Russian President Vladimir Putin may receive US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on May 14, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. On May 3, a long telephone conversation between the two countries’ presidents took place following a long gap in communication that had stretched out over several months, Vedomosti notes.
However, experts interviewed by the newspaper are skeptical about the prospects for resumed dialogue between Russia and the United States. The issue of Venezuela can sabotage it, since overthrowing the Maduro government "has become a matter of honor for the US administration and Trump personally," said political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov. Last year, Putin received Trump’s Adviser John Bolton, and the expert pointed out that "there was a lot of talk that the meeting had taken place in a business-like and constructive atmosphere, the parties had agreed to discuss some matters that everyone was concerned about, which included strategic stability. We know the result: there was none, or, the result was negative because things got worse. I don’t see why it should be any different this time." Pompeo and Bolton harbor serious animosity towards Russia, while strategic stability, which seemed an inevitable issue for discussion between the two countries, ceased to exist after the US had unilaterally pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), Lukyanov emphasized.
Program Director at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Ivan Timofeyev agrees that the resumption of dialogue is a good thing but the process may come to a standstill at anytime. "The two countries’ positions are the obstacle because it is rather difficult to bring them closer," the expert said. Arms control is one of the most appropriate topics for resumed dialogue but there are some others, as well, Timofeyev noted, pointing to cyber security, North Korea and Venezuela. "However, the current attempt at dialogue may end like the previous ones did because there still aren’t enough reasons to resume dialogue on cooperation, while domestic political factors concerning Russia are still important for Washington. The conversation may come to an impasse at any given moment, and even if another summit takes place, there is no guarantee that it will lead to a breakthrough," Timofeyev pointed out.
Chinese Vice Prime Minister Liu He, the country’s main negotiator in the "trade war" talks with the Americans, has said that he would eventually visit Washington despite threats from US President Donald Trump who announced plans to raise tariffs on Chinese goods from 10% to 25%. However, it is possible that China is getting ready to stand its ground. The country has embarked on a number of stimulus measures since the beginning of the year, particularly seeking to mitigate the damage from the increased US tariffs, Kommersant writes.
The newspaper recalls that the trade war is about "the unfair trade practices" that, according to the Trump administration, Beijing has been actively using to boost its economic power and undermine that of the United States. Washington demands that Beijing increase the imports of US goods, stop subsidizing its industries and stealing US technologies, and change a number of laws that infringe on the rights of foreign investors active in China. Beijing has agreed on some conditions but many may prove to be unacceptable because it would actually make it possible for the US to control the country’s industrial policy.
Alexander Lomanov, Chief Research Fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that "at the Belt and Road Forum several days ago, China had demonstrated a lot of willingness to meet its economic partners halfway." "It concerned environmental standards and the forced transfer of intellectual property rights. Chinese leader Xi Jinping said there would be no such transfer. In response to accusations that China seeks to put loan recipients into debt bondage, a document was adopted concerning corruption and financial indebtedness," the expert said. "China is ready to make concessions but it will never accept unilateral mechanisms of verification and punishment," he added.
Xi Jinping and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang have recently made visits to Europe. During consultations with European leaders, China quite easily agreed that there should be no forced transfer of intellectual property rights, Lomanov noted. However, when the Europeans started demanding that China stop subsidizing its exporters, it was impossible to have dialogue.
"The Chinese are not ready to remove these subsidies. China won’t let foreigners interfere in its domestic economic policy. If the Americans are not ready for a compromise in this regard, it may prove a stumbling block in the US-China economic talks," the expert concluded.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar has gotten bogged down in urban fighting along the southern outskirts of the Libyan capital. Meanwhile, a number of countries, including the United States, France and Russia, are facing harsh criticism for their alleged support of the rebel field marshal, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.
Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, accuses Haftar of using unmarked warplanes, which actually belong to foreign countries. Meanwhile, media reports say that al-Sarraj has the support of the United Nations, Italy, Turkey and Qatar, whereas Haftar has "friendly" relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France and Russia. According to Bloomberg, on April 15, when the LNA was advancing to the west, a conversation took place between Haftar and US President Donald Trump, who welcomed the field marshal’s actions.
