Remarks made by US President-elect Donald Trump at his first news conference on Wednesday show that both Trump and his team are under fierce pressure from anti-Russian elements within Washington’s outgoing administration, Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) International Affairs Committee, told Izvestia. "The president-elect presently lacks counterarguments to uphold his stance in favor of cooperation with our country. That’s why he is trying to maneuver and avoid making categorical statements," he said. According to Kosachev, relations between Moscow and Washington under Trump "will not be easier anyway." "However, they can become more pragmatic," he explained.
Trump said during the news conference that "there is no reset button" for mending relations with Russia. "We're either going to get along or we're not. I hope we get along, but if we don't, that's possible too," he stated.
Meanwhile, Alexei Pushkov, member of the Federal Council Defense and Security Committee, stated in an interview with Izvestia that Trump is in a situation where he will inevitably have to take into account the US political elite’s sentiment. "They are actually trying to make him pursue the policy towards Russia that Barack Obama adhered to. He made it clear that he will not follow this policy. There was no cooperation between the US and Russia in combating terrorism under Obama other than just empty talk. However, there will be positive shifts in this direction under the new White House occupant," the senator said.
A bill on new anti-Russian sanctions submitted to US Congress by a number of senators may affect the Russian economy, as well as its financial and energy sectors, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Washington wants, among other things, to prohibit its citizens, companies and foreigners from buying Russia’s securities and taking part in privatization in Russia.
According to Alexander Shokhin, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the US is, step by step, making the anti-Russian sanctions similar to the Iranian restrictions, which are not just sectoral. He noted that "efforts aimed at sanctioning agencies working with sovereign securities and dealing with privatization issues are actually a rather serious blow against Russia’s specific financial and economic interests and even systemic sabotage."
The bill’s authors are trying to fundamentally change the mechanism of the US sanctions pressure on Russia, Kommersant writes. Ksenia Rif, an attorney at the A2 law firm, noted that the bill was authored by US senators, while the current restrictions against Russia, its businesses and citizens have been imposed under the US president’s executive orders. She added that the new document stipulates enforcing actions against those who violate the anti-Russian restrictions.
Alexei Tokarev, Managing Partner at the Trust law firm, believes that, if the law is passed at the federal level, it will make "adherence to the sanctions regime mandatory for all US residents, both individuals and legal entities, all over the world."
After long negotiations with Russia, Georgia has suddenly agreed to the monetization of gas transit through its territory, even though it earlier considered such a deal unacceptable, Kommersant writes. So far, the terms of the new contract have not been disclosed. Officials in Tbilisi insist that that transit price will be one of the highest in Europe, but experts doubt that it will be possible to compensate for the difference between the transportation payments and independent gas purchases.
Under the new agreement, Georgia will also be able to purchase additional volumes of gas at a 14% discount, for $185 per thousand cubic meters.
However, Georgy Khukhashvili, former advisor to the Georgian prime minister, believes the deal is unprofitable, since "the country will not be able to buy the same amount of natural gas it got prior to monetization." In his view, Gazprom found "some mysterious arguments" to make the Georgian side abandon the "very comfortable practice." The expert added that, while relying on natural gas supplies from Azerbaijan, Georgia is unlikely to reduce gas purchases from Russia in the near future.
French National Assembly MP, Thierry Mariani, led a parliamentary delegation from his country that visited the Syrian city of Aleppo on January 5-9, Izvestia writes.
In an interview with the paper, the French lawmaker hoped that his counterparts from other countries would follow the lead of the French MPs. "I believe any lawmaker’s duty is to form one’s own opinion relying on hard facts," he said. "My colleagues and I arrived in Syria to assess the situation in Aleppo, as there are many false reports regarding developments in that city in France and in Europe by and large. We spent two days in Aleppo and were able to form our own opinion of the situation there."
"I believe that both French lawmakers and MPs from other European countries must visit Syria to see what is going on there with their own eyes," he added.
According to Mariani, the issue of Assad’s future should not be linked to efforts to defuse the crisis plaguing Syria. "His power is now more stable than, say, a year or two years ago. Of course, this is due to efforts by Russia and Iran. Diplomacy does not imply working with only those you like. That is why I believe that France and Europe need to change their approach to Syria. That would make it possible to put an end to hostilities and then move on to discussing the president’s fate."
The Chinese State Council has released, for the first time in history, a document titled "China’s policies on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation," Kommersant writes. Its main provisions are respect for the principles of the UN Charter, regional security and mutually beneficial economic cooperation.
"The document is based on (President) Xi Jinping’s speech at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia in 2012," Vasily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, explained in an interview with the paper. "Such a detailed initiative appeared for the first time. China seems to want to play a more active and independent role in international affairs. In actual fact, this is an attempt to come up with its own rules in the field of regional security."
The concept’s authors said relations between China and the US that have "remained stable and even made new progress" since 2015 were the most important.
The report describes Russia as its "biggest neighbor and strategic cooperation partner and priority in diplomacy." It also mentions India and Japan as its major partners in the region.
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