Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, December 4, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: NATO continues to pose a threat to Russia’s security
Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the expansion of NATO as a major threat to Russia’s security, Izvestia writes. Speaking at a meeting in Sochi, the Russian head of state recalled that the North Atlantic alliance had been established during the Cold War era to counter the Soviet Union. He stressed that, amid complex relations with NATO, Russia would continue boosting its defense capacity, adding that Moscow was committed to a constructive dialogue with the alliance.
NATO’s agenda mainly focuses on containing Russia, although the nature of threats in the current multipolar world has changed dramatically, Ivan Timofeev, Program Director of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), told the paper.
"The Russian president’s assessments of NATO as a danger are well substantiated. We have a military bloc near our borders with a potential that is ten times higher than Russia’s military spending, and we have to reckon with that. Moreover, that bloc does not rule out its expansion by granting membership to a number of states, which have common borders with us," he explained.
Russia has made a qualitative and quantitative leap in developing modern weapons and equipment over the past ten years, member of the Russian Federation Council (upper house) Defense and Security Committee Franz Klintsevich stressed to Izvestia. According to Klintsevich, full round-the-clock security of Russia’s borders has been ensured, and any aircraft sent from a certain spot on the globe would be promptly intercepted.
On the other hand, Russia provided itself with weapons, which, if fired, would not be intercepted by other countries’ armed forces. Nevertheless, it is important to realize that Russia has no plans to launch offensive wars, yet it is determined to protect its citizens’ security, the senator pointed out.
Kommersant: Russia, Ukraine agree on oil transit
Despite the Druzhba pipeline’s contamination fiasco not long ago, it did not prevent Russia’s Transneft oil transportation company from extending an agreement with a key transit country, Ukraine, through which about 14 mln tonnes of oil are delivered per year, Kommersant writes. The terms of delivery and the pumping price have remained unchanged, said the paper’s source familiar with the situation. He added that the parties had no disagreements on prolonging the contract by another ten years.
Another Kommersant interlocutor noted that the situation with Belarus, which is the first transit country along the Druzhba pipeline’s route from Russia to Europe, is far more complex. Minsk links the issue to inking a new gas agreement (the current one expires at the end of 2019) and insists on compensation payments in the aftermath of Russia’s tax maneuver.
Transit through Druzhba is beneficial to all parties, and it’s pointless for Ukraine or Belarus to forfeit revenue, the paper quotes Sergei Garamita of Raiffesenbank as saying.
According to Viсtor Parno, Argus Vice President for Business Development in Russia, the CIS and the Baltic States, oil is mainly transported via Druzhba’s southern leg under long-term contracts. Of these, about 9-10 mln tonnes per year go to the MOL Group’s plants in Hungary and Slovakia, while about 4 mln tonnes are transported to the Czech Republic.
Given the past contaminated oil fiasco, Ukraine turned out to be one of the most constructive negotiators, immediately agreeing to create storage space for those volumes, which European consumers refused to accept, one of the paper’s sources explained.
Transneft approved the maximum amount of payments for consumers affected by the contaminated oil supplies at $15 per barrel and reserved 23 bln rubles ($358.6 mln) for future compensation payments.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia returning to Africa decades after Soviet Union’s collapse
Africa, no longer an outsider, is now looking like a tiger ready to pounce and has the chance to occupy a role in the global economy that is currently assigned to Southeast Asia, Director of the Institute for African Studies and Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Irina Abramova told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
"In Russians’ minds, Africa is synonymous with backwardness, poverty and hunger, which is not true at all. It is currently one of the most promising regions for foreign investment. In fact, it is a tiger ready to pounce. Africa today is in the same situation that China was in the 1990s. Today, it [China] is the world’s number-one economy in purchasing capacity, a power, which largely determines global development," she explained.
Abramova highlighted Africa’s tremendous potential, including its unique natural resources, required for high-tech industries. "Africa is the absolute leader in reserves of bauxite, manganese, uranium, some rare-earth metals, platinum and coltan, without which no mobile phone will work, cobalt, without which no bomber can take off. For Russia, all that it very important, because Russia lost access to many strategic resources after the disintegration of the Soviet Union," she highlighted.
Africa has been developing at a very fast pace, with an average of over 4% annually over the past 20 years, the expert went on to say. "It has its own leaders. It is Egypt, which entered the European market with its mobile phones. It is Ethiopia, which, amid the Chinese-US standoff, plays a key role for China’s Silk Road Economic Belt. In the west, this is Nigeria, which has been showing growth due to non-oil sectors over the past ten years. We have a lot to learn from South Africa, including mining technologies," Abramova said.
She enumerated that seven African countries, specifically Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria and Sudan, account for nearly 90% of Russia’s trade.
"At the same time, China is present in almost all African countries. Both resources and jobs for its citizens are important for it. Millions of Chinese work in Africa today. It is a good moment for Russia now, because Western partners are trying to impose their ‘values’ on the Africans, while China is dealing with its challenges at the expense of Africa," the expert stressed.
Izvestia: Turkey vows not to abandon S-400 deal because of imminent US sanctions
Ankara will not give up its plans to purchase and operate Russia’s S-400 systems and won’t sacrifice its security because of potential US sanctions, member of the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Yunus Emre told Izvestia.
He noted that Turkey could not sacrifice its own security and defense capacity because of fears that the United States would impose sanctions. The war on terror is raging in close proximity to Turkey’s borders, he stressed, adding that Ankara cannot endanger its security by yielding to Washington’s threats.
In turn, member of the Turkish parliament Ozturk Yilmaz is certain that any sanctions would deepen the widening rift between the US and Turkey, both of which have NATO’s largest armies.
He explained that Russia’s S-400 systems would be used on par with NATO weapons, which had been deployed to Turkey. However, they will not be directed against the alliance.
Meanwhile, Head of the Political Research at the Center for Modern Turkish Studies Yuri Mavashev explained to Izvestia that Washington’s further steps regarding Ankara would depend, in particular, on decisions made at the NATO anniversary summit. President Erdogan made it clear that he would agree to back the alliance’s plan to protect the Baltic states from the alleged "Russian threat," if Ankara’s allies designated the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists.
"[The United States’] restrictive measures announced earlier were targeted, but this time senators are calling for applying the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) mechanism. It provides for substantial restrictions that would affect the financial sector. Whatever the decision, the opposition in the Senate will try to bring any development in Turkish-American relations at various levels to a standstill," the expert forecasted.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China’s move into Iraq may imperil Russia’s competitive edge
China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corporation (CPECC) has received a $121 mln contract to upgrade Iraq’s West Qurna 1 field. Despite Beijing’s attempts to hide the political rationale of its economic projects, experts view another agreement with Iraq as part of an intense geopolitical game, since both the United States and Russia are interested in Iraqi deposits, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Although there is nothing new about China’s economic presence in Iraq, Simon Watkins, financial journalist and former FX Dealer, shed light on the fact that CPECC is a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which is China’s political representative in the oil and gas sector.
For his part, Head of the School of Oriental Studies at the Higher School of Economics Alexei Maslov pointed to competition for the Iraqi market between Moscow and Beijing.
"So far, Russia has been taking advantage of its previous ties. I believe, however, that China, which is ready to invest more money, can deprive Russia of its competitive edge," he said.
It is essential for China to gain a foothold in the Middle East, the expert went on to say. "These attempts [to expand its influence in the region] have not been very successful so far, because China has little experience in such work and lacks qualified specialists," Maslov pointed out.