Leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) member-states have reached an agreement on a common oil and gas market. That will make it possible to secure a $9 mln increase in the GDP of the five countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in St. Petersburg. He also called for the union’s greater economic sovereignty and pointed to the need to reduce dependence on the US dollar and other foreign currencies, Izvestia writes.
The event was abundant in issues on the agenda and packed with emotions, thanks to Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko who publicly argued with Putin about gas prices and later apologized. Lukashenko told reporters later in the day that he would meet with his Russian counterpart before the end of this year to discuss some economic issues. The Kremlin confirmed that work to prepare these bilateral negotiations was in progress. Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov informed Izvestia that the meeting would be held in December in Russia.
Chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission Board Tigran Sargsyan hailed the year of Russia’s EAEU presidency as "productive in all respects."
"The first digital initiatives have been launched, including a project on labeling and traceability of tobacco and tobacco products. A total of 46 technical regulations, which ensure the safety and quality of products, have been approved," he told the paper.
According to Sargsyan, 2018 was a fruitful year in terms of expanding international ties. The EAEU’s foreign trade with third countries grew 21.4% to reach $548.4 bln from January to September. The Eurasian Economic Commission signed memos of cooperation with ASEAN, Thailand’s government and expects to sign a similar memorandum with MERCOSUR, South America’s trade bloc, he explained.
Hot in the heels of threats to tighten anti-Russian sanctions over the arrest of the Ukrainian sailors who breached Russia’s state border in the Kerch Strait, the United States continues to whip up tensions around the INF accord, claiming that Russia is failing to comply with it. The US is now planning to flex its muscles near Russia’s borders, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
According to media reports, Washington is ready to dispatch its naval ships to the Black Sea. Some experts do not rule out that the US Navy will soon set their designs on controlling the sea lanes leading to the Sea of Azov.
"The US supports Kiev in that Crimea is part of Ukraine, while the passage of the Sea of Azov, in its view, is not connected with Russia’s territorial waters," military expert, Lieutenant-General Yuri Netkachev, told the paper.
"At a time when many countries condemned Moscow’s arrest of the Ukrainian warships, the US is beginning an information crusade and real actions in close proximity to Russia’s borders in order to show Russia in a more unfavorable light, thereby prompting new sanctions against it," the expert stressed.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry is anticipating vigorous activity by NATO in the Black Sea and in the Far East and also in the Arctic Region. According to Northern Fleet Commander, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, "in the near future, we should expect increased US and NATO military presence in the Arctic Region, and, as a result, mounting conflict potential."
The flurry of US activity close to Russia’s borders stems primarily from Washington’s goal to protect its economic and hydrocarbon interests around the world, Colonel Eduard Rodyukov, a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Military Sciences, explained to Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Russia is an obstacle to that," he said, adding that Washington, in particular, is eyeing various actions to stop the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted for a Russian resolution on states’ code of conduct on the Internet. The document is not legally binding. However, it creates conditions for drafting an international information security convention. Russia has sought the adoption of such an initiative since 1998, Kommersant writes.
"Our resolution contains two fundamentally important elements. Firstly, these are the initial rules and regulations for states’ responsible conduct in the information space based on the recommendations provided by a UN group of government experts. Secondly, it calls on the General Assembly to set up an open-ended working group on international information security in 2019," Andrei Krutskikh, Russian Presidential Envoy for International Cooperation in Information Security, explained to the paper.
The Russia-initiated resolution calls on countries to adhere to 13 principles, which imply the use of cyberspace for exclusively peaceful purposes.
The working group is expected to discuss these principles and, possibly, draw up a draft of a legally binding UN convention on their basis. Any country will be able to join that effort, and the group should make decisions by consensus. According to Moscow, the proposed mechanism should replace the group of UN government experts established in 2004 based on Russia’s initiative.
Washington and its allies seek to restore the previous mechanism, so they voted against Moscow’s initiative. The US resolution will be submitted to the UN General Assembly by the end of this month. Russia will not back it, but it is likely to be approved by a majority vote, since most countries prefer not to quarrel with either Moscow or Washington.
Meanwhile, the approval of two competing resolutions and the creation of two mechanisms will only deepen the global community’s division on issues related to cybersecurity and put off the development of the generally accepted code of conduct for countries in that sphere.
Athens want to act as a mediator in relations between Moscow and Brussels and is in favor of Russia’s return to the pan-European security system, Greek Alternate Foreign Minister, Giorgos Katrougalos, told Izvestia ahead of the upcoming visit by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Moscow.
"We believe it is counterproductive to impose economic restrictions to resolve political contradictions between Brussels and Moscow. We are confident that the most effective approach towards resolving contradictions is political dialogue in compliance with the rules of international law. One of our key objectives is to reintegrate Russia into the pan-European security system through political dialogue," he stressed.
When asked to comment on the current state of relations between Russia and Greece marred by this past summer’s expulsion of Russian diplomats and Moscow tit-for-tat moves, Katrougalos said, "We see this incident, which occurred in the summer as an isolated occurrence, which is unrelated to the overall development of relations. We respect other countries’ sovereignty and expect our partners to behave in a similar way with regard to Greece. After this message was heeded in Moscow, we can again return to general cooperation and deliberate on how we can improve our relations, which are wonderful in any case."
The official also highlighted the importance of TurkStream and other energy projects for his country. "Indeed, Russia provides 43% of our country’s gas needs. Greece is currently recovering from a deep economic crisis. We have already reached a growth rate of about 2%. One of the comparative advantages of the new economic model is turning Greece into an energy hub. Therefore, both TurkStream and other energy projects in the Caspian Sea area and the Middle East are important for us," he explained.
Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) will kick off its convention in Hamburg on Friday. The delegates will elect the party’s new leader. Angela Merkel earlier said she would not run for the post of CDU chairperson and would step down as German Chancellor in 2021.
The frontrunners in the race are CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, former Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary faction Friedrich Merz and Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn, Vedomosti writes.
According to a survey conducted by ARD-Deutschlandtrend, Kramp-Karrenbauer backed by 39% of those polled is the most popular candidate right now. Many consider her to be Merkel’s ‘replica’ in terms of her career and political views. However, she adheres to a more conservative stance and is a proponent of a harsher approach to relations with Russia. In one of her recent interviews, she suggested closing Germany’s ports to Russian ships that are sailing from the Sea of Azov because of the Kerch Strait incident.
According to Vladislav Belov, head of the Center for German Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, all candidates realize that changes are required, so their programs resemble each other. He noted though that it is Merz, who can give the party a fresh impetus. "As for relations with Merkel, Merz will certainly support the incumbent chancellor until the end of her tenure. As for Merkel, she is not accustomed to working amid a constant search for a compromise," the paper quotes him as saying.
He pointed out that as far as Russia is concerned, Moscow should take into consideration that all three candidates hold an anti-Russian stance, the expert added. "However, this is not something entirely new either. All chancellors begin with a chill in relations with Russia, but then the situation may improve," he noted.
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