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The G20 summit kicks off in the German city of Hamburg on Friday, and the first meeting between Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump on the sidelines of the event will be in the spotlight, Izvestia writes. However, Moscow believes that the summit should not be reduced only to Russian-US relations as Moscow’s foreign policy goals at the G20 are more than just a single meeting between the presidents.
Chairman of the State Duma (lower house of parliament) International Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky expects plenty of differences in views may be overcome on the sidelines of the Hamburg meeting. The Syrian crisis and the war on terror will top the subjects for discussion. "I’m sure that the Hamburg meeting will help open a new constructive page in Russian-US relations," the MP said.
Putin is also scheduled to hold a trilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the Ukrainian conflict. Berlin and Paris still cannot understand Washington’s foreign policy on Ukraine and hope that the exchange of views between Putin and Trump will shed light on the future trajectory. This also refers to Syria, North Korea and other hotspots around the globe, the paper writes.
According to Valery Garbuzov, President of the Institute of the US and Canadian Studies, under a positive scenario Putin and Trump may "adopt a declaration" on the readiness for joint cooperation, which would be non-binding but would serve as a clear signal for the others.
Diplomatic sources in Moscow and Washington told Kommersant that the talks’ agenda has not been agreed on, but both presidents are expected to focus on Syria and Ukraine. Over the past years, Russian-US relations have been marred by such a vast amount of mutual claims in a number of key areas that even under a favorable scenario it will take years to solve the points at issue. It is unclear if the sides will discuss the prospects of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a crucial point in bilateral ties, the paper writes. In late June, it became known that a group of influential US Congressmen believed that it was not necessary to adhere to this treaty, explaining that Russia allegedly violates it. Moscow argues that Washington is not committed to the deal. Experts in Russia and the US warn that tearing up the treaty would harm bilateral and multilateral security agreements.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that at talks in Hamburg, Trump may make concessions on Syria and the two seized Russian diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York, according to leading Western experts on Russian-US ties. However, any concession should be based on reciprocity.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington would be offering Russia a new peacekeeping formula in Syria, making Moscow and Washington its key actors, forcing Iran and Turkey to take a back seat. This scheme by the US is to create a no-fly zone over Syria. However, this proposal would not be advantageous for Russia as its aviation helps fight terrorists efficiently, the paper says.
Moscow and Beijing will carry on the work of a special contact group, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Afghanistan, which was halted in 2009. The agreement was struck at the July 4 meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and preparations for the first session are underway, Russian Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told Izvestia on Friday.
The sides plan to discuss financial and anti-terrorism assistance to the Central Asian state. A source in Russia’s Foreign Ministry told the paper that three Russian representatives will join the group. Kabulov is confident that joint efforts between Moscow and Beijing under the auspices of the SCO, which also brings together Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan, will help improve the situation in Afghanistan.
"A decision has been made to launch active cooperation with China on the Afghan issue. It will be carried out on two trajectories. The first is the bilateral format: Russia-Afghanistan and China-Afghanistan. The second is cooperation based on the SCO. At talks with (our) Chinese partners in Moscow, the discussion was on resuming the SCO-Afghanistan contact group’s work. Now practical aspects of the first session are being hammered out," Kabulov told the paper.
Moscow and Beijing are concerned over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the growing instability there and activity by the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia), the diplomat noted. Afghanistan’s worsening situation threatens the security of both Russia and China as well as the entire region, he emphasized.
The goal of the working group will be to draw up proposals and recommendations for the leadership of the SCO and Afghanistan on issues of mutual interest, including the war on terror, drug trafficking, and economic and technical support for Kabul.
China is upbeat on the prospects of joint efforts with Russia in this trajectory, the paper says. Sheng Shiliang, a member of the board at the Chinese Research Center of the SCO at China’s State Council, believes that Shanghai is the most convenient platform for any joint activity on the Afghan issue. "For us, dialogue with Kabul is very important as we have a common border. Destabilization of Afghanistan strongly influences North-West China. Beijing is interested in a stable Afghanistan and we share Russia’s stance on the problem and ways of solving it," the Chinese expert said.
US President Donald Trump and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda announced after a meeting on Thursday that they have reached common ground in energy cooperation, Vedomosti writes. Poland may become a hub through which US liquefied natural gas (LNG) will go to Central Europe and the prospect may even serve as an alternative to Russian natural gas supplies to Ukraine.
