Izvestia: Progress on Kosovo expected at Putin-Vucic talks
Kosovo’s status is expected to dominate the upcoming talks between Russian and Serbian Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Vucic, experts and Serbian politicians questioned by Izvestia said. According to them, Putin’s visit to Belgrade on Thursday should inspire Vucic to carry out a clear and transparent policy on the self-proclaimed republic. As a whole, the Russian leader’s trip to Belgrade will enhance bilateral ties in economic, political and cultural areas, the paper writes, TASS reported.
Some 21 agreements will be signed at the meeting, in particular in energy, transport and the digital economy fields. The Serbian leader stressed that Belgrade is not planning to give up Russian gas supplies despite Western pressure. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov earlier said that during the visit, the creation of Rosatom’s nuclear center in Serbia could be agreed on.
The Russian head of state's visit will be a new step towards deepening bilateral ties, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s (upper house) Foreign Affairs Committee Vladimir Dzhabarov told the paper. "Now we don’t have many allies in Europe, and Serbia categorically refused to join the anti-Russian sanctions. Belgrade has repeatedly made it clear that it is not going to make friends with anyone against Russia. That’s why it’s vital to develop economic, political and cultural ties with this Balkan country," the senator said. "Our countries have great potential to implement joint projects."
Serbia is showing a great interest in Putin’s visit as it is anticipating Russian investment, Serbian political scientist Dragan Stanoevich told Izvestia. He expects that the talks will involve granting the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Nis diplomatic status and supplies of Russia’s S-300 missile systems.
The situation in Kosovo, which unilaterally proclaimed its independence in 2008 with the support of Western states, should dominate the talks, Serbian MP and a member of the country’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Aleksandar Seselj said. The leader of the Serbian Radical Party noted that the Kosovo issue presently is the key destabilizing factor in the Balkans and it should not take a back seat now.
"Vladimir Putin’s visit is vital for the development of the Balkan Peninsula. The European Union and the United States are seeking to end what they started back in 1999. By using various means of pressure and blackmail, the West is trying to force Belgrade to recognize Kosovo’s independence," said Seselj. "If Serbia decides to do so, we could witness a new conflict in the Balkan region."
According to the politician, given the threat to national security and stability in the Balkan region, Vucic should stop playing a double game and Belgrade and Moscow should agree on closer cooperation in economic and military areas.
Putin’s visit to Belgrade is taking place amid mass protests, which have been staged by the Alliance for Serbia, an umbrella of 10 parties and political movements, since December 8, 2018. One of major causes of discontent is Vucic’s policy on solving the Kosovo crisis, the paper says.
Most Serbs are categorically against a compromise that implies "territorial divisions" between the Serbian and Albanian populations, a researcher at the Belgrade-based Institute for European Studies Stevan Gayich said.
The Alliance for Serbia hopes that the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, which is crucial for Serbian identity, will take center stage in the talks between the two presidents, the political movement’s adviser on relations with Russia and Eurasia Mladjan Djordjevich said. "We welcome the Russian president’s visit to Serbia. Now this meeting may become of key importance in light of a looming deal on good neighborly relations between Belgrade and Pristina, which would be a violation of Serbia’s constitution and the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1244," he said.
Kommersant: Afghan talks held without government, US seeks contacts with Taliban
After the New Year, Washington resumed efforts to enter into talks with the Taliban, Kommersant writes. Relaunching the peace process in Afghanistan with US mediation is a major goal of the ongoing tour by US State Department Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
Meanwhile, Russia, which also wants to have a mediator’s role, has lambasted Washington’s Afghan policy. The Russian Foreign Ministry recalled the failures of the 17-year-old Afghan campaign by the United States and warned that the US special services were plotting to plant a series of bogus stories in the media aimed at discrediting Russia’s policy in Afghanistan.
Khalilzad’s diplomatic marathon kicked off on Tuesday and will last until January 21. His tour will also include visits to India, the United Arab Emirates, China and Pakistan, which will have an important role in the situation in Afghanistan and its political system once the US military contingent pulls out, as declared by US President Donald Trump.
The US delegation’s visit is taking place amid the Taliban's stepped-up activities. The organization is showing its growing force by increasing attacks on Afghan security forces in Kabul and the country's northern provinces.
The US diplomat needs to make a breakthrough before the presidential election in Afghanistan, which is scheduled for July 20, the paper says. Meanwhile, the Taliban, which is calling to boycott the election, is refusing to see official Afghan representatives at the negotiating table and has taken a tougher stance on other issues, taking advantage of its growing influence in the country.
The start of the US delegation’s visit to the region coincided with a surprise cancellation of the fourth round of talks between the Taliban and US diplomats. The negotiations were cancelled at the last minute over conflicting stances on Kabul's participation and also on terms for a possible truce and POW swap, the paper says.
