Washington is obstinately seeking to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The White House is mulling new sanctions in order to deprive Maduro of the revenues that allow him to stay in power. Experts say that the new punitive measures against Venezuela may affect all individuals and companies regardless of their nationality, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.
According to Program Director at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Ivan Timofeyev, the restrictive measures announced by White House National Security Adviser John Bolton will not only apply to US citizens and companies doing business with Venezuelan enterprises but it will also be universal. "The United States will use its national legislation against the Europeans, the Chinese, the Russians and everyone else, regardless of their nationality, if their banks and companies have transactions with any blacklisted Venezuelan individuals and entities," the expert told the newspaper.
Timofeyev added that those restrictions were fraught with great risks for big companies. "Just imagine if you are a big company with branches in the US and cannot leave the American market, you will have to fulfill the US Treasury Department’s demands concerning Venezuela. The cases of Iran, Cuba, Burma, Sudan and other countries have already made it clear," he explained.
"The Maduro government is still resilient to a certain extent but its resilience is slowly fading in the wake of the economic sanctions, as well as domestic and foreign pressure," Academic Secretary of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Latin American Studies Dmitry Rozental pointed out. In his view, pressure on Maduro will persist and even increase. "However, the country’s law enforcement agencies are still under Maduro’s control. There is indeed some ferment among the military and the number of defectors has been growing but for the most part, the military continues to demonstrate loyalty to Maduro. This is why I would refrain from drawing hasty conclusions," the expert emphasized.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that the country’s High Commissioner to India, Sohail Mahmood, would return to New Delhi after completing consultations in Islamabad. In addition, a Pakistani delegation will visit India on March 14, followed by an Indian delegation’s visit to Pakistan on March 24. The parties will discuss the Kartarpur Corridor intended to allow Sikh pilgrims to visit holy sites on both sides of the border. Islamabad also reaffirmed its commitment to continuous contacts between their militaries, Vedomosti wrote.
According to Alexey Kupriyanov, an expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, this news, which was confirmed by India, marks the end of the recent crisis between the two South Asian nuclear powers.
Tensions between both countries escalated on February 14, after a suicide attacker from the Jaish-e-Mohammed group had rammed a car full of explosives into an Indian paramilitary convoy in Jammu and Kashmir, killing 45. In response, on February 26, the Indian Air Force carried out airstrikes on three Islamist camps in Pakistan. The Pakistan Air Force, in turn, conducted an airstrike close to India’s military facilities in Kashmir and downed a MiG-21 fighter jet.
From the sidelines, onlookers may think that India’s actions were not successful enough. The effectiveness of the airstrikes is questionable, given that the retaliatory attacks carried out by the Pakistan Air Force had not been thwarted, and a fighter jet was lost, said Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies expert Mikhail Barabanov.
Meanwhile, the parties managed to mostly overcome the conflict and save face, Kupriyanov pointed out. It is an important thing in view of the Indian general election scheduled to be held in April and May, for the February 14 attack had stirred mass outrage among the Indian public. As a result of the conflict, the Pakistanis have made it clear they are capable of giving an proper response to any Indian strike and also retaliated for the 2016 events when the Indians had taken them by surprise, targeting militant camps following a terrorist attack on their military servicemen in Kashmir. At the same time, the Indians claim to have destroyed the terrorist camps, accomplishing their major combat objective, Kupriyanov added.
Right after tensions started mounting, India demanded Pakistan take action against terrorist groups saying it was crucial for resolving the situation. On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry announced that the brother of the Jaish-e-Mohammed leader had been arrested together with dozens of the group’s members.
The Syrian Constitutional Committee will begin its work before the end of the spring, Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) Spokesman Yahya al-Aridi told Izvestia. Sources in the Syrian embassy in Moscow confirmed to the paper that efforts to resolve issues concerning the committee’s launch were being concluded. HNC adviser Badr Jamous, elected to represent the Syrian opposition in the committee, in turn, said that what was left to be done was to approve the final six committee members from the civil society. He noted that once it was done, a committee chair would be elected. According to Jamous, a civil society candidate, with a neutral attitude towards both the Assad government and the opposition, would occupy that post.
