Russia has no intention of being drawn into a new arms race and is prepared to come up with "an asymmetric defensive answer", if the US decides to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Izvestia writes citing some Russian diplomatic sources.
One of them noted that "it is highly likely that the Americans will withdraw from that treaty," as they are openly pursuing the policy of confrontation." However, one should not be affected by panic, as "the plan to draw Russia into an arms race is unfeasible, and Russia’s defense capabilities are at a very high level."
"This is a demonstration of a row with Russia. Looks like they will indeed withdraw from the treaty," another diplomatic source told the paper, adding that, if that is the case, Moscow will give an ‘asymmetric response’ confirming that the country has a sufficient defense potential to resist provocations and antagonism against it.
The US media are extensively discussing Washington’s potential withdrawal from the INF treaty accusing Russia of the alleged failure to comply with its provisions. Moscow, for its part, says it is Washington that violates the treaty. However, more and more members of the US political establishment insist the INF treaty is no longer necessary, while Russia argues abandoning it would be a mistake.
Franz Klintsevich, First Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house) Defense and Security Committee, believes that multiple media reports on the issue in the US are linked with the overall concept of a tough political and military response to those countries that are prepared to uphold their sovereignty. In his view, the Americans have long been violating the INF Treaty by developing and deploying sea-based systems and deploying missile launchers to Europe under the guise of its missile defense system, which, if necessary, can be equipped with "Tomahawks."
"The US no longer needs this treaty. By forming positional areas, it is wrapping itself in a boa constrictor choke to prevent Russia from getting stronger and create the conditions under which Russia will become the US’ economic appendage. However, it will not succeed in drawing Moscow into this. We are not interested in the arms race. Unlike during the Soviet era, we place emphasis on the quality rather than quantities. We have the State Defense Order, the rearmament doctrine. Russia’s Security Council has recently made some decisions on the country’s navy until 2030, and we will implement all that," the senator emphasized.
Russia is trying to adapt itself not only to the crisis but also to a fresh round of sanctions. Despite a large number of oil and gas affected by the previous Western restrictive measures, there were no such scandals as the one with the supplies of Siemens turbines to Crimea. This, perhaps, attests to some convenient loopholes used by both Russian and foreign companies involved in those projects, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Experts of the Russian government’s Analytical Center believe that oil and gas companies have a pretty good chance to adapt themselves to a new round of sanctions slapped by Washington.
The center noted in its bulletin that the Russian oil and gas sector was able to partially adapt itself to the previous rounds of restrictions at the expense of government support, partnership with the Asia-Pacific region and the flexibility of EU rules. However, the new round of Washington’s sanctions marks the transition from the "surgical" sanctions affecting individual Russian companies to "carpet bombing," which applies to all projects these companies are involved in, including foreign ones.
On the other hand, the center’s analysts are confident that the loopholes can be found in the new US sanctions law as well. It leaves a chance to attract US technologies to Russia, as Washington’s restrictions do not affect the projects where the share of the sanctioned companies is less than 33%. If that figure was lower, that projects as Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz considered to be an alternative to Russian gas supplies to Europe and where 10% is owned by LUKOIL, would be affected.
Meanwhile, Sergey Pravosudov, Director of the National Energy Institute, told the paper that some of the formally sanctioned projects have been suspended due to deteriorating market conditions rather than because of sanctions. "As for the Arctic shelf production, the Prirazlomnaya (oil platform) was commissioned before the sanctions were imposed, while new projects were suspended because of declining oil prices. A similar situation is observed with the Surgutneftegaz shale gas project. The company is gradually implementing it on its own, technologies are being developed, and the personnel is trained abroad," the expert concluded.
Israel is drafting a bill on capital punishment for terrorists, Izvestia writes citing excerpts from the document. Although the death penalty exists in the country, it does not apply to conventional crime and can only be carried out in extraordinary cases. Throughout the country’s existence since 1948, the death sentence was carried out only twice.
The bill on imposing death penalty for terrorists prepared by Nava Prehi-Boker, an Israeli Knesset member from the Likud political party, has been supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is now to be considered by legislators.
According to Israeli political scientist Avigdor Eskin, the initiative appeared after a series of attacks on the country’s citizens that gave rise to a public outcry.
"About two weeks ago, a 19-year-old terrorist burst into a house in the village of Halamish where people were just sitting around the table and stabbed three of them to death. After such events, people in Israel often discuss the imposition of the death penalty. Besides, such incidents became more frequent recently. A few days ago a terrorist attacked a shop worker in Yavne with a knife, and the same thing happened in Petah Tikva," he noted.
The submitted document specifies some amendments to the laws on criminal penalty for terrorism and on combating terrorism. In accordance with these amendments, a crime classified as a terrorist attack entails capital punishment. The maximum penalty at the moment is life imprisonment.
Beijing seems to have its own interests in the Baltic region, which go beyond the framework of its military partnership with Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. After taking part in the first stage of the Marine Interaction-2017 joint Russian-Chinese naval maneuvers and the naval parade in St. Petersburg, a Chinese Navy detachment paid a friendly visit to Finland and is currently in the Freeport of Riga.
Latvian media reports say that the visit is "planned and is taking place as part of the bilateral cooperation between Latvia and China." Last week Chinese vessels visited the seaport of Helsinki where they were enthusiastically greeted by local residents and members of the Chinese diaspora.
Visits to Chinese ships were arranged in both cities, and football games and other sports events involving sailors took place.
"China wants to strengthen the positive image of its navy in the eyes of Europeans through people’s diplomacy and social contacts," the paper quotes Colonel Eduard Rodyukov, member of the Military Science Academy, as saying. "It does not want to mar relations with Europe. On the contrary, it seeks to expand them. While cooperating with Russia in the military sphere and organizing joint military maneuvers in the Baltic region, it seemingly ignores the confrontation between Moscow and the West."
Vladimir Terekhov, an Asia-Pacific problems expert, also sees a pragmatic aspect in Beijing’s actions. "Among other reasons for the appearance of Chinse warships in the Baltic Sea, one could easily trace the issue of the difficult process of shaping relations between China and the European Union. Along with the US-Chinese relations, it is gradually coming to the fore in Beijing’s geopolitical game."
The Russian Security Council’s inter-agency commission on economic and social security has recommended the government to determine the conditions for the liberalization of Russian gas exports, Vedomosti writes citing the meeting’s protocol it obtained. The document was endorsed by Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev.
The participants in the meeting that took place on July 6 discussed the projects for the production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world as a threat to Russia’s energy security. They toughen competition in the European and Asian markets and worsen the conditions for Russian gas supplies there. The commission advised the government to "determine the priority areas for the stage-sponsored policy of developing the LNG industry to make sure that Russia becomes one of the world’s leaders in the LNG production and exports" in the medium-term perspective.
The Security Council’s commission could have in mind both options for liberalizing gas exports, both LNG and pipeline gas, according to GL Asset Management’s Sergey Vakhameyev. In his view, it is necessary to remove all barriers to LNG exports.
Gazprom is currently the biggest gas producer in Russia, which accounts for almost two-thirds of production. It exports slightly over 40% of raw materials abroad. If independent gas producers get access to gas exports, Gazprom’s revenues can decrease by $6.5 bln, says Olga Danilenko, Oil and Gas Director at Prosperity Capital Management.
According to Sergey Vakhrameyev, the chances for liberalizing pipeline exports are slim now. The government fears that the emergence of new players in the export markets will make competition tougher and lead to a decline in export gas prices. However, that could be an advantage for Gazprom itself, since the company will work more effectively facing competition, the expert noted.
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