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Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, October 14, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Moscow and Riyadh to ink deals to the tune of $2 bln
One of the key agreements during Vladimir Putin’s visit to Saudi Arabia will be a construction contract for railway lines from Riyadh and Yanbu to the ports of Jeddah and King Abdullah, sources in Russia’s delegation and in Russian Railways told Izvestia. The total amount of the planned deals comes to $2 bln. The Russian leader’s visit will take place against the backdrop of yet another round of tensions in the Middle East, set off by blasts on the Iranian oil tanker Sabiti off the coast of Saudi Arabia. However, this incident will not affect cooperation between Moscow and Riyadh, the newspaper wrote.
The source in the delegation told Izvestia that the parties are also interested in the construction, modernization, and revamping of the nation’s railways within the framework of Vision 2030, which is a program to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy, with an eye on reducing its oil dependence. In addition, the partners will discuss the supply of Russian technology to ensure the safe movement of trains, as well as the training of Saudi specialists in Russia. The Russian-Saudi forum is scheduled to be held within a single day, with about 300 participants expected to take part from both sides. According to Izvestia, Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev, as well as the top management of Russia’s largest corporations, including Alexey Likhachev (Rosatom), Alexander Dyukov (Gazprom Neft), Oleg Belozerov (Russian Railways), Vladimir Yevtushenkov (Sistema), and Andrey Guryev (Phosagro) will attend the event.
Meanwhile, Moscow’s position on the situation in the region was made clear by Putin. In an interview with reporters from Al Arabiya, Sky News Arabia and RT Arabic, he noted that Russia has good relations with all states of the Middle East, and therefore Moscow could play a positive role in resolving the tensions there. Putin added that Russia fosters bilateral relations based on positive trends and not on creating alliances to fight against someone.
"Both Iran and Saudi Arabia should be interested in resolving the contradictions, since neither side is ready for a military conflict. At the moment, Russia is acting as a responsible external player that is helping to defuse the situation, and to outline steps to form a security zone in the region," orientalist Roland Bidzhamov told Izvestia.
Kommersant: Indian-Chinese rapprochement plays into Moscow’s hands
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the "beginning of a new era" in relations between India and China following President Xi Jinping’s informal trip to the South Asian country. This rapprochement between Beijing and Delhi is radically changing the situation in the Indo-Pacific region, opening up new opportunities for Russian diplomacy, Kommersant wrote. According to diplomats and experts interviewed by the newspaper, now Moscow would not have to constantly make a difficult choice between two strategic partners, and the Moscow-Beijing-Delhi troika will become a determining factor in global politics.
Indian Ambassador to Moscow D. Bala Venkatesh Varma told Kommersant that the second informal meeting between the leaders of India and China was another example of India’s strong relations with leading world powers. The meeting will have a positive impact on relations within the Moscow-Beijing-Delhi trio and as far as interaction among the three countries within BRICS goes, the diplomat added.
The meeting "was held in a situation where long-standing nuisances in their relations, such as the border dispute and the Kashmir problem, are losing their previous urgency and new factors are surfacing. Militarily and economically, India is becoming an increasing power with influence extending beyond the Indian Ocean. In this regard, the old territorial disagreements are fading given the new need to find opportunities for coexistence in the large Indo-Pacific marine space", Head of the Center for Asia Pacific Studies at IMEMO RAS Alexander Lomanov told Kommersant.
"This is an encouraging trend for Russia, because now Moscow will not have to make a difficult choice between its two strategic partners - China and India. Leveling out the contradictions between the two partners of the Moscow - Beijing - Delhi triangle will make it a more efficient and capable structure, though in the long run, the emerging rapprochement between China and India may reduce the role of Moscow," the expert noted.
Kommersant: Coal dispute escalates between Russia and Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan has estimated the losses from hurdles that Russia placed on the transit of local coal to Ukraine at $11 mln per month, Kommersant wrote. The Eurasian Economic Commission has already recognized Moscow’s actions as setting up market barriers. The issue will be discussed at an intergovernmental commission of Russia and Kazakhstan at the beginning of the week. Analysts interviewed by the newspaper noted that as a compromise, Kazakh companies may be able to export more coal through Russian ports.
