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Press review: Iranian thorn in Russia-UAE cooperation and Moldova’s march to civil war

August 30, 2017, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, August 30

1 pages in this article


Kommersant: Iran may become stumbling block for Moscow-Abu Dhabi strategic partnership

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday paid a visit to the United Arab Emirates, which seeks to become Moscow’s strategic trade and economic partner in the Persian Gulf region. Experts interviewed by Kommersant are confident that cooperation between Russia and the UAE may be promising if it is not hindered by Moscow’s friendly ties with Tehran.

Iran’s policy also stirred up controversy between Russia and the UAE during the discussion on the Syrian crisis, the paper says. The Iranian factor surprisingly rattled the final stretch of Lavrov’s press conference with his Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

At the press conference, the sides did not mention the Qatari crisis, which is a major headache for the Persian Gulf states now. The issue is likely to surface at Lavrov’s talks in Qatar on Wednesday and Doha’s representatives are not expected to voice “laudatory words” for the UAE, which initiated the diplomatic blockade in early June along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, the paper says.

Speaking on Syria, Lavrov did not agree that efforts on uniting Syria’s external opposition have failed. His Emirati counterpart called for the immediate withdrawal from Syria of those states, "which try to negatively influence its sovereignty," namely Iran and Turkey. "Otherwise, the current situation will persist and Syria’s problem will spill over into other countries," he said.

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi, the President of the Emirates Policy Center and an expert at the Valdai International Discussion Club, told Kommersant that the UAE has ambitious plans and is ready to foster ties with Russia in seven strategic areas - industry, infrastructure construction, tourism, military and technical cooperation, nuclear areas, agriculture and the healthcare sector. Lavrov focused on cooperation in energy, industry, banking as well as tourism. Military and technical cooperation remains one of the key areas for bilateral cooperation, the paper says. The expert told the paper that the prospects of Russia’s relations with the UAE and the region in general depend on Moscow’s cooperation with Tehran. "It should not be carried out at the expense of the Arab world," Al-Ketbi warned. Russia seeks to maintain a balance between all its partners in the region, the paper writes.


Izvestia: Sakhalin beats Moscow in attracting foreign investment

Amid the ongoing outflow of direct foreign investment, the Far Eastern island of Sakhalin looks better than other Russian regions, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, according to the Bank of Russia, Izvestia writes. This year, Sakhalin is among the best regions for the potential regional demand, labor efficiency and profits, the regulator says.

Since 2009, Sakhalin has been cultivating large-scale investment projects in extracting oil and gas, namely, Sakhalin 1 and Sakhalin 2, the paper writes. Among the investors are ExxonMobil, ONGC, SODECO, Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi. According to the balance of payments, in Q1 2017 direct investment in Russia reached $31.136 bln and the outflow was estimated at $26.49 bln. So, net investments came to $4.646 bln, while net direct investments into Russia skyrocketed 72-fold compared with last year (in Q1 2016 the figure stood at $64 mln).

This year, Moscow and St. Petersburg saw a net outflow of investments to the tune of $990 mln and $114 mln, respectively, according to the Bank of Russia. In Sakhalin, surplus indirect investments reached $2.15 bln and were almost equivalent to net investments in the entire Far Eastern Region. The island’s economy totaled $2.166 bln and the outflow came to $16 mln. Investments surged $218 mln compared with 2016.

Regional Program Director at the Independent Institute for Social Policy Natalya Zubarevich attributed the high level of investments into Sakhalin’s economy to the oil and gas sector, which remains attractive despite sanctions and caution by foreign investors. It is noteworthy that other oil producing regions haven't seen the same inflow of foreign investments, the paper writes.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moldovan establishment igniting potential civil war on EU’s borders

Moldova is steadily turning into a risk zone for the European Union, German political scientist and Director of the German-Russian Forum, Alexander Rahr told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Moldova’s political elites have started a real war: the pro-Western parliamentary majority and Prime Minister Pavel Filip are battling against President Igor Dodon who seeks good relations both with the European and Eurasian Unions.

