Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, September 26, prepared by TASS
Media: Ukrainegate hoopla may be Democrat ploy to win back White House
The standoff between US President Donald Trump and his opponents from the Democratic Party has been gaining steam. After failing to play the so-called Russian card to get Trump impeached, the Democrats took advantage of the president’s ambiguous remarks during his July phone call with Ukraine’s new leader Vladimir Zelensky. The US president has been accused of attempting to exert pressure on his Ukrainian counterpart with the goal of digging up dirt on his key rival in the 2020 election, Joe Biden. In response, the White House released a transcript of this conversation. The Democrats are blaming Trump for undermining national security and have launched an impeachment inquiry, which became part of their campaign strategy. However, experts believe that it is almost impossible to unseat Trump through this process.
Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies Valery Garbuzov told Izvestia that the crusade to impeach the president has no chances but this topic could embitter Trump’s life and dominate the race. However, the US leader could also try to derive some benefits from it, the political scientist noted. "Previously, he managed to emerge victorious after false claims against him during the so-called Russiagate uproar, so maybe Ukrainegate will play into the White House occupant’s hand," he stressed. According to President of the American University in Moscow Eduard Lozansky, Trump will find a way to profit from this situation.
Anders Aslund, a Senior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that impeachment proceedings cannot remove Trump from office. However, despite the fact that Bill Clinton’s impeachment had failed, this completely ruined his reputation, helping the Republicans win further elections. "This is the major effect of impeachment: it undermines the reputation of your political party."
This inquiry is an important step, which will give the Democrats more powers and therefore it should not be underestimated, Professor of Political Science at the Higher School of Economics Israel Marques II told Vedomosti. "Now the Democrats will constantly launch hearings on various cases when they believe Trump was wrong. Such hearings draw public attention. Earlier, public pressure had forced the Republicans to back Nixon’s impeachment," he noted. "The hearings in Congress will draw attention to the scandals around Trump, and this could affect his re-election chances. On the other hand, he could use the impeachment threat to mobilize his voters and collect funds," the expert said.
Izvestia: US seeks to strike new Iran nuke deal without Moscow
Tensions with Tehran have been escalating at an alarming rate. After the departure of Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton, known for his hawkish position on Iran, there were expectations of a thaw in US-Iranian relations and even a new nuke deal, but this failed to occur. In mid-September, Tehran fired up the anger of both the US and Europe over suspicions that it could have been behind the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil refineries. Washington announced plans to send troops to the Middle East, while the Iranians vowed to wage a "total war."
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed between five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany in 2015, has remained a key stumbling block between the countries, Izvestia writes. Trump withdrew from the agreement, describing it as one of the Obama administration’s major failures. Yet now, he is seeking to strike a new deal on more beneficial terms. By accusing Tehran of masterminding the latest attacks on Saudi Arabia, European countries apparently sought to demonstrate their loyalty to the US and take part in signing a new agreement, but this time without China and Russia, the paper writes. However, experts questioned by Izvestia believe this is impossible.
"Both Europe and the US have a clear understanding that it is almost impossible to solve the Iranian issue without Moscow. To a large extent, Tehran agreed to sign the JCPOA four years ago because Russia and China acted as the guarantor states. Tehran is sure that Moscow’s influence gives weight to such agreements. The West also believes that Russia can have certain leverage on Iran, which is crucial. That’s why Moscow’s role is unlikely to be diminished here. Probably, the Americans will offer (or have already offered) Iran a new deal, which would satisfy Iran, but without Russia’s participation. But the Iranians will hardly accept this, understanding that in this case they would be one-on-one with the US and this could trigger unpredictable consequences," said political scientist Farkhad Ibragimov, an expert at the Valdai International Discussion Club.
Izvestia: Russian, Venezuelan leaders synchronize their watches in Moscow
Venezuela’s head of state Nicolas Maduro arrived in Moscow for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since last year to discuss future plans. The latest round of talks between the two presidents signals that Russia is continuing its support for the Latin American country’s legitimate government, a Russian senator told Izvestia. As far as Maduro is concerned, he preferred a meeting with Putin to a trip to the UN General Assembly because he expects to secure Moscow’s helping hand in settling the crisis in Venezuela, experts noted.
Russia and Venezuela have had traditionally friendly relations since the rule of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov told the paper. "We don’t abandon our friends and we help them as much as we can."
