Russia has been named a threat to the US in the new National Security Strategy unveiled by President Donald Trump. The 70-page document signed by the US leader last week just reinforces Ronald Reagan’s thesis about the need for "peace through strength," Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The new accusations came as no surprise for Moscow, though its contacts with Washington continue, including on the war on terror.
China is likewise on the list of global threats to the US. The document asserts that Beijing and Moscow "challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity." Trump’s top national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, who drafted the strategy, earlier described Russia and China as "revisionist powers" posing bellicose threats to the US.
The US National Security Strategy is not a legally binding document and is reviewed regularly, Yury Rogulev, Director of the Franklin Roosevelt US Policy Studies Center at Moscow State University, explained in an interview with the paper. "Using the ‘strategy’ term means that the administration is working on a certain strategic action plan outlining key areas, major threats, basic steps and countermeasures for a particular period of time. It is certainly not a guideline to follow. Rather, it is a document that demonstrates the understanding of the current situation," he stressed.
Washington’s statements on China create a standoff "out of thin air," Ivan Timofeyev, Program Director at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), told Kommersant.
"In actual fact, the United States no longer believes trade, scientific and technical cooperation with China is an opportunity, considering it to be a challenge instead," he said. "I am not sure that Washington fully realizes that this stance can prompt China to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy and consolidates the position of anti-American forces inside the country." The expert recalled that Trump visited Beijing in November, and the Chinese leadership made it clear that his concerns had been heard. "Deals worth $250 bln were planned. Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to help with North Korea, but all efforts were in vain," he noted.
A high-ranking Palestinian delegation is arriving in Moscow on December 19 for a meeting with Russian Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Izvestia writes. The parties are expected to discuss US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, member of the Fatah movement’s Politbureau and former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath informed the paper.
"I will lead the delegation arriving in Moscow. It is planned to hold [a meeting of] the Russian-Palestinian Working Committee on the Middle East on December 19," he said.
According to the politician who is a co-chair of this committee, after abandoning the idea of Washington’s mediation role in the Middle East peace process, the Palestinians would like to see the emergence of a new informal association led by Russia, China and the EU. This bloc would lay the foundation for a multipolar world and ultimately contribute to efforts in tackling one of the greatest political stumbling blocks.
Although it is next to impossible to relaunch the peace process given the current situation, Russia could play a substantial role in reviving dialogue between the conflicting parties in the future, says Tatyana Karasova, Head of the Department of Israeli Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences" Institute of Oriental Studies.
"Now it is necessary to spend some time, look around, pause for a moment and start searching for possible proposals on resuming the negotiation process. The problem is that it is extremely difficult to pinpoint some progression that would suit both the Palestinians and Israelis. However, everyone is convinced that Russia’s role will be reinforced in light of recent events," the expert said.
The first successful cyber attack against a Russian bank siphoning off money abroad through the SWIFT international system was registered on December 15, IT security specialists told Kommersant. However, in this particular case, the bank itself may in fact be the Achilles’ heel, the paper’s sources told the paper, adding that the recent Central Bank audit identified IT security problems in the attacked financial institution. The money was taken out through the SWIFT international banking system, which had not been used by hackers in Russia until now.
SWIFT’s representatives declined to comment on individual clients in an interview with the paper but assured that cyber security issues are taken very seriously.
Experts agree that SWIFT was not the target of the cyber attack this time. "The average bank can be connected to five of six different systems at once. For instance, to the National Payment System, Visa International, MasterCard, SWIFT and two or three money transfer systems, and the attackers can thus withdraw money by penetrating into the bank’s infrastructure and gaining access to any of these systems," said Dmitry Kuznetsov, Director of Methodology and Standardization at Positive Technologies.
Artyom Sychev, Deputy Head of the Russian Central Bank's Information Security and Protection Department, explained to Kommersant that the attackers could withdraw the money by any means. "SWIFT was probably chosen because they were interested in transferring money abroad. Apparently, the thieves believed it would be less risky to cash money abroad than in Russia," he said.
Russian military servicemen are leaving the Joint Center for [Ceasefire] Control and Coordination (JCCC) in Ukraine’s embattled Donbass region on December 19. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Russian observers’ work had become impossible because of Kiev’s stance.
Meanwhile, a Russian diplomatic source informed Izvestia that the withdrawal of observers does not mean that Russia is terminating any interaction with Ukraine in the JCCC. The issue at hand is ending the Russian officers’ "physical presence," while necessary communication will be carried out through telephone conference calls.
Kiev actually forced Moscow to make such a decision creating obstacles for Russian specialists despite the fact that the Center had been set up in accordance with an agreement reached by the Russian and Ukrainian presidents.
Nevertheless, Russian diplomats continue to stress that the Minsk agreements are the key document to settling the Ukrainian crisis, and there are no alternatives. "Unfortunately, Kiev is doing everything to prevent the Minsk accords from being implemented," Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Izvestia.
According to Eduard Basurin, Deputy Commander of the Operations Command of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), attempts to elbow Russian officers out the center is just more proof that Kiev is determined to stall the implementation of the Minsk accords.
"The most important thing, however, is that Russia’s representatives in the JCCC prevented Ukraine from shelling residential areas. Without them, Kiev could have intensified the shelling. The fact remains though that Ukraine could not guarantee the Russian officers’ safety and actively interfered with their work," he stressed.
There have been profound changes in Russians’ sentiments in the outgoing year. The desire for stability that used to be expressed by the overwhelming majority of the population was replaced by the demand for changes, particularly among the younger generation, Vedomosti writes citing the results of a recent survey conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
People want higher living standards, a more stable social situation, while political changes are of minor importance.
Over the past decade, most respondents were in favor of stability rather than changes: in 2007 the ratio was 60:40, in 2012, it came to 72:28 and in October 2016, it was 61:39. However, a year later, 51% of those polled spoke out in favor of changes, while those wishing to maintain stability were in the minority for the first time since 2003.
The desire for change stems from a prolonged crisis. Many view the status quo and stability as equivalents of economic upheavals and falling living standards, the paper quotes Vladimir Petukhov, Head of the Center for Comprehensive Social Studies at the Institute of Sociology, as saying.
The upcoming presidential election is fueling hopes for the better to a certain extent. Russians are eager to take advantage of the "window of opportunity" fearing that, otherwise, they are in for continuing stagnation. At the same time, Russians, especially the older generation and middle-aged citizens, are apprehensive of changes bearing in mind the experience of the 1990s. On the other hand, the younger generation, which did not live through the crisis of those years, is less susceptible to such sentiments.
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