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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Anatoly Antonov, who until recently served as Deputy Defense Minister, continues to be a key candidate for the prestigious position of Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Kommersant writes citing four sources in the Russian government. Antonov who currently oversees military and political security issues at the Russian Foreign Ministry may replace Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Washington in the coming months.
According to the sources interviewed by the paper, officials in the Kremlin decided to appoint Antonov, a proponent of the hard line in relations with the West, in the fall of 2016. At that time, Moscow proceeded from the assumption that Hillary Clinton was likely to win the presidential race, which would have meant that tensions in bilateral relations would persist. Although Donald Trump became the US President, Anatoly Antonov, nevertheless, has the highest chances of taking up this post. Some of the sources noted, however, that other candidates are considered too.
Anatoly Antonov is a career diplomat, who worked in the Russian Foreign Ministry for over thirty years in various capacities. He was the head of a number of Russian government delegations, including at the talks with the G8 member-countries and on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. He led Russia’s delegation at the talks with the US on a new treaty on strategic offensive weapons. Antonov has been on the EU sanctions list since 2015.
Washington is expected to appoint a new ambassador to Russia later this year. US media said citing sources there are several candidates for the position, including Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who favors improved relations with Moscow. However, according to the sources cited by Kommersant, no final decision on the issue has been made in the White House yet.
The arrival of the Trump administration did not change the traditional US policy aimed at ousting Russia from the European gas market, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Such an approach to energy policy is Washington’s long-term strategy unaffected by the change of president rather than a relic of the former US administration. While some may hope for a thaw in bilateral relations after Donald Trump took office, nevertheless, the policy aimed at ousting the Russian energy giant, Gazprom, from the European market will be preserved and even strengthened, the paper notes. The stance assumed by new US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who earlier served as ExxonMobil CEO proves exactly that. He earlier said that the Nord Stream-2 project involving gas supplies to Germany bypassing Ukraine is fraught with Europe’s increased energy dependence on Russia.
There is a gradual erosion of Gazprom’s influence in Europe, Valery Nesterov, Sberbank CIB analyst, explained in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Gazprom feels the growing competition not only from the traditional suppliers from North Africa and Norway but also on the liquefied natural gas market. At first, that was Qatari gas, now it is the prospect of US gas, which is expected in Europe in significant volumes in 2018-2019," Nesterov said. The expert noted, however, that the US natural gas will not pose a major threat to Gazprom within the next 3-5 years, adding that so far it is difficult to judge about the longer-term perspective.
Other experts interviewed by the paper also noted that Washington’s policy could not have changed after Trump’s arrival. "There are many supporters of hard line towards Moscow in the US establishment, and the new president will reckon with them," says Amarkets analyst, Artyom Deyev. "Any US administration will pursue the policy of diversifying gas supplies to Europe. The European Union is a large and profitable market, so competition for it will always be tough. This applies to any kind of business, and the gas market is one of the most profitable ones in this regard," Pavel Ivchenkov, expert at the Public Duma center, noted.
The Ukrainian crisis could be a card in the hands of opponents of US President Donald Trump, Vedomosti writes. The paper cites Olga Oliker, Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, as saying that the duo of the US and Russia cannot resolve the Ukrainian crisis, while Russia and Ukraine can. The expert added that Ukraine can be a confrontation tool between the White House and members of US Congress who will speak out in favor in increasing the financial and military assistance to Kiev, if the hopes on improving relations with Russia fail.
Trump is not interested in Ukraine as a business project, and he needs it only in the context of building relations with Russia, the paper quotes Ukrainian political scientist Vadim Karasyov as saying. "Russia should help or at least be neutral in containing China and Iran," he noted. "If the hostilities in Donbass continue, Trump will have little room for maneuver. The US media, lobby and Congress will start hue and cry asserting that Russia is an aggressor who wants to destroy Ukraine. In that case, Trump will not agree to a deal with Russia, as he wants to see Moscow as a partner rather than a party to the conflict. "
Russia will have to provide additional guarantees to the US on resolving the crisis in eastern Ukraine. If Moscow fails to honor them, Trump will sustain his first major geopolitical loss, the expert emphasized.
Meanwhile, Moscow and Kiev may achieve a compromise on the status of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics (DPR, LPR), Karasyov added. In his view, Ukraine will not agree to unilateral concessions, even if Poroshenko agrees to that. "Ukraine will see this as treachery. In return, Kiev may agree to a moratorium on NATO and EU membership, the more so because Poroshenko said a referendum on joining NATO is possible," he said.
In recent days, the Syrian government army came close to the Turkish border seizing several villages in the Aleppo province. Prior to that, they were controlled by the Turks and their allies from the Syrian armed opposition. It turns out that the two neighboring countries whose relations leave a lot to be desired now have to fight terrorists together, Izvestia writes. That became possible thanks to Moscow’s actions, Russian experts interviewed by the paper said.
Russia coordinates Syria’s and Turkey’s actions in the Aleppo province, which makes it possible to avoid armed provocations and clashes between the parties, Franz Klintsevich, First Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council Defense and Security Committee, explained.
"We are working on Syria’s territory and cannot fail to conduct such coordination. This is not an easy job, but it does yield results," he emphasized.
Meanwhile, Oleg Glazunov, expert at the Association of Military Political Scientists, said the situation should be used for the common good. "Actually, Russia is presently Turkey’s only partner, and there are no reasons whatsoever for Erdogan to quarrel with us now. Furthermore, he is more interested in Kurds whom he considers to be terrorists. Besides, one needs to understand that the issue at hand is Syrian territory. If one adheres to the principle of preserving Syria’s integrity, Turkish troops will have to leave it anyway. From this we may conclude that coordination (of actions between Ankara and Damascus) does exist in one form or the other," he said.
Russia’s media holding companies CTC Media, the National Media Group and UTV are planning to join efforts to purchase films from major studios. They expect to become the largest buyer of Hollywood content and obtain more favorable terms, Kommersant writes. In addition to that, the media holding companies are preparing to combine the sale of online advertising and sponsorship on their TV channels and set up a common back office.
The National Media Group, CTC Media and UTV have plans to buy movies from the biggest international majors, such as Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and others, some sources in the media market told the paper.
Joint purchases will begin no sooner than the third quarter of this year, as the TV channels have already been packed with the content, one of the sources explained. Their consolidation will make it easier for TV channels to purchase movies, and they can count on a discount at the expense of volume, one of the major companies’ top managers confirmed.
The costs on this project, depending on the channel’s size, may now range from $2-3 million to $10-20 million a year, the source estimates.
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