Press review: Putin puts foreign assets in receivership and Biden says ‘four more years’

MOSCOW:  Vladimir Putin decrees to take temporary stewardship of the Russian assets of two foreign companies; experts weigh in on Joe Biden’...

MOSCOW:  Vladimir Putin decrees to take temporary stewardship of the Russian assets of two foreign companies; experts weigh in on Joe Biden’s chances in 2024 after the US president formally announced his re-election bid; and Russia’s top diplomat spoke directly to the non-Western world at a session of the UN Security Council. These stories topped Wednesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia

Vedomosti: Putin decrees placement of foreign assets under temporary stewardship

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to place the Russian assets of two foreign energy companies, Finland’s Fortum and Germany’s Unipro, under the temporary stewardship of Russia’s state property management agency, Rosimushchestvo.

The presidential decree does not touch upon "ownership issues," nor does it deprive the owners of their assets. According to the Russian property agency, the assets will be under external management only temporarily, implying that their original owners will no longer be entitled to make management decisions, a responsibility that will be transferred to Rosimushchestvo. This move is intended to "facilitate the preservation of the investment climate in Russia and reduce the outflow of capital from the country," the agency said. According to Rosimushchestvo, the list of companies to be placed under the government’s temporary stewardship may be expanded, if need be.

The decree would appear to be a "mirror image," tit-for-tat measure taken to counter the actions of unfriendly countries. "One of the underlying objectives of the decree is to establish a compensatory fund for the potential application of retaliatory measures in response to the illegal expropriation of Russian assets abroad," says economist Nikita Krichevsky. He finds it noteworthy that the external management regime would be temporary, and while it deprives the original owner of any right to make management decisions, it does not affect the owner’s title to the asset. Meanwhile, "the external manager [or receiver appointed by the presidential decree] will be delegated with sufficient powers to ensure that the companies operate in a manner that is efficient and commensurate with their significance for the Russian economy," the expert added.

To another economist, Mikhail Delyagin, the decision to target Fortum and Unipro was not accidental, as it affected only those power generators that are vital to the sustainability of Russia’s energy sector. "This will make it possible to guarantee the stability of companies that are crucial for the domestic economy, but whose foreign shareholders previously decided to distance themselves from their Russian subsidiaries and have, in actual fact, relinquished involvement in the corporate management of these subsidiaries," the expert explained.

Izvestia: Biden announces 2024 re-election campaign

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden announced that he is running for re-election in 2024. Experts see a nearly 100% probability that the incumbent occupant of the White House will win next year’s primary elections [for the Democratic Party nomination]. However, whether America’s current chief executive will ultimately remain in the White House for another four-year term will largely depend on who his Republican rival will be. Polls show that Biden could easily beat his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, while Republicans may perhaps win back the Oval Office if Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is the Republican nominee.

Saeed Khan of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, told Izvestia that Biden’s re-election bid was entirely expected, since incumbents traditionally run for a second presidential term in the United States. Democratic President Lyndon Johnson was the last US leader, in 1968, to decline to seek re-election.

Jeremy Kuzmarov, managing editor of CovertAction Magazine, said that many Americans are concerned about the advanced age of the 46th president. Apart from his age, however, Biden faces other problems, including scandals surrounding his family, in particular his son Hunter, and the fact that 58% of US citizens polled currently disapprove of his job performance.

"Biden has no major rivals in the Democratic Party. Robert Kennedy Jr. is best known for his strong views on COVID-19 vaccines. So, the party ranks will likely close around him," says Peter Kuznick, a professor of history at American University in Washington, DC.

According to Michael O’Hanlon, director of research in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, a think tank, Biden stands a 90% chance of winning the primaries, while everything will depend on who ultimately will go up against him from the Republican side in November 2024. While the probability of Biden defeating Trump is some 65%, with a challenge from DeSantis, Biden would have only a fifty-fifty chance of staying in office, the expert said.

In any event, the 2024 presidential election promises to be one of the strangest in US history, as neither of the two frontrunners, Biden and Trump, is widely popular among the population.

Vedomosti: Russia’s Lavrov addresses non-Western countries at UN

At a news conference late on April 25, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the grain initiative was now deadlocked. He laid the blame for this turn of events on Russia’s "Western counterparts." For the grain deal to be implemented in full, Lavrov maintained, Russia’s sanctioned Rosselkhozbank [Russian Agricultural Bank] should be reconnected to SWIFT, but the Westerners are reluctant to do this and, so, have come forward with various one-off initiatives instead.

Russia’s top diplomat also accused the United States of failing to comply with the agreement regarding its status as host nation for the United Nations headquarters, including Washington’s failure to issue visas to Russian officials, the illegal expropriation of Russian diplomatic property and the imposition of travel restrictions on Russian diplomats. Addressing the UN Security Council meeting on Monday, Lavrov condemned the policy of the US and other Western countries, which he said were trying to deviate from the "UN-centric system" toward rules that are convenient for them. According to Lavrov, this is how the West has been attempting to hamper the natural progress toward multilateralism, while blocking access to modern technologies or financial services, squeezing other players out from supply chains, destroying the critical infrastructure of its competitors, and taking other hostile actions. The West no longer conceals that it has been pursuing its course exclusively in the interests of "the global one percent." "Let’s call a spade a spade: Nobody consented to the Western minority speaking on behalf of humankind as a whole," the Russian foreign minister concluded.

