- Press review: Lukashenko wins sixth presidential vote and what do Beirut protesters want
- Press review: Will Minsk cross red line with Moscow and Russia, NATO face off over Arctic
- Press review: US ramps up Syrian oil plunder and Russia-EU carbon border adjustment talks
- Lavrov emphasizes need to rule out possibility of nuclear war
Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, June 15, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: US seeks to brand Russia as sponsor of terrorism
Republican legislators in the United States are calling for tougher sanctions against Moscow, considering it the second most serious "opponent of America" after Beijing. In particular, lawmakers are proposing to designate Russia as a "sponsor of terrorism," Izvestia wrote. According to the newspaper, the war against terrorism was considered one of the few topics that helped Moscow and Washington maintain bilateral relations.
A report by the Republican Study Committee, a conservative congressional caucus, suggests imposing "the toughest" sanctions against Russia, China, and Iran, whose activities went unchecked during the Barack Obama administration. In addition, the publication talks about slapping sanctions on companies supporting Russian oil and gas projects, and restrictions to prevent foreign investors from buying Russian sovereign debt.
Despite significant differences, the US and Russia remained partners in the fight against terrorism, Izvestia wrote. Victoria Zhuravleva, who heads IMEMO’s Center for North American Studies, told the newspaper that the US-Russia agenda was limited to security topics, so Moscow used the war on terror as an opportunity to maintain bilateral relations. The expert noted that in reality Moscow and Washington are on opposite sides in this fight. "Take Syria for example, the Americans name some groups as terrorists, while Russia labels others," she pointed out.
Zhuravlyova believes that the report is a result of the domestic political struggle in the US and the upcoming presidential elections, as well as elections to both houses of Congress.
Alexey Davydov, a research fellow at IMEMO’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies believes that the report could also be guided by economic interests. "Russia and the United States compete largely in two fields: energy and the arms trade. Saying that Russia is a sponsor of terrorism may, for example, subsequently impede Moscow’s military-technical cooperation with third countries, as well as cut Russia off from cooperation in the power industry with the Asian market and Europe," the expert told the newspaper.
Izvestia: What to expect from nuclear disarmament talks in Vienna
Russian-US negotiations on strategic stability are important, however major breakthroughs during the upcoming talks in Vienna should not be expected, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. The commentators noted that the upcoming elections and the new Cold War with China are dictating the Trump administration’s moves. Moreover, China's refusal to sit down at the negotiating table may be the reason for the US shifting the blame for the collapse of international arms control on to Beijing, the newspaper wrote.
On June 22, Vienna will host bilateral Russian-US talks on strategic stability. The United States did not announce its clear position officially, but two things are more or less certain. First, Washington is not ready to discuss the exact dates for the extension of New START treaty, and second, it adamantly demands that China must be included in the negotiations, Izvestia wrote.
A source in Russian diplomatic circles told the newspaper that China’s participation is irrelevant because the current agreement was written exclusively for bilateral relations between Russia and America, and there is not enough time to introduce a new participant to the treaty, since there is less than eight months left.
Perhaps, these consultations are part of the presidential campaign, which now completely sets the course of the White House’s actions, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov told Izvestia. Moreover, China’s refusal to negotiate would be a good reason to shift responsibility for the collapse of the treaty, "because of Beijing’s selfish and irresponsible position," cited the expert.
The talks should not be overestimated, Kortunov added, noting that real progress in strategic stability would be possible next year at the earliest.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China playing anti-US sanctions card close to the chest
After Washington clamped down on Huawei and 33 other Chinese companies, China drew up its own blacklist of US companies, but so far it has not put it into effect. Nezavisimaya Gazeta says that Beijing is afraid that amid the pandemic and pressure from the White House, foreign investors will begin to pull money out of China.
Beijing was alarmed by the plummeting economic growth from the coronavirus recession, and did not want to spook foreign investors. Even Prime Minister Li Keqiang of China showed restraint, when in late May he tried to avoid belligerent rhetoric against the US and called for economic cooperation. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Beijing clearly fears that because of sanctions against the US, it could lose its reputation as a country where you can easily make money.
Deputy Director at IMEMO Alexander Lomanov told the newspaper, "The fact that Li Keqiang spoke very carefully and very constructively about US-China relations is very telling." According to the expert, this was a signal that "China wants to try to establish relations with the States."
The problem is that Washington wants to control China as much as possible, the expert noted. China cannot fulfill its demands, for example to rebuild its economy by removing the state. So, new meetings at the level of heads of state before the US elections are unlikely. However, a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and China’s top official is possible.
Kommersant: Russia’s lawmakers want to curb environmental assessment of construction
Russian legislators are proposing the total elimination of the state environmental-impact assessment during the construction of the most dangerous facilities, for example, incinerators, Kommersant wrote. Experts told the newspaper they fear the risks of "man-made emergencies and significant damage to natural resources and the population". Business, in turn, says that abolishing the assessment will significantly accelerate the approval process and the deadlines for completing construction projects.
The proposal is likely to be approved by business, and not only those unscrupulous companies whose projects will never pass environmental reviews, General Director of the Legal Center for Industrial Ecology Dmitry Mishukov told the newspaper. Even responsible market players are not satisfied with the bureaucracy, complexity and duration of the existing procedure, he noted. In addition, the costs of passing the assessment, including preparing all the needed documents, could reach several million rubles.
A source in a large industrial company told Kommersant calls the situation "market redistribution". According to several Kommersant sources, cancelling the state environmental review may be lobbied by individual high-ranking officials who are associated with the construction sector.
Meanwhile, environmentalists warn that cancelling the assessment, say for waste incineration plants, "could entail even more serious violations of the environmental rights of citizens and, consequently, even more mass protests."
If the proposal is adopted, "Russia will have no real mechanism for assessing economic activity from the point of view of its environmental safety," Mikhail Kreindlin from Greenpeace Russia told the newspaper.
Vedomosti: Russian business asks for expanded support for backbone companies
Big business in Russia is asking for wider support for backbone companies. Demands include easing the criteria for obtaining soft loans for working capital and tripling the credit limit for a group of companies, Vedomosti wrote. At a meeting with First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov, entrepreneurs suggested not only helping key enterprises, but also their suppliers to prevent a breakdown of production chains. Experts told the newspaper that expanding state support is necessary for the survival and recovery of the business.
Companies and their subsidiaries can count on soft loans only if their revenues in the Q2 2020 decreased by at least 30% year-on-year and if they reduced their staff by no more than 10%. Systemically important enterprises also receive deferrals for paying taxes, and subsidies for reimbursing production costs.
Belousov has so far supported only softening the criteria for obtaining loans, Vedomosti wrote. The criteria had been tightened on purpose, he explained, since it is important that the hardest hit companies receive money first.
The newspaper’s source in a large industrial company said that the meeting did not inspire optimism. Proposals and requests from business may be only considered. According to the source, it seems that the entire plan to save the economy has been reduced to supporting state monopolies.
Expanding state support is essential for survival and recovery, representatives of the business community told Vedomosti. Energy companies are now actively preparing for the next winter. They need working capital, a representative from the T-Plus company said. Support for suppliers of equipment and components is also important, a source in another large industrial company told the newspaper, since operational activities of backbone enterprises depend on them, they should not be allowed to go bankrupt.