Press review: Putin's Far East tour ruffles feathers and Russian Defense Ministry shake-up

  MOSCOW:  Assessing Russian President Vladimir Putin's upcoming visits to North Korea, Vietnam; shake-up at the top of Russia’s Defense...

 


MOSCOW:  Assessing Russian President Vladimir Putin's upcoming visits to North Korea, Vietnam; shake-up at the top of Russia’s Defense Ministry, and the Israeli army's humanitarian pause in Gaza provokes ire from PM Netanyahu. These stories topped Tuesday's newspaper headlines across Russia.

Media: What to expect from Putin's visit to North Korea, Vietnam

Russia is actively fostering ties with its Asian partners. To this end, Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay an official visit to North Korea and Vietnam. The upcoming trip has already caused an outcry in Washington and Seoul which continue to accuse Moscow of military ties with Pyongyang. Russia's relations with Vietnam have more room for growth but Hanoi is still overly dependent on Beijing and Washington, while the US is trying to convince Vietnam to reject Russian arms.

The US and South Korea have already raised objections over Russia and North Korea working together in circumvention of UN sanctions. As for Putin’s upcoming visit to Vietnam, Hanoi bore the brunt of Washington’s disapproval, Kommersant wrote, whereas Moscow simply brushed these remarks off.

"From my point of view, the main goal of the visit is to outline the prospects of cooperation on a strategic level, given today’s international situation, because after Kim Jong Un’s visit, interaction at the cross-border and ministerial level has been ramped up. This indicates that the leaders’ summit will focus on, among other things, how to respond to the burgeoning Washington-Tokyo-Seoul bloc which justifies its existence by the North Korean threat and Moscow and Pyongyang’s ‘secret’ cooperation," Konstantin Asmolov, leading researcher at the Institute of China and Modern Asia of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Izvestia.

Growing cooperation with Vietnam does not have the West as worried - the country is not under sanctions and is conducting a rather balanced foreign policy. This is no different in its relations with Russia. Back in 1970-1980s, the Soviet Union was Vietnam’s main trade partner. Now, the situation has changed and such major players as China and the US have become seriously interested in Hanoi, said Kirill Kotkov, Chairman of the Center for the Study of Far Eastern Countries in St. Petersburg. By the end of 2023, the trade turnover between Russia and Vietnam amounted to about $5 bln. To compare, this country’s mutual trade with the US surpasses $100 bln and $200 bln with China. However, according to Russian Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov, the trade turnover has grown by 8% in a year and continues to increase, showing the great potential Russian-Vietnamese ties possess.

"In order to increase the trade turnover, Vietnam and Russia should relax the conditions of a free trade agreement between Vietnam and the Eurasian Economic Union. This will bolster their economic ties in the future. Facilitating the development of Vietnamese-Russian production and supply chains in the Asia-Pacific region is also at play here. Russia can help Vietnam in developing pharmaceuticals, green energy, agriculture, infrastructure, and the smart city concept which is in line with Hanoi’s policy on attracting foreign investments," Vietnamese political scientist Sang Dinh told Izvestia.

Vedomosti: Russia’s Defense Ministry sees major restructuring as new leadership steps in

On June 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin decreed to discharge four long-time deputies from the Russian Defense Ministry. They include Tatyana Shevtsova (since 2010), Nikolay Pankov (since 2002), Pavel Popov (since 2013) and Ruslan Tsapikov (since 2013) who had been the first deputy of ex-Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, now the secretary of the Security Council, an agency that focuses more on the analytical side of things rather than executive tasks. Shoigu was replaced by Andrey Belousov, the first deputy prime minister in charge of economic matters.

In a separate decree, the president established that the ministry must have 12 deputies, including two first deputies. After recent appointments, 10 of these positions have been filled.

The recent presidential decrees on replacements and structural changes in the Defense Ministry show that the new defense minister is slowly putting his mark on the agency. Essentially, he completed his initial audit of the ministry and has already submitted to the president his proposals on optimizing its work, political scientist Grigory Dobromelov noted.

According to the expert, Belousov is introducing changes to make the Defense Ministry more economically efficient and, above all, ensure that the armed forces have all the necessary resources.

Vedomosti: Israeli PM questions military’s humanitarian pause in Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the indefinite daily "tactical pause" in combat in the south of the Gaza Strip declared by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on June 16 aimed to allow more humanitarian aid to flow into the embattled enclave, Reuters wrote, citing sources in the Israeli government. The pause will be in effect from 8:00 a.m. - 7 p.m. local time from the Kerem Shalom Crossing, the main entry point for incoming aid to southern Gaza, up the Salah al-Din Road and northwards.

Netanyahu’s criticism of the military with regard to the "tactical pause" likely stemmed from his concerns about the political fallout and the reaction on the part of his far-right partners in the coalition, said Lyudmila Samarskaya, researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS). According to her, it is still premature to talk about a serious rift developing between the civilian government and the military. "It is possible that the military and the government disagreed on the time of declaring the humanitarian truce," she noted.

Netanyahu criticized the "tactical pause" in order to demonstrate to his supporters that he is committed to waging war until final victory, said Andrey Zeltyn, senior lecturer at the School of Asian Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University). "Netanyahu is a seasoned politician, he is fully aware that the longer combat in Gaza goes on, the more difficult it will be for him to withstand pressure from his political opponents, the US and Europe," the expert noted. It is quite possible that the army declared a tactical ceasefire for military reasons, Zeltyn added.

Izvestia: Election race kicks off in France

The pre-election campaign in France is underway as it gears up for two rounds of snap parliamentary elections, set for June 30 and July 7. The country will elect representatives from 577 districts, which corresponds to the number of seats in the parliament’s lower chamber. The main battle will be between the central bloc, represented by French President Emmanuel Macron’s party and its allies, the right-wing coalition, led by the National Rally, and the large bloc of left-wing political parties. As before the elections to the European Parliament, Jordan Bardella’s party remains ahead, according to surveys. At stake are an absolute majority in the parliament’s lower chamber and the prime minister’s post.

Despite the expectation that the National Rally will gain a stronger foothold at the lower chamber, the New Popular Front may emerge as a serious competitor because it managed to unite left-wing parties into a coalition despite their "local differences," Alexey Chikhachev, a researcher at the MGIMO Laboratory of International Trends Analysis (LITRA), told Izvestia.

"They stand a very good chance to either grab first or, at the very least, keep the National Rally from securing a resounding victory. The emergence of this broad left-wing coalition will play a big role in shaping the balance of power going forward," the expert said.

Izvestia: How new sanctions against Moscow Exchange may impact reimbursement of frozen assets

Foreigners have already begun applying to exchange blocked assets, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Ivan Chebeskov told Izvestia. This involves a mechanism for reimbursing frozen foreign securities, a process which should be completed by September. However, new sanctions against the Moscow Exchange may complicate the process, brokers caution

The transfer of all foreign securities will take place within Russia’s depository infrastructure and all unfriendly non-residents who want to take part will not interact with the National Settlement Depository against which the US Department of the Treasury introduced sanctions on June 12, said Oleg Abelev, head of research at Ricom-Trust Investment Company. According to him, so far the situation is looking rather positive.

Overall, it is important to evaluate the exchange in the context of the geopolitical situation, independent expert Andrey Barkhota noted. For instance, at the recent summit in Switzerland, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said that the prospects of this process largely depend on Russia’s readiness to follow peace initiatives. So the main risk here is a new escalation of the Russia-West conflict slowing down or completely halting the exchange.


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Local Glob: Press review: Putin's Far East tour ruffles feathers and Russian Defense Ministry shake-up
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