Press review: GOP tussles over Ukraine bill and Putin, Aliyev talk partnership

  MOSCOW: GOP infighting erupts amid latest Ukraine aid bill, Russia maps future projects with Azerbaijan and the US mulls sanctions against...


MOSCOW: GOP infighting erupts amid latest Ukraine aid bill, Russia maps future projects with Azerbaijan and the US mulls sanctions against the IDF. These stories topped Tuesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.

Izvestia: Latest Ukraine aid bill has GOP at odds

The passage of the bill on military and financial aid to Ukraine by the US House of Representatives has triggered dissent among Republicans with some congressmen wanting US House Speaker Mike Johnson (Republican-Louisiana) to resign. Donald Trump also has a hand in this, a number of experts think. However, it is too early to speak of any rift within the Republican Party.

This discord within the Republican camp ahead of this fall’s presidential election certainly doesn’t help Trump, but at this point, it’s hard to say how this Congressional turmoil will play out, Professor Saeed Khan of Wayne State University in Detroit told Izvestia. According to him, some Republicans, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene or Paul Gosar, think Johnson should step down, accusing him of betrayal for holding the vote. That said, the expert suggested that Trump may be pulling the strings here for his own purposes.

The Republicans could use all the intrigue around delaying and then providing Ukraine with aid as election ammo, said Konstantin Blokhin, leading researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Center for Security Studies.

"The split is not on the issue of supporting Ukraine or not. Both the Republicans and Democrats are in favor of supporting Ukraine. The issue is that the Republicans want to portray Biden as an inefficient manager who is wasting government money," the expert noted.

According to him, Washington views Ukraine as a singular opportunity to put pressure on Russia. The US has already invested a colossal amount of effort, time and money into supporting the Kiev regime and it is unlikely to abandon this strategic asset. It will walk away from supporting Ukraine only if the Ukrainian army is completely defeated and capitulates, Blokhin said.

The US anticipates that Ukraine will begin receiving weapons and money as early as in the coming weeks. The expert community thinks that it will take no more than a couple weeks to deliver the approved aid package.

"As soon as the bill is approved, the deliveries will begin within a week. The arms are already at warehouses in Europe, everything is ready to go," Lev Sokolshchik, researcher at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, told Izvestia.

At least until the US presidential election, military aid to Ukraine will be supplied without delay, Professor Richard Bensel of New York’s Cornell University told Izvestia. According to the expert, current delays with providing this aid have demoralized the Ukrainian leadership and people and additionally allowed the Russian army to achieve certain territorial gains.

Vedomosti: Putin, Aliyev address economic, geopolitical dynamics at Moscow meeting

The first in-person meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev following presidential elections in both countries took place in Moscow on April 22. The Azerbaijani leader last visited Russia almost a year ago, in May 2023, when he held trilateral talks involving Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and separate negotiations with Putin.

According to Niyazi Niyazov, doctor of historical sciences and Azerbaijani expert on military security in South Caucasus countries, above all, Putin and Aliyev are discussing the implementation of joint regional projects, including the North-South international transport corridor, connecting Russia with Iran and India via Azerbaijan. The expert explained that the smaller trade turnover between the two countries this year is the result of seasonal fluctuations of supplies. During the Moscow talks, the Azerbaijani side may ask to partner with Russian companies to restore Nagorno-Karabakh and work together on fuel and energy, Niyazov said.

The meeting has been a long time coming as the two leaders wanted to catch up on issues of bilateral interaction and regional development, said Russian political scientist Artur Atayev. "The sides will most likely emphasize not the conflicts in the South Caucasus but rather bilateral socio-economic cooperation," the expert thinks.

Aliyev’s visit to Moscow is being held amid efforts to settle post-war Armenian-Azerbaijani relations as even after three years, a peace treaty still has not been signed. On April 19, Armenia announced the first demarcation of the border with Azerbaijan where clashes have been underway for the past three years. That said, the residents of Armenian borderline villages rallied immediately after the border agreement was concluded, demanding that the government cancel the decision. "The presidents may bring in Russian specialists to talk over the issue of delimiting the Armenian-Azeri border," Niyazov said.

The meeting between Putin and Aliyev is taking place against the background of cooled relations between Moscow and Yerevan, Atayev noted, as indicated by Pashinyan’s statements about Armenia potentially suspending participation or leaving the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) as the country largely ignores the organization’s major events. That said, Armenia is increasing its military and technical cooperation with France and political and economic cooperation with the EU, while in 2023, Armenia’s trade turnover with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) grew by 42.7% to $7.6 bln with Russia’s share being 90%. "On the contrary, in this context, Baku is striving to bolster its ties with post-Soviet countries and Russia. So the option of Azerbaijan’s further integration in the Eurasian economic and shared strategic space has not been ruled out," Atayev concluded.

