Press review: New START’s pre-election odds and opposition’s bid to crash Belarus economy / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: New START’s pre-election odds and opposition’s bid to crash Belarus economy

Press review: New START’s pre-election odds and opposition’s bid to crash Belarus economy

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, October 6, prepared by TASS

Izvestia: Last New START talks held before US presidential race

Russia-US consultations on nuclear stability, namely on the New START deal, have ended in Finland. This time there was little clarity, as always, Izvestia writes. In the meantime, it seems these were the last talks before the US presidential election set for November 3. Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that this event will decide the future of Russian-American arms control.

Moscow and Washington view the treaty’s future differently. The Russian side focuses on extending the agreement for a maximum period of five years without preconditions, in order to hammer out a new multilateral deal. "The logic is as follows: we [the United States] can do without an agreement, and either you fulfill our conditions, or we will not renew the pact. From this point of view, no renewal would be fine for the US," PIR Center consultant Andrey Baklitsky told Izvestia.

According to experts, Russia would be ready to extend the deal even for a shorter period. Moscow is also not opposed to a multilateral agreement - it supports including two other nuclear powers, the United Kingdom and France.

Although this meeting is important, the decisive factor that will determine the fate of New START will be the US presidential race, Hudson Institute Senior Fellow and Valdai Club expert Richard Weitz told Izvestia.

The current consultations are likely to be the last before the US presidential election on November 3. After that there are two scenarios that lie ahead: the Republican one and the Democrat one. According to Weitz, if Donald Trump is re-elected, the future of the pact is less certain. He could allow the agreement to expire in an attempt to create a new treaty that would include other provisions, which would take years of negotiations. The Democrat option sounds more promising. Joe Biden has already announced his intention to extend New START in order to work on new agreements in this area.

Izvestia: Russia calls on warring parties in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to end violence

An appeal by the OSCE Minsk Group chairs to start peace negotiations without preconditions has not yet been heard either in Baku or in Yerevan. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have put forward their own versions of how the conflict can be resolved. Yerevan does not see a solution to the Karabakh clash without the intervention of a third party, Vice President of the National Assembly of Armenia Alen Simonyan told Izvestia. According to him, the main goal is that Baku must stop the hostilities, which requires another country’s mediation. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan continues to believe in a military solution to the conflict.

However, Russia does not agree with this position. Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Konstantin Kosachev told Izvestia that there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and it can only be settled by political means.

"Peacekeeping will be necessary and effective only if all parties to the conflict are interested in it. Until that happens, I am afraid that such an operation will not have a chance, since each side will perceive it not as peacekeeping, but as strengthening the position of the other party," he explained.

Vice Speaker Simonyan of the Armenian Parliament told Izvestia that at this stage it would not be possible to resolve the conflict without the mediation of a third party, since Baku still claims that it would continue to resolve the issue using military means.

Meanwhile, Deputy of the Azerbaijani Mejlis (parliament) Sabir Hajiyev explained to the newspaper that from Baku’s stance, in order to start the negotiation process, guarantees are needed that the OSCE Minsk Group will demand that Yerevan comply with the Bishkek Protocol. "The international community should stand firm asking why Armenia does not carry out the de-occupation of the territories. If they require peace negotiations, they must give specific proposals on the territories," the lawmaker insisted.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Peaceful protests inflicting serious harm to Belarusian economy

President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has threatened to damage the economies of the Baltic states, after they had imposed sanctions against him and other Belarusian officials. Following the plans to transfer sea transit to Russia, he had an idea to "seize" logistics from the Baltic countries. Meanwhile, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the Belarusians themselves have opened an internal economic front, which can cause serious damage to the local economy.

The recent statements by the Belarusian leadership on the topic of retaliatory measures continue the trend towards an economic war and a diplomatic confrontation with its neighbors, who announced that they did not recognize Lukashenko as the legitimately elected president and introduced personal sanctions against a number of Belarusian officials, the newspaper writes.

