Press review: Moscow ready for arms control dialogue and US maneuvers between Turks, Kurds / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: Moscow ready for arms control dialogue and US maneuvers between Turks, Kurds

Press review: Moscow ready for arms control dialogue and US maneuvers between Turks, Kurds

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, August 6, prepared by TASS

Izvestia: Moscow open for dialogue after demise of key arms control treaty

Russia is ready for dialogue with the United States on arms control despite Washington’s exit from a key Cold War-era arms control deal, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Moreover, Moscow is not planning to give up its unilateral commitments under the agreement, but warns that in any case it would provide a tit-for-tat response as Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed.

Commenting on Putin’s statement, Russian MPs stressed that it was vital now to focus on preserving the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which is going to expire in 2021. The document cannot be extended in its current form. Experts told Izvestia that it’s crucial for Washington to engage other countries in the treaty, and the main stumbling block is China’s involvement.

According to Editor-in-Chief of the Military Russia Internet project Dmitry Kornev, Russia’s Armed Forces have several options of responding to the US deployment of missiles earlier banned under the INF. "All of them won’t require enormous spending. Russia already has all the necessary missile systems, and they just need to become land-based," the expert said.

For example, the sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles can be mounted on Iskander launchers, and it will take six months to make this adjustment. Russia will spend some two or three years to create ballistic missiles similar to the Pershing 2 or the Soviet Pioneer. There are Soviet-era improvements that have been maintained on these missiles and some components are already being manufactured, he noted.

First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s (lower house) Foreign Affairs Committee Dmitry Novikov told the paper that Washington’s withdrawal from the INF increases tensions on the global arena and could disrupt the international security system. Therefore, Moscow is not refusing to continue dialogue and is calling on the US to resume full-fledged talks on maintaining stability.

In his interview with Izvestia, President of the US-based public policy think tank, the Center for the National Interest, Dmitri Simes stressed that the INF’s collapse does not pose a new military threat to Russia. Washington won’t boost its land-based nuclear arsenals in Europe since the US already has sea and air missiles ensuring parity.

That’s why it is too early to speak about the beginning of a new arms race. According to the expert, in order to sign a new arms control deal, Moscow and Washington should build up mutual trust. Now bilateral contacts are only limited to an informal dialogue between the two leaders and there are no preconditions for detailed talks on missiles either in the US or in Russia, he noted.

Kommersant: US maneuvering between Kurds and Turks in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is again threatening to launch a military operation against Kurdish units on the eastern bank of the Euphrates in Syria. Washington opposes these plans and a Pentagon delegation has arrived in Ankara on short notice. In case Turkey starts its operation, the US is running the risk of losing the trust of the Kurds, whose efforts have so far helped it keep eastern Syria beyond Damascus’ control, and Moscow, in its turn,is also dissatisfied, Kommersant writes.

The US goal is to prevent the Turkish operation, which can be done only if Washington agrees with Ankara on setting up a buffer (or security) zone on the Turkish-Syrian border. Previous talks on this issue were held some two weeks ago, but no agreement was reached. On Monday, another round of talks also failed and the consultations will continue on Tuesday.

Ankara hopes to create a 32-km buffer zone in Syria along the Turkish border under its unilateral control. According to the plan, some 3 million Syrian refugees who are currently residing in Turkey could be accommodated in the area. Ankara is demanding that Washington withdraw Kurdish units from the border with Turkey and seize US weapons from them, which have been supplied to the Kurds over the past several years to fight against the Islamic State (terrorist organization, outlawed in Russia). Ankara has threatened that it will start creating the buffer zone alone unless a compromise is reached.

According to Alexei Khlebnikov, a Mideast expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, it is hard to imagine that Turkey could launch a full-scale military operation against the Kurds while being aware that US and EU troops are present there. "Judging by all this, Ankara is trying to strengthen its negotiating positions."

Meanwhile, it’s dangerous for Ankara to exert too much pressure on Washington. "If Turkey launches its military offensive in Syria, this will decrease Trump’s chances to offset anti-Turkish sanctions and the influence of anti-Turkish camp in the US will grow," warned Oytun Orhan, an expert at the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM). According to him, these fears could delay Turkey’s military operation in eastern Syria, but not for long.

However, Washington is not willing to lose the alliance with the Kurds fearing that Ankara’s threats would force them to step up dialogue with Damascus on returning territories along the eastern bank of the Euphrates to Assad’s control, the paper writes.

Vedomosti: Russia’s anti-Western food embargo five years on

Five years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning or curbing the imports of agricultural goods, raw materials and food products from the countries that had imposed economic sanctions on Russia. The government specified that the food embargo would target meat, fish, shellfish, milk and dairy products, vegetables and fruits from the EU, the US, Canada, Australia and Norway.

