The S-300 systems that Moscow supplied to Syria are for the air defense of the ground forces, a source close to Russian military and diplomatic sources told Izvestia on Thursday. Their mission is to destroy aeroballistic targets and cruise missiles. Russia also plans to provide the Syrians with several dozen units of armored vehicles and also military trucks, another source told the paper.
Igor Morozov, a member of the Federation Council’s (upper house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee, said there are other air defense systems in Syria that would "cool off hot heads" and create a no-fly zone over the country if needed. "As part of the military-technical cooperation, Damascus received a number of systems, including Buk-M1, Osa and others. That’s why today the US will not be able to repeat its Iraqi experience. Besides, by delivering strikes, Americans may hit Russian advisers and instructors and this would result in Moscow taking retaliatory measures, including the creation of a no-fly zone over Syria’s territory," the senator told Izvestia.
Oleg Glazunov, an expert at the Association of Military Political Scientists said the US can indeed start carrying out strikes against the positions of Syrian government troops. "There is such a possibility. Russia deployed the S-300 systems to Syria for a good reason. Moscow is ready to use them," the expert said, adding that this is unlikely to lead to a new world war. "We had to shoot down American aircraft in Korea and Vietnam." "President Vladimir Putin has made it clear that there will be no more concessions from Russia’s side as the question in Syria now is if Moscow is a reliable player that is ready to assert it allies’ interests, or if we are going to retreat again like what had been done several times over the past 25 years," he noted.
Washington is studying "diplomatic, military, intelligence and economic options" as a response to the escalation in the armed conflict in Syria, Deputy State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters. A meeting by representatives of the US, UK, French, Italian and German Foreign Ministries was convened in Berlin on Wednesday to consider further action on Syria, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Russia, which co-chairs the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), had not been invited.
It is not ruled out that Washington plans to recommend that its allies introduce new anti-Russian sanctions, with regard to the crisis in Syria, the paper says. Ahead of the Berlin meeting, the official spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, Martin Schaefer, said no proposals on sanctions against Moscow over Syria had been put forward. However, experts interviewed by the paper said that the politicians were most likely mulling over such issues behind closed doors.
"There are always grounds for sanctions," Associate Professor of the Department of European Law of Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) Nikolay Topornin said commenting on the Berlin talks. "For sure, the Americans suggested intensifying sanctions - for example, a sort of military package linked to prohibiting supplies of components for military purposes. They can ban borrowing funds, or halt market operations for companies in Russia’s military-industrial complex," he said.
The expert reiterated that Brussels would host the EU summit on October 20-21 and the participants would discuss relations with Russia. "Probably, the Americans are now voicing various proposals behind the scenes as they understand that the Europeans will discuss these sanctions in two weeks."
Amid the debate on the military scenario in Syria, Washington is trying to solve the Donbass issue, the paper says. To this aim, US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland held talks in Moscow on Wednesday with Russian officials, including Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov. Andrew Weiss, Vice President for Studies at The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that although US efforts on Syria have apparently failed, there is still a glimmer of hope that the security situation in eastern Ukraine may improve.
Russia’s Defense Ministry is putting the finishing touches on shaping a new heavy bomber air division in the Far East, Izvestia writes. The mission of the division, which consists of Tu-95 MS strategic missile carriers and Tu-22M3 long-range bombers, is to patrol the Pacific Ocean off Japan, the Hawaiian Islands and the Island of Guam.
Experts say the formation of the new air division will show Pacific region nations and the US that Russia’s eastward aspirations are serious. "It includes several bomber squadrons from the Long-Range Air Force deployed in the Eastern and Central military districts," the paper quoted a defense ministry official highly-informed on the situation as saying.
Anton Tsvetov, a Center for Strategic Research expert, said while Russia seeks to bolster the eastern direction of its foreign policy the need to protect its Far Eastern borders is inevitable. "Russia’s economic presence in Asia is far from its potential, that’s why Moscow apparently believes it is important to step up its military influence in the area. Moreover, the development of a regional security system has always been a key element of Russia’s participation in Asian multilateral structures."
The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) has a new partner for creating a free trade zone - South Korea. The parties have wrapped up a study of the proposal and the results were discussed on Wednesday in Moscow during talks between the Minister of Trade in the Eurasian Economic Commission Veronika Nikishina and South Korea’s Deputy Trade Minister Kim Hak-do, Kommersant business daily writes.
South Korea proposed the creation of a free trade zone with Russia back in 2010, but the process was brought to a halt amid the prospects of Russia’s joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). Now both countries hope that in addition to trade, the talks will cover mutual investments and customs cooperation.
"The issue of attracting capital, technologies is very serious, the parties are also interested in removing non-tariff barriers," a source familiar with the talks told the paper. "The work will continue, but now in a more official way - the approaches will be agreed upon at consultation levels of the Eurasian Economic Commission and South Korea, the EAEU members and business, but this is still not the start of the talks."
Moscow complains that investments lag behind trade with South Korea. Seoul’s delegation said that the country’s companies may consider the EAEU as a priority direction for foreign investments, according to the paper.
The head of Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, Sergey Kiriyenko, has been appointed First Deputy Chief of the Presidential Staff. His appointment as the Kremlin’s domestic policy supervisor may lead to some liberalization in the political agenda, experts told RBC daily.
A former federal official and several sources close to the Kremlin said Kiriyenko’s candidacy could have been put forward by the Kovalchuk brothers linked to Rosatom. In this case, they will have some relation to the preparations for the 2018 presidential elections, a source close to the Kremlin said. The campaign to elect the head of state will top the agenda for the new leader of the domestic political bloc, according to the paper.
Vedomosti writes that a gradual replacement of key staff members is also expected. "In the Kremlin, Kiriyenko should adapt his experience as a successful manager along with his international ties to bolster the trust of the West," the source said. "Possibly, these institutions will be subjected to transformation and Kiriyenko, a person who is not linked to any influential groups, will get carte blanche here."
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