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Press review: What Assad’s Sochi visit could bring and NASA eyes Russia's Moon mission

November 22, 2017, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday

1 pages in this article
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad

© Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS


Izvestia: Assad's Sochi visit could birth Russian-US anti-terror coalition

Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump held a phone conversation on Tuesday evening about the situation in Syria, Ukraine, Iran and on the Korean peninsula. According to Izvestia, this dialogue might be the first step to creating a joint anti-terrorist coalition.

According to the newspaper, the leaders talked about the situation in Syria, Putin filled Trump in on his recent meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad, during which Syria’s leader reaffirmed his "commitment to the political process, constitutional reform, and presidential and parliamentary elections." Putin also reiterated his support for cooperation with the US in the war on terror, noting the practical importance of coordinating efforts between the special services of both countries. The presidents also talked about the situation on the Korean peninsula, the parties stressed the need to reach a solution to the problem "through negotiations, and diplomatic means." Speaking about the crisis in Ukraine, Putin noted the absence of a real alternative to the "unconditional implementation of the Minsk agreements" of February 12, 2015.

Chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Leonid Slutskiy told Izvestia that the conversation between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump is a good response to those who are spinning the anti-Russian narrative and are trying to "separate the two largest nuclear powers and whip up a conflict between them, using the most far-fetched reasons."

"The conversation was lengthy, but constructive. The main issue was the settling the Syrian crisis. Both presidents emphasized their commitment to preserving the country’s territorial integrity and resolving the conflict by maximizing involvement of the opposition and its various groups and platforms in the negotiations. Trump once again returned to his pre-election rhetoric when he said that IS not Assad should be fought against in Syria," he told the newspaper.

According to him, the fact that Putin informed his American colleague about the talks with the Syrian president can be considered a good opportunity to start the creation of a joint anti-terrorist coalition. "All this suggests that Putin and Trump generally agree on the basics of a progressive development in Russian-American cooperation in combating international terrorism," Slutsky added.

Minchenko Consulting President Evgeny Minchenko told Izvestia there are several reasons why the telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump is vital. "Firstly, it helps maintain at least some level of relations between Russia and the United States … Secondly, the important issue - success in the fight against the Islamic state (banned in Russia). The third component is connecting major points of interest. The Russia-Iran-Turkey talks have just been held. Russia now has a special relationship with Syria and Iran, the United States has obvious complications with NATO member Turkey. I think the coordination of these multifaceted negotiations between the countries - players with different interests is the main reason for this phone call," he told Izvestia.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Transnistria might shift from Moscow to EU and Ukraine

The European Union will show interest in rapprochement with Transnistria and Moldova at the upcoming talks on settling the Transnistrian conflict set for November 24, Project Director of the German-Russian forum Alexander Rahr told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Moldova’s Parliament Deputy Bogdan Tirdea told the newspaper that the European Union's attention towards Transnistria lays the groundwork for talks about the possibility of integrating the unrecognized republic into the EU without Moldova. However, according to Rahr, neither Moldova nor Transnistria has any real chances of becoming EU members.

On November 24, negotiations in the 5+2 format (Moldova, Transnistria as the parties, Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE as mediators and the EU and US as observers) will be held in Vienna. Last time, the talks were held in Berlin one year ago. Tiraspol had refused to meet, stating that the format is ineffective. However, this time the initiative came from Transnistria, the newspaper said.

According to Rahr, the EU uses the carrot and stick approach in relations with Moldova and Transnistria. The goal is to draw the parties closer. Tiraspol would receive benefits in trade and development with the EU. According to the expert, Berlin nevertheless would back Tiraspol in its pursuit to interact with the European Union. The EU opened its doors for Transnistrian businessmen - duty-free - he added. According to the expert, for the time being, Transnistria will remain with Russia, and the future depends on the big game, "in which Chisinau and Tiraspol are not the leading players", he concluded.

Meanwhile, Bogdan Tirdea is convinced that Transnistria is changing vectors. "At least the trend is noticeable. Tiraspol still recalls the referendum of 2006, when the local population voted for independence from Moldova and sought to get closer to Russia. However, recently Transnistrian President Vadim Krasnoselsky often talks about recognizing Transnistria, which, according to him, will definitely happen. It seems that Tiraspol is somewhat distanced from Moscow and is getting closer to the EU and Ukraine," he told the newspaper.

Rahr does not agree with the lawmaker. According to the expert, Transnistria is not shifting its foreign policy course, but rather is trying to survive. To do this, it will use the protection of EU members, including Germany, he told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US likely to overtake Russia in oil production

In the near future, the United States might surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia in terms of crude oil output, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. According to the newspaper, a rapid surge in US production is expected even with low oil prices, which do not recoup expenditures on developing many Russian deposits, especially on the Arctic shelf. Falling costs in the shale revolution is the main contributing factor to America’s oil output growth. Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that production costs in Russia are 10 times lower, and production is restricted artificially to maintain high prices.

The Russian government is currently preparing special incentives for launching "complex" deposits - a new draft law on excess-profits tax will be discussed. According to the newspaper, to some extent, this approach is a response to the drastic change in US production costs, which is likely to lead to the US becoming a dominant force in the global oil and gas market.