The countersanctions were placed for a year, but Russia has been extending them on a yearly basis so far. In June, Putin once again prolonged the food embargo until December 31, 2020. In 2015, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that Albania, Montenegro, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Ukraine would be also put on the blacklist.

The ban on meat imports helped Russia attain a self-sufficiency rate for these goods as high as 92.9% in 2018. Pig farming has mostly benefited from Russia’s countersanctions: the embargo targeted meat products from three major pork exporters — the EU, the US and Canada — and the only large supplier now is Brazil, VTB Capital analyst Nikolai Kovalev said.

This was a signal that the market is temporarily protected and production can be expanded, he elaborated. The devaluation of the ruble has also become an encouraging factor. Given the current ruble rate, Russian pig farmers have the smallest prime cost in foreign currency than other countries.

Russia’s countersanctions have provided a head start for producers of fruits, vegetables and cheese since the lion’s share of these goods had been supplied from the embargoed countries, Director of the SovEcon analytical center Andrei Sizov told the paper. Due to a large share of imports, the products targeted by the countersanctions could not be replaced by domestic goods that quickly. However, the government has increased state support for vegetable and fruit producers.

Dairy producers have also benefited from Russia’s embargo, the paper says. Over the past five years, cheese production has grown more than 1.5-fold, and the output of milk powder and cream has risen nearly 26.2%.

Meanwhile, the food embargo has apparently not benefited Russian consumers so much, since food prices have skyrocketed, said Natalia Shagayda, director of the Center for Agri-Food Policy, RANEPA.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington to pass baton to EU in settling Donbass crisis

Kiev hopes that it will be able to sort out a plethora of problems after stepping up contacts with the West. In late September, the new Ukrainian leader, Vladimir Zelensky, will go to Washington for talks with US President Donald Trump. Prior to that, leaders of the Normandy Four (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) are expected to hold a new round of negotiations. Analysts in Kiev believe that Zelensky is facing a precarious moment: he won’t be able to defend the Ukrainian line on Donbass and Crimea without Washington’s backing, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

A month ago, Zelensky suggested holding a meeting in Minsk involving the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Later, the new Ukrainian head of state held his first phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. After that, the Russian president noted that Moscow was not rejecting any formats but insisted that high-level meetings should be well-prepared. According to Putin, these meetings should be discussed after Ukraine’s parliamentary polls are over. The vote was held on July 21 and Zelensky’s Servant of the People party won a landslide victory.

Now the question is what compromise the Ukrainian side is ready to reach on implementing the political part of the Minsk agreements. Opinion polls show that most Ukrainian citizens do not support the proposed laws on a special status for Donbass, amnesty for militias in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and special rules for local elections.

According to some Ukrainian experts, Zelensky is facing an obstacle since the EU seeks to normalize ties with Russia and could exert pressure on Ukraine. Some analysts in Kiev note that Washington is not planning to be directly involved in the Ukrainian crisis settlement. Therefore, it is not going to join the talks on Donbass and will let Germany and France lead this effort. Against this background, the new Ukrainian administration will find it hard to hold talks with the US and will have to solve the Donbass crisis with European mediators.

Izvestia: Russia to open consulate in China’s by end of 2019

Russia’s Consulate-General in Harbin, which Moscow and Beijing had agreed to establish back in autumn 2015, will open by the end of this year, several diplomatic sources told Izvestia. This will be Russia’s fifth diplomatic mission in China, which is expected to boost bilateral trade and economic cooperation and help better protect the interests of thousands of Russian citizens living in the areas bordering China. Besides, Russia’s diplomatic presence in Harbin is symbolic. Russian builders, who had moved there, founded this Chinese city in the end of the 19th century.

Russia’s new consulate will be based in the former building of the Soviet consulate-general (1924-1962), situated on the two-hectare compound. One of the sources told the paper that the building’s renovation effort would take another year or 18 months and at first, the new mission would be temporarily based on other premises. A total of 10 diplomats will be working in Harbin, more than the average number of staff in other Russian embassies.

Harbin is the administrative center of China’s Heilongjiang province, which plays a vital role in transborder trade. "The Heilongjiang province is Russia’s largest trade partner among all Chinese regions. A Russian oil pipeline, supplying the bulk of oil exports to China, reaches it and Russian natural gas will go there via the Power of Siberia gas pipeline," Vladimir Portyakov, chief researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, told the paper.

Besides its embassy in Beijing, Russia currently has consulates in other Chinese cities, namely in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenyang and Guangzhou.

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