- Press review: EU insists on extending New START and sees Libya’s Sarraj as major headache
- Press review: US to fund anti-Gazprom crusade and Russia, Turkey fail to reach Idlib deal
- US, Estonian, Lithuanian military to carry out observation flight over Russia, Belarus
- Press review: Putin’s amendments may enshrine WWII victory and New START still stalled
Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, November 21, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Russia has no plans to meddle in Iranian-Israeli conflict
Moscow is not going to interfere in the bilateral conflict between Israel and Iran that exacerbated after Tel Aviv delivered missile strikes on Iranian military facilities near the Syrian capital of Damascus, a member of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Defense and Security Frants Klintsevich told Izvestia. The senator stressed that Russian servicemen and civilians in the Syrian Arab Republic are not facing any threat.
"Today, Syria has been entangled in contradictions and only Moscow has the right roadmap saying that everything needs to be in accordance with international law," Klintsevich told the newspaper. "Russia has very good relations with everyone — with Israel, Iran and Syria. But we cannot be a lightning rod for all."
Vice Chairman of the Syrian parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, Ammar Al-Assad, has accused Israel of escalating tensions and violating international law, while stressing that the Iranian forces’ presence in the country was absolutely legal. The lawmaker also emphasized that Syrian forces have been put on full combat alert to repel any aggression.
According to an expert in oriental studies, Roland Bidzhamov, no full-scale proxy war between Israel and Iran in Syria is on the horizon since both countries are currently hit by serious domestic strife. Since last week, Iran has been gripped by protests over fuel price hikes, while Israel is due to decide in the coming days whether the country will hold its third election over the past year.
Instead, there will be sporadic exchanges of strikes but neither party is ready for a serious conflict, he noted. "It’s advantageous for Israel to demonstrate force, it surgically destroys Iranian infrastructure around Damascus but is not attacking Russian facilities. The Israelis warn Moscow in advance in order to avoid any misunderstanding," the political scientist explained.
"Meanwhile, there is no escalation in tensions between Russia and Iran due to this."
Vedomosti: Rosatom seeks to invest a whopping $7 bln in maritime transportation
Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom plans to join the world’s top 15 maritime carriers, launching cargo delivery via the Northern Sea Route by 2020 and earmarking nearly $7 bln for this goal, Vedomosti writes citing the company’s presentation prepared for banks.
According to the material, the state corporation plans to ship cargo from Southeast Asia to Europe through the Northern Sea Route and some cargo from the southern route — from Asia to Europe via the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar.
Rosatom expects to deliver 72 mln tonnes of cargo per year, including 43 mln tonnes in containers. According to the state corporation’s estimates, the Northern Sea Route will help it shorten travel by 10-32% from major Asian ports (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yokohama, Busan and Tianjin) to key European harbors (Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Le Havre, Southampton and Hamburg).
Vedomosti writes that Rosatom’s investments in maritime traffic will reach $6.97 bln, going mostly on building modern cargo ships ($5.76 bln), while the rest will be spent on modernizing port infrastructure, the fleet’s maintenance and floating docks. The state corporation plans to bankroll the project from its own funds, bank loans and reinvestments of the project’s money in a 21%, 50% and 29% proportion.
A spokesman for VTB told the paper that the bank was considering plans for financing the construction of nuclear-powered icebreakers and some other of its Arctic projects. Rosatom plans to launch maritime traffic by 2020, and expects that its revenues will reach nearly $700 mln per year by 2023, and hit $5.6 bln by 2026.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moldova’s opportunity to absorb Transnistria
Moldova’s new Prime Minister Ion Chicu chose Russia for his first official visit abroad, attributing this to the nation’s strategic partnership with Moscow. On Wednesday, he held talks with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, focusing on the Transnistrian settlement. The Moldovan leadership, namely President Igor Dodon, seeks to incorporate Transnistria into the republic. Next year, Dodon will run in the presidential election and he has one year to solve the Transnistrian issue with Moscow’s helping hand, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
German-Russian Forum Research Director Alexander Rahr told the paper that the essential goal for Moldova, where two governments have been changed over the past six months, is to consolidate power. The Moldovan leader is now acting as "a chess player" thoroughly pondering over his future moves. "Dodon understands that cooperation with Asia and China is lucrative and he will be acting through Russia," the German expert explained.