Lavrov’s speech at the UN Security Council undoubtedly sent an important message to non-Western countries that are seeking to determine their fate themselves, Denis Denisov, a Financial University expert, told Vedomosti. Many nations that do not wish to follow the lead of the US, as well as the members of any hypothetical "non-aligned movement," are actively contemplating what the future world order will look like. The elites of these countries would clearly hate to become Western pawns, which shows the obvious trend toward a multipolar world order. Hence, Denisov said, there are high hopes that the key players of the non-Western world will actively advocate for multipolarity and independence from the West. As for the grain deal, the situation around it is getting increasingly complicated, for the longer it lasts, the more dimensions to it emerge. The Russian Foreign Ministry previously warned that it would be impossible to extend the deal if Russia’s terms are not met, the expert said. In a situation where the Russia-related clauses of the agreement have yet to be implemented, while Ukraine has been using the Black Sea initiative for its own military purposes, a refusal by Moscow to extend it would not come as a surprise, Denisov concluded.

Izvestia: Chinese, CIS, US nationals show interest in Russia’s ‘golden visa’ program

Citizens of CIS countries as well as countries in the so-called "far abroad" (outside of the former Soviet Union - TASS), including China, India, Germany and even the United States, have been taking an interest in obtaining residency permits in Russia in exchange for making investments under a special "golden visa" program, the Russian Economy Ministry told Izvestia. The "golden visa" program was launched early this year. Citizens of Asian countries may find it of interest given that the Russian economy has been veering eastwards, and experts see demand in Russia’s neighboring countries as driven by historical ties. This year, the ministry expects to bring in more than 12 billion rubles ($151 million) through this program, although experts say this figure is overly optimistic.

Obtaining a residency permit under a simplified procedure in exchange for investment has been a common practice globally, as it allows a country to raise capital from foreign sources on mutually beneficial terms, said Yekaterina Kheifets, lead analyst at the Center for Strategic Research. "The introduction of ‘golden visas’ may benefit Russia through an influx of foreign investment, while businesspeople will have the opportunity to live and work in any region for a long time, issue invitations to their relatives to enter the country, enter Russia themselves without a visa, and also have access to free medicine, education and social support programs on a par with Russian citizens," she said. Demand from CIS citizens is driven by historical ties associated with labor migration, while the interest shown by residents of China and India is attributable to these countries’ advanced economic and political relations with Russia, Kheifets added.

However, Russian residency permits may not be of particular interest to foreigners, even from India and China, for such a sum, believes Valery Yemelyanov, a stock market expert at BCS World of Investments. He finds the Economy Ministry’s forecast for revenues to be generated from this program too optimistic. According to his estimates, in order to lure 12 billion rubles or more, "golden visas" would have to be issued for anywhere from 400 to 800 people per year.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukraine demands it be included in EU defense mechanism

In a joint article, the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have come out in support of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s call for providing his country with security guarantees before it formally joins NATO. Given Kiev’s well-known lobbying prowess, Ukraine may manage to wangle certain quasi-guarantees out of NATO at the alliance’s July summit in Vilnius, experts say.

Today, NATO would not wish to accept responsibility for any guarantees given to Ukraine, while Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba recently explained that Kiev expected the participants in the Vilnius summit to concretize decisions that would bring the country closer to membership in the alliance, rather than another repeat of their "open doors" statements, Oleg Barabanov, a professor at MGIMO University and program director of the Valdai International Discussion Club, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. In this regard, he continued, Kiev has been putting more pressure on NATO as it seeks greater clarity on joining the bloc and obtaining peace and security guarantees, which Zelensky has long been talking about. In these aspirations, Ukraine is also being supported by its allies in Eastern Europe. These countries are increasingly acting as Kiev’s lobbyists within NATO. However, it is still hard to say whether all this would give Ukraine the desired guarantees, he said.

But, could such a scenario usher in some new reality, where, after the Vilnius summit, Ukrainian officials would also demand that NATO pilots protect Ukrainian skies, and NATO tanks protect Ukrainian soil? They would definitely demand this, maintains Aleksey Mukhin, head of the Center for Political Information. Kiev has been inventing new international formats and guarantee mechanisms, he said. And it is quite possible that some of these proposals will be approved further down the road, he warned. Meanwhile, while calling upon its Western partners to provide some new guarantees, Kiev has been using such initiatives as a "smoke screen" to mask large-scale corruption in the military field, as weapons currently being supplied to Ukraine have been actively sold on the black market and are being exported to other jurisdictions, Mukhin concluded.

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Local Glob: Press review: Putin puts foreign assets in receivership and Biden says ‘four more years’
Press review: Putin puts foreign assets in receivership and Biden says ‘four more years’
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