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Press review: Why Trump’s hawkish adviser is coming to Moscow and why Israel struck Syria

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday
US national security adviser John Bolton AP Photo/Evan Vucci
US national security adviser John Bolton
© AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Kommersant: White House’s super hawk tasked with preparing Putin-Trump summit

US National Security Adviser John Bolton, a longtime fierce critic of Russia, is coming to Moscow on Wednesday to prepare for the first full-fledged summit between Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, Kommersant business daily writes.

Bolton is expected to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and First Deputy Security Council Secretary Yuri Averyanov. The main point on the visit’s agenda will be a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, according to the sources.

Before joining the Trump administration, Bolton had warned that making any agreements with the Kremlin was risky and called on the White House to abandon cooperation with Moscow. Now Bolton’s visit will be devoted to discussing the agenda and other issues regarding the imminent Putin-Trump summit, which is expected to take place in mid-July in a European capital.

Meanwhile, sources in Russia’s government bodies are urging everyone to avoid paying great attention to the US guest’s hawkish stance. "The most important thing is what Trump thinks and wants. And he has stated many times that he seeks to improve ties," one of the Russian officials said. Another offered the latest shift in US policy on North Korea as an example. "Whereas before coming to the White House Bolton had explicitly called to bomb North Korea’s nuclear facilities, his primary task in the Trump administration is to prepare for the first meeting between the leaders of both countries." "Almost everyone on Trump’s team are hawks now, so it’s not that important what envoy will come to Moscow, in the end, it’s up to the presidents to decide," he told the paper.


Izvestia: Syria reveals what’s behind Israeli air strikes

The Syrian civil war is shifting into an active military standoff phase between Israel and Iran, Izvestia writes. Overnight to Tuesday, the Israeli Air Force carried out several missile strikes near the Damascus International Airport to destroy a batch of weapons destined for Hezbollah, according to one version. This hasn’t been the first clash, though. In May, Israel struck dozens of Iranian targets inside Syria in response to missile strikes on its border.

Syria's Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad linked the overnight strikes to the Syrian army’s success in the Daraa and the As-Suwayda Governorates. He also noted that Iran’s presence in the country is only limited to military advisers as part of cooperating in the anti-terror fight.

Nora Arissiyan, who is a member of the Syrian parliamentary committee for Arab and international affairs, stressed that "the strike was delivered after a major triumph by the Syrian Army, which restored control over hundreds of square kilometers in the outskirts of Homs, Damascus and Deir ez-Zor."

"The proxy war between Iran and Israel is most likely going to continue in Syria. They will sort out their relationship on the country’s territory. Occasionally, tensions will mount again and again, to a greater or lesser extent, but the parties are not ready for a direct standoff and will try to avoid this," Elena Suponina, adviser to the Director of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, told the paper.

Iran’s presence in Syria is justified and the surge in clashes between Israel and Iran in Syria won’t push Damascus to reconsider its views on cooperating with Tehran, former Syrian MP Maria Saaleh said. "The war in Syria began not because of Iran. But when it broke out, other states started interfering in it, and we needed allies who shared our position on who is our real foe. That’s why Iran came to Syria," she explained.

As for Russia’s stance on the Iranian presence in Syria, Moscow traditionally adheres to international norms, the paper says, recalling that Iran along with Turkey is one of the mediators in the Syrian peace process and is in Syria at the invitation of Damascus.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Turkey may ditch S-400 deal after Erdogan’s re-election

Recep Tayyip Erdogan cruised to a landslide victory for another term as Turkey’s president, gaining 52% of the vote on June 24. The ruling Justice and Development Party also won 42.49% of the vote and together with its partner, the Nationalist Movement Party, which received 11.13%, while the coalition secured 53.6%. So, Erdogan will control the majority of seats in the national parliament, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The outcome of the vote shows that Erdogan has broad public support and the presidential election victory brings him closer to achieving his long-term strategic goals. The Turkish leader does not favor drastic political changes in the country and no major shift in his foreign policy should be expected, the paper says.

