Russia is going to present a special report on foreign meddling in its domestic affairs on March 24-28 at the 138th meeting of the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva, Head of the Federation Council’s Interim Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty and the Prevention of Interference in the Internal Affairs of Russia Andrei Klimov told Izvestia. Experts interviewed by the newspaper highlighted the recent expansion of the Russian delegation's activities in the IPU.
According to the newspaper, lawmakers have drawn up a report on Western countries interfering in Russia's internal affairs. The dossier will also touch on the recent presidential elections in Russia held on March 18.
"The Russian delegation will attend the IPU Assembly to talk about attempts to interfere in its internal affairs and propose mechanisms for combating this phenomenon. We have already prepared a special report and translated it into several languages. We are going to present the Russian position in two committees: on democracy and human rights and on international security. We are offering our partners cooperation and a shared analysis of sovereignty violations," Klimov told Izvestia.
According to Izvestia, in the dossier, Moscow is going to describe in detail the facts on foreign meddling, and will talk about agencies and services working in Russia that assisted it.
"The IPU is very important, which, unfortunately, is underestimated by many. Most of the countries are represented there. In addition, it is extremely authoritative and useful for promoting Russia’s position and interests. We have not had very active cooperation with the IPU before. However, over the past four years, a lot of work has been done to integrate Moscow into its activities. It is much more effective than, say, PACE," Klimov added.
According to Director of the International Institute of the Newest States Alexei Martynov, the Russian parliament’s international participation is intensifying, which is very important. "Moscow is actively working to show its position on a wide range of issues, including the issue of interference in internal affairs of sovereign countries, at various parliamentary forums. The IPU is an extremely influential organization. This is the largest institution in which most of the world's countries are represented," Martynov said.
Tokyo is against the involvement of third countries in economic activities on the Kuril Islands, since investments in this case would be carried out "on the basis of the Russian system" and Japanese delegations would not be able to "freely visit the islands" because of "discrepancies in legal matters". Nevertheless, the prospect of signing a peace treaty with Russia is worth negotiating, Head of European Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan Yasushi Masaki said in an interview with Kommersant the day after a Tokyo-hosted meeting between Russian and Japanese top diplomats Sergey Lavrov and Taro Kono, respectively.
“The ministers covered a number of important issues. They discussed concluding a peace treaty, joint economic activities on the four islands and humanitarian measures aimed at the next Japan-Russia summit, due in May, in depth. The parties also discussed international security issues, including those related to North Korea. Of course, positions diverge on some issues, but there was still a substantive discussion,” he commented on the meeting.
As for the progress in organizing joint economic activities in the disputed territories, the diplomat believes that such projects as agreements reached at the Japan-Russia summit in December 2016, along with working groups and consultations “will lead to bolstering contacts between our citizens, it will stimulate the islands’ potential - given its rich environment and good geographical location. At the meeting of the foreign ministers, the parties agreed on holding working group meetings in mid-April. Of course, we have differences on legal issues, but even so we will seek a form that does not damage both positions."
Japan opposes third countries getting involved in economic activity on the disputed islands. According to Masaki, "it is necessary to resolve the issue of these islands before attracting investment there from third countries."
"We are currently working to ensure that Japan and Russia design the future image of the four islands together, that they deepen mutual understanding between people and move together towards concluding a peace treaty and normalizing relations between our countries," the diplomat added.
According to him, in order to do this, both sides are now intensively working on laying down the projects and "joint economic activities are moving forward in order to resolve the issue of concluding a peace treaty."
Russia and China could ultimately fall victims to a trade war, announced on March 1 by of US President Donald Trump to practically the whole world, Kommersant wrote. Washington suspended the introduction of duties on steel and aluminum against almost all major partners, except for Moscow and Beijing. Russia continues to try to influence the situation through the WTO - according to Kommersant, on March 23, the organization's board will consider its request, combining it with a similar one from China. However, even if a dispute in the WTO begins, its prospects are unclear, since the US uses the same arguments as Russia, for example, in its trade war with Ukraine.
On March 23, the WTO will hold the first meeting in 2018 to discuss US duties at the request of China and Russia, as well as restrictions on imports of fish and seafood to the United States, and trade restrictions in Russia.