Trump said a long-term contract on the US LNG supplies to Poland may be signed "within the next 15 minutes." The first LNG arrived from the United States to Poland on June 7 in Swinoujscie, a sea port located in the country’s north-west, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
Meanwhile, Mikhail Krutikhin, a partner at RusEnergy consulting company, labelled the statements made by the US and Polish heads of state "political bravado." "The contacts are signed by companies, not by countries. US suppliers are highly unlikely to listen to the government. LNG from the US goes where the prices are high - the Asia-Pacific Region and South America. In Europe, these prices are lower and it will remain a "pond" for gas which could not have been sold to others," he said. After the contract with Russian energy giant Gazprom expires in 2022, Poland will continue buying Russian gas if it is cheaper, the expert said, stressing that it is up to the market to decide on gas purchases.
Director of East European Gas Analysis Mikhail Korchemkin echoed this stance saying: "When a state interferes in trade, as a rule nothing good comes out of it. I don’t know if Trump is going to offer benefits to those US LNG producers and reduce (their) profit tax. The Americans prefer the Asian market, where prices are higher."
The US may sell some 5 bln cubic meters of LNG to Europe and there is no talk about redistributing spheres of influence here, he said, noting that last year Gazprom supplied 179 bln cubic meters to Europe. In 2016, Poland’s consumption of gas grew 5.7% to 17.3 bln cubic meters, with 10.2 bln cubic meters purchased under a long-term contract with Gazprom, according to the paper.
Terrorist and extremist organizations use several dozen Western-based messengers for communication, and Telegram, Viber, WhatsApp and Skype are the most popular tools. Thousands of Russians have been recruited by the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia) through these instant messaging apps sources in Russia’s law enforcement agencies told Izvestia.
As IS terrorists continue to suffer major blows on Syria’s battlefields due to persistent Russian airstrikes, international terrorist groups have stepped up their propaganda efforts over the Internet. They recruit not only Muslims, but also those from other religious groups, the paper writes. As of April 2017, Russia’s law enforcement agencies identified several thousand Russian citizens who traveled abroad to take part in combat activities on the side of terrorists. Some of them were killed, and around 300 people returned to Russia, with nearly 150 of those already convicted and another 50 arrested.
According to the law enforcement agencies, there are more than 10,000 websites by international terrorist organizations and their information is published in 40 languages. Specially-trained handlers pick out radically-minded individuals and then communicate with them in closed messenger groups. Only the founder of this system may decipher the content of a conversation, a source told Izvestia.
Sergey Kravtsov, the founder of OMMG communications platform, noted that Russian authorities started dealing with regulating the operation of messengers too late. Many of them were created in a way that it is technically impossible to share information about any correspondence or a phone call, he said.
"Messengers have become a key source of communication, replacing SMS and phone calls. As they are free-of-charge and due to their privacy, this type of communication will develop," the expert said. "Only companies that cooperate with the state and try to comply with its demands will be able to work. Others will be blocked," he noted.
Relations between Moscow and Washington are at their lowest point in years, and both Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump say they are ready to improve cooperation. In the run-up to the first meeting between Putin and Trump in Hamburg on Friday, RBC has analyzed the current economic cooperation between both countries and its prospects, noting that "everything is not that bad."
The United States is among Russia’s five major trading partners (climbing in this rating from eighth in 2011 to fifth place in 2016 ), while Russia’s role in US foreign trade is significantly smaller, the paper writes. Over the past five years, Russia has backtracked ten positions to 30th place in the 2016 rating of America’s largest trade partners. Bilateral trade, which was at a stable level of $28 bln in 2011-2014, fell by 27% in 2016, the paper said, noting that "the factor reflects the general trend of downsizing trade with all of Russia’s trade partners amid economic recession."
At the same time, the US share in Russia’s trade grew from 3.8% in 2011 to 4.4% in 2016 as it decreased more slowly than the country’s trade with other countries. Experts of the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) noted in late 2015 that the sanctions do not significantly influence trade flows to Russia, the paper writes.
Russia mostly exports energy resources, raw materials to the United States, while importing machinery and agricultural goods from America, according to the Federal Customs Service. Equipment accounted for a large part of US imports to Russia (44%) in 2016, and 26% of supplies were referred to as "secret code" items, including aircraft, components, aviation electronics and dual-use goods, Deputy Director heading scientific work at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexey Kuznetsov, said.
Russia consumes more American services compared with the US. In 2016, the US became Russia’s largest trading partner in services, which reached $7.4 bln, according to the Russian Central Bank.
Regarding investments, cooperation between the US and Russia is at a low level, the paper writes. According to Kuznetsov, this comes due to the lack of a full-fledged agreement on cooperation in this sphere and that Russian investments in the US are not secured from confiscation due to political motives. Modest US investments in Russia are the result of a rather small share of the US in the overall Russian trade (4.4% in 2016).
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