Press review: SCO summit ushers in new deals and zooming in on Russia-India ties

by Tass [7-5-2024 published].

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, July 5th.

MOSCOW, July 5. /TASS/. What came out of the SCO summit in Astana; Russia and India look to grow ties; and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky softens stance on talks with Russia. These stories topped Friday's newspaper headlines across Russia.

Vedomosti: SCO summit sees landmark declarations, new member admission

The leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), including Russian President Vladimir Putin, convened in Astana and pledged to enhance the organization’s role in creating a new, equitable world order grounded in mutual respect, independence, equality, and territorial integrity, according to the final declaration of the meeting. The parties also signed 24 agreements across various cooperation areas within the association, Vedomosti writes.

The Astana Declaration reaffirmed that the core of the SCO consists of countries from Middle and Central Asia. The main focus of the declaration was the problem of global security, as summit participants vowed enhanced efforts in the fight against terrorism. The text of the declaration also touched upon the current conflict in the Middle East between Israel and the Hamas movement - the SCO countries called for an early cessation of hostilities and free access to the enclave for humanitarian organizations.

During the summit, the heads of state also signed individual agreements among SCO member states reflecting the topics of the final declaration. The participants of the meeting also completed the procedure for admitting Belarus to the organization with Minsk becoming the tenth member of the organization.

According to Oleg Barabanov, Program Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club, the adopted SCO declaration has a no nonsense feel to it. In his opinion, the declaration opens a new era, as documents of this ilk have never been formulated before. Although the SCO does not encompass the whole Eurasian region yet, he told the newspaper, the organization has great potential for further expansion and the establishment of a new security system.

Expert at the Russian government's Financial University Denis Denisov told Vedomosti that Belarus' accession to the SCO shows that Eurasian countries view the association as very attractive. Through this membership, Minsk wants to strengthen its added potential by increasing exports to participating countries, the expert noted. "There are also ideological reasons - the country supports a multipolar world order, its acceptance is quite organic," he said.

Kommersant: Russia, India set to rekindle bilateral relations

Preparations for a meeting between the leaders of Russia and India are being finalized in Moscow, Kommersant writes. According to the newspaper, India, which calls itself the leader of the Global South, and Russia, one of the driving forces shaping a multipolar world, see each other as important political partners. An additional factor pushing Moscow and New Delhi toward rapprochement is the increasing pressure on Russia and India from the United States.

On Thursday, the Kremlin confirmed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pay an official visit to Russia on July 8 and 9. Bloomberg described Modi’s decision to visit Moscow immediately after the end of the session of the new parliament as a testament to the enduring importance of their close ties and a "diplomatic victory" for the Russian President. As the agency noted, the priority areas of negotiations in Moscow will include the supply of material and technical equipment to strengthen cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries, joint development of fifth-generation fighter jets, and cooperation in nuclear energy.

In January-April, Russia was the second largest supplier of goods to India (with only China ahead of it with deliveries worth $32.6 bln). In turn, exports of Indian goods to Russia increased by 21% to $1.6 bln, with Russia rising from 33rd to 29th place among recipients of goods from India. The top five importers of Indian goods include the United States, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Singapore, and China.

Meanwhile, growing pressure on the Modi government from the US administration is hindering India’s goal of strategic autonomy and the development of its relations with Russia, which have officially been deemed a "special privileged partnership," Kommersant writes. Recently, US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell openly bashed India's relations with Russia, which, according to him, interfere with US-Indian technological cooperation.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Zelensky seen softening stance on negotiations with Russia

President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky has left the door open for Russian President Vladimir Putin being invited to a potential second "peace summit." He also said that former US President Donald Trump should reveal his plan for settling the military conflict with Russia, so that Ukraine knows where it stands in terms of its independence going forward. In addition, the Ukrainian leader spurned the peace plan of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, which was presented the day before. However, his recent comments signal a shift from previous approaches, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. This may be due to the pressure on Kiev from the countries of the global South, experts noted.

Zelensky announced that Putin may be invited to the next "peace summit" in an interview with Bloomberg, sending shockwaves through Kiev on Thursday. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Zelensky’s recent statements seem to show that he is softening to the idea of negotiating with the Russian side, although his fall 2022 decree prohibiting himself from any dialogue with Russia remains in place.

