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Press review: Erdogan's bid for more power splits West and NATO beefs up Afghan contingent

April 19, 2017, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, April 19

1 pages in this article
© AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

Media: Turkish referendum splits US and EU

The Turkish referendum on transitioning from a parliamentary to a presidential form of government has driven a wedge into the West’s unified policy on Turkey, Izvestia writes. US President Donald Trump congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his victory, while European leaders said the procedure was out of line with Western standards. Some experts were quick to state that the "Turkish factor" has surfaced in relations between Washington and Brussels.

Cengiz Aktar of Sabanci University's Istanbul Policy Center told Izvestia that ties between Ankara and Brussels had been on the rocks for a long time, and Turkey anticipated nothing but criticism from the EU. In his view, further cooperation between Turkey and the EU can be described as a continuation of frosty relations.

On the other hand, Stanislav Tarasov, Director of the Middle East-Caucasus Research Center, explained in an interview with the paper that Europe holds a unanimous attitude towards Turkey and its recent referendum. Brussels is opposed to Erdogan beefing up his power, while the Trump administration supports the Turkish president and his policy. "Of course, one can talk about a split in the Western stance on Turkey. The US supported the referendum and the consolidation of Erdogan’s power, and hence, the Islamist forces. For its part, the EU ‘sided with’ the secular, pro-Western forces committed to European integration and strongly opposed to enhancing the Turkish president’s powers," the expert noted.

Meanwhile, the country’s most influential opposition force, the Republican People’s Party, promised to work towards annulling the outcome of Sunday’s referendum on the country’s constitution pointing to various violations during the voting as unprecedented, Kommersant reports. If the Turkish authorities cross the line now, they can face very serious resistance, which will lead to tragic consequences, Andrey Bystritsky, Professor of the Higher School of Economics and Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for the Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, said in an interview with the paper. "A considerable part of Turkey wants a secular state and wants to remain with the civilized world. These people will not give up. Therefore, the most reasonable option for Erdogan is finding some kind of compromise with them. There is no simple recipe here, that’s a matter of political wisdom."


Kommersant: Presidential envoy says SCO membership is 'no tea party invitation'

The accession of India and Pakistan to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will top the agenda of the Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting of SCO member-countries in Astana on April 20-21, Russian Presidential Envoy for SCO affairs, Ambassador-at-Large Bakhtier Khakimov said in an interview with Kommersant.
“India is one of the world’s political and economic leaders and seeks permanent UN Security Council membership. For its part, Pakistan is an active and influential participant in international relations on all fronts. Much work is ahead in terms of putting the opportunities that will emerge into effect,” he said.

Answering a question about the “added value” of these two countries’ accession, the envoy said that “in terms of the aggregate GDP of the member-countries, the SCO’s potential will expand to 24% of the global share and 43% of the world’s population will live on its (SCO) territory.”
The envoy noted that “the SCO is ripe for expansion.” He added that to make sure that the organization develops, all regional countries should be involved in its activities. “For example, during the recent visit to Moscow by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Russia confirmed that it supports Tehran’s desire to raise the level of its cooperation with the SCO,” Khakimov noted.
When asked whether the advent of new member-countries where numerous terrorist groups are operating will lead to new problems for the organization, the ambassador said he did not share such fears. “Of course, terrorist groups are operating not just in specific countries, actually, they pose a threat to the entire region. In particular, the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia), which is setting up its cells in northern Afghanistan is a global threat,” he stressed.
“SCO membership does not mean an invitation to a tea party. Rather, it’s willingness to jointly tackle issues facing our countries, especially in the area of security. India and Pakistan have already joined the SCO Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism and other documents to fight new challenges and threats. They thus demonstrate a desire for cooperation,” the presidential envoy said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: NATO to beef up its forces in Afghanistan

The Russian Foreign Ministry has questioned the effectiveness of potentially increasing NATO’s contingent by 5,000 people. The issue will be discussed at the alliance’s upcoming summit. “If 100,000 servicemen did not help, it’s unclear how the issue will be resolved by 3,000 or 5,000,” Russian Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan and head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department, Zamir Kabulov, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. 
The formation of the US strategy on Afghanistan could be in its final stage, experts say. “I believe the visit by the US presidential aide will play a key role in working out the strategy to completion,” Omar Nassar, Director of the Center for Contemporary Afghanistan Studies, told the paper. The expert believes the preparations for reinforcing the US contingent are underway. In his view, this is an additional argument in favor of the fact that the Americans will focus on the aspect of force. 
According to the expert, Washington’s actions in Afghanistan came as a surprise to Russia, which means that Kremlin will probably have to develop a new approach towards the situation. 

