Research & Insights #40

Funds for Ukraine ‘desperately’ needed
The Biden administration is “desperately” trying to release funds to help the Ukrainian army in its conflict with Russia. That’s what White House National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said during an appearance on ABC News on Sunday. Republicans in Congress want the US$106 billion ‘national security supplemental request’ for Ukraine and Israel to be conditional on increased security spending on the US-Mexico border. The White House has been trying unsuccessfully to pass the program since the beginning of October. Last week, Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that the counter-offensive, which began in early June has not produced the desired results. This stalemate in the United States comes as EU member states strive to reach a budget agreement in Brussels that would send 50 billion euros to Ukraine, according to the Financial Times.

Putin’s approval rating reaches 85% in November
According to the latest Levada Center polls, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating rose by three percentage points in November to 85%. His disapproval rating fell by two points to 13%. Another poll conducted by the state-controlled Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) showed that 78.5% of participants expressed confidence in President Putin, down just 0.1 percentage points on the previous poll. Putin is benefiting from the failure of the Ukraine counter-offensive and from rising incomes thanks to a tight labour market. The good news is also reflected in the question “Is the country going in the right/wrong direction”, where “right” ticked up 3 percentage points as well to 67%, while “wrong” remained flat at 21%, as more people shifted from “don’t know” to “right”. 

EU bought €6.1 billion worth of Russian LNG
EU countries bought 6.1 billion euros (over US$6.6 billion) worth of LNG from Russia in 2023, despite their commitment to refuse Russian fuel, according to The Telegraph citing data from the EU’s statistical service. The European Union buys more than half of Moscow’s LNG exports. Spain and France were the second and third largest buyers, behind China. Eurostat trade data obtained by The Telegraph shows that Madrid sent 1.8 billion euros to Moscow in the first nine months of the year, compared with 1.5 billion euros from France. Belgium follows close behind, with purchases of Russian LNG worth 1.36 billion euros. Spain and Belgium stated that the high level of purchases was justified by the fact that traders stored Russian LNG in facilities located in their ports.

JPMorgan quadruples assets in Russia despite quit claims
According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, JPMorgan’s Russian branch has seen its assets under management increase sharply since the announcement of the end of its activities in the country in March 2022. It is the largest foreign investment bank in Russia in terms of assets. These increased by 48% to over 203 billion rubles (US$2.3 billion). The bank’s liabilities have increased almost twelvefold since the start of 2022, and stood at 180.3 billion rubles ($2 billion) at the end of the third quarter of 2023. Given the significant growth recorded in the previous year, the bank’s assets as a whole have more than quadrupled despite the planned exit. According to the firm, its relations with Russia are”limited” to “helping international customers settle and close pre-existing obligations, managing their Russia-related risks, acting as custodian for our customers and taking care of our employees”.