Although the parties did not sign any agreements during the talks, the importance of this meeting should not be underestimated, said Dmitry Rozental, Deputy Director of Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Latin American Studies. "For Maduro, first of all, it holds symbolic importance: it shows that he enjoys public support and the backing of a major country such as Russia," the expert stressed.
Meanwhile, military and technical cooperation between Moscow and Caracas throws a monkey wrench into the plans of the US and other adversaries of Maduro and his government, Moscow State Institute of International Relations Professor Vladimir Sudarev said. The Venezuelan army is one of the largest in Latin America, and with Russian weapons it is a rather formidable force, the expert noted. Besides, the Bolivarian Republic’s army is united and supports its president.
Maduro’s visit to Moscow coincided with this week’s 74th session of the UN General Assembly. The Venezuelan president decided to skip the event and to send a delegation to New York consisting of Vice President Delcy Rodgiguez and Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. According to Rozental, in this case, the Venezuelan leader thought his trip to Russia would bring him more political dividends. Moscow’s assistance in settling the crisis is essential for Maduro, and he could hardly expect this kind of support on the UN General Assembly’s sidelines.
However, Russia’s decision to continue supporting the newly re-elected president does not mean that Moscow backs the Maduro regime, the expert explained. Russia supports the legitimate government of Venezuela, he stressed.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: International conference could break Libyan deadlock
Southern Tripoli, under the control of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) for the past five months, has experienced a three-week lull. This comes after numerous failed attempts by the commander to seize the Libyan capital. The allies of Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the Government of National Accord, have repelled Haftar’s attempts to enter the city in fierce battles. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1,000 people have died and another 5,500 people have been wounded in clashes between the warring parties. Most casualties are among the civilians.
In the short term, violence will continue escalating since Haftar still hasn’t given up on capturing Tripoli, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. These military failures have forced the field marshal to request the assistance of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Until recently, France has also provided support for Haftar’s army. Meanwhile, the government of Fayez al-Sarraj has slammed France accusing it of double dealing. On the one hand, Paris supports the Government of National Accord and is calling for an immediate ceasefire in Tripoli, but on the other hand, it provides military-technical and reconnaissance assistance to Haftar. France is concerned over the situation in southern Libya and seeks to defend its political and economic interests.
Haftar also hopes to secure Washington’s backing, the paper writes. By showing certain support for the field marshal, Trump vows that his army is fighting against radical Islamists. The US seeks to control the activity of Islamist groups in Libya and other countries in the Sahel zone. Apparently, Washington does not want Libya to fall into Moscow’s orbit, the paper says. Judging by the remarks by some US politicians, some forces in Washington fear that Russia, which has strengthened its positions in Syria, will try to expand its influence in the Mediterranean through Libya. However, the US position on Libya seems to be inconsistent mainly due to a split of the political elite after Trump assumed power in the White House.
Given Libya’s deterioration and the moves by the warring sides, no prospects of a political settlement are on the horizon for the country. The most acceptable and real option is to support UN efforts to convene an international conference on Libya involving all interested parties. This could contribute to reducing violence there and encourage a political deal, according to the paper.
Vedomosti: Asia, Russia benefit from US-Chinese trade war
Developing Asian states are deriving benefits from the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, Vedomosti writes, citing a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). This standoff is changing global supply routes, allowing these countries to increase supplies to the US market. Russia also has chances to boost its agricultural exports to China, according to experts. In the first half of 2019, developing countries in Asia increased their annual export to the US by 10%, despite a 12% decline in supplies from China, ADB reports. Yasuyuki Sawada, ADB’s chief economist says that the White House’s tariffs on China’s goods have affected its exports, but a positive trend like trade redistribution is also visible.
"Trade wars do not put an end to global trade. They can affect goods and services for some time, create obstacles on their way, but by the same token, they may open up new opportunities for other players. One needs to figure out how to see not only political risks in trade wars, but also economic benefits from trade wars, and opportunities for entering new markets," the chief of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), Kairat Kelimbetov, told Vedomosti.
The current trade battle between the US and China is advantageous for Russia and its agricultural sector, PhosAgro CEO Andrey Guryev highlighted, noting that this helps fertilizer manufacturers expand their business. China has slapped tariffs on US farmers and compensates the declining imports by supplies from other countries, he explained. Russia is already exporting poultry to China and is gearing up to start selling pork. Meanwhile, Elena Sakhnova, an analyst at VTB Capital warns that Russian manufacturers of agricultural products and fertilizers should not wager big stakes on the trade war in the long term.