Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, August 28, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Putin, Erdogan discuss cooperation options
Moscow and Ankara are exploring the possibility of jointly manufacturing military equipment, Tuesday’s talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Moscow revealed. The two leaders also focused on the crisis in Syria, in particular, vanquishing terrorism in Idlib, Izvestia writes.
The two countries are stepping up cooperation in many areas. Erdogan stressed that bilateral trade turnover has exceeded $25 bln, but said the aim is to boost it to $100 bln. The construction of the TurkStream pipeline is going according to schedule.
Moscow and Ankara are also expanding military-technical cooperation. Putin noted that another batch of S-400s was delivered to Turkey on August 27. The second stage will continue until the end of September.
The Turkish president is trying to ensure full sovereignty for his country, member of the Russian Federation (upper house) Defense and Security Committee Franz Klintsevich told the paper.
"Erdogan is a pragmatic politician who understands that Russia’s S-400 systems or Sukhoi Su-57 jets are not just cheaper. They also superior to their American counterparts as far as quality goes. Ankara is interested in friendly ties with Moscow due to geopolitical factors, because Russia’s clout on the global stage is growing," the senator stressed.
Although Erdogan’s trip to Moscow is unscheduled, it is a landmark event, considering that the two leaders were expected to meet in Ankara as early as mid-September, the paper quotes Turkish political scientist Kerim Has as saying. According to the expert, the need for a conversation with Erdogan’s Russian counterpart emerged after Damascus airstrike on a Turkish convoy. He noted that the most logical option would be direct dialogue with Assad, which Ankara actually lacks. Hence, the need for a meeting in Moscow.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Prospects for Trump-Rouhani meeting on the table
US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani have exchanged signals reiterating their willingness to hold a face-to-face meeting, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. That happened after a brief visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to France, where the latest G7 summit was held.
While in France, Trump noted he would be willing to meet with Rouhani, if the circumstances were right. For his part, the Iranian president said he had nothing against that meeting, if it was conducive to his country’s economic development.
However, it is unclear yet whether or not Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei agreed to arrange the talks between Trump and Rouhani. Such a meeting could hypothetically be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September. It is also not improbable that it could be brokered by France, which invited Iran’s top diplomat to hold talks on the sidelines of the G7 summit.
Trump clearly wants to coerce Iran into dialogue on his own terms and has reminded the Iranians of that from time to time after, after cranking up pressure bit by bit, Nikolay Kozhanov, Associate Professor at Qatar University, told the paper. "That is why we cannot say that this is something new and groundbreaking. Will Rouhani accept this invitation? I don’t think so. At present, the conditions put forward by the United States are unacceptable for Iran. Plus, Rouhani actually exhausted all the possibilities for any negotiations with the Americans authorized by the supreme leader. Moreover, the decision on whether to conduct negotiations with the US is made by the supreme leader himself."
According to the expert, Tehran’s current stance boils down to the following: let the situation remain as is, where there is neither peace nor war and wait for the next US presidential election, which can bring certain changes. "As for the Iranian conservative bloc, they will not allow any negotiations, if they are conducted on behalf of Rouhani," Kozhanov explained.
On the other hand, the conservative wing of the Iranian political establishment is likewise diverse, military expert Yuri Lyamin stressed to Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "In general, there are those who believe that the parties have nothing to discuss under the current circumstances and those who believe that such contacts are possible. Actually, a meeting between Trump and Rouhani cannot be ruled out, but there are quite a few circumstances that can influence that. The current situation in the Middle East is very tense and unstable, so it is difficult to forecast how things will turn out," he said.
RBC: Ukraine may get first-ever technocratic premier
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky intends to nominate economist Alexey Goncharuk for Prime Minister, RBC reports citing its own sources and Ukrainian media outlets. If approved, he will be the first technocratic prime minister in Kiev.
The new composition of Ukraine’s Verknovna Rada (parliament) elected in late July will hold its first meeting on Thursday, August 29. It will have to endorse the new prime minister and Cabinet.
