Press review: Vietnam, Russia forge closer bonds and EU imposes fresh sanctions on Moscow

MOSCOW:  Russia and Vietnam look to boost trade ties amid expanded strategic partnership; EU comes out with 14th package of sanctions agains...


MOSCOW:  Russia and Vietnam look to boost trade ties amid expanded strategic partnership; EU comes out with 14th package of sanctions against Russia; and Cyprus finds itself caught in the middle of Israel-Hezbollah conflict. These stories topped Friday's newspaper headlines across Russia.

Izvestia: Russia, Vietnam pledge to increase trade in national currencies following Putin’s visit

Russia and Vietnam are switching to national currencies in trade, with 60% of transactions already being made in Russian rubles and Vietnamese dong, Vladimir Putin said during his visit to the country on Thursday. In addition, Moscow and Hanoi put out a joint declaration on the expansion of their strategic partnership. Russia is also ready to establish long-term direct supplies of hydrocarbons, including LNG, to Vietnam. What’s more, the countries intend to develop cooperation in the defense sector. Experts told Izvestia about the serious potential for cooperation between the two states, while drawing attention to the difficulties associated primarily with Western sanctions.

Today's growing ties between the two countries stem from a foundation built long ago, Head of the Far East History Department, Faculty of Asian and African Studies at St. Petersburg State University Vladimir Kolotov told Izvestia. However, current interaction between Russia and Vietnam is vulnerable to the negative impact of Western sanctions, researcher at the Center for Vietnam and ASEAN Studies, Institute of China and Contemporary Asia of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Elena Burova noted.

"The whole system of long-term trade contracts between the countries is in danger. Vietnam has not joined the restrictions, but has not condemned them. Sometimes, it feels as though it takes into account Washington's anti-Russian recommendations. Vietnamese companies, fearing secondary measures, do not want to take risks and expand economic partnership with Russia," she said. The situation is reflected in bilateral trade between the two countries. According to Vietnamese data, in 2021-2023, trade turnover decreased by 35% from $5.6 bln to $3.6 bln.

Russia is mainly interested in developing strategic markets (energy, especially nuclear, gas, transport infrastructure) with Vietnam, but the Vietnamese side does not allow Russia to enter them under pressure from the West, Elena Burova added. Other promising technological projects include IT, medicine and pharma, space, and military-technical cooperation.

It should also be noted that Vietnam is now actively developing relations with the United States mainly due to its difficult relations with China. "Hanoi sees the situation of securing its own interests through the prism of territorial disputes in the South China Sea, in which China is seen as the main adversary ... The United States is the main big fish that actively advocates anti-Chinese positions," Vladimir Kolotov explained.

Izvestia: EU’s 14th package of anti-Russian sanctions may come back to bite Europe itself

The 14th package of sanctions, agreed at the level of EU permanent representatives, is unlikely to have a significant impact on the Russian economy, as Moscow has long stopped counting on restoring economic ties with Europe, experts told Izvestia. Besides, Russia is successfully seeking out alternative markets and supply channels, while the EU is once again shooting itself in the foot by refusing to accept hydrocarbons from Russia, raising their prices on the world market, analysts noted.

On June 20, EU permanent representatives agreed on a new package of sanctions against Russia. The list’s final approval will come on June 24 at a meeting of the Council of EU countries. This time, sanctions will be aimed mainly at the Russian energy industry and for the first time in over two and a half years of sanctions policy, the European Union may introduce restrictions on the export of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Sanctions against Russian LNG will not be a killer to the Russian economy, expert at the Financial University and a leading analyst at the National Energy Fund Igor Yushkov told the newspaper. "The EU says that it is depriving Russia of revenue, but in reality, the Russian government does not receive any revenue from LNG projects. Yamal LNG, for example, is a complex, expensive project. It has received large tax breaks," the expert told Izvestia, noting that Russia will begin to receive real taxes from the company only in 6-8 years.

However, Russia is already taking steps to find consumers for Russian LNG in Asian countries. Thus, after a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Vladimir Putin said Russia is ready to carry out direct supplies of hydrocarbons, including LNG, to the country.

"Moscow no longer expects to restore any economic communication channels. We are increasingly moving towards creating alternative markets and supply channels," Director of the Stolypin Institute of the Economics of Growth Anton Sviridenko said.

Russia is now much less dependent on the European economy than it was two years ago, the expert added. Therefore, no one should expect a serious effect from the next package of sanctions, experts believe.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Cyprus at risk of being drawn into Israel-Hezbollah war

The Lebanese Hezbollah group has threatened to attack Cyprus if it makes its military bases available to Israel. Its Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah claimed to have information indicating that the Jewish state is trying to gain access to air facilities in order to carry out its operations in Lebanon. According to experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Hezbollah has missile arsenals capable of reaching Cypriot territory. Should Nicosia become involved in an armed conflict,it could affect the interests of Western states.