The expert hopes that Moldova won’t go down the Ukrainian path, but warned that provocations may be staged, especially in Transnistria where Kiev is carrying out "an aggressive policy." Meanwhile, Brussels has been turning a blind eye to Moldova since it is preoccupied with its own problems and Germany is bracing for elections, he said. The US may influence the situation but that depends on whether or not Washington works to repeat the Ukrainian scenario on Moldovan soil, Rahr emphasized.

Most recently, Chisinau asked the United Nations to help it pull out Russian peacekeepers from Transnistria, Moldova’s breakaway region. The president condemned this as a provocation. Dodon told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Russian troops would leave the region only when the Transnistria conflict was resolved.

Anatol Taranu, who heads the Chisinau-based Center for Strategic Studies and Political Consulting Politicon, said Moldova’s voters may be drawn into the current conflict waged by the political elites. On September 17, the country’s right-wing forces will hold protests in Chisinau and on September 24, President Dodon plans to stage mass protests across the country. On the same day, a referendum initiated by Dodon to expand the country’s presidential powers and early parliamentary elections will be held, the paper writes.


RBC: Moscow reports drop in military spending

Russia has presented a report to the United Nations on its annual military spending.Figures for 2016 show expenditures reached 2.1 trillion rubles ($35.7 bln) which translates to a 29% drop compared with the previous year, RBC writes.

This report, furnished by Moscow to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), remains one of the alternative sources of information on Russia’s military spending (apart from the federal budget data). Although Moscow shared this info two months later than scheduled (on June 30), it still remains one of a few countries, which regularly discloses this data to the UN, the paper says.

Although Moscow shared this info two months later than scheduled (on June 30), it still remains one of a few countries, which regularly reveal this data to the UN, the paper says.

Last year, Russia reported that its military spending in 2015 came to 2.9 trillion rubles ($49.3 bln), and this almost coincided with the federal budget spending, the paper writes. However, this time Russia’s data differs by 1.7 trillion rubles ($28.9 bln) or 83% from that included in the budget spending on national defense, which reached almost 3.8 trillion rubles ($64.6 bln) in 2016 (including secret spending).

According to UN guidelines, countries should divulge their expenditures on maintaining military units, operations and maintenance, purchases and creation of weapons, as well as research and development. Vasily Zatsepin, who heads a military economy laboratory at the Gaidar Institute, a non-profit research organization, estimated that according to the UN standards, Russia’s total budget spending on defense last year reached 4.93 trillion rubles ($84 bln) or 5.7% of the country’s GDP.


Media: Washington repeats sanction threats against North Korea

For the first time since 2009, a missile launched by North Korea flew over Japanese territory on Tuesday, RBC writes. The United States is considering all possible responses, President Donald Trump has warned. Western politicians and Russia are calling for the resumption of negotiations.

Director of the Russian Strategy for Asia Center of the Institute of Economics at Russia’s Academy of Sciences Georgy Toloraya believes that North Korea’s latest missile launch "was not that provocative as it could have been initially, since the North planned to direct the missile towards a US base in Guam, but Kim Jong-un decided against that." On the one hand, the launch shows that Pyongyang is carrying on its work on upgrading its missiles and nuclear weapons, yet on the other hand, it is a call to Washington to start taking certain steps towards negotiations to resolve the conflict, he said.

The North Korean leader wanted to up the ante, and he is demonstrating that he is not indifferent to the US attitude towards him. Nonetheless, Washington will stop short of using force, Ivan Timofeyev, the Director of Programs at the Valdai International Discussion Club, told the paper.

Russia’s former ambassador to South Korea and Japan, Alexander Panov, sees no conditions for launching the talks: "North Korea needs security guarantees and the Americans do not want to provide them." The tense situation amid North Korea’s threat will persist but the parties won’t dare go for a military solution, the expert told the paper

Head of the Department of Korea and Mongolia at the Institute of Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Vorontsov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Pyongyang’s missile launch was a response to the large-scale maneuvers by the US and South Korea. Both China and North Korea have repeatedly called for an introduction of a moratorium on the US-South Korean drills and Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests. But these proposals have been rejected, and the missile tests continue along with the maneuvers, he said.

Speaking about imposing new UN sanctions, Vorontsov noted that North Korea has been burdened by US restrictive measures for decades and managed to adjust to them. Moscow and Beijing stress that the potential of sanctions pressure on Pyongyang has been exhausted.

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

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