Representatives of the Afghan leadership had not been allowed to take part in the three previous rounds of talks, which Khalilzad earlier held, and there are more leaks in regional media about secret agreements, which US diplomats may try to reach with the Taliban. According to one theory, Washington may offer the Taliban to amend the constitution and change Afghanistan’s political system.
However, a leading expert at the Center of Contemporary Afghanistan Studies, Andrey Serenko, says that the US talks with the Taliban without Kabul are possible, but will lead to escalation rather than reconciliation. A part of the Afghan political class is cautious about the US talks with the Taliban and even views it as treason, he explained.
Izvestia: Will Japan’s national defense program threaten Russia?
Tokyo’s new national defense program, adopted in December 2018, became a historic document de facto ending its post-war pacifist period of development, Izvestia writes.
The National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) and the Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP), passed by the Japanese parliament, are crucial for Japan's military planning and outline both an international strategy in this direction and also plans on weapons purchases. Although the adoption of the new MTDP was inevitable, since it expired in late 2018, updating the NDPG was not necessary, the paper writes. However, given Japan’s changing security situation and new priorities here, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced last January that it would be also renewed.
The major change is that Japan’s fleet will again start building aircraft carriers, the paper says. To be more exact, Japan will modify its two Izumo-class helicopter carriers to support F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters for multi-purpose operation destroyers. Actually, Tokyo became the second-largest buyer of the US new fighter jets after the US itself, the paper says.
For a long time, due to political reasons, it was unacceptable for Japan to create effective strike aviation. That being said, Japanese politicians have invented sophisticated scenarios, including the need for self-defense against North Korean missiles. Tokyo is also discussing the creation of its own cruise missiles, which may be installed on ships.
Japan’s remilitarization can only alarm its neighbors, first of all China, which believes that Tokyo and Washington are planning to ally against it.
Measures like Japan creating its own aircraft carrier fleet should not concern Russia due to geographic reasons, in particular the Hokkaido Island, which is close to its territory, Izvestia says. But certainly Japan’s modernization of its combat aviation and fleet, and giving them new strike possibilities are a challenge for Russia. Russia’s retaliatory measures are clear and include beefing up air defense systems, deploying anti-ship missile systems and upgrading the Pacific Fleet and the Aerospace Forces.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Pentagon alarmed at China’s growing military might
The Pentagon’s intelligence agency published a report claiming that China is catching up with its rivals in armaments, and has even outpaced them in some aspects, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. For example, its ballistic anti-ship missile may sink a US aircraft carrier. The risk of a standoff is mainly linked to Taiwan, where if the Chinese military launched an operation to bring the island back home, it would be hard for Washington to stay on the sidelines since it is obliged to help Taiwan strengthen its defenses.
According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, Beijing has been conducting a huge effort to develop new types of weapons taking advantage of the laws obliging foreign partners to share their technical secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
Thanks to obtaining such technology, China is occupying leading positions in a number of areas and therefore the People’s Liberation Army is "on the verge of getting some of the most modern weapons systems in the world," including in the air, at sea, in space and throughout cyber space, the report said. This will enable Beijing to impose its will in the region, the paper says.
Vladimir Portyakov, a chief researcher at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that over the past 40 years, China has achieved great success in the military and science fields, and there are no doubts that some military developments are at an international level.
Meanwhile, the goal of Americans is to counter and contain China. Beijing along with Moscow has been included in the list of major US foes and Pentagon analysts want to prove that it is morphing a real threat for the US, the expert noted.
According to the expert, China’s creation of anti-ship missiles should not be directly linked to Taiwan. "This connection is artificial. The US just seeks to justify its policy by blowing the threat of a Chinese attack on Taiwan out of proportion," he said.
Vedomosti: Rosneft’s major asset beats oil output record
Rosneft’s Yuganskneftegaz, formerly owned by the now-defunct Yukos oil company, set a new record in 2018, producing 70.2 mln tonnes of liquid hydrocarbons, a 5.6% growth year-on-year, Vedomosti writes citing a Rosneft representative.
Rosneft, like other Russian companies, needed to fulfill its commitments under the OPEC+ output reduction deal. However, the company decided against cutting production at Yuganskneftegaz and instead reduced output at its other projects, which are old and geologically challenging, a representative of a major geological institute and a geologist of a large oil and gas company told the paper.
Production at Yuganskneftegaz has reached its height and in the few years ahead, it is expected to remain at the level of 70 mln tonnes of oil per year, ATON analyst Alexander Kornilov said. This will be possible thanks to using new technologies aimed at increasing output.
Yuganskneftegaz will remain one of Rosneft’s key production assets for a long time, says Dmitry Marinchenko, Director at Fitch Ratings. However, most its deposits are drained and a significant part of reserves are hard to be extracted. "The dynamics of production at this deposit will depend on the oil price, the tax regime and accessibility of technologies. The latter is inevitably related to Western sanctions - in a couple of years they will exert influence on potential production in the region," he said.