Such measures could hurt the Belarusian economy. However, economic expediency is the last thing that Lukashenko is taking into account at the moment, the newspaper writes. His main objective is to hold on to power at any cost. The expert community unanimously agrees that Lukashenko is maintaining his grip on power only thanks to the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The major thorn in the side of Lukashenko's legitimacy is the incessant protests. In addition, experts consider the economic boycott by the population to be another serious blow to the authorities. The withdrawal of bank deposits and the boycott of companies linked to the authorities are the main components of the economic protest of Belarusians. In August alone, the population withdrew an equivalent of about $1 bln from banks. Experts have no doubt that this trend continued in September and legislation is the only thing that stops more active withdrawals from the banking system. There are about $10 bln in the accounts of Belarusians now, and they can bring down the banking system simply by pulling them out all at once.

Kommersant: European business still interested in Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a meeting with members of European business community working in Russia. In terms of politics, the minister noted that nothing good can be said about Russian-European relations. But the meeting itself, as businessmen hope, testifies to the continued mutual interest. They asked for a court decision in the Baring Vostok case and that highly qualified foreign specialists could enter Russia, Kommersant writes. The top diplomat did not promise anything.

The Association of European Businesses (AEB) is the largest umbrella group of foreign entrepreneurs working in Russia, with around 500 companies. The minister, apparently, considered it his duty during the two-hour meeting not only to convince them to continue working in Russia but also to clarify Moscow's position on the widest range of issues in world politics, the newspaper wrote.

At the beginning of the meeting, the participants talked about the pandemic, although, judging by the opinion of the members of the association, coronavirus is not the main obstacle to doing business in Russia. Nevertheless, the entrepreneurs are still interested in the Russian market, given its coverage, "high potential" and "positive development." Chair of the AEB Board Johan Vanderplaetse and President of Schneider Electric in Russia and the CIS asked for a court decision on the Baring Vostok case before Christmas. And as for global issues, both Lavrov and his audience were interested in the crisis in Russian-European relations.

Vanderplaetse told Kommersant that the situation is very difficult. 2020 started off well both for business and for relations between the European Union and Russia, and then the pandemic hit. However, the association believes that dialogue is more important than ever and sees itself as a bridge between Russia and the European Union, he added. The expert believes that it is probably more pragmatic to find individual industries for cooperation - such as digitalization and combating climate change.

Vedomosti: Russia could launch 5G networks in five years, doubling down on localization

Russia will finance the development of domestic equipment for 5G networks to the tune of 21.4 bln rubles ($273.9 mln) until 2024, this issue was discussed at a meeting of the government commission on digital development at the end of September, two people close to the government and a person close to a large television company told Vedomosti. The money will be sent directly to the state corporation Rostec, responsible for developing domestic equipment for 5G networks, a person familiar with the decision told the newspaper. According to experts, these funds, however, could not be enough to speed up the introduction of 5G networks.

Taking into account extra-budgetary funding sources, the budget for all activities under the 5G development roadmap would reach 42.9 bln rubles ($549.07 mln), once approved, a representative of Rostec confirmed.

Equipment for 5G can be considered domestic if production localization reaches 40% or more, a source in the government told Vedomosti. This figure is quite realistic, a person close to one of the world's largest telecom equipment vendors said, however, it is not clear how these percentages will be calculated.

Localizing production of equipment for 5G was raised back during SPIEF 2019, but little has changed after a year and a half, CEO of TelecomDaily Denis Kuskov told Vedomosti. Even with such subsidies, Rostec would not fully cope with import substitution in this area, he said.

In any case, 5G networks could be launched in Russia in at least five years, Kuskov added. Operators are forced to wait for domestic equipment until at least 2023, and if they build anything now, they would use imported equipment and will not change it to domestic in three years. This and the fact that the frequencies have not yet been allocated for 5G, Russia could have the networks when 6G test zones already appear in some other countries, Kuskov noted.

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