On Thursday, July 12, a two-day meeting by the leaders of the 29 members in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ended in Brussels. NATO's financing and its potential expansion, possibly taking on board former Soviet republics, and the bloc's policy towards Russia were the main topics of the Brussels meeting. According to Russian media, American President Donald Trump was the star of the show, largely due to unexpected talks about a possible US withdrawal from the bloc and castigating members for not contributing enough to defense spending.
According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Trump's uncompromising demands about other countries’ spending on the military bloc became the main topic of discussion. Thus, the White House occupant not only told his allies to immediately fulfill the already agreed on financial conditions, but also actually increase the price of their membership by 50%, while threatening to leave the alliance. According to RBC, only eight countries are currently implementing agreements from 2014 and spend 2% of their GDP on defense. At the same time, US outlays on the alliance surpasses others, making up 3.58% of GDP.
Experts told RBC before the meeting they feared that Trump would not sign the final document. Nevertheless, on the first day of the summit he signed the final communique confirming the commitment by most members of the alliance to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense.
According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Trump has leverage over European leaders. "There are reports that he is reviewing the expediency of US military bases in Germany," Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine and Chairman of Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy Fyodor Lukyanov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "This is certainly a way of influencing the situation, because it causes jitters in European countries, especially in Western Europe. In addition, the US administration uses the fact that it has faithful Eastern European like-minded people who support its approach from within the alliance and the EU," the expert added.
According to Kommersant, as for NATO allies in Eastern Europe, Presidents of Ukraine and Georgia Pyotr Poroshenko and Giorgi Margvelashvili were praised at the meeting in the Ukraine-Georgia-NATO format for their reforms that "brought them closer to NATO." However, according to the newspaper, no specific timeframe was given for the countries to join the alliance. A high-ranking source in the alliance told Kommersant that Kiev faces two challenges - the conflict in Donbass and the need for "immediate reforms," and on both points NATO is supporting Kiev.
At the same time, two sources in the North Atlantic alliance told Izvestia, despite NATO's statements, Ukraine's accession to the alliance will not be considered until the conflict in the Donbass is fully resolved. According to the former Prime Minister of Ukraine Nikolai Azarov, the country's entry into NATO will not be considered for at least 10 years. In his opinion, there are many reasons for it - for example, corruption among Kiev's authorities and the Donbass conflict. "Unlike Georgia, which, with the exception of unresolved territorial problems, practically meets the requirements for NATO candidacy, Ukraine is far from that," another source in NATO diplomatic circles told Izvestia.
The upcoming Russian-American summit scheduled for July 16 in Helsinki gave particular importance to the discussions about Russia and relations of individual NATO members with Moscow. According to Izvestia, the NATO summit abstained from any unexpected statements about Russia. This could have been primarily influenced by the United States, which did not want to aggravate relations between the two countries on the eve of the meeting between the two presidents, the newspaper wrote.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak as his special representative for the development of trade and economic relations with Moldova. Sources told Kommersant that he would oversee the issue of Transnistria. However, he will not be a co-chairman of the Russian-Moldovan Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation. Another Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Gordeyev is expected to take this position.
Sources in the government told Kommersant that Kozak would accept the "Moldovan dossier" in full from Dmitry Rogozin and will not only deal with relations with Chisinau, but he will also supervise the Transnistria issue.
"Transnistria is part of Moldova, and Russia recognizes it. Kozak would oversee the region as a special representative for Moldova in general," a government official told the newspaper.
According to Kommersant, Kishinev expects Kozak to make real progress in uneasy relations with Moscow. Moldovan issues are familiar to Kozak, but rather from bad experience. In 2003, the Moldovan authorities refused to sign a settlement plan on the Transnistrian conflict, hammered out by Kozak at their request.
According to the newspaper’s source close to the government, Kozak's appointment is logical. "He has extensive experience working with the regions, obtained in the previous government." According to the source, in the near future a meeting will be held between Kozak and Rogozin, where the latter will hand over his responsibilities.
Most of the Russian visas issued to Europeans offer a single entry into the country, which means they need to obtain a new visa every time they travel to Russia, a source in EU diplomatic circles told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. In contrast, over 80% of Russians receive multiple-entry Schengen visas from the European Union. This difference has already become the subject of negotiations between Moscow and Brussels, who is concerned about such bias regarding their tourists, the newspaper wrote. Only Russian citizens born in Crimea face problems even if they moved to Russia long before 2014.
According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, EU citizens who want to travel to Russia are in a less favorable position than Russians traveling to Europe. A high-ranking source in diplomatic circles told the newspaper that according to their statistics only 21% of visas issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry have multiple entries.
At the same time, the press service of the EU mission in Russia told the newspaper, that in 2017, Russians received almost 3.9 million applications for a visa, and 3.8 million were approved. "Visas were denied only in 1.4% of cases. This is one of the lowest figures in the world. It is important to note that almost 84% of the total number of visas issued in Russia have multiple entries. This is 4% higher than in 2016, and the highest rate among all countries," according to the press service.
"A stereotype from Soviet times - that a foreigner brings not only money, but a threat - is stronger in Russia than the desire to attract guests," First Vice-President of the Center for Political Technologies Alexey Makarkin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. On the contrary, European countries are guided by the economic benefits from numerous tourists, the expert explained.
In order to increase the amount of non-resource exports from $140 bln to $250 bln over the next six years, the government was asked to update almost all approved programs to support exports of goods and services. The Ministry of Industry and Trade prepared a consolidated list of measures within the new national project. According to Kommersant, an expansion of operating directives through programs to support exports of services, logistics and regional measures was proposed. In total, 1.98 trillion rubles ($31.8 bln) have been requested for the implementation of old and new measures up to 2024.
According to Kommersant, four programs to support non-resource exports were approved earlier - the priority project "International Cooperation and Export" on systemic measures to support exports in industry and in the agro-industrial complex, and to develop the export potential of the Russian education system. Now, the programs will be supplemented with federal projects called "The logistics of international trade", "The export of services", and "the regional export programs".
Because of the implementation of these projects, the volume of non-resource exports should grow from $140 bln in 2017 to $250 bln in 2024. In total, 1.98 trillion rubles ($31.8 bln) were requested for the implementation of the new measures in 2018-2024. More subsidies for the national project can be seen in 2019 - 284 bln rubles ($4.56 bln) against 52 bln rubles ($835.75 mln) in 2018, Kommersant wrote.
Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media plans to submit a project to the government before March 1, 2019 for creating standard state IT services, which will operate on the so-called cloud model - SaaS (software as a service). According to Vedomosti, the Ministry also has to deal with tariffs for these services and make a list of priority model systems.
SaaS assumes that the customer remotely rents a ready-made service from a provider and does not have to pay for its physical infrastructure: for instance, the servers needed for the operation of the software that otherwise would have to be purchased and installed independently. This helps save on the cost of the IT project, Vedomosti wrote.
The ministry plans to keep records of such standard services in a special fund of algorithms and programs. One of its goals is budget saving on IT projects. The fund will be replenished at the expense of solutions, which will be ordered by various departments, a source familiar with relevant federal officials told Vedomosti. The fund will keep records, and other agencies will be able to reuse this innovation. According to the source, tens of billions of rubles might be required to develop the cloud service.
This is a much more stringent initiative than the register of domestic software, that is, banning free purchases of foreign software if domestic counterparts exist in the ministry’s register, Director of the Competence Center for Import Substitution in the ICT Sector Ilya Massukh told the newspaper. However, its efficiency leaves much to be desired, he said.
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