Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, October 18, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Gorbachev urges dialogue between Russia, US to prevent nuclear war
The Soviet Union’s first and last president Mikhail Gorbachev has warned about today’s two most dangerous trends - neglecting international law and militarizing global politics. In an interview with Izvestia ahead of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, the symbol of the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, Gorbachev stressed that any disputes or conflicts between countries should be solved peacefully. "We should sit down at the negotiating table and come to terms. But what is the reality? Ultimatums, interference and military interventions. All this is bypassing the United Nations, and agreements and international mechanisms are coming apart at the seams. The US, in particular, is to blame for this due to its leading role and setting a bad example for others."
As a result of this policy, the cult of force, threats and weapons has been revived, the former Soviet leader noted. "Certainly, the experience of the past tells us that we cannot neglect defense and we need to keep it at a due level. But the world has faced such problems, for which military force and the language of threats are the worst choice." In this context, Gorbachev notes the example of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty). "They enjoyed criticizing it at various levels, but the US president announced the withdrawal from the treaty and it suddenly turned out that this deal was the most important strategic security pillar."
"Talks are needed to make sure that its demise would not exacerbate any threat of war. President Vladimir Putin has suggested a moratorium on deploying these missiles. This could be the first step. But I repeat that talks have to be held, namely between Russia and the United States," the veteran politician emphasized.
Gorbachev, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, stressed that nuclear war is unacceptable. "Only a madman could start it. Even during obligatory trainings for the head of state, I did not press the button. But while nuclear weapons exist, nothing can be ruled out. A coincidence, a technical failure or maybe a human mistake - who knows what could happen…"
The former Soviet president said he had written a letter to other Nobel Prize laureates and they called on global leaders to back a thesis that nuclear war is unacceptable and resume talks on cutting and eliminating nuclear arsenals. Some time ago, Gorbachev also sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron. According to the politician, he does not seek to impose his advice on world leaders, and he appeals to them only in certain cases, sending short letters. "Sometimes, I find out that my ideas resonate in leaders’ words and actions."
Kommersant: Ankara, US declare themselves ‘winners’ as Turkey agrees to ceasefire
Ankara has agreed to halt combat operations in Syria for five days starting from midnight on October 18 as announced after talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the US delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence. Turkey’s major condition is withdrawing the Kurdish units from the Turkish-Syrian border and surrendering their hardware. Only after this, will Turkey be ready to declare an end to its Operation Peace Spring. Meanwhile, Ankara, Washington and the Kurds have hailed their success, Kommersant writes.
After talks, US President Donald Trump voiced his readiness to lift economic sanctions on Ankara as soon as the ceasefire was established. The US leader admitted that this deal could never have been made three days ago. "There needed to be some "tough" love in order to get it done," he tweeted, hinting that Ankara had agreed to make a compromise as a result of US pressure.
However, Turkey believes it is the one who benefits from the deal. "We have achieved our goal," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, stressing that the US had accepted Ankara’s terms. The top diplomat reported that Ankara and Washington had clinched a deal that the Kurds would surrender their equipment, and their positions and fortifications would be destroyed. This was the ultimate goal of the Turkish operation launched on October 9, he emphasized, also noting that the Turkish forces would still remain in Syria.
Erdogan’s foreign minister also highlighted the need for holding dialogue with Russia given that during the Turkish operation in northern Syria some areas abandoned by the US shifted to Damascus’ control in an effort conducted jointly with the Russian military.
It’s noteworthy that the talks with the US delegation in Ankara came after a visit there by Russia’s Special Presidential Representative for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, which focused on the Turkish operation, the paper writes. The Russian military has been holding talks with its Turkish partners in northeast Syria throughout the week.
The Russian Foreign Ministry later announced that the sides had confirmed that achieving long-term stabilization on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, in Syria and in the region in general was possible only based on restoring Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukrainian MPs seek to impose their Donbass solution
Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, wants to get the upper hand in the settlement in Donbass. Thirty-five MPs from various factions have registered a draft regulation on creating a temporary special parliamentary commission on the issues of restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity and ensuring its sovereignty, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
The lawmakers seek to establish parliamentary control over adopting vital decisions and carrying out steps in restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity as well as to control and supervise the presidential team’s activity on the issues related to ending the war in Donbass, and on Crimea and Sevastopol.
