Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Both leaders agreed to continue economic cooperation, with particular regard to energy projects. According to a 2019 deal, Russian gas giant Gazprom will pump a total of $14 billion into the Pakistani gas sector. Russians would invest around $10 billion in an offshore gas pipeline project, $2.5 billion in the North-South pipeline project, and the remaining $1.5 billion on building underground storage facilities.
Russia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) output rose sharply between January and August compared with last year, according to data from Rosstat, the Russian federal statistics agency.
Through a new deal with the Taliban, Moscow is following two goals. First, it embarks on a new market as Western nations are making efforts to destroy Russia’s economy with sanctions. What counts more is that Russia won a new market while economic benefits seem rather secondary. Secondly, Russia is seeking to boost its political influence in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
The head of the Rosnedra state agency managing subsoil mineral resources said how much oil and gas Russia still has at its disposal. Interestingly, his estimates differ much from those delivered in August by the head of the State Commission on Mineral Resources.
Authorities in Montenegro have detained 36 Russian nationals on suspicion of espionage. Police detained six Russian diplomats, 30 Russian nationals with temporary residence permits, and two Montenegrins, on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence. One of the detained is Radomir Sekulovic, a former spokesperson for the foreign ministry. Montenegro’s services work together with foreign partners, perhaps amid a massive cyber attack that crippled the country in August.
The Putin-Xi meeting at a regional security gathering in Uzbekistan has seen a reinforced Chinese stance toward Russia. It is Russia’s Putin that seeks Chinese support amid a lingering war in Ukraine and painful Western sanctions. At the summit of the Shangai Cooperation Organization, the Chinese leader symbolically settled Moscow’s consent to influence Central Asia––not only economically.
Russia is making fortune from the gas crisis it has sparked off. Russian gas giant Gazprom has scored brilliantly in the first six months of this year despite a decline in output and exports. The company has thus made an unprecedented decision to pay out a six-month dividend for 2022––interestingly, it did not pay out dividends for 2021.
The classified seventh paragraph of the decree of Vladimir Putin contains information on the mobilization volume, which now remains unknown. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made reference to up to 300,000 people being mobilized in phases but some news outlets reported that the real target is four times as many. Contrary to what Putin said, the military call-up is not partial, but widespread, while it is state authorities that decide who is summoned.
Russia has for months struggled with military personnel deficits. When Moscow ran out of its regular personnel, it had to resort to volunteers and mercenaries. This was too little so Vladimir Putin announced an immediate partial mobilization of its reservists. They are enticed with decent salaries but they face toughened punishments for desertion or insubordination.
Deadly clashes that erupted along the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia near the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh challenge the militarily weak Armenia and Russia’s allied commitments. A successful Azerbaijani offensive in Armenia would mark Russia’s weakness and its being inept to deliver allied commitments in the post-Soviet zone.
Gazprom will send more gas to Hungary while cutting off supplies to Germany and France. Russia’s gas strategy is characterized by two principles. First, state-run gas giant Gazprom has for more than a year pushed to increase gas prices throughout Europe. Secondly, Moscow applies a reward-and-punishment mechanism for some countries, depending on their stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Taliban administration is in the final stages of talks in Moscow over the terms of a contract for Afghanistan to purchase gasoline and benzene from Russia, according to Afghan officials. A delegation of Taliban officials led by the trade and industry minister is negotiating a deal with their Russian counterparts to secure imports of wheat and oil. Russian oil and fuel exports to Afghanistan will not be significant, but what matters more than the economy is the propaganda and political message. Russia seeks to add a new country to the list of Russian energy importers and boost mutual ties.