Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, September 11, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Trump fires hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton
US President Donald Trump has dismissed a key member of his administration, National Security Adviser John Bolton. Given his hawkish approach towards Russia, North Korea, Iran and the Afghan crisis, Bolton was often at loggerheads with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump himself, Kommersant writes.
On Monday, President Trump tweeted that that he had told Bolton his services were no longer needed at the White House, and Bolton tendered his resignation on Tuesday.
According to the White House, a new National Security Adviser will be appointed next week. Meanwhile, political analyst Andrew Bishop, who is a Partner at Signum Global Advisors, told the paper, citing some well-informed sources that several candidates were being considered. Among them are Paula Dobriansky who served as Under Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, retired Army Col. Douglas MacGregor and US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun whom some US media outlets earlier called a top candidate to replace Jon Huntsman as US Ambassador to Russia.
Although John Bolton was widely referred to as the chief foreign policy hawk in Washington, he tried to make a different impression during his visits to Russia. In October, he gathered several Russian experts on the United States at the American Embassy to share his concept of bilateral relations with them. "One thing that turned heads was that Bolton did not view Russia as the United States’ ‘natural’ adversary. He saw Russia as Washington’s potential partner in countering common enemies, mentioning Iran and China among them," Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies who took part in that meeting, told the paper.
Bolton presented himself as a person who was fully loyal to Trump, the expert went to say. "He stressed that he had no intention of pursuing his own foreign policy, but would pursue the president’s policy, even if there were disagreements. However, now it is evident that this didn’t help him," he said.
Bolton will go down in history as a person who was openly opposed to almost all multilateral institutions where the US had to speak with other countries on equal terms. This track record includes Washington’s withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002, the pullout from the nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018 and the INF Treaty, which was considered a key pillar of the non-proliferation architecture.
Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul who is currently an Associate Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, stressed to Kommersant that Bolton had influenced some of Trump’s initiatives in a positive way, but not the fate of the New START Treaty, which he wanted to tear up. He hoped that Bolton’s successor would be wise enough to advocate the extension of that important accord, which benefits both the US and Russia.
Izvestia: Normandy Quartet summit possible by the end of October
The anticipated Normandy Four summit is likely to take place before the end of October, several sources familiar with the negotiations, informed Izvestia. They noted that all parties recognized a decrease in the intensity of shelling in the Donbass region and highlighted the importance of the recent Russian-Ukrainian prisoner swap. Although the detainees’ return to their home countries is not related directly to the Minsk deal, it indicates that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is able to keep his promises.
"A certain positive background has been created. OSCE observers have recorded a substantial decrease in the intensity of shelling along the disengagement line. Russia has nothing against such negotiations with Ukraine’s new administration. However, Kiev had to show that it was prepared to work to achieve specific results, and the prisoner swap agreements that were carried out show that Zelensky is able to stand by his word," one source told the paper.
Another observer noted though that French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks about the next summit in Paris in September were somewhat premature. "Such events require meticulous preparations. It is unlikely that everything will be agreed on within two weeks. October is a much more feasible deadline. However, there is no final decision on the issue yet," he added.
The latest prisoner exchange certainly brings the Normandy Four summit closer, Chairman of the State Duma’s (lower house) Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov told Izvestia.
"Zelensky has shown his ability to negotiate, which means that we need to move ahead," he said.
What is happening between Russia and Ukraine creates preconditions for bolstering trust, Mikhail Pogrebinsky, Director of the Kiev-based Center for Political Studies and Conflictology, told the paper. In his view, if Zelensky agrees to implement the Steinmeier formula, the Normandy Quartet leaders will gather fairly soon.
"Nobody has to do anything yet, but agree to make progress on some points. Besides, Macron and [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel are in favor of holding that meeting at an early date. Anyway, if that is the case, this will cause a huge uproar inside Ukraine. Donbass’ special status is unacceptable for the warmongers," the political commentator stressed.
Vedomosti: Poland squeezing Gazprom out of Nord Stream
Europe’s top court has upheld a lawsuit against the European Commission filed by Poland’s PGNiG oil and gas company, banning Gazprom from using the OPAL gas pipeline at full capacity. According to PGNiG officials, the Russian energy giant won’t be able to shut off gas transit via Ukraine because of the verdict, at least in the coming months. For its part, Gazprom said it was studying the legal and commercial fallout from that decision, Vedomosti writes.