The Eurasian Economic Commission concluded that the actions of Russia, which practically assign quotas to the transit supply of coal from Kazakhstan to Ukraine, should be seen as an obstacle with "signs of a barrier to the functioning of the domestic market," the Ministry of Trade and Integration of Kazakhstan told Kommersant.
The Russian side acknowledged that Kazakhstan’s applications for transit to Ukraine had not been fully coordinated, but emphasized that local companies did not export even the approved volumes. "Consultations at the level of authorized Russian and Kazakh state bodies on the solution to this problem are ongoing, but they still have not brought any clear, positive results," Deputy Head of the Association of Mining and Mining and Metallurgical Enterprises of Kazakhstan Maxim Kononov told Kommersant.
Senior Director at ACRA Maxim Khudalov believes that these differences between will be resolved. "As far as I know, the regulation is far less rigid, it was impossible to import ordinary coal brands T and A. Most likely, Kazakh producers will be given more export quotas through Russian ports," the expert told the newspaper.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia's 2020 military budget to be the decade’s most modest
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement about Moscow being ready to pull out troops from Syria, on Damascus’ request, has finally clarified some of Russia’s attitudes toward the Middle East. Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that when delving into the country's financial plans in the draft budget for the next three years, things become clear, the Russian leadership does not have any plans for large-scale operations in the country. Even if the military group is not withdrawn, it is likely to undergo a significant reduction, the newspaper wrote.
According to the federal budget draft for 2020-2022, next year Russia will drastically cut back spending on national defense. When looking back at the numbers for 2019, by comparison, the figures for 2020 will make up 2.4% of the country's GDP, and by 2021 it will come to 2.7% of GDP, any by 2022 that number will reach 2.6%. In 2016, during the most active phase of the fight against the Islamic State (IS - terrorist organization, banned in Russia) in Syria, expenditures on Russia's national defense amounted to 4.7% of GDP.
Military expert, Lieutenant General Yuri Netkachev told the newspaper, "Reducing military spending and financial plans for the purchase of fuel and lubricants in the draft budget 2020-2022 may be due to the decision of the military-political leadership of the country to reduce the military group in Syria". The expert noted that lowering military spending is a "natural process." "Perhaps the geopolitical interests of Moscow are changing. This means that financial resources for them may decrease," he told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, noting that this process should not occur due to the declining standards of living of the military personnel.
Izvestia: Poland’s foreign policy under new parliament will remain unchanged
Poland’s parliamentary elections held on October 13 were predictable with the country’s conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party headed towards victory. Experts told Izvestia, the party’s social policy greatly contributed to its success. Meanwhile, the re-election of conservatives does not promise much change to the country’s foreign policy. Poland will remain a faithful ally of the United States and a traditional critic of Russia, while continuing a balance within the European Union.
A source in the Polish diplomatic sources told Izvestia that Warsaw’s relations with Brussels are unlikely to change with the re-election of PiS. Poland will not take any drastic steps that threaten EU membership, but attempts to deepen cooperation on its part should not be expected either. "Surely, the Polish authorities will continue to pursue very close ties with the United States, which are seen as a counterweight to tensions with Brussels," the source said.
However, the fact that US President Donald Trump did not come to Poland on the anniversary of the World War II, where he was expected as the main guest, turned out to be "a slap in the face to local politicians", the newspaper wrote. Warsaw was also not happy with the departure of now ex-US National Security Advisor John Bolton last month, as he was one of the main lobbyists for expanding America’s presence in Poland.
However, the traditionally cool relations between Warsaw and Moscow are unlikely to change, Izvestia wrote. It is worth noting that even an alteration in political forces in Poland would not lead to any changes. Poland has long been one of the most anti-Russian countries in Europe, regardless of the political orientation of those in power, the newspaper noted.