Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, May 24, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: India rides 'the Modi wave' as BJP clinches huge victory
The Indian opposition has lost the 2019 general election, while the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has increased its representation in the parliament despite all predictions. Experts believe that after securing his second term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pursue a more intensive economic policy and seek to enhance the country’s geopolitical significance, Kommersant writes.
The BJP received five more seats than in 2014, while a new expression - "the Modi wave" - has entered public discourse. "In fact, this time we witnessed not just a wave but a new political phenomenon, 'the Modi tsunami', which has swept away all his numerous rivals," independent Indian expert Vinay Shukla told the newspaper.
The BJP won because Modi had managed to mobilize his chiefly Hindu electorate, consisting of rural entrepreneurs, farmers and people from other social backgrounds who are looking to his government to ensure further economic growth that will improve their economic situations, said Alexei Kupriyanov of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations. As for India’s foreign policy, Modi’s victory means that people have faith in his policy course. Neither the parliament and nor the cabinet determines India’s foreign policy but Modi’s inner circle. According to the expert, their policy is aimed at improving relations with China and ensuring Pakistan’s international isolation to make Islamabad stop supporting terrorists in Kashmir. As for other countries, Modi and the BJP seek to boost relations with all, including the United States and Russia, Kupriyanov emphasized.
"Russia-India relations are important for both countries, and not just in bilateral terms, but also for the sake of promoting their policies in other areas," Nandan Unnikrishnan, the Vice President of India’s Observer Research Foundation and a Valdai Discussion Club expert, told Kommersant. "In particular, India needs Russia to find a balance between the US and China," he explained.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Pentagon gearing up for war in Arctic
Washington is determined to reassert "American leadership in the Arctic," "challenge growing Russian military influence" in the region, and "push back against China’s illegitimate claim to ‘near-Arctic’ status," US National Security Adviser John Bolton told Coast Guard Academy graduates in New London, Connecticut, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.
Bolton announced plans to introduce new ice-breakers to the aging US fleet. Russia’s top official in the Arctic Council Nikolai Korchunov said in response that "the United States’ new policy in the Arctic is aimed at turning the region into a theater of war."
Russia also has far-reaching plans for Arctic shipbuilding but they are not solely military ones. Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the International Arctic Forum in April that the country would have at least 13 heavy ice-breakers by 2035, including nine nuclear-powered ones. The head of state urged foreign partners to invest in the establishment of hub ports in the cities where the Northern Sea Route begins and ends - Murmansk and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky - while there are major Russian naval bases in their vicinity. The initiative makes it clear that the bases along the route pose no threat to economic cooperation.
"Russia plans to take retaliatory steps but they will be defensive. Their scale is far smaller than that of NATO members' military build-up in the Arctic," military expert, Captain First Rank Oleg Shvedkov told the newspaper.
Russia’s Northern Fleet is forming a new missile defense division, and new military garrisons are being set up along the Northern Sea Route, in addition airfields are being upgraded. The Ilya Muromets ice-breaker, the Elbrus combat logistics ship, the Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the Ivan Gren large landing ship joined the Northern Fleet in 2018. "All these steps will serve as a deterrent, helping to prevent armed conflicts and military activities in the Arctic," Shedkov emphasized.
Izvestia: Family of Russian businessman jailed in US get American visas
The family members of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, serving a 25-year sentence in the US, have been granted single-entry American visas valid for six months after almost a year’s wait. Bout’s wife Alla told Izvestia that she and her daughter planned to go to the United States in September.
Viktor Bout, accused of illegal arms trafficking in the US, hasn’t seen his family since April 2012. Although his wife and daughter applied for American visas last summer, they have just recently received the visas.
"We plan to go there in late August or early September. We would like to stay in the US for at least a month. Everything will depend on our financial situation," Alla Bout said. She was hopeful that prison officials would give her permission to visit her husband several times a week though the penitentiary facility’s rules allowed only one visit a week, on weekends.
"The Russian embassy intends to contact the prison authorities in this regard. We are grateful to the Foreign Ministry for helping us get visas and assisting us in solving many issues," Mrs. Bout added.