Cyprus is an important partner of Israel in both the military and energy spheres. This year, Nicosia joined the project to create a maritime humanitarian corridor to the coast of the Gaza Strip, hosting a transit point. However, it emphasized that it had no intention of becoming a party to the conflict, with the President of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides saying that Nasrallah's statements do not reflect reality, the newspaper writes.

The Hezbollah threat comes amid emerging signs that the Israeli side is ready to enter into a full-scale conflict, which is believed to require direct US intervention. On June 18, the Israel Defense Forces approved operational plans for a possible military offensive in Lebanon.

"The territory of Cyprus is located about 200-300 km from the coastal regions of Lebanon, that is, it is practically within the range of those operational-tactical missiles that Hezbollah is believed to have had for many years, such as Iranian missiles from the Fateh-110 family," Senior researcher at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Yuri Lyamin told the newspaper. "Hezbollah probably also has Iranian ground-launched cruise missiles, as well as kamikaze drones for hitting ground targets at such distances," he added.

The expert recalled that Cyprus is not part of NATO, but it is a member of the European Union. "So, the latter will have to intervene if the conflict expands. Moreover, a significant part of the island of Cyprus is occupied by two UK military bases, the territory of which is under British sovereignty. London should also be concerned about the risk of the conflict spreading," he noted.

Vedomosti: Joe Biden surpasses Donald Trump in the polls for the first time in months

According to a poll by the pro-Republican Fox News channel, US President Joe Biden has jumped ahead of his predecessor Donald Trump for the first time since October 2023, going up by two percentage points in the latest poll. Biden is beating out Trump in popularity among several groups of voters, including seniors, women, and independent voters. The support of these three groups is keeping Biden afloat amid a decline in popularity among young voters and African-Americans, Vedomosti writes.

Fox experts cited the relative improvement in economic indicators as one of the reasons for the overall shift in voter preferences. Biden's economic approval rating has risen to 41%, the highest in more than two years, according to the Fox poll.

Biden’s main advantage is that he can get voters to come over to his side through effective policies, Head of the Center for North American Studies at IMEMO RAS Victoria Zhuravleva told Vedomosti.

In turn, Trump can cancel out the bad press from his guilty verdict by choosing the right vice-presidential candidate, Senior researcher at the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences Dmitry Kochegurov. According to the expert, he should select either a woman or ethnic minority.

Trump will likely regain the ground he has lost before the election, but the gap will be small, Zhuravleva added. The current figures are a consequence of emotions running high after the guilty verdict against Trump. In addition, Biden's talking point about the need to protect democracy from Trump could "save" the president, since he appeals to those Americans who hold onto the belief that the United States is a bastion of democracy, the expert noted.

Vedomosti: Russia becomes second-largest supplier of coking coal to India

Imports of Russian metallurgical (coking) coal to India in January-May 2024 amounted to 7.8 mln tons, an increase of 13% compared to the same period last year, according to a June review from analytics company Bigmint. Exports are growing amid price instability on the world market, Vedomosti writes.

At the end of last year Russia occupied third place, behind Australia and the United States. In 2023, 6.4 mln tons were shipped to the Indian market from Russia (a 3-fold increase year-on-year), 34.2 mln tons - from Australia, and 8.4 mln tons - from the United States.

Over the five months of this year, India imported 31.7 mln tons of coking coal (+9%). Russia accounted for 25% of the total supply volume. Other major suppliers also include Australia (15.8 mln tons), the United States (3.6 mln tons), and Indonesia (1.5 mln tons).

Alexander Kotov, Head of consulting at Neft Research, believes that there is still potential to increase exports of Russian coking coal to India. "Over the next five years, India can double its steel production to approximately 300 mln tons per year. In addition, the growth of Russian coking coal exports will be supported by an actively discussed intergovernmental agreement between the two countries, which involves increasing the supply of this raw material to 40 mln tons per year," he told Kommersant.

At the same time, Finam analyst Alexey Kalachev believes that there is no convenient and cost-effective delivery route for the supply of Russian coal to India. "The shortest route is through the Black Sea ports, the Suez Canal, and the Arabian Sea. But it is not cheap and is also associated with various risks - the Middle East region is often turbulent," he noted.


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Local Glob: Press review: Vietnam, Russia forge closer bonds and EU imposes fresh sanctions on Moscow
Press review: Vietnam, Russia forge closer bonds and EU imposes fresh sanctions on Moscow
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