Nationalist rhetoric will be at the forefront in Turkish politics and no serious progress in Ankara’s relations with the European Union may be on the horizon, the paper points out. Turkey is likely to put forward new initiatives for partnership projects with the Eurasian Economic Union and some former Soviet republics.

In Syria, Turkey may start taking on a more active role as a mediator between Russia and Iran on the one hand, and with Western countries on the other. The partnership of Turkey, Russia and Iran on various initiatives aimed at maintaining peace in the region may intensify. This cooperation as part of the regional alliance may be called "a realistic Eurasian" policy.

While Turkey is expected to boost its trade cooperation with Russia, a bilateral military partnership is expected to decline amid Washington’s threats to slap sanctions on Ankara’s economy. It is not ruled out that Turkey will give up its deal on buying Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. However, this may not worsen Russian-Turkish relations as both sides need each other and the partnership between Ankara and Moscow will be in high demand in the future.


Kommersant: Russian security chief heads to Angola as Moscow seeks to boost economic ties

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev on Tuesday set off on a two-day trip to Angola and will later travel to the South African Republic. This first foreign tour following Patrushev’s reappointment will be generally devoted to covering issues of national and regional security, Kommersant writes. However, judging by the members of the Russian delegation, Moscow seeks to bolster economic cooperation with Angola, which has been opening up to the world after last year’s regime change.

The last time Patrushev visited Angola was in 2015, but the country was ruled by longtime leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos and no prospects in cooperation were in the cards. However, in September 2017, Angola’s new President Joao Lourenco, a prominent member of the ruling party, assumed office. Although no changes in the country’s domestic policy have occurred, Angola’s economic policy has significantly changed, the paper says.

Among Angola’s priorities is to wean itself off oil, encourage the expansion of the private sector, redistribute budget funds to tackle social problems, as well as anti-corruption fight, namely in the diamond sector, which used to be controlled by the former president’s allies.

Sources told Kommersant that before his trip to Angola, Patrushev had met with Sergey Ivanov, the President of Russia’s diamond company Alrosa, which is producing in Angola’s Catoca mine.

Other Russian companies working in Angola are VTB, KamAZ, Rosneft, Zarubezhneft, Gazprom Neft, Uralvagonzavod, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, Technopromexport and Rosatom. At the talks, Russian and Angolan officials will hash over the prospects of cooperation in telecommunications, transport, finance, the banking sector and fisheries. According to the Russian Export Center, in 2016 Angola was ranked 72nd among Russia’s trade partners ($568 mln). The African country’s exports amounted to just $14,900.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Slavic Brotherhood drills held with an eye on Donbass

The Russian-Belarusian-Serbian tactical drills dubbed Slavic Brotherhood-2018 entered their active phase at the Rayevsky range in Russia’s Novorossiysk. The theater of operations of these maneuvers has not been revealed, but the upcoming exercises of paratroopers can be aimed at settling conflicts now underway in Donbass and which may take place in Kosovo, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Although the Belarusian defense doctrine does not envisage the participation of its military in operations outside the country, Minsk could make an exception for Donbass, the paper says. In February 2018, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed his willingness to send a peacekeeping contingent to Donbass in the event of an agreement between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents. The decision on this issue was delayed not due to Moscow’s culpability, but in April the parties held active discussions on options for deploying peacekeeping contingents to Donbass. However, the European Union and NATO did not oppose the participation of the Belarusian Blue Helmets in a possible peacekeeping operation in Ukraine’s southeast.

When the plan for the Slavic Brotherhood-2018 drills was drawn up, its key feature was the participation of members from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC’s regional groups from Russia, Belarus and Moldova are participating in the drills.

The international community won’t allow Russian peacekeepers to take part in the Donbass operation, but they may be represented by Serbia and Belarus, military expert Lieutenant-General Yuri Netkachev told the paper. The expert did not rule out that the multinational peacekeeping forces may also conduct operations in the Balkans, where NATO forces are currently in control of Kosovo.


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