Izvestia: US signals tough stance on Israel, plans sanctions against IDF battalions

The US plans to impose sanctions on three Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units over their violations of human rights, already causing a sharp reaction in Israel. This move from Washington should be viewed as the Biden administration trying to show that it does not play favorites with the Israeli government amid the continued war in the Gaza Strip, experts think.

Such a sharp change in Washington’s rhetoric is above all related to the upcoming presidential election in the US, according to political scientist Farkhad Ibragimov. In this way, the Biden administration is trying to save face and demonstrate that it is ready to recognize the crimes of its ally.

"The US administration wants to show that resolute measures will be taken against its main regional ally, Israel, as well. It is important to demonstrate that there will be no concessions. Additionally, the Democrats’ stance with regard to Netanyahu has always been resolute. They don’t trust him, considering him a usurper and a dictator," Ibragimov said.

Had it not been for the presidential race, it is unlikely that the Biden administration would have taken this path, the political scientist thinks. So this move should be viewed not as a show of compassion for the Palestinians in the West Bank but merely as an attempt from Biden to preserve his rating amid the constantly growing pressure both domestically and internationally, due to the IDF’s questionable warfare means in the Gaza Strip, the expert concluded.

"The operation in Rafah means a large number of victims among civilians. By introducing sanctions against an Israeli battalion, the US is trying to protect itself against accusations of supporting Israeli war crimes. This is a gesture of sorts with regard to those forces who sharply condemn Washington’s support for its ally which resulted in an enormous number of those killed in the Gaza Strip," Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) expert Kirill Semyonov told Izvestia.

Vedomosti: EU mulling ban on Russian LNG imports in next sanctions package

The European Union is discussing including a ban on the import of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) in its 14th package of anti-Russian sanctions, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on April 22.

At this point, the EU is not ready to immediately cut off LNG deliveries from Russia, Ronald Smith, senior analyst at BCS World of Investments, said. The volume of liquefied gas the EU imported from Russia in 2023 is hard to quickly replace with deliveries from other sources, concurred Finam analyst Sergey Kaufman.

According to Yekaterina Krylova, managing expert at the PSB Analytics and Expertise Center, the immediate ban will trigger a sharp hike in gas prices in Europe. That said, the expert thinks that gas will also become more expensive for those countries that receive fuel over pipelines because its price is tied to spot market prices.

According to Smith, should the EU reject Russian LNG, Russian companies will be able to find alternative buyers. Yet, like with oil exports, they will have to provide discounts. Kaufman concurs that in the event of the EU embargo, Russia will have to sell its LNG at a discount. That said, for example, in China, there will be no competition between Russian and US LNG, according to Finam, because China will not import large volumes of American LNG for political reasons.

Kaufman noted that China, India, Pakistan and Vietnam are prospective markets for increased supplies of Russian LNG. Given "logistical flexibility," it will take just a couple of months to redirect deliveries to these markets, according to his estimates.

Kommersant: Ruble price of oil falling

The ruble price of Russia’s Urals oil brand has stabilized at the 7,000-ruble mark per barrel after a three-week hiatus. Over four days, it dropped by 6%, which is related both to dropping oil prices on the global market and the ruble's temporary strengthening. However, current prices are still above the figures provided for in the budget which gives hope to contain its deficit within 1.7 trln rubles.

The main factor sending oil quotations down is diminishing concerns over the armed conflict in the Middle East spreading. Despite Iran and Israel’s belligerent statements, missile and drone attacks on April 13 and 19 did not cause any large-scale damage to the conflicting parties. According to Ronald Smith, senior analyst at BCS World of Investments, both sides appeared to be ready to stop after a limited exchange of strikes. In the absence of the continued escalation in combat in the Middle East, oil quotations may go even lower, analysts think. According to Smith, for the most part of this year, Brent oil will trade near the level of $80 per barrel.

According to Sovcombank Chief Analyst Mikhail Vasilyev, with current oil prices remaining and the dollar rate stabilizing, the Russian Finance Ministry is likely to receive additional oil and gas income this month. In March, the federal budget ended up with a surplus of 0.87 trln rubles. Yet overall, by the year-end, the analysts think that the budget will reach the level of a planned deficit of 1.6 trln rubles, even though its incomplete utilization cannot be ruled out.

-News Feed




Local Glob: Press review: GOP tussles over Ukraine bill and Putin, Aliyev talk partnership
Press review: GOP tussles over Ukraine bill and Putin, Aliyev talk partnership
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