Press review: Russia and Belarus launch large-scale exercise and WHO reveals prospects for Sputnik V – Press review
Two well-known experts from Russia and the US, Alexander Dynkin, president of the Russian Institute for World Economy and International Relations IMEMO, and Thomas Graham, former senior director for Russia at the National Security Council during the Bush Jr. administration, worked out a plan that they believe will help find a compromise between Russia’s ultimatum to close NATO’s doors to post-Soviet countries and Washington’s staunch refusal to make such commitments. They shared their ideas in an article submitted to Kommersant.
War is on Europe’s doorstep. The US and its allies are convinced that Russia is planning an invasion of Ukraine and are threatening it with “disastrous” sanctions if it does so. Moscow completely denies the existence of such plans, claiming that Kiev is preparing for an offensive in Donbass.
Russian military drills in Crimea, western Russia and Belarus are making the West nervous while NATO is bolstering its forces along Russia’s border from the Baltics to the Black Sea. Meanwhile, sporadic diplomatic rounds offer hope that the crisis can be resolved without armed conflict. However, the leaked information about the “confidential” US response to Russia’s demands to halt NATO expansion shows how far apart the positions of both sides are.
Commentators believe there is a diplomatic solution that will bring peace and stability to this part of Eastern Europe. They claim that the road to success is long and arduous, but it exists and requires flexibility and creativity on both sides.
According to the experts, the solution to this problem consists of four elements. First, it is necessary to introduce restrictions on military operations along the NATO-Russia border. Second, there should be a moratorium on NATO’s eastward expansion. The commentators also suggest resolving the current and frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space and the Balkans, as well as updating the 1975 Helsinki Accords, which established the OSCE and articulated the coordinated principles of transnational relations that form the basis of the East -West development were. Escalation.
According to these policy specialists, these four elements should be comprehensively coordinated, although progress in each of these four directions will most likely proceed at different rates. The US and Russia need to see how they proceed before engaging in detailed talks on these issues.
For the first time since January’s unrest, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will visit Russia, a country that played a key role in the quelling of unrest in Kazakhstan last month. The transfer of power in Kazakhstan is complete and Tokayev is now in full charge. At the same time, however, he also became responsible for solving precisely those problems that led to the outbreak of violence in the first place. Russia has made it clear that it intends to continue supporting its neighbors.
Political scientist Daniyar Ashimbaev sees three main problems in Kazakhstan: “The first is the lack of an efficient state administration. The second is an extremely high concentration of power, of political and economic resources, in the hands of a narrow clique. And the third.” One of them is that the structure of the economy is not conducive to normal development.” According to the expert, in order to solve these problems, it is necessary to mobilize all available tools and resources and the efforts of parliament, the government and the presidential administration, but has so far been skeptical about the potential of the president’s new team, saying “the government doesn’t have a full picture of the situation.”
Director of the Talap Center for Applied Research, Rakhim Oshakbayev, also points to the concentration of power that “does not provide an opportunity to make effective decisions” among the main problems. “There are no feedback channels, nor is there sufficient legitimacy to make firm decisions. So I think a reboot is required. I think there should be extraordinary elections to the Senate and the Mazhilis (the two chambers of the Kazakh Parliament). ‘ he told the newspaper.
Russian Central Asia expert Arkady Dubnov believes that the mere fact of Tokayev’s visit to Moscow speaks volumes. He is confident that the Kazakh leader will be offered intelligence assistance “to combat the Islamist threat and counter it.” “Those who were supposed to fight radicals in Kazakhstan were the ones who actually trained them. And there are no other organized structures,” said the expert.
Russia is ready to receive the Taliban (banned in Russia) in addition to the diplomats already working at the Afghan Embassy in Moscow, Russian Presidential Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asia Department Zamir Kabulov told Izvestia. He added that the Taliban government is showing signs of commitment to political inclusion and respect for human rights, but it will take a long time to meet the demands of the world community. The diplomat also commented on the process of declassifying Afghan assets held by US banks and whether the Central Asian countries are able to stem terrorist incursions.
In his opinion, the United States will sooner or later unblock Afghan accounts and is already taking tepid steps in that direction. “And the Americans, together with the UN, are working out ways in which this money can be transferred through the UN humanitarian organizations. This is extremely necessary for the critical needs of ordinary Afghans, especially to provide them with the basics and support as children are already dying in large numbers from starvation and related diseases,” the diplomat noted.
He pointed out that fairly strict measures were in place on the Tajik-Afghan border to stem the infiltration of militants who began leaving Afghanistan when the Taliban took power. “And as we know, some of them have entered Central Asia. There is indirect information that they also got to southern Kazakhstan and then took part in the January events,” the envoy said, adding that the overall picture will become clearer once the investigation by the Kazakh authorities is completed.
On February 10, the main phase of the most extensive Russian-Belarusian military exercises, which have not taken place since the Soviet era, begins in Belarus. The exercises are called Union Resolve 2022. They will be held at five Belarusian proving grounds and four airfields, where soldiers will practice repelling possible external aggression against the union state and countering terrorism.
The West is taking these exercises to heart because of the Ukraine crisis. They are seen solely as part of the general assemblage of forces around Ukraine and as an additional front for an “invasion”. In recent years, Western analysts have called Belarus Russia’s springboard for an attack on the Baltics and then Ukraine. Now Moscow seems to have decided to play along with those phobias amid the tense situation surrounding Ukraine and talks on security guarantees, says Alexander Yermakov, an expert at the Council on International Affairs of Russia (RIAC).
Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, for example, could potentially limit NATO’s ability to provide logistical support to Ukraine in the event of a conflict, and nuclear weapons, including modern multirole fighter jets, could also hold NATO members back, according to a research fellow at the center for International Security, Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences Dmitry Stefanovich. He does not rule out that some Russian weapons and military equipment will remain in Belarus after the exercises are over. The expert notes that the West’s concerns about the possible stationing of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus are quite genuine, as the rhetoric of the Belarusian leadership facilitates this. However, the Russian side does not confirm such intentions.
Melita Vujnovic, representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Russia, has assured that the WHO approval process is the same for all vaccines and there is no way to somehow “speed it up” or “skip” some parts of the emergency list (EUL)- Process. The time frame depends on many factors, such as how quickly a manufacturer submits the necessary data, she told Izvestia.
According to her, the EUL procedure for Russia’s Sputnik-V-Jab has resumed, developers and interested parties have signed all the necessary legal documents.
“WHO received the paperwork at the end of December and part of it – in 2022. The question of whether and when there will be an inspection and what needs to be checked is discussed directly between an applicant and WHO headquarters. Until the process is complete, all details remain confidential. I cannot speculate on when the assessment will be completed, but I know that the process is progressing,” the WHO representative said.
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