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Press Review: US building new ties with Iran and Russia promises gas supplies to Hungary

February 03, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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© AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

 

Kommersant: Washington changing attitude towards Tehran

The Trump administration has started to build new relations with Iran, which Washington sees as one of its major geopolitical rivals, Kommersant writes. On Thursday, Donald Trump criticized Tehran for test-firing a medium-range ballistic missile making it clear that he is strongly dissatisfied with the terms of the nuclear deal inked in 2015, which was considered a major foreign policy achievement by previous US President, Barack Obama. At the same time, Republicans in Congress have drafted a bill on imposing new sanctions on Iran. The proposed move has triggered Moscow’s concern.

The fate of the nuclear deal is currently questionable, Dmitry Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, told the paper. "For the new administration in Washington, the Iranian problem is not merely its nuclear aspect. This also implies Tehran’s missile program and Iran’s geopolitical positions from Lebanon to Yemen. From the American point of view, all these issues are inseparably linked to the Iranian deal, while Tehran considers the nuclear program deal a separate issue."

Vladimir Sotnikov, senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, said in an interview with Kommersant that the bill submitted to Congress by Republicans is unlikely to be passed. "The US has a strong pro-Iranian lobby. Trump, being a pragmatist, will take into account interests of different groups," he explained. Sotnikov added that "the agreement was signed by other countries too, including Russia, and the White House intends to improve relations with Moscow."

Meanwhile, Dmitry Trenin did not rule out that the US will step up the sanctions pressure on Iran, which may antagonize Washington’s allies in Europe as well as Russia and China. "It is obvious that Russia will not pursue the US administration’s line, if it is aimed at increasing pressure on Iran," the expert said.

 

Izvestia: Two hectic weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency

Donald Trump has served as the 45th President of the United States for two weeks now. He has been more active than many of his predecessors within this short period of time, Izvestia writes. Despite the unprecedented pressure, he issued 18 decrees, and nearly each of them shows that the US leader is doing his utmost to implement his electoral program. Among the ones he signed were decrees on abolishing Obamacare, on US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the construction of the wall on the border with Mexico.

In addition to that, Trump has been active in the foreign policy arena. One of his key election campaign promises was mending relations with Russia. The US leader expressed the conviction that cooperation with Moscow is necessary, while combating international terrorism should be the main area of interaction.

The Russian and US presidents held a telephone conversation on January 28, with both sides commending its results. The New York Times wrote in the wake of the talk that "President Trump began a new era of diplomacy with Russia."

No one in America or abroad expected Trump to take such robust action, Sergey Karaganov, political scientist and Honorary Chairman of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council, told Izvestia. "At this point, Trump is keeping all the promises he made during his presidential campaign," he said. "The establishment that lost the election is vehemently attacking the current White House occupant. Because of this, many people are simply afraid to join his team. But, so far, he has been able to do what he planned."

 

Media: Russian gas supplies to Hungary guaranteed

Russia promised to Hungary to find a way to supply natural gas by any means necessary, while there is little to no understanding on how this could be done, Kommersant writes. During his visit to Budapest on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin even did not rule out that the South Stream project could be revived and the gas transit contract with Ukraine could be extended.

Meanwhile, Vedomosti recalls that Russia and Hungary have an agreement on natural gas supplies until 2021. However, Budapest questions the reliability of supplies via Ukraine and is prepared to consider the possibility of receiving gas from Russia via the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It is also interested in participating in the Turkish Stream project, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said during the talks.

"The Turkish Stream presently exists as the first pipeline, but the essence of the project is supplying gas to southeastern Europe," the paper quotes Raiffeisenbank analyst Andrei Polishchuk as saying. It would be easier for Gazprom to deliver gas via Bulgaria (as part of the South Stream project), as there will be fewer transit countries. However, if the Turkish Stream and the South Stream operate simultaneously, the competition could reduce risks, he added.

South Stream would be the optimal route, but the issue is currently not on the agenda, so exports via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline with the use of the existing infrastructure seem to be the most obvious option, Kommersant quotes Alexei Grivach, Deputy Head of the National Energy Security Fund, as saying. "Even now Gazprom can fully provide the country with gas via Nord Stream," the expert noted.

 

Izvestia: Syrian army, Kurdish militia join forces in fighting Islamic State

The Syrian government has reached an agreement with the US-backed Kurdish militia units on joint actions near Deir ez-Zor, the eastern Syrian city divided between government forces and militants, but it’s premature to talk about the city’s liberation, Izvestia writes.

On February 2, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) units that include Kurds, among others, attacked the northern outskirts of the city seizing several facilities. It is hoped that this will make it easier for the Syrian troops to unblock the highway connecting the besieged military airfield to the 137th government brigade base. According to Syrian media, SDF units have stepped up activities north of the city in response to requests from the Syrian command that amassed its best forces in a bid to rescue the besieged enclave.

The growing coordination between Damascus and the Kurds gives hope that they will be able to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group in the not too distant future, the paper says.

Officials in Damascus have recently demonstrated sympathy for the Kurds increasingly often, Semyon Bagdasarov, Director of the Center for the Middle East and Central Asia Studies, told the paper. "They have to cooperate to survive and achieve their goals," he said. The expert noted that Russia has made efforts to establish dialogue and iron out controversial issues between Syrian government forces and the Kurdish militia units, and these efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China’s plans pose threat to Russia’s agricultural exports

Beijing has announced plans to build its own grain corridor in Central Asia, which will make it possible to supply 160 mln tonnes of grain to Africa, Asia and China itself annually. Some experts fear that, if this scheme is implemented, Russia will have to review its agricultural development plans, as grain supply on the global market will significantly exceed the effective demand, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes

The paper notes that the maximum grain exports from Russia are expected to amount to 37.5 mln tonnes, which means that China is going to bring to the market four times more grain than exported by Russia.

"The additional 160 mln tonnes of grains per year could bring down prices by 30-50%. World grain production grows by an average of 1.3% per year, while the global population - by 1.12%. So far, we can talk about a deficit of around 150-160 mln tonnes per year, and it looks like China hopes to cover this," says IFC Markets analyst Dmitry Lukashov. He noted however this project is unlikely to be implemented, as the United States will do everything to thwart it.

So far these plans seem to be detached from reality, the paper quotes Andrei Sizov, Director of the SovEcon analytical enter, as saying. "The Central Asian region is suffering from water shortages. Weather conditions are challenging there. Without additional irrigation, expanding the area of China’s activities is hardly possible," he said.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review

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