Members of the moderate Syrian opposition expect the constitutional committee to begin its work before the end of the spring, al-Aridi told Izvesita. "Any date is possible but the committee is most likely to begin its work in the coming months," he said.
Deputy Chair of the Syrian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Ammar al-Assad expressed a similar view. "The Syrian government hopes the committee will be launched before the end of the spring," he told the paper. According to the lawmaker, US pressure is the reason for the delay in talks, since Washington is not interested in the start of a peace process in Syria, which would mark the success of the Astana platform, Ammar al-Assad explained.
Meanwhile, a Russian diplomatic source has also confirmed to the newspaper that the Syrian Constitutional Committee would be launched in the spring. According to him, the committee will being its work once the parties agree on the six candidates from civil society, yet Western countries along with Turkey have objections against them.
The diplomat pointed out that though the end of the spring was not a final deadline, the parties were most likely to reach an agreement by then. A decision may be made following the next round of Astana talks scheduled to take place in Turkey in late March and early April, the source noted.
The Vienna talks between Iran and five international mediators (Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Germany and France) took place amid growing concerns that the position of those opposing the nuclear deal is getting stronger in Tehran. Although the deal’s participants are discussing the INSTEX payment mechanism to sidestep Washington’s unilateral sanctions, there are still doubts about its efficiency. Experts believe that Iran is inclined to raise the stakes in its negotiations with the Europeans but for now, it is taking advantage of the negotiating channel with them, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
On the day of the talks, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated that Tehran was practically in a state of war with Washington and a retreat would mean the loss of everything the country had achieved after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The news about Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s intention to resign made observers suspect that ultraconservative members of the Iranian leadership were strengthening their position. However, some believe that the disagreements between the top diplomat and the so-called conservative wing are nothing but a tactical move in talks with the EU.
"The Iranian authorities are disappointed with the Europeans’ position," Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) expert Maxim Suchkov told the newspaper. "Tehran expected Europe to take more decisive measures to protect its companies from US sanctions so the Iranians hardly like the compromises the Europeans suggested. However, rather than give up on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it is better for Iran to maintain it for now as a legally binding agreement and a platform for talks, primarily with EU countries. In particular, Tehran may squeeze out some benefits here by creating an image of itself as a country that has fallen victim to Trump’s self-indulgence. As for the Europeans, it is important for them to maintain contact with Iran through this mechanism and support Rouhani’s focus on dialogue," the expert pointed out.
"However, some suspect that it could be kind of a move aimed at persuading the Europeans to make more concessions to the ‘good guys’ (such as Rouhani and Zarif) in order to prevent the ‘bad guys’ (the hardline conservatives) from coming to power, riding on a wave of protests," Suchkov added.
Although declining incomes have made Russians give up on entertainment and travel, they are still willing to make spontaneous luxury purchases, the Nielsen company found out. Experts believe that Russians seek to use luxury goods to emphasize their status, Kommersant wrote.
Russians are still guided by emotions when buying luxury goods, since up to 44% of such purchases are made on the spur of the moment, while in Europe, the rate is 28%, Nielsen analysts said, citing a survey on prosperity conducted in 64 countries.
Knight Frank analysts believe the reason behind the difference between Russian and foreign consumers is clear from the structure of their purchases, as Russians tend to buy larger and technologically complicated items. "Moreover, it is important for many Russian consumers to emphasize their status by purchasing various goods though their incomes are in fact just above average," Knight Frank experts said.
Russians’ interest in premium goods may seem illogical given the current circumstances. According to Nielsen’s research, only 34% of Russian respondents consider their financial situation to be comfortable, while 63% complained they only had money to buy basic necessities. As many as 45% of those surveyed confessed they had practically stopped traveling.
However, experts say that promotion campaigns help keep consumer interest in luxury goods high. "Despite a decline in their incomes, Russians started to pay more attention to sales and promotion campaigns involving expensive goods," said Ipsos Comcon Marketing Director Lyudmila Novichenkova. Nielsen analysts also note that up to 56% of consumers have a responsible attitude towards purchases of expensive items and spend much time studying their features. "According to our research, 59% of respondents try to use promotional coupons to get discounts," Novichenkova added.
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