The outgoing year of was one of calm and progressive development for Russia’s policy in Asia, which it apparently lacks on the European track, Kommersant writes. The biggest event for the Asian vector of Russian policy was India’s and Pakistan’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on June 9. However, most experts interviewed by the paper viewed this as a shortsighted move arguing that the Indian-Pakistani disagreements will paralyze the organization’s work. Some of them pointed out, however, that, following the accession of two more members, the SCO has ceased to be a regional organization and has morphed into a global one.
The focus of attention in Asia was North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. Amid deteriorating relations between Pyongyang and its closest partner, Beijing, Russia suddenly became a bridge between the US and North Korea. Although talks on the issue have not culminated in any success yet, Moscow’s comeback as a player in resolving the crisis is seen as a success for Russian diplomacy.
Meanwhile, 2017 brought certain disappointments in Russian-Japanese relations. Japan’s JETRO external trade organization earlier said Japanese investment in Russia had amounted to mere 0.03% of its foreign investment. Commenting on the situation, Japan’s Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko told the paper that part of Japanese companies’ investment went through third countries and did not appear in bilateral statistics. He also pointed to "the instability of the legal system and a complicated procedure for investing" in Russia. Kommersant’s sources in Moscow attributed the reasons for the slowdown in relations to Tokyo’s "overstated requirements" for guarantees on bringing capital back and some delays by Japanese bureaucracy and corporate management.
As for relations with China, they developed positively and steadily throughout the year. In addition to top-level political contacts, Russia and China are in talks on two large-scale trade agreements. "The EAEU-China agreement is going through a domestic harmonization procedure," a source in the Russian government informed the paper. "Concurrently, the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministries are negotiating another integration agreement, which is broader than the first one. In particular, it does not prohibit the requirement on residency for high-tech companies (which is contained in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement)," he said.
Having withstood the onslaught from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Russian athletes will eventually compete at the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea’s PyeongChang, Izvestia writes.
On December 5, 2017, the IOC Executive Board decided to allow Russians to take part in the 2018 Games under the designation of ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia.’ Invitations to take part in the Olympics will be sent by the IOC after athletes are deemed eligible for the competitions by a special commission.
After WADA’s commission led by Richard McLaren accused Russia of substituting athletes’ doping samples at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the IOC Executive Board set up two more commissions. One of them deals with rechecking doping samples from the Sochi Olympics.
Leonid Tyagachev, ex-President of the Russian Olympic Committee, said in an interview with Izvestia that the IOC apparently failed to withstand the pressure coming from Western agencies. "Unfortunately, this move affected Russian athletes whose achievements in Sochi irritated many. This is always the case with the winners. 2017 has become a year of great disappointment, and things will be even more difficult in 2018. We need to line up behind them and help our athletes win convincing victories in sporting arenas and in courtrooms," he said referring to some Russian athletes’ decision to appeal the ban in the Court of Arbitration for Sport based in Lausanne.
In the run-up to the New Year, Kommersant asked top executives from major Russian companies and government officials overseeing business development to sum up the results for 2017 and share their forecasts for next year.
Russia declared 2017 to be the Year of Ecology, which gave many Russian companies a good impetus to correlate their efforts and development strategy with the impact on the world around them, said Rusal President, Oleg Deripaska. "Climate change is the issue where only concerted efforts by all nations will lead to success, changing the ideology of business once and for all. At the same time, it has become increasingly apparent that the pace at which the global economy introduces and develops high-tech solutions leaves no time for reflection and doubt. The competitive struggle will be won by those who will be able to change their methods of work faster than others and take advantage of the benefits brought by innovation and technologies for all spheres of our life. Rusal should develop along this line," he said.
Meanwhile, Sergey Donskoy, Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, was confident that natural gas would continue to clinch leading positions as an energy source, gradually replacing oil. "At the same time, the use of alternative energy sources will develop intensively. We expect energy prices to grow amid the Chinese economy’s recovery," he noted.
Russia’s energy giant Gazprom links its expectations in the coming year to the Nord Stream 2 project, the company’s CEO Alexey Miller told the paper. "We expect the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to begin in 2018. The demand for Russian gas in Europe has been growing steadily. We will set a historic export record this year, that is, more than 190 bln cubic meters of gas. The new modern Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will ensure reliable supplies for the long term," he stressed.
On the other hand, Sergey Ivanov, President of the Alrosa group of diamond mining companies, said he expects, first and foremost, economic growth in 2018 as a business representative and a citizen of Russia. "I expect large companies to act as locomotives pulling small and medium ones. I hope that we won’t hear any more ‘sanctions’ news. And I wish all of us not to just wait for miraculous changes in the New Year but to do our utmost to make sure that our hopes and dreams come true," he said.
The outgoing year has failed to produce any breakthroughs in relations between Moscow and Brussels, Russia’s Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told Izvestia. Moreover, the situation deteriorated after Washington had accused Moscow of meddling in the US presidential election won by Donald Trump. Washington’s allies in Europe regurgitated similar rhetoric, Russia’s envoy noted.
"The anti-Russian hysteria virus, which conquered the minds of [officials] in the United States and, in actual fact, became a key element of the entire domestic political agenda, has turned out to be pretty infectious and, having crossed the Atlantic Ocean, spread across some EU member-states. Hence, all sorts of bizarre theories popped up about Russia’s involvement in the elections, first in the Netherlands, then in France and then in Germany," the diplomat stressed.
That was another year of missed opportunities, Vladimir Chizhov added. He noted though that one should not "paint a totally dismal picture," because "one could see some glimmers of realism in the EU’s stance throughout the year." According to the diplomat, 2018 will show whether it will be possible to overcome the existing disagreements or whether Europe will continue to go down its "restrictive" path.
Thirty-eight percent of Russian citizens believe that nearly half of the jobs available could soon be taken by robots, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes citing a recent survey conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center. However, 74% of those polled are certain robots will not be able to replace humans.
Moreover, 73% of the respondents said they had never reflected on the issue. While 27% of those polled supported the robotics trend, the majority of surveyed Russians (62%) are against it.
Paradoxically enough, young people aged between 18 and 34 years (69%) are against the replacement of humans by robots, while older people view this trend in a positive light.
"Small wonder," said Stepan Lvov, head of the pollster’s Research Department. "Thirty years ago, in the heyday of science fiction, people believed that robots would rid them of heavy routine labor. However, at that time, they did not realize that artificial intelligence has a number of flaws, including intellectual competition between humans and robots. Therefore, the older generation is more enthusiastic about robots, and this generation that is aware of the negative aspects of Terminator-style robot soldiers is more cautious about them."
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