It seems the LNA chief has secured the approval of his policies from both Moscow and Washington. However, this conclusion runs counter to the fact that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin, while expressing their governments’ positions, emphasized the need to immediately end military action in Libya. Both the Russian Defense Ministry and the Pentagon refrained from making official evaluations of Haftar’s offensive.
Elena Suponina, an expert on North Africa, believes that "Russia is trying to stay neutral towards all the parties to the Libyan crisis." "It is Khalifa Haftar that has been spreading information about Moscow’s vast political and military support for the LNA. He is playing a game, pursuing his own political goals and maintaining contacts with both the Kremlin and the White House," she pointed out. "A thing to remember is that Haftar holds an American passport and his family is in the US. Washington, in turn, is in contact with both the LNA and the GNA, calling for almost the same things as Moscow - an end to hostilities and the start of a political process," the expert noted.
Russian experts are working on the establishment of a fishery and aquaculture development center in Ethiopia. A relevant program, supervised by UN specialists, is aimed at reducing poverty and unemployment in the African country. The project will make it possible to create at least 600 jobs in the area around Ethiopia’s largest body of fresh water, Lake Tana, located in the country’s northwest, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.
The program, developed by experts from Astrakhan State Technical University, the Russian Academy of Sciences and a group of engineers from Russia’s southern city of Rostov-on-Don, is to be presented by the end of the year.
"In the past, a huge number of fish species were caught in Ethiopia, including the Nile perch weighing up to 200 kilograms. However, the amount of fish has dropped to a critical level because of uncontrolled fishing involving cheap Chinese-made nets. It is impossible to restore the natural population of fish without help from scientists," United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) international expert Anatoly Grigoryev told the newspaper.
Dmitry Belyayev, an editor with the National Agricultural Agency, in turn, pointed out that "the African continent is considered to be one of the most promising regions as far as the export of Russian food and agricultural technologies are concerned." "Our traders successfully supply grain to Egypt and Maghreb countries, a couple of years ago large wheat shipments were sold to Nigeria, a totally new market. Russian fish, meat, poultry and vegetable oil producers are also willing to work on the continent. Africa’s population is rapidly growing and African countries are ready for commercial cooperation. As for poor countries, international organizations purchase food for them in accordance with charity and development programs. We could participate in these programs more actively," Belyayev pointed out.
When it comes to films about the Great Patriotic War (WWII), Russians prefer Soviet-era movies. As many as 55% of respondents polled by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center said Soviet war movies were better than modern ones, Izvestia writes. Experts interviewed by the newspaper point out that Soviet pictures are more convincing because they were made by witnesses of the events based on high-quality literary works.
Only 16% of those surveyed said that modern films and TV shows about the Great Patriotic War were better than the Soviet ones. Most respondents (55%) believe that today’s filmmakers don’t live up to good old-fashioned standards, while 20% said they saw no difference between Soviet and modern-day war movies.
Soviet pictures deliver a sense of authenticity, Chief Editor of the magazine Istorik (or Historian) Vladimir Rudakov noted. "Soviet movies were made either by people who had lived through the war or by those who had witnessed the war one way or another. There are none of them in today’s film industry," he said. "Visual effects are crucial for any movie nowadays, this is what makes a picture modern but it also takes away the sense of authenticity. Besides, today’s film directors are the grandchildren or even great grandchildren of those victorious soldiers and their understanding of that war is completely different to what Russians believe is true. This clash of views makes it impossible to consider modern-day war movies to be authentic," Rudakov pointed out.
However, Generation Z, born in the mid-1990s to the 2000s, often times fails to share the preferences of their elders, said head of the pollster’s Strategic Development Director Stepan Lvov. According to him, historical accuracy and good acting are not the most important criteria for the youth. "They value action, high emotional content and suspense. Today’s film industry has no future if it fails to take these aspects into account. War movies are no exception: to attract young spectators, movie directors and actors have to meet their tastes," the expert said.
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