The jailed Russian businessman’s family should be ready to face various difficulties during their trip, including extensive interrogations from the authorities because the United States has been trying to demonize Viktor Bout from the very beginning, said Professor of the Faculty of Law at the Higher School of Economics Alexander Domrin.
"You can see how long it took them to issue visas to Bout’s wife and daughter, although it was clear to everyone that they pose no threat to national security and their trip will be entirely humanitarian," the expert told the newspaper.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US embroils IMF in crusade to pressure China
The West has clarified the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) new role in the trade war with China. US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said at a Congress hearing that the White House would block all IMF programs providing funds to Chinese projects under the One Belt One Road initiative if those were not transparent enough, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.
Back in February, WikiLeaks made it clear that the US might use the IMF and other major international financial organizations as a financial weapon. The website published a field manual titled Army Special Operations Forces, Unconventional Warfare, which says that the US government "can apply unilateral and indirect financial power through persuasive influence to international and domestic financial institutions regarding availability and terms of loans, grants, or other financial assistance to foreign state and non-state actors." In this regard, the IMF, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Bank for International Settlements were mentioned.
China’s One Belt One Road initiative, as well as Beijing’s claims to global technology leadership, prompted Washington to respond. A tariff war, declared by US President Donald Trump, is in full swing. Observers hope that both countries will change their positions following a meeting between their leaders that may take place at the G20 summit but until then, the parties may come up with new reasoning to strengthen their negotiating positions. Given this, there is logic in calls on international organizations to unite under the US banner.
Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Professor Yuri Yudenkov is confident that there is every reason to believe that the US will succeed in carrying out its threat. "The United States, Great Britain and France hold enormous sway in the IMF. Neither Russia, nor China, nor India will be able to oppose it in any way. This is why countries participating in the initiative can face real damage if the US carries out its threat," Yudenkov told the paper. "A trade war is underway. The US is keeping Russia in limbo through threats to block its assets in American banks, and it also seeks to leave China’s loans in limbo because the Belt and Road project involves numerous countries and directly competes with the US, depriving it of access to potential markets. The US will use every opportunity to hinder it," the expert pointed out.
Associate Professor with the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Sergei Khestanov, however, believes that this measure will have little effect. "The project is mostly funded by China who doesn’t care much about the IMF’s opinion, at least as long as the Chinese economy continues to grow," he emphasized.
Vedomosti: Russians drinking more ‘coffee on the go’
Coffee is included in one-third of the receipts in Russian food outlets and its consumption has been rising, Vedomosti wrote, citing research by The NPD Group.
Coffee is the universal drink to start your day or end a meal, food service market expert at the NPD’s Russian branch Marina Lapenkova said. Often times, people buy coffee on the spur of the moment. According to the NPR, 18% of coffee orders are made spontaneously. Coffee breaks have in many ways replaced cigarette breaks, Lapenkova pointed out. In the past, people went out to smoke a cigarette but now they drink coffee. A thing to note is that this trend involves all age groups, from the youth to the elderly.
According to Lapenkova, its easy availability is the reason behind the growing popularity of coffee drinking. In the early 2000s, only coffee houses and restaurants served high-quality coffee but now even fast food outlets and shops at gas stations boast professional coffee machines that use high-quality coffee grains.
The biggest fast food outlets questioned by the paper pointed to the growing number of coffee orders. McDonalds PR Director Svetlana Polyakova confirmed that the outlet was witnessing a rise in the sales of coffee beverages. "Today, every third coffee cup on Russia’s food service market is sold at McDonalds," she noted.
According to a Burger King spokesperson, in 2018, the fast-food chain installed new coffee makers and started to buy better coffee grains, which significantly improved the taste of drinks and led to double-digit growth in sales.
Gas stations are also seeing sales of coffee increase. "Coffee remains the most popular hot beverage at gas stations," said a Gazprom Neft spokesperson, adding that the company’s revenue from the sales of hot drinks had grown by nine percent in 2018, exceeding three bln rubles ($46.5 mln).