Moscow has recently stepped up efforts to make progress on the Afghan issue. On April 14, representatives from 11 countries, including Iran, China, India, Pakistan and Central Asian states, arrived in Moscow for talks on the issue. Simultaneously, Russia is accused of conducting shadow negotiations with the Taliban. Despite the fact that Moscow has denied these reports, statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin suggest that the Kremlin does not see anything wrong in maintaining dialogue with some of the organization’s factions, the paper notes. In one of his televised interviews, the Russian leader said, “Just like our partners, including UN representatives, we always proceed form an assumption that it is necessary to build relations with any forces in Afghanistan relying on at least three principles. These are the recognition of Afghanistan’s constitution, disarmament and the achievement of full national accord.”



Izvestia: Experts weigh likelihood of nuclear war with North Korea

With tensions mounting on the Korean Peninsula, politicians and experts have begun speaking in earnest about the possibility of a nuclear confrontation. Anxieties flared up following the US missile strike on the Syrian military base, Izvestia writes. US President Donald Trump has demonstrated his ability to make tough decisions assuring that a preventive strike against North Korea was still on the table. 
James Sherr of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) elaborated in an interview with Izvestia that the US strike against Syria was not only a message for Moscow and Damascus but also a signal for Pyongyang and Beijing. 
Meanwhile, Edward Lozansky, President at the American University in Moscow, told the paper that he questions the feasibility of a US strike on North Korea, since Trump needs the consent of the US establishment on this issue. In his view, the US Congress would not endorse such an attack. He noted that the most reasonable solution to the Korean crisis is signing a peace treaty between South and North Korea, with guarantees provided by the US, China and Russia. 

On the other hand, Zhao Huasheng, Director of the Center for Russia and Central Asia Studies at Fudan University, believes that only Russia and China can prevent a war in the region. He noted that Beijing is apprehensive about the potential developments realizing that, if a conflict cannot be avoided, its effects will be catastrophic for all parties and the region as a whole. 
According to Valery Garbuzov, President of the Institute of the US and Canadian Studies, Washington’s threats against North Korea are a just a scare tactic, since not a single US president has ever dared to carry out a strike on North Korea. 
“It is not quite correct to compare North Korea and Syria. Damascus cannot retaliate at present, while Pyongyang can. Moreover, it is unclear what kind of nuclear capabilities North Korea has, since all data are based on external evaluations. Washington realizes that a potential strike on North Korea would blow up the entire region, and after that all great powers will spiral downward,” Garbuzov stressed.


Vedomosti: Weak ruble of little help to exports and domestic production

Devaluing the ruble usually provides a price incentive for boosting exports and domestic competition with imports. However, in Russia this effect after the 2014-2015 devaluation was feeble. Nevertheless, the impact of a similar currency devaluation on exports and imports in various countries can differ. That depends on several factors, including policy measures, Vedomosti quotes Ilya Prilepsky of the Economic Expert Group as saying in a report for the April conference of the Higher School of Economics.

One of the factors is the share of imported components in the cost of exports taking into account the real effective rate, which is 50% lower in Russia than the average value.

However, this factor was not used to its fullest, Prilepsky said. In the first two years, the inadequate use of the export potential was compensated by a substantial decline in imports, apparently, because of the sanctions, the expert believes. That boosted net exports, but this advantage evaporated in 2016.

The import substitution policy that is being implemented makes the task of integrating Russian companies into the global added value chains more complex instead of simplifying the task, Yury Simachev, Director for Economic Policy at the Higher School of Economics, Mikhail Kuzyk of the Interdepartamental Analytical Center and Nikolay Zudin, expert at the Center for Strategic Research, said in a report for the Higher School of Economics.

It is extremely important not to make import substitution an economic policy objective, the emphasis should be placed on manufacturing competitive products rather than the early reduction of the share of imports, the paper adds.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews

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