The Russian Ministry of Economic Development told Kommersant that Moscow initiated the discussion of the issue itself this time separately from China, and the WTO combined the requests - "this is a common practice in similar cases." "Our position is close to the position of many other WTO members: we believe that the US measures limiting imports of steel and aluminum do not comply with the rules and should be brought into line with them," the Ministry explained. The newspaper’s sources in the steel industry are confident that the discussion "will be a heated one."
However, the prospects for a discussion remain unclear. By introducing duties, the US is appealing to matters of national security. However, according to Mayer Brown's partner Nikolai Mizulin, right now Ukraine has gone to the WTO to challenge the restrictions that Russia applies to the transit of goods towards Central Asia, and Moscow refers to this argument for reasons of national security. Therefore, Russia could find it difficult to challenge Washington’s analogous argument on steel and aluminum imports, Mizulin said.
Other countries, he added, have strengthened their negotiating positions through promises and by preparing countermeasures and Russia should also draw up this sort of list.
However, even if a dispute in the WTO begins, its prospects are unclear, since the US uses the same arguments as Russia employs in its trade war with Ukraine.
Turkey is losing its incentive to remain active in the Russian-Iranian alliance. Nezavisimaya Gazeta stated that this conclusion was drawn by experts, who noted that everything depends on how the advance by pro-Turkish forces in Syria, east of Afrin, would turn out. These are the zones of influence that the troika had actually formed. Experts do not rule out the continuation of military activity by Turkish-backed forces in Syria’s east.
According to the newspaper, Manbij, which is just 100 kilometers away from Afrin that was seized by Turkey yet remaining under the supervision of US military advisers, will most likely be Ankara’s next target. Erdogan, however, denies that there are any specific agreements with the US about this area. The Turkish authorities deny that they want to keep the already occupied territories in the north of Syria under their control, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.
A lot will depend on Washington’s policy, the newspaper wrote. "Turkey's push to the east depends primarily on relations with the United States," Anton Mardasov, an expert from the Russian International Affairs Council told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "There were prerequisites for Ankara and Washington to reach a compromise on Manbij, on the withdrawal of self-defense groups, but this was under [former US Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson. Mike Pompeo's policy is so far unknown. The US stance on the Syrian Kurds is not yet fully understood," he added. According to Mardasov, it is possible that the Turkish leadership will try to establish contact with Washington.
Similarly, the expert believes that Ankara is gradually losing its incentive to remain active within the trilateral alliance with Russia and Iran. The success of Turkey’s possible military operation in the northeast of Syria will mean the final formation of its zone of influence, Mardasov said. "The demarcation of borders is over, and these territories Turkey has claimed for itself. After that, it can gradually normalize its foreign policy and settle all issues with Washington," Mardasov told the newspaper.
The incomes of Russia’s population in real terms will increase by 6% in 2018 and amount to 60 trillion rubles ($1.05 trillion), according to the quarterly study of the Institute of Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences, available to Izvestia. The rise in incomes might surpass the government's expected inflation, which is less than 4% in 2018, by 1.5-2-fold. According to experts, the improvement of Russians’ prosperity is connected to advanced growth of wages, increase in incomes from business and a budget surplus.
In nominal terms, this year, the incomes of the population will grow by 9%, and in real terms by 6%, coming to 60 trillion rubles ($1.05 trillion). According to experts of the Institute of Economic Forecasting, next year, real incomes will increase by 3%, and in 2020 it will go up by 3.7%. The Institute’s forecast is three times more optimistic than that of the Ministry of Economic Development, where the figure is expected to grow by 2.1% due to growth of public sector employees' salaries as part of the presidential decrees.
Director of the Center for Structural Research at RANEPA Alexei Vedev told the newspaper that salaries account for almost half of the population's incomes. Last year, wages for the first time in three years increased by 3.5%. The Ministry of Economic Development expects real wages to increase by 3.9% this year.
According to Vedev, the budget surplus may also influence the growth of the public’s incomes this year. The Ministry of Economic Development notes that by the end of this year it will reach 1% of GDP. Additional income will make it possible to adjust salaries, pensions and social benefits for inflation.
The structural reforms that the government has been pursuing for the past three years will also contribute to the budget surplus. According to the Economic Development Ministry, they include reducing inflation, refusing to manage the exchange rate, and adapting to low oil prices. Similarly, the budget rule, reintroduced this year, includes allocating all revenues from oil exports above $40 per barrel to the National Wealth Fund for the accumulation of cushion reserves.
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