Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US revives decades-old committee to target China
A group of US political scientists, including Steve Bannon, former top advisor to President Donald Trump, have resurrected the Committee on the Present Danger. During the Cold War era, this organization took aim at the Soviet Union demanding that the Pentagon’s budget be tripled. Currently, it brands China as "an aggressive totalitarian foe" posing an existential and ideological threat to the United States, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes, TASS reported.
The committee said in a statement that China was a threat to both America and the very idea of freedom. Frank Gaffney, who used to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy under President Reagan, and former senior intelligence officer James Fanell have joined those who fiercely criticize China. Fanell, in particular, pointed to Beijing’s expansion in East Asia. In his view, China is filling the vacuum left by the US' diminishing presence in the region.
According to Pavel Zolotarev, who is in charge of military-political research at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the US and Canada, such statements do have some validity. "It is not for nothing that China rather than Russia is listed as a primary challenge in the US National Security Strategy. The threats [facing the US] are related neither to China, nor to Russia, but to terror groups, and the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran and so on. That is, this strategy is a fairly unbiased document providing a sound assessment of the situation," he explained.
As for China, many in the US feel that cooperation with Russia to counter China’s might meets America’s interests, the expert went on to say. The US fears China’s growing might, which will level America's superiority in the military, information, and technological fields. As a result, they fear that China will violate US interests.
"Many Americans want relations with Russia to improve. However, foreign policy decisions in both the US and Russia are influenced by domestic policies. As a result, foreign policy decisions are out of tune with the real situation," Zolotarev concluded.
Izvestia: Theresa May vows to resign once Brexit deal is delivered
British Prime Minister Theresa May promised to step down after the House of Commons endorses her Brexit deal, Izvestia writes. On Wednesday evening, the premier met with members of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs. May confirmed that she was prepared to leave the job earlier than she intended, urging the lawmakers to back the Brexit deal "to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit." She gave no specific dates, but, judging by British media reports, after these remarks, some MPs said they were willing to support the deal.
Meanwhile, EU chief Donald Tusk said addressing the European Parliament that the opinion of Brexit opponents should be taken into account. He stressed it was impossible to betray 6 mln people who signed the petition to revoke Article 50 calling for Brexit to be cancelled and the growing number of people favoring Britain remaining within the EU.
The European Union is interested in putting Brexit off indefinitely, since London could change its mind about leaving the EU during this period of time, Kira Godovanyuk, a Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, told the paper.
"What the House of Commons is trying to do now bumps up against the EU’s stance, because the details of the deal were agreed on by the parties. The EU has already declared its position saying that no transformation is acceptable for it," the expert said.
Anyway, the situation with London’s exit from the EU remains extremely uncertain and volatile. According to Godovanyuk, Britain now has to choose between three scenarios: an exit in accordance with Theresa May’s deal, a pullout without a deal or the cancellation of Brexit.
Kommersant: Denmark could derail launch of Nord Stream 2
The construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline could be delayed due to Denmark’s stance, which, all of a sudden, offered Russia’s Gazprom energy giant to lay the pipeline along a new route, in the Danish exclusive economic zone in the Baltic Sea. Denmark continues to be the last country that has not yet issued permits for the construction of Nord Stream 2, in contrast to Russia, Finland, Sweden and Germany.
What’s more, in 2017, it passed a law that allows its government to prohibit the pipeline installation in Denmark’s territorial waters for political reasons.
Gazprom, which initially planned to lay the pipeline along the same route as the first Nord Stream, specifically, in Denmark’s territorial waters south of the island of Bornholm, drew up the second application and submitted it to the regulator. The latter route is located in Denmark’s exclusive economic zone (that is, in international waters), so Copenhagen cannot prohibit the installation of the pipeline. The Danish regulator currently has both applications, neither rejecting nor approving them.
According to Kommersant’s sources familiar with the situation, the environmental assessment of the new route may take three to six months. In their view, by doing so, Denmark continues to drag its feet, which means that Gazprom may not have enough time to commission Nord Stream 2 by the end of this year, when the transit contract with Ukraine expires. "All standards of decency on the first two applications have been exhausted. The move is aimed at justifying the further time delay," one of the paper’s interlocutors said.
Another source emphasized that this is a purely political issue and said he expected Germany to exert all necessary pressure on Denmark over this matter.
RBC: Health Ministry’s anti-smoking campaign proposal rejected by government
The Russian government stated that it had chided the anti-smoking drive proposed by the Russian Health Ministry as being not specific enough, and not having any clear tasks and objectives. In addition, the statistical data on smoking-related deaths lacked any official confirmation.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova who oversees social policy, labor and health matters, issued instructions to amend and finalize the document, RBC writes.
According to the Russian Health Ministry, the government’s instructions to amend the document is a normal routine process. "Its criticism is constructive and will be taken into consideration within the established deadline," its press service stressed.
The core problem of the proposed document is that it was drafted in isolation, according to Maxim Korolev, Chairman of the Board of the Alliance of Professional Participants in the Russian Market of Electronic Nicotine Systems. "Neither the industry, nor consumers, nor experts have access to it. Everything is done by Health Ministry representatives who may be detached from reality and the market, so the concept seems to be not viable," he said.
According to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, 22.5% of Russians smoke daily, while 5.4% of smokers say they cannot imagine their lives without cigarettes.
Kommersant: Leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia to resume Nagorno-Karabakh talks
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan will hold negotiations in Vienna brokered by the OSCE Minsk Group on Friday. They will be held amid a sharp deterioration in the Nagorno-Karabakh situation and escalating heated rhetoric coming from both sides, Kommersant writes.
Aliyev criticized Yerevan in the wake of the Armenian premier’s calls for changing the negotiation framework by making Nagorno-Karabakh a negotiating party. For his part, Pashinyan insists that the impasse in the talks is caused by Nagorno-Karabakh’s non-participation in them.
The latest statements by the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders show that they have different approaches towards the framework of the negotiations, which became deadlocked under previous Armenian leader Serzh Sargsyan, and the pace of the future negotiation process.
"Today, Armenia assumes that Nagorno-Karabakh is not just a territory, it’s people who live there. No matter how the negotiation process develops, it is essential to ask the people about their fate. That doesn’t mean that the issue can be tackled at this meeting, but setting this goal is necessary, and Pashinyan does that," head of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan explained to Kommersant.
For its part, Stepanakert, the capital of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, says that progress at the talks is possible only after its representative join the consultations.
"It is necessary to restore full-fledged negotiations involving Artsakh [the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh] at all stages of these negotiations," the paper quotes David Babayan, spokesman for the unrecognized republic’s president, as saying.
Experts in Baku and Yerevan interviewed by Kommersant agree that one cannot expect a breakthrough at the upcoming meeting in Vienna and that the future of the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations will depend on the ability of external mediators, including the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, to start searching for a mutually acceptable settlement formula.