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Press Review: Trump tax bid may end EU sanctions and Russia to engage Kurds in Syria talks

December 14, 2017, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday

1 pages in this article
© AP Photo/Evan Vucci


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump’s tax plan may push EU to lift anti-Russian sanctions

US President Trump’s tax reform might turn America into an attractive tax haven. However, foreign manufacturers fear that the reform package might make them uncompetitive, since they will have to either accept double taxation, or require their authorities to enter into a tax dumping race with the United States, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. According to experts interviewed by the newspaper, this situation can benefit Russia. The more vigorously Trump defends American manufacturers, the higher the likelihood of the EU lifting anti-Russian sanctions.

Experts highlighted a couple of key points about the new US reform, which has whipped up resistance from other countries. Firstly, cutting corporate income tax from 35% to 20% for companies operating in the US, which could mean that America will be pulling in business from other countries with higher tax rates. Secondly, a 20% excise tax would be imposed on imported goods and services produced abroad excluded from US taxes, which puts foreign competitors at a disadvantage and compensates tax cuts for American companies.

Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that might mean "the dawn of trade wars." "The United States is entering into it fully "armed" with the prospect of winning, while EU economies enter isolated," Alor Broker analyst Alexor Antonov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Trump's goal is "to turn the American economy into a giant workshop, and a set of effective industries," associate professor at the Associate Professor at the Higher School of Finance and Management at RANEPA Dmitry Tikhonov told the newspaper.

At the same time, VETA managing partner Ilya Zharskiy disagrees, stating that the reform won't turn the US into any tax haven, "because, despite the cut, the profit tax will still remain very high according to global standards, that is 20%."

However, experts agree on the fact that such disputes between the US, the European Union and China can play into Russia's hands. "The cooling of foreign trade relations with the US and the need to search for new markets for EU products will stimulate the pursuit for ways out of the sanctions deadlock," Zharskiy said.

"The more active Trump will defend American manufacturers, the higher the chances of the EU lifting the anti-Russian sanctions." According to the newspaper, in the medium term, the EU can lift the anti-Russian sanctions and revive trade with neighboring countries.


Izvestia: Russia seeks bigger Kurdish role in coming Syrian congress

The Syrian National Dialogue Congress is expected to be held in January 2018, three sources in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia. According to the sources, the list of individuals invited to the meeting is being hammered out. However, the Syrian parliament is convinced that there are no obstacles to the negotiations from the participants themselves. Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that the main disputes are unfolding around the inclusion of Kurdish political forces in the dialogue. Russia needs to convince Ankara of the need to include the Kurds in the talks.

"Coordinating the list of participants with Turkey and Iran is currently in progress, so that Ankara and Tehran are not against any delegations, which we are expecting in January 2018," one of the sources told Izvestia. Another source in Russian diplomatic circles told the newspaper that Moscow does not intend to abandon its idea of inviting Kurdish political forces, which Turkey opposed earlier.

A member of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath party told Izvestia that they do not see any problems with holding a congress at the set time. According to the parliamentarian, this is an inter-Syrian dialogue, not connected with the Geneva or Astana talks, and it will be held in a timely manner.

"All discrepancies are connected exclusively to the Kurds. That is why the National Dialogue Congress had to be put off for a later date," another source in the Russian diplomatic department told the newspaper.


Excluding vital players directly influencing the situation in Syria from the political processes is counterproductive, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) Yury Zinin told Izvestia, adding that ignoring the Kurds is fraught with further stoking the conflict.

"This would whip up the most radical separatist sentiments among the Kurds. In addition, not including the Kurds in the dialogue would lead to continued interference by various external players in the situation. Thus, everything would remain in its present suspended state. At the same time, their involvement in the political process will make it possible to hammer out a formula that would allow them to secure their rights, perhaps by creating national-cultural autonomy," the expert told the newspaper.

This is not the first time Russia has been trying to involve the Kurds in a political settlement to the Syrian conflict. Earlier, Moscow advocated including them in the negotiation process in Geneva, which stirred up opposition from external players. "Now the fact that this meeting of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress is going to be held in January 2018, indicates obvious progress in the negotiations with Ankara


Kommersant: Human rights group appeals to UN about FSB-Telegram dispute

The Agora International Human Rights Group, representing the interests of Telegram Messenger LLP, has sent an appeal to the United Nations asking it to sway the situation with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) claims against the instant messaging service, according to Kommersant.