MGIMO Professor and Program Director of the Valdai International Club Oleg Barabanov told the newspaper it is clear that the Ukrainian president continues to promote his "peace formula", but at the same time, since Ukraine is facing pressure from all sides, including from the global south, Zelensky is trying to show that he is ready to participate in negotiations. Putin, meanwhile, previously announced his readiness to begin negotiations on the condition that Ukrainian troops withdraw from the territory of Russia’s four new regions and that Kiev promise not to join NATO. However, given the current situation at the frontlines, it seems unlikely that these terms will be met anytime in the near future, the expert added.

According to the expert, just like Kiev, Moscow is also being influenced by countries of the global South that are friendly or neutral towards it. However, it seems that the general situation will not change significantly until the November elections in the United States, after which it will become clear whether there will be a change in Washington’s administration and its stance on the Ukrainian conflict, Barabanov noted.

Izvestia: Who could replace Joe Biden in US presidential race

Joe Biden and his administration have been unable to dispel discussions about his possible withdrawal from the presidential race after his disastrous performance debating Donald Trump, Izvestia writes. At this point, it remains unclear whether the current head of the United States will stay in the election. Few can realistically replace him - Vice President Kamala Harris seems to be the most likely to do so, but experts don’t see her as a serious challenger to Trump.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a staunch Democrat on a range of national issues, including the economy, immigration, and women's rights. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was previously expected to run in the 2028 presidential election, is also being considered. Illinois Governor J. Robert Pritzker could be another potential Democratic frontrunner, a noted critic of Trump and his far-right policies. There is also talk about Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, who won re-election last year in a traditionally Republican state, getting a shot at the White House. Finally, there are rumors about the possible nomination of former US First Lady Michelle Obama.

However, the uncertainty surrounding the Democratic nominee will not last long, First Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Higher School of Economics Mikhail Mironyuk told Izvestia. "Either Biden will get the go-ahead to continue or he will be removed. I think that this decision has already been made or will be made within a week or two," the expert believes.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to gain momentum, potentially making all the talk about the Democratic candidate moot. Polls show that Trump is ahead of both Biden and all the potential replacement candidates being discussed, the newspaper writes.

"Trump represents the people’s discontent - his success does not stem from some flaw within the Democratic party, but from their actions. Other things being equal, there is hardly anyone who can challenge him," Mikhail Mironyuk said.

Izvestia: European companies looking for ways to do business with Russia amid trade restrictions

European companies continue to look for avenues to do business with Russia amid a significant decrease in trade turnover between the EU and Russia, keeping hope alive that sooner or later the sanctions restrictions will be lifted, Russia’s trade representatives in Germany, Belgium, and Spain told Izvestia. Moreover, trade relations have not been completely severed and cooperation continues in a number of areas. Meanwhile, Russia is actively looking for ways to boost cooperation with the African market.

"German counterparts regularly contact trade missions and institutions that continue to serve the interests of German businesses in our country to find partners," Russia’s Trade Representative in Germany Andrey Sobolev told the newspaper. As an example, he highlighted Germany's plans to reconstruct or rebuild around 15,000 km of bridges and overpasses by 2030.

As for Belgium, Russia’s Acting Trade Representative to the country Andrey Smirnov told Izvestia that businessmen admit in personal conversations that they are waiting for sanctions to end and are ready for new cooperation. "Many companies did business in Russia, but they shut all this down on orders from Brussels. Let's hope that our trade and economic relations will resume, but we are talking about the distant future," he said.

Russia’s Acting Trade Representative in Spain Vakhtang Mosashvili also confirmed to Izvestia that local businessmen complain about restrictions in private conversations. "They want to do business with us, but they find it difficult to do," he said. Cooperation between the countries focuses on the agricultural sector, metallurgy, and chemical industry, he added.

Industrial expert Leonid Khazanov told the newspaper that despite sanctions against Russia, Europe cannot completely abandon its position, even under pressure from Washington. Meanwhile, Russia continues to successfully develop trade relations with many African countries. "Relations with us are beneficial for Africa, which is basically indifferent to US restrictions. Russia has been a reliable partner for Africa since the days of the USSR," he said.

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