Press review: Dissecting US aid package to Ukraine and sands of global economy shifting

  MOSCOW, April 22. /TASS/. Doubts linger about the impact of the latest package of aid for Ukraine passed by the US House of Representative...


MOSCOW, April 22. /TASS/. Doubts linger about the impact of the latest package of aid for Ukraine passed by the US House of Representatives; tug-of-war between BRICS and the G7 may raise global tensions; and the US will withdraw troops from Niger following a demand from the West African nation’s authorities. These stories topped Monday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.

Izvestia: Doubts linger over US' latest package of aid to Ukraine

After nearly six months of trying, the House of Representatives finally passed a bill on aid to Ukraine. The Senate is almost sure to approve the bill, which will then be signed by US President Joe Biden. However, even US experts don’t expect this latest dose of Western support to change the situation on the battlefield, Izvestia writes.

US lawmakers have approved a total of $60.8 bln in aid for Ukraine. However, not all the money is meant for Kiev. The bill allocates $23.2 bln for replenishing US weapons stockpiles, $13.8 bln for weapons procurement, $11.3 bln for the current US operations in the region and another $26 mln for Ukraine aid monitoring. The document also provides for supplies of long-range ATACMS missiles.

Most of the money will go to increasing the capacities of the US defense industry long-term, to produce weapons that are not expected to make it to Ukraine, Jim Jatras, ex-adviser for the Republican leadership in the US Senate, told Izvestia. However, US support may encourage other countries to increase their aid to Kiev, Professor Saeed Khan of Wayne State University in Detroit noted.

Washington’s assistance did not stop there. The most controversial of the bill’s provisions concerns the seizure of frozen Russian assets. Some $4-5 bln will be provided to Ukraine in loans. Jatras sees this move as an attempt to cloak the illegitimate seizure of Russian money in some semblance of legality. Professor Richard Bensel of New York’s Cornell University believes that the bill’s key goal is not to seize Russian assets in the US (though this will be done), but to inspire European countries to grab Russian assets frozen in Europe.

US legislators managed to approve aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan only through separate bills. About $26.4 bln has been allocated to the Jewish state. According to Khan, the move will embolden Israel to continue its offensive in the Gaza Strip. Assistance to Taiwan will definitely anger Beijing but any decisive actions seem unlikely for now. Jatras points out that the aid will not have a significant impact on the military balance in the Western Pacific.

Izvestia: Battle for economic supremacy unfolds between BRICS, G7

The share of BRICS in global output has increased from 32% to 37% following the group’s expansion, the World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates, as the organization begins to leave the Group of Seven (G7) in the dust. Analysts at the Digital Bank BRICS are confident that the group’s influence on the WTO and the International Monetary Fund will continue to grow. However, experts warn that the global economy’s division into two blocs may create more trade barriers and raise geopolitical tensions, Izvestia writes.

"Several of the current BRICS members are key energy exporters, which highlights the group’s geostrategic role in the global economy," Yevgeny Smirnov, acting head of the Department of World Economy and International Economic Relations at the State University of Management, said. "Two oil majors - China and India - are also BRICS members. This means that in the future, the group will largely be in the spotlight of global energy trade as BRICS will, in part, determine how global industry chains and international energy cooperation look going forward," he added.

Growing production in BRICS countries reflects their rising influence and economic power, which may cause a shift in the distribution of world output, experts from the Russian Research Institute of Economics, Politics and Law in the Scientific and Technical Sphere point out.

According to Smirnov, as BRICS expands and gains more clout, it sends a clear message to both developing countries and international organizations about who will control the new world order. The BRICS group’s growing international influence can already be seen, in part, in its ambition to change the way countries do business by abandoning the dollar as a means of payment between member states.

According to the expert, potential threats in this regard include a deterioration of international relations and a rise in tensions; restricted freedom of movement of capital, technology and people between the blocs; and unequal terms of trade for the countries that don't belong to either of the blocs.

Vedomosti: US to pull troops out of Niger amid shifting alliances

Washington has agreed to withdraw its troops from Niger following a demand from the West African country’s authorities that took power in a coup, US media outlets reported, citing sources in the Biden administration. The pullout will involve more than 1,000 US troops and may take several months, Vedomosti writes.

The withdrawal of US troops from Niger cannot be described as completely unexpected because back on March 17, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, spokesperson of Niger’s National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (military administration), issued a communique denouncing the country’s military agreement with the US and emphasizing the need for the US troops to leave. The demand continues a years-long trend of Sahel countries cutting cooperation with Western nations in favor of working with Russia. In mid-April, Niger’s state television reported that at least 100 Russian military instructors had arrived in the country’s capital of Niamey.