The idea for introducing parliamentary control emerged after the nationalist-led "No to Capitulation!" rallies this month had erupted, where activists protested the implementation of the Steinmeier Formula, certain points of the Minsk peace deal and the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Petrovskoye and Zolotoye. The commission is expected to work for nearly a year, and during this period the administration in Kiev is planning to make decisions on ironing out the Donbass conflict. President Vladimir Zelensky’s opponents fear that some decisions could be passed violating Ukraine’s national interests. They say the key, major risk is that the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics could gain legitimacy in return for ending the war.
Co-director for Foreign Policy and International Security Programs at the Razumkov Center Alexei Melnik believes that the proposed summit between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France won’t be productive at all. Speaking in an interview with Ukrainian Radio, the expert noted: "There is such an impression that the new Ukrainian administration is convinced that it could take some steps [on the settlement] that the previous team had been unable to do."
According to him, Russia will insist on holding direct talks between Kiev and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Should Zelensky raise the issue of Crimea at these talks, Putin would definitely leave the table. Against this background, no quick and easy solutions are in the cards, he explained.
Izvestia: Stepping in the same deal twice: House of Commons unlikely to back Brexit deal
A new Brexit agreement reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union is likely to be rejected by the British parliament and this means that the risk of a failed exit could again top the agenda, experts interviewed by Izvestia said. Just two weeks before the looming "divorce," European leaders managed to agree on the controversial issue of the British-Irish border and endorsed a modified version of the deal. However, this compromise does not satisfy most British political parties and most importantly Ulster, which will be surrounded by borders from two sides under the agreement. The 64-page document stipulates that Northern Ireland will remain part of the single EU market of goods and will get a special status with the EU. However, a control for goods will be introduced coming from the rest of the UK to Ulster and there won’t be any infrastructure on its border with the Republic of Ireland. Actually, Northern Ireland will become a buffer economic zone between the EU and the United Kingdom.
"The idea is that the regime in Northern Ireland should differ from the rest of the United Kingdom," said Yelena Ananyeva, the Head of the British Studies Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe. "After the deal’s terms were published, some hurdles emerged with other political movements. That’s why even though Brussels and London gave the green light to the deal, it is still unknown whether it will be passed by the British parliament."
The administration of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made great concessions, which turned out to be the only possible option, Nikolay Kaveshnikov, Head of the Department of European Integration Studies at MGIMO University, told the paper. However, the expert raised doubts over the prospects that the deal could be endorsed by the House of Commons, given that the British parliament is split into many groups on the Brexit issue.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which wants Ulster to remain part of the United Kingdom, will play a crucial role in the vote, the paper writes.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Turf war for world’s grain market gains momentum
Russia’s agricultural watchdog is expected to tackle the temporarily suspended Russian wheat supply issue with Vietnamese state agencies in the coming weeks. The watchdog earlier received an official letter from Vietnam requesting it to halt issuing phytosanitary certificates for wheat exporters.
Although Russia’ agricultural watchdog insists that additional checks are a normal practice for importers, analysts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the struggle for a "place in the sun" was gaining steam on the global grain market. The recent success of Russian farmers rang alarm bells among other producers. The US is seriously discussing the so-called Russian threat to local farmers. Meanwhile, Moscow is trying to strengthen its positions, offering to set up a "grain OPEC."
Analysts noted that Vietnam had earlier hurled complaints against other wheat exporters. Other experts say that Russia had also faced problems with wheat supplies to Egypt and Iraq. Global practice shows that a non-tariff settlement, when barriers are created based on phytosanitary norms, sometimes turns into a tool of pressure on suppliers, or it reshapes the market.
While Russian officials have recently hailed the success of domestic farmers, who have been boosting their exports, suppliers from other countries estimated their potential losses due to Russian "expansion" on the food market.
"The global grain market is a sector that sees constant rivalry in terms of the volume of supplies and quality. In recent years, Russia has been boosting its potential on the global grain market by exploring new promising directions, in particular to Southeast Asia. This can only alarm leading global grain suppliers," said Director of the Research Institute for Food Security at the Russian Economic University Mikhail Ananyev.
According to Natalya Shagaida, an assistant professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow has been dominating foreign market of late and this certainly affects other exporters. However, Russia’s exports are unlikely to threaten US farmers, she noted. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization predict that by 2028, US wheat production is unlikely to see a significant growth and its exports are even expected to dwindle.