The newspaper reported that Agora had sent a letter to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression David Kaye. Human rights activists are asking the institution to urge the Russian government to refrain from arbitrarily interfering with citizen’s civil rights to freedom of expression, privacy and anonymity, including online, Kommersant wrote, citing the text of the letter available to the newspaper.

"The Telegram case is in a certain sense a Russian analogue of the FBI vs. Apple case, where national security interests and human rights clash," Agora lawyer Damir Gainutdinov told Kommersant. The human rights group believes the Russian authorities do in fact have an official plan in trying to block Telegram on the territory of the Russian Federation.

The outcome is difficult to predict, lawyers interviewed by Kommersant said. "On the one hand, Telegram pleads possible violations of basic constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to confidential correspondence," Olga Sorokina, managing partner at O2 Consulting told the newspaper. "On the other hand, the FSB is implementing the Yarovoy package - its goal of protecting citizens from terrorism. It is difficult to find a balanced solution that equally satisfies the interests of both parties at the junction of fundamental values," she added.

Earlier, the World Court Station No. 383 of the Meshchansky District of Moscow found Telegram Messenger LLP guilty of violating the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation article by failing "to keep and (or) provide to law enforcement authorities information about receiving, transferring, delivering and (or) processing messages exchanged by users, as well as information about these users." According to the lawsuit, on July 12, 2017, the FSB sent a request to the company about the need to provide information for decoding messages with a July 19 deadline. The request was not fulfilled. On December 12, the Meshchansky District Court of Moscow ruled that a fine of 800,000 rubles ($13,643) on the company is legal.


Izvestia: Irish entrepreneurs eye 100 mln euro investment plan in Crimea

Irish businessmen plan to pour 100 mln euro into building hotels in Crimea, Co-Chairman of the NGO Delovaya Rossiya Andrey Nazarov told Izvestia.

"According to the agreements reached with the Irish, we expect investments of about 100 mln euro in Crimean business projects. Irish entrepreneurs are primarily interested in the development of the tourism sector. At this stage, we intend to build several hotels on the peninsula's coast, near the airport in Simferopol," Izvestia quoted him as saying.

The newspaper reports that in early 2018, a delegation from Ireland will come to Crimea to coordinate projects with Russian businessmen. Deals to go through with the plans might be signed at the 4th Yalta International Economic Forum, which is scheduled for April 2018.

Foreign investors interests were confirmed to the paper by businessman Patrick Duffy, who is organizing the Irish delegation’s visit to Crimea. He told the daily that the entrepreneurs are extremely interested in investing in the peninsula. He added that the delegation would be ready to discuss cooperation in the field of medical technology, food, agriculture and education with their Russian partners.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukraine, Russia might cut final ties by discontinuing joint railway link

Ukraine might abolish all railway traffic with Russia, and quite possibly even bus service might be cut between both countries, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. According to the newspaper, given that since the spring of 2015 there has been no direct air links between these states, these developments might spell a complete transport blockade.

According to Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure Vladimir Omelyan, a final decision should be ready in 2018. The minister recommended Ukrainians working in Russia - more than 1 mln people registered officially - to return to Ukraine.

Kiev brought up the issue of terminating railway communication, after Russian Railways reported that since December 11 all long-distance trains are now bypassing Ukraine. This amount to 62 (outbound-inbound) passenger and 30 (outbound-inbound) freight trains heading from Central Russia to the south. Earlier the route included transit through a small strip of Ukrainian territory (the Lugansk region). After the outbreak of hostilities, the Russian side began building a detour route along Russia’s Rostov and Voronezh Regions. Currently, only the Moscow-Chisinau line goes through Ukraine.

According to the newspaper, Russia calculates Ukraine’s losses to the tune of $200 mln per year (the cost of transit through the Lugansk Region). Nevertheless, Kiev refutes this information. There is also indirect damage, given that the disruption of railway links, together with the situation in the Donbass, might turn Ukraine, formerly a kind of bridge between East and West, into an island, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

The issue can be also viewed in the context of the New Silk Road project based on the transit of goods from China to Europe. Russia can offer transportation from Kazakhstan, and Ukraine claims to develop a route that goes from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan and Georgia, then the Black Sea to Odessa, through the territory of Ukraine to Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, the newspaper wrote.


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

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