The US may be thinking that it can put the Niger issue on the backburner for now and come back to it later if necessary, Vladimir Vasilyev, senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies, noted. The Americans believe that the current problems in Ukraine and the Middle East are far more important. Besides, Niger is not crucial as a uranium supplier because the Americans can get uranium from other countries, namely Kazakhstan. So the US has some room to maneuver in Africa, a big factor in its decision to withdraw troops, Vasilyev concluded.

Niger’s authorities no longer welcome a US military presence in the country as African countries want to distance themselves from their colonial past, Rakhimbek Bobokhonov, researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for African Studies, pointed out. Enter Russia, who has good relations with many African nations, as it does not impose its ideas on them and can invest in the continent and forgive debts. A lot of African countries miss the Soviet Union, which has been replaced by Russia in the system of international relations, the expert explained. Besides, the military assistance that Moscow offers will help strengthen presidential guards in many countries, he added.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Drought in southern Russia to spur grain export surge

This year’s grain harvest in Russia may not be as big as last year’s, with drought conditions in the country’s south being the key reason. That said, the drought may actually benefit Russia’s wheat exports as export prices for Russian grain continue growing, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

"The winter was very nice but now, the weather in Russia’s southern regions keeps getting worse. The wheat yields of Russia’s key producer and exporter will decline unless the region sees significant rainfall by mid-May," SovEcon Director Andrey Sizov said. The Russian Ministry of Agriculture has also lowered expectations for this year’s grain production.

However, while Russian experts and officials are lowering their grain production forecasts, foreign analysts are raising their expectations about Russian wheat exports. In particular, the April review by the US Department of Agriculture increased the forecast for Russian wheat exports by one mln metric tons to 52 mln tons for the current agricultural year (started in July 2023 and lasts until July 2024). Such growth is due in large part to quick turnarounds. Last season, Russia exported a record of 47.5 mln tons of wheat. US analysts note that Russia’s record wheat crops are increasing the country’s competitiveness in Africa and Middle Eastern markets.

Bad weather may be a blessing in disguise for Russian farmers. SovEcon experts believe that market concerns about the weather conditions in Russia’s south may provide additional support to the global wheat market. Export prices for Russian wheat have risen from $199 per ton to $211 per ton over the past several weeks.

However, experts emphasize that it will only be possible to make preliminary crop estimates for 2024 some time in May.

Vedomosti: Russian coal exports poised to nearly double by 2030

Russia’s coal exports could grow to 360 mln metric tons per year by 2030, Deputy Energy Minister Sergey Mochalnikov told Vedomosti. This is 1.7-fold higher than the real export volume recorded in 2023.

According to the official, logistics issues related to rail transportation are the key factor restricting coal exports at this point. This is why expanding the carrying capacity of the Russian Railways company’s network is crucial for ensuring such a rise in exports. Mochalnikov points out that railway transport capacity needs to grow in the country’s northwest and along the routes leading to the ports on the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The capacity of the Eastern Range, which includes the Baikal-Amur Mainline and the Trans-Siberian Railway Network, also should be expanded by 2030, "taking its final shape" by 2035. The deputy energy minister noted that the country already has the necessary port facilities.

According to the Energy Ministry’s estimates, China’s demand for Russian coal will continue to grow. An upward trend in coal exports is also expected in other Asia-Pacific countries. Keep in mind that after the European Union banned Russian coal imports due to the launch of Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine, Russian producers redirected exports to Asian markets. The Eastern Range is currently the main route for delivering coal to high-margin export markets. Russian Railways is working on a large-scale initiative to upgrade and expand infrastructure in order to increase rail capacity.

Boris Krasnozhenov, head of security market analytics at Alfa-Bank, believes that projects to expand the Eastern Range and upgrade other rail infrastructure may well ensure a rise in coal exports by 360 mln tons per year. Russian exporters have enough reserves and engineering capacities to significantly increase coal exports, the expert emphasized.

Alexander Grigoryev, deputy director general of the Institute of Problems of Natural Monopolies, notes that the quality of Russian coal and the low cost of its production make it possible for Russian companies to remain competitive on the global market.

-News Feed




Local Glob: Press review: Dissecting US aid package to Ukraine and sands of global economy shifting
Press review: Dissecting US aid package to Ukraine and sands of global economy shifting
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