Press review: EU to mull more militarization for Kiev’s sake and US, Turkey talk sanctions

MOSCOW: A two-day EU summit is set to discuss further Ukraine support measures that may entail putting Europe on a military track; Turkey an...


MOSCOW: A two-day EU summit is set to discuss further Ukraine support measures that may entail putting Europe on a military track; Turkey and the United States have agreed on a procedure for ensuring compliance with Washington’s anti-Russian sanctions; and Japan and Canada are being drawn into the anti-China AUKUS alliance. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: EU summit to debate putting Europe on military track to prop up Kiev

A two-day EU summit is kicking off in Brussels, with the agenda dominated by Ukraine-related items. Participants are expected to discuss a set of proposals by European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen for changing the rules and procedures for the accession of new member states to the EU. According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, this involves the gradual integration into the community of countries that are now waiting for official admission.



For example, candidate countries could be allowed to join the internal market and enjoy some of the benefits of EU membership without having to carry out all of the reforms that Brussels typically demands of new members. This would primarily affect Ukraine, which is extremely far from membership due to its inability to meet the current conditions. To make the special treatment of Ukraine less conspicuous, the changes would also affect Moldova and candidate countries in the Western Balkans, where the EU also has interests, the newspaper writes.


Another issue that the EU leaders will discuss is French President Emmanuel Macron's proposal for dispatching Western military personnel to Ukraine. His earlier statements caused panic in the West and the governments of many countries hastened to give assurances that they had no intentions of sending their troops to help the Kiev regime.


Another Ukraine-related action that is expected to come out of the EU summit on March 21-22 is the decision to transition the EU economy to a military track, including joint weapons procurement, boosting the EU countries' military budgets, and accelerating supplies of shells to Kiev.


Anatoly Tikhonov, director of the Center for International Agribusiness and Food Security at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the European Commission plans to introduce tariffs on imports of grain and other products from Russia and Belarus. In 2023, 4 mln tons of Russian grain and vegetable oil will be imported into the EU, which is 1% of the total EU consumption. Such volumes are insignificant for Russia and it would be easy for it to redirect them to other countries. But such competition does not bode well for European farmers, the expert added. However, despite the extension of the "solidarity corridor," each EU country still has the right to introduce its own bans on Ukrainian food imports. "The EU countries will certainly use every means to prevent the physical presence of Ukrainian grain in their markets," Tikhonov believes.

Izvestia: Turkey, US agree on rules of road for complying with sanctions against Russia

Ankara and Washington have agreed to implement a "scheme for compliance with sanctions" imposed by the United States on Russia. Under the plan, US sanctions authorities will first inform their Turkish counterparts about potential violations of anti-Russian restrictions by Turkey-based companies and only then place such offenders on the sanctions blacklist managed by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Heretofore, Turkish companies have found themselves blacklisted by Washington for sanctions violations without any warning, Izvestia writes.


At the end of last year, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order imposing restrictions on foreign banks that assist in transactions with sanctioned persons and providing supplies to the Russian military-industrial complex.


Organizations have become more cautious for fear of losing access to the dollar, which has led to a decrease in the volume of Russian-Turkish trade. Over the course of the year, Turkish exports to Russia fell by one-third to $670 mln, as did imports of Russian products to Turkey, which contracted to $1.3 bln.


Razil Guzaerov, junior researcher at the Department of the Near and Post-Soviet East at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences (INION RAS), told the newspaper he believes that the current international situation makes Ankara an important strategic partner for Russia. However, according to him, despite the fact that Turkey is currently striving for greater independence in the international arena, which is also reflected in its strong position on refusing to join anti-Russian sanctions, relations with Western partners continue to play an important role for Ankara.


"The agreement between Turkey and the United States is seen as an attempt by Ankara to reduce pressure. At the same time, the very wording of the agreement is likely to benefit Russia. Whereas before Washington imposed sanctions immediately, now this process will include a dialogue between the two sides," the analyst noted.


Guzaerov believes that this way Turkey has a chance to protect its companies, especially given that relevant investigations will be conducted by Turkey itself.


"It is hard to believe that Turkey will simply hand over its companies to the US so that they can impose sanctions on them. In essence, the United States will inform Turkey of the sanctions evasion methods it has uncovered. This in turn will allow Ankara to divert trade to other routes so as to hide it from the eyes of its Western partner," he believes.


 


Vedomosti: AUKUS tentacles ensnare Japan, Canada in non-nuclear military cooperation

Japan and Canada may partially join the AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) military-political bloc for cooperation in the field of non-nuclear military technologies, Vedomosti writes. As Politico wrote on March 20, citing sources, Tokyo and Ottawa are in line to join the so-called second component of the AUKUS pact, under which they will most likely sign an agreement on broad cooperation in the field of military technologies by late 2024 or early 2025. This entails joint development in the field of artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and cybersecurity, as well as the development of underwater and hypersonic technologies unrelated to the nuclear component.


