies. But Israel stuck to its guns, despite the White House protesting," the expert explained.

Moreover, if Israel decides to invade Lebanon, the US will have to support its ally lest it lose influence in the Middle East. Domestic political differences prevent Washington from developing a strategically balanced and consistent stance on the Middle Eastern track, the expert said. In his opinion, the Israeli elite is taking full advantage of this and is skillfully manipulating the Americans.

The Israeli army’s statement on the planned operation was made in order to prevent Hezbollah from further escalation, 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). That said, the expert noted that Israel is not interested in a full-scale ground invasion in Lebanon. "Hezbollah militants are much better equipped and trained than Hamas. So the Israeli army risks getting bogged down in heavy combat in restrained urban conditions as it happened in previous Lebanese wars. I think that the operation will be limited to surgical strikes by the Israeli air force on the positions of the Lebanese group," she explained.


Izvestia: South Korean arms may end up in Ukraine

South Korea is expanding weapons exports to Eastern Europe as the country’s defense minister, Shin Won-sik, travels there this week. Officially, Seoul is not supplying arms to the Kiev regime, however, experts think that their weapons could be funneled to Ukraine via Romania or Poland, for example. South Korea has already made a deal with Bucharest on delivering howitzers to the tune of almost $1 bln and is planning to sign an additional agreement with Warsaw on the sale of tanks. That said, news outlets reported earlier that, via indirect deliveries, South Korea has already supplied more munitions to Ukraine than all of Europe. The country also provides shells within the framework of the so-called Czech initiative.

"Seoul can make deliveries to Kiev via any European country South Korea sells arms to - keeping in mind that they may end up in Ukraine. They already have the tried and tested option through Poland where they had sent munitions - this is easier from the point of view of logistics. So, I think that in the event of such deliveries, they will limit themselves to Poland," military expert Vadim Koroshchupov, a junior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), told Izvestia.

The expert noted that South Korea has long had its eyes on the arms market of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

"They really want to tap into NATO’s market, and over the past 20 years, the South Koreans have achieved a lot in terms of exporting arms to Europe. When there is a conflict, munitions are in demand, and South Korea is taking advantage of this. But this is short-lived. So, here one needs to think not about shells, but about heavy equipment supplies, and getting long-term deals done - for three, five or ten years," the expert explained.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Kazakhstan caught between Russia ties, Western demands

The European Union and US are satisfied with the level of cooperation with Kazakhstan but are concerned over growing imports pouring into the country. EU Sanctions Envoy David O'Sullivan who visited Astana earlier talked about risks for Kazakhstan against the backdrop of anti-Russian sanctions. Several days before, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai discussed the lifting of the Jackson-Vanik amendment with regard to Kazakhstan.

"Kazakhstan, as a key partner of Western countries in Central Asia, draws attention from American and European officials. Numerous transnational corporations are working in the country, while the trade turnover with Kazakhstan significantly surpasses that of other Central Asian states. Recent talks with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai showed that the West is ready to offer Kazakhstan a number of 'perks' as investment projects, for example, new PepsiCo and Lays factories, in exchange for bolstering the sanctions regime against Russia," Stanislav Pritchin of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS) told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. According to the expert, this is an attempt to compensate Kazakhstan’s losses at least partially. "Yet it seems to me that it is impossible to break and change the nature of Russia’s ties with Kazakhstan because they are fundamental. Russia is Kazakhstan’s key trade partner, investor and strategic ally through which main flows of export goods are going," Pritchin said.

The expert noted that it is important to understand that with the boosted sanctions regime, Kazakhstan faces an increasingly tougher dilemma between siding with Russia or the West. In the event of a critical drop in the trade turnover with Russia, Kazakhstan will have to make an unequivocal decision in favor of one of the sides.


Kommersant: Global fertilizer market favorable for Russia

Russian fertilizer producers who are increasing supplies to EU countries and Latin America can take advantage of the opportune situation on the market. Since the end of April, carbamide prices on the global market have grown by 26%, up to $313 per ton, which market players link with seasonal demand in Brazil as well as with the reduction of fertilizer supplies from Egypt due to the lack of gas raw materials.

Yevgenia Popova, a senior consultant at Implementa, points out that, at key global platforms, the prices for the main types of fertilizers are still below 2023 levels. In her opinion, one should hardly expect a significant growth, given that in Russia, the production of fertilizers in 2024 will increase by about 10% versus 2023.

According to the expert, the global competition will not affect domestic fertilizer consumers either, due to quotas set on exports and the producers’ agreements with the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia on containing prices. Kommersant’s industry sources concur. However, the expert thinks that seasonal and local price hikes are possible at some platforms.

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