The degree of Gazprom’s access to OPAL’s capacities has been a point of dispute since the beginning of that pipeline’s construction. Actually, it is one of the two extensions of the Nord Stream pipeline (along with NEL). Apart from Russian gas, there aren’t any other such sources for OPAL and NEL. However, in 2009, the EU approved the Third Energy Package, which prevented gas suppliers from dominating the market.
In October 2016, the European Commission agreed to remove OPAL from the Third Energy Package until 2033 and increase Gazprom’s quota to a total of 90%. However, the PGNiG group demanded that the European Commission’s decision be cancelled arguing that increased gas pumping would inevitably lead to a reduction in transit via Belarus and threatened Poland’s energy security.
OPAL is currently loaded above design capacity, the paper quotes Sergey Kapitonov, a gas analyst at the Energy Center of the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, as saying. The court’s ruling robs Gazprom of about 15 bln cubic meters of gas year-on-year. These volumes could only be replaced through the Ukrainian gas transportation corridor, since both the Belarusian route and NEL are fully loaded. In July, when the Nord Stream and Yamal-Europe pipelines were stopped for repairs, Ukraine’s gas transportation system pumped an additional 50-60 mln cubic meters per day, the expert explained.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China banks on private sector in trade battle with US
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for increased support of private businesses speaking at the National Development and Reform Commission. Experts believe that the slowdown in China’s economic growth amid Beijing’s trade war with Washington brought on Xi’s proposal. The Chinese leadership hopes that tax cuts and increased consumer demand will help overcome that trend, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Four decades ago, there were virtually no private companies in China. Now they account for 60% of the Asian giant’s GDP, providing 80% of jobs for the urban population.
The trade standoff with America and Washington’s decision to raise tariffs on Chinese goods have undermined the ability of private companies to attract funds to the Chinese market.
This being so, President Xi Jinping has spoken out in favor of supporting the private sector and creating a more favorable environment for investors.
Over the past six months, China has carried out a key reform package to make life easier for the private sector and, most importantly, for small and medium-sized enterprises, Head of the School of Oriental Studies at the Higher School of Economics Alexei Maslov told the paper.
"For example, taxes on the vast majority of small and medium-sized enterprises have been cut in half or scrapped. As for enterprises located in problematic areas where ethnic minorities live, they are generally exempt from rent," he said.
That was done to make sure that small enterprises could help accelerate economic growth. "This is due to the fallout from the US sanctions. The primary hazard for China is the slowdown of the domestic market amid falling exports. Moreover, there has been a slowdown in the provinces that used to make a substantial contribution to exports, including Fujian and Zhejiang. Large enterprises are unable to invest money there. That means that Beijing is pinning its hopes on small and mid-sized enterprises," Maslov stressed.
Kommersant: Kiev takes timeout from tearing up accords with Moscow
Ukraine has suspended the process of denouncing bilateral agreements with Moscow, which was in full swing under the Poroshenko regime, Kommersant writes. For the time being, Kiev has stopped notifying Moscow of terminating bilateral treaties. The process was launched by Ukraine in 2014 after the start of the hostilities in eastern Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia. Among the documents that came under attack was the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership, which was terminated by Kiev on April 1, 2019.
A Russian diplomatic source told the paper that the Russian Foreign Ministry had taken note of the pause. That may be due to the fact that the new government is currently preoccupied with personnel issues after the appointment of Alexei Goncharuk as Prime Minister. "They probably focused on other matters. Now they will decide what should be done next - either to go on [with denouncing agreements] or put the whole process on hold," the source said.
At the same time, despite the Russian-Ukrainian standoff of recent years, none of the parties has ever questioned the bilateral agreements concerning cooperation in the nuclear energy sector. "Enterprises belonging to the Russian Atomic Energy Corporation fulfill all [their] obligations in the nuclear industry within the framework of cooperation with Ukraine," a source in the corporation informed the paper. The insider stressed that "despite the current level of intergovernmental relations, the nuclear industry has always remained outside of politics." "That stems from the industry’s specific features, where the key priority is security and, secondly, technological cycles are much longer than political ones," the Atomic Energy Corporation said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry likewise stressed that the nuclear industry was almost the only area where cooperation between the two countries had not been interrupted and is still under strict control.