According to Politico's sources, the desire to bring in new participants in AUKUS is being driven by existing fears over the real possibility of a return to power by former US President Donald Trump, who may move to limit cooperation within AUKUS or withdraw from the bloc entirely.


Japan's full membership in AUKUS is still out of the question, but partial participation is also advantageous for Tokyo in political, economic and military-industrial terms, senior researcher at the Center for China, East Asia and the SCO at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University) Oleg Paramonov told Vedomosti. First, this way, Japan would strengthen its institutional ties with the United States in the event of Trump's return to the White House and the possible risk of Washington taking a tougher, more top-down approach to dealing with its allies.


Japan has very significant scientific and technical potential and would be able to bring more benefits to AUKUS than Australia, Vasily Kashin, director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), contends. The main purpose of AUKUS is to expand the US potential for containing China, given US budget and resource constraints, the expert said. The inclusion of new participants in the bloc will further complicate its relations with China. However, in part, this could present an additional economic advantage for Russia, which, for example, could step in to partially replace supplies of Canadian raw materials to China, Kashin believes.


 


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Hamas adopts guerrilla tactics in northern Gaza, pushing Israel back

Gaza Strip-based radical Palestinian movement Hamas is attempting to regroup its positions in northern Gaza in areas already heavily affected by the ground operation of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Officials acknowledge this amid the apparent desire of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s "war cabinet" to expand the battle zone to heavily populated areas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah near the Egyptian border. The situation on the ground underscores the problem of the timing of the campaign's conclusion, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.


Israeli military sources told Al-Monitor that Hamas militants have no intention of surrendering their positions in the northern Gaza Strip. According to them, this was clearly demonstrated by the operation in the area of the Al-Shifa hospital, where, according to the Jewish state, 90 Hamas militants were killed as a result of recent raids.


An interagency Israeli delegation is expected to arrive in the United States next week to discuss the situation in Rafah. According to sources cited by US media outlet Axios, Washington intends to offer its top Middle Eastern ally a variety of alternatives to extending the IDF’s campaign to south Gaza. One of them is to postpone the operation in Rafah in an attempt to focus on stopping the humanitarian crisis and restoring certain areas of the enclave, where the active phase of the campaign has already passed. Another US initiative involves providing at least minimal security at the border with Egypt, where refugees from Rafah can enter, and working with Cairo to destroy underground tunnels leading to the Sinai Peninsula.


"Israel does not plan to abandon its main thesis that after the end of the active phase of the military operation, no Hamas structures or persons associated with Hamas can participate in the governance of Gaza," Grigory Lukyanov, researcher at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Therefore, the active phase will continue as long as Hamas structures are in power."


"On the other hand, creating alternative structures and legitimizing them would require colossal time and concessions from Israel, including a complete withdrawal of troops," he noted. No authority will remain in power in the Gaza Strip "if its origin is associated in the eyes of the population with Israel," the expert added. "Even the traditional [Palestinian] elites, if they nominate their representatives to govern the Gaza Strip, will face enormous resistance on the ground from those who have suffered from Israeli actions," he noted.


Vedomosti: Russia increases aluminum supplies to EU amid risks of new sanctions

The volume of exports of Russian raw aluminum to the countries of the European Union (EU) in January 2024 increased by 66% compared to December last year to 26,253 tons. This is evidenced by data from the European Statistical Office (Eurostat). According to Vedomosti, a possible ban on Russian supplies would hurt European industry and lead to higher prices.


In monetary terms, Russia sold 59.3 mln euros (+63%) worth of the metal. Sergey Grishunin, managing director of the NRA rating agency, believes that the growth is likely due to the activity of European traders, who have increased purchases in Russia due to fears of a ban on Russian aluminum supplies. At the same time, in January 2024, supplies of Russian aluminum to the EU decreased by 48% compared to the same month of last year, or in monetary terms a more than two-fold decrease.


In December 2023, as part of the 12th package of anti-Russian sanctions, the EU banned the supply of certain types of aluminum products from Russia to EU countries. Politico reported back in February that the Baltic states and Poland were insisting on a complete ban on aluminum supplies from Russia (including primary aluminum), but Brussels did not include this item in the 13th package of sanctions in February 2024. Previously, the import of Russian aluminum was completely blocked by the UK, while the US introduced a protective tariff of 200% on it from March 10, 2024.


Commenting on the prospects for the growth of Russian aluminum supplies to China, Grishunin noted that China is now launching its own aluminum production facilities. "These plants can be re-activated, but their operation requires coal production, the use of which is being minimized in the large cities of China," he explained.


Russia's Rusal is an important supplier of raw materials to European factories, Veles Capital analyst Vasily Danilov told Vedomosti, so a possible ban on its supplies to the EU will lead to a sharp rise in metal prices in Europe and the closure of manufacturing plants.


-News Feed

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Local Glob: Press review: EU to mull more militarization for Kiev’s sake and US, Turkey talk sanctions
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