"The nomination of Goncharuk, a lawyer, is Andrei Bogdan’s [head of Zelensky’s administration - TASS] pick offered to the president at the right time and in the right way," political consultant Alexander Kharebin who worked with Zelensky’s team told the paper. A prime minister like this would always be in the shadow of the president’s office, which is desirable for Zelensky, the expert noted. "It will be possible to hang any mistakes on him, and, in the event of victories, they could say that ‘we did it together," he explained.
If Goncharuk becomes Prime Minister, Ukraine will get the first ever technocratic cabinet, although efforts to form a non-political government were made under Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk as well, the paper quotes Ukrainian political scientist Vladimir Fesenko as saying.
Goncharuk is referred to as a team player, which means that the alliance between the president, the premier and parliament could be strong at the beginning of his tenure. There will hardly be any competition, similar to the one between former President Pyotr Poroshenko and Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman, the expert added.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Tehran pursuing support from Asia
Top Iranian diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif is touring Asia to garner support from regional partners, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Earlier this week, he paid a visit to Beijing where he held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. His next stopovers will be in Japan and Malaysia.
Tehran is pushing for closer ties with Japan, China and some Asian countries in accordance with its strategy of diversifying and fostering international ties. That region accounts for Tehran’s substantial volume of trade, which is particularly important amid the anti-Iranian sanctions imposed by Washington.
Iran is trying to accumulate political capital during Zarif’s visit to Asia and Europe, Alexei Malashenko, Research Director at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, told the paper. "That plays into Tehran’s hands in the sense that, after the end of the Asian tour, Iran will view oneself as a strong power, which is neither isolated, nor alone in its stance despite Washington’s sanctions. Logic will suggest that Iran is an ordinary country enjoying support throughout the globe," the expert pointed out.
According to Andrei Baklanov, Deputy Chairman of the Association of Russian Diplomats, Europe’s stance on Tehran is not stable enough. "If Asian regional countries show that they are not afraid to support Iran, then that will emphasize once again that the universal Asian vector holds a rock-solid course, while the anti-Iranian sanctions lack any appropriate clout," he told the paper.
For his part, Vladimir Kozin, Leading Expert of the Center for Military-Political Studies at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), believes that Zarif’s Asian tour is unlikely to consolidate Tehran’s positions. "The anti-Iranian approach will prevail as long as there is inequality in leading NATO member-countries. Until the alignment of forces in the alliance changes, Asian countries will hardly have any substantial impact on Washington’s and Europe’s policy with respect to Iran," the paper quotes him as saying.
Vedomosti: Ex-German chancellor calls for tighter control over Russian oil quality
As two Russian state-owned companies, Rosneft and Transneft, are struggling to control the quality of oil transported abroad, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is currently Chairman of Rosneft’s Board of Directors, has outlined his vision for restoring Russia’s image as a reliable supplier of high-quality oil, Vedomosti writes.
Schroeder wrote in his letter addressed to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that independent surveyors could monitor the quality of oil in Transneft’s pipelines on a daily basis, the paper reported, citing its own oil industry sources.
Credibility in Russian oil quality was damaged after the April incident, when European consumers found high concentrations of chlororganic compounds in it, Schroeder recalled.
If the former German chancellor’s proposals are put into practice, that will make it possible for consumers to monitor the quality of oil in all sections of the pipeline, one of the paper’s interlocutors said. "We are transferring oil of one quality to the Transneft system, while consumers get oil of a different quality. This is a common practice. However, sometimes the quality of oil is lower than agreed on in the contract. Naturally, consumers put forward complaints. The new proposal could reduce the risks of companies dispatching oil," he pointed out.
An institution of surveyors could indeed protect the reputation of Russian oil quality, the paper quotes ACRA analyst Vasily Tanurkov as saying. Actually, that would be an independent laboratory, the arbiter in disputes between the supplier and the consumer who agreed to recognize the surveyor’s estimates, he stressed.
Rosneft has accounted for 75% of oil experts through the Transneft system since the beginning of this year, says Dmitry Marinchenko, Corporations Department Director at Fitch. "The company presumably would like to take any issues related to the quality of oil off the table and narrow down Transneft’s powers," he noted. Changing the control system will require initial investment, and it is reasonable to assume that costs should be shared between those who sell oil and the transport monopoly, the expert went on to say. However, it is unclear so far whether an institution of independent surveyors could be created given Russia’s realities, Marinchenko added.