"Russia produces 550 mln tonnes of oil per year, but without problems it could increase this volume to 700 mln tonnes, the restrictions are related only to the infrastructure for export and fear of destroying the market, since a barrel could cost $10-15, instead of the current $62. To maintain high prices, Russia initiated the OPEC+ agreement. The US is in a completely different position - Russia is the largest exporter and the United States is trying to reduce their imports at the expense of production. The United States is one of the largest importers of oil in the world, so reducing its dependence on imports is a geopolitical task for them," leading expert of the Union of Oil and Gas Producers Rustam Tankayev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

According to the expert, Russia might still have something up its sleeve in terms of production costs. "After the fall of the ruble, our oil production costs fell to $2.3 per barrel, at the moment they reach $3.2, which is 10 times less than that of American producers. Thus, shale oil in the interstate market is not our competitor," Tankayev said.

"Sanctions temporarily stalled technological imports in the oil and gas industry, but it did not lead to a complete cessation of all high-tech projects of Russian raw materials enterprises. Russia is likely to retain its international position in the production segment at a price of up to $15 per barrel and even strengthen it, despite some limitations. Although this will inevitably lead to a small decline of accessible reserves of high-


Kommersant: Rostec-UAC merger might be on the horizon

A draft presidential decree on transferring the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) to the state corporation Rostec is being prepared, Kommersant wrote. According to the newspaper, Russia’s Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, who considers it logical to merge all aircraft-building assets into one holding structure, actively promoted the idea. The project is supported by a number of top managers in the aviation industry who count on financial assistance from Rostec. However, some officials believe that such a decision could "overload" Rostec, which already includes more than 700 organizations and enterprises.

Two top managers in military-industrial complex and a government employee told Kommersant that the Industry Ministry prepared a draft decree on transferring shares of UAC to Rostec. "The draft includes transferring 91.68% of the corporation’s shares in federal ownership, previous owners will retain the remaining 5.11% owned by Vnesheconombank, and 3.68% will be in the hands of private shareholders," one of the sources told the newspaper.

The idea of merging UAC and Rostec first surfaced in the spring. Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov called the step "expedient". According to the newspaper’s source, Manturov "is putting in a lot of effort to promote the project, as Minister, as Chairman of the UAC board of directors, and as Head of Rostec’s supervisory board."

A number of objective reasons for the merger do exist, Kommersant source said. First and foremost, 60-70% of components for UAC manufactured aircraft are made by the corporation. “Manturov is a supporter of consolidating industry assets, so from this point of view the proposal looks logical," a government official told the newspaper.

"Rostec and the Industry and Trade Ministry support it, but the rest are still hesitant. 

First and foremost, 60-70% of components for UAC manufactured aircraft are made by the corporation. "Manturov is a supporter of consolidating industry assets, so from this point of view the proposal looks logical," a government official told the newspaper.

However, the government does not yet have a unified position, a high-ranking official told Kommersant. "Rostec and the Industry and Trade Ministry support it, but the rest are still hesitating. It will be further discussed," the source said. According to the source, some government officials are convinced that Rostec should focus on the currently available assets, whereas merging UAC with the state corporation "will simply overload" it. If UAC fused with Rostec, the state corporation would consolidate the entire export and production potential of the aircraft industry, as Rosoboronexport, also a part of Rostec, is involved in concluding commercial arms contracts. The newspaper’s source expects that Russian President Vladimir Putin will make the final decision.

Deputy Head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Konstantin Makienko believes that transferring UAC to Rostec may not streamline, but rather complicate the management chain. "Now, instead of waiting for a response from the UAC leadership, it will be necessary to wait for an answer from the state corporation," he noted.


Izvestia: NASA interested in Russian lunar stations

NASA might participate in Russian Moon exploration missions, planned for the coming years. These intentions were discussed during a recent visit by NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director James Green to Moscow, the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Izvestia. The information was confirmed by the US aerospace agency and Roscosmos.

During the talks held in Moscow in early October, NASA representatives, for the first time, showed an interest in participating in Russian projects to explore the Moon using automatic interplanetary stations. They intend to discuss their participation at the annual meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group and then submit proposals to NASA’s management.

According to Lead Communications Specialist at NASA Laurie Cantillo, discussions were held on NASA’s possible participation in the Luna 25 to Luna 28 projects, but no decisions were made.

Roscosmos told the newspaper that it welcomes international cooperation. "The participation of NASA in Moon research projects will allow our countries to approach the creation of a near-Moon station much more efficiently," the press service of the state corporation told Izvestia.

According to Head of the Department of Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Igor Mitrofanov, the American side can participate in 2021-2022 missions, as well as in the promising project Luna-28. As an option, the Russian side suggested providing radio communications to the American MoonRise (the launch is scheduled for 2024) through the Luna-26 orbiter, which is supposed to be planted on the reverse side of the natural satellite of the Earth.
"Given that fact that the landing zone is on the other side of the Moon, NASA specialists will probably be interested in ensuring that their landing gear is furnished with radio communication through Luna 26, which already provides for the possibility of retransmission of data from our polar landing gear Luna-27 to Earth," Mitrofanov explained.

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

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