Meanwhile, Dodon’s attempt to maintain equilibrium in relations with the West and the East will depend on the United States, which opposes Moldova’s rapprochement with Russia. However, Washington is currently struggling with its own internal strife, which takes front and center.
According to Rahr, new Moldova’s authorities have got a real chance now to secure closer ties with Transnistria. "At least, Tiraspol trusts it more while understanding that it won’t bring Transnistria immediately to Romania: Dodon, most MPs and cabinet members are against their country’s unification with Romania. So, Dodon has a chance to fulfill his election promise and integrate Transnistria into the Moldovan Republic," the expert noted. Certainly, if Moscow supports this plan, since Transnistria largely relies on Russia.
Izvestia: Russia’s S-400s for India likely to change regional balance of power
Russia is expected to fulfill a contract on supplying its S-400 missile systems to India by 2025, CEO of Russia's state hi-tech corporation Rostec Sergei Chemezov has said, commenting on a deal with New Delhi signed two years ago. This deal came as a pleasant surprise for Russia, which had been in negotiations on delivering the S-400s since 2015. The contract provided a fresh boost to Russian-Indian military cooperation, showing that Russia’s defense industry can offer new solutions even for traditional partners, who prefer tried-and-true armaments.
Izvestia writes that India’s persistence in achieving its goal deserves special attention. Shortly after Moscow and India signed the deal, Washington warned that it could slap sanctions on its Asian ally. However, Indian politicians did not yield to this pressure and the Americans backpedaled, granting New Delhi a ‘waiver’. The Indian government managed to iron out other obstacles quickly, including with frozen payments amid fears by Indian banks of being put on a US blacklist.
This ironclad stance confirmed that India remains Russia’s reliable friend and is not planning to give up this friendship even under pressure from a superpower, the paper says.
Meanwhile, the S-400 contract dealt a heavy blow to India’s relations with the US. Since Donald Trump’s rise to power, Washington has started showing less interest in developing ties with India, opting in favor of major geopolitical projects for the next 50 years. The situation with the S-400s and US sanctions demonstrated that Washington is mostly guided by its own interests and is not shy to resort to flagrant pressure even on those, whom it considered as its potential allies, the paper writes.
At the same time, the S-400 deal mostly disappointed Pakistan. Given the tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad and recent incidents in the sky over Kashmir, when the Indian Air Force lost one MiG-21 after a Pakistani airstrike, the S-400 system could shift the region's balance of power. The Russian missile system can hit any types of aircraft and it is not ruled out that soon this could be tested in practice.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia braces for new blow to its energy exports
Expert evaluations regarding oil market prospects are not ringing alarm bells now and this is good for Russia as it mainly relies on crude exports. However, another problem comes to the forefront — liquefied natural gas is occupying a bigger share on the world market and it is a key rival for Russia’s pipeline gas. Foreign analysts warn that in the near future LNG would overtake the share of pipeline gas given that its price is on the decline, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says.
Developing Asian states are a major growth driver for LNG, according to the International Energy Agency's (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2019. Analysts expect that over the next decade, Russia’s energy giant Gazprom could lose more than one-third of its earnings from pipeline gas supplies to Europe. The Russian company’s share on the European gas market could be nearly halved. The major reason behind Europe’s declining pipeline gas imports will be growing LNG supplies, the report said. By 2030, Gazprom will account for more than 20% of the European market. Last year, Gazprom had a 36.7% share on this market.
Now, LNG prices are decreasing as the market is facing an oversupply. The current situation on the LNG market in northeast Asia, where the price on supplies of one mln BTE of gas over the past week dropped 7.5% demonstrates the fragile balance on the global LNG market, experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
A drop in prices in Asia is closing the gap in prices between Europe and Asia and this could exert greater pressure on the European spot market, said analyst Mikhail Kogan of the Higher School of Finance and Management. "This is not the best news for Gazprom, which still feels pressure over the Third Energy Package," he noted.