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Press review: Former empires may unite against US and UK will not impose sanctions on Iran

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, August 15


Kommersant: Can former empires Russia, Turkey and Germany unite against the US?

Sanctions imposed by Washington on Russia and Turkey, along with trade tariffs against the European Union and Turkey, have triggered the political rapprochement between Moscow, Ankara and Berlin, Kommersant writes. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu showed mutual understanding on virtually all issues, including Syria, in the Turkish capital on Tuesday, and slammed Washington’s policy, which frightens the whole of Europe, the paper writes. Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who earlier supported Turkey will meet in Germany at the end of this week, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan will travel to Berlin in September.

According to Russian Ambassador to Turkey Alexei Yerkhov, the US sanctions have become a certain catalyst for closer ties between these countries. "The existing context prompts such contacts. The international arena is not becoming simpler, which means that it is necessary to meet and hold negotiations. That’s the bottom line of international diplomacy," he told Kommersant.

According to Cahit Armagan Dilek, head of the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkey Institute, it is the energy issue that is bringing Moscow, Ankara and Berlin closer together. He stressed, however, that the energy sector alone is not enough to forge an alliance against the US. Moscow, Berlin and Ankara have an imperial past, which makes closer cooperation more difficult, the expert added.

Meanwhile, Anton Fedyashin, Professor at the American University in Washington, DC, is certain that joint resistance to Washington’s policy by Russia, Germany, Turkey and also China could eventually yield economic and diplomatic dividends to each of these countries. Nevertheless, it isn’t implausible that this short-term success will lead to a new round of confrontation with the US where the political struggle is gaining momentum in the run-up of to the mid-term Congressional elections in November.


Izvestia: UK reluctant to terminate nuclear deal with Iran

London will not impose sanctions on Tehran, as Washington demanded, the press service of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office informed Izvestia newspaper. Abiding by the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is of paramount importance to maintaining regional stability, the press service stressed, adding that London is ready to discuss cooperation with the US administration on Iran’s actions.

According to the Foreign Office, London supports the European Union’s decision to protect its companies from the US’ actions. The companies’ decision on whether or not they should work with Tehran depends on them, but it is necessary to protect them, its press service said.

Judging by the latest statements from London, the US has so far failed to persuade its allies to change their stance on the issue, which is a positive sign, says Alexei Pushkov, Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of Parliament) Temporary Commission on Information Policy and Interaction with the Media. "However, this does not change anything," he explained to Izvestia. "Washington is not just imposing restrictive measures against Tehran. It is threatening European companies cooperating with Iran with sanctions."

The senator noted that the European Union has no convincing counterarguments yet, as Brussels is unable to pay billions of dollars in compensation to European companies for losses from Washington’s sanctions.

"Everyone is in favor of implementing the agreement, but the US imposes secondary sanctions actually forcing corporations to refuse to work with Iran," Pushkov added.


Kommersant: War in return for investment

International investors are concerned with the prospects for the global economy amid the trade war unleashed by the US, Kommersant writes citing results of a recent survey of portfolio managers conducted by BofA Merrill Lynch analysts. Representatives of 243 companies with assets to the tune of $735 bln took part in the survey. Managers of investment funds are actively increasing the share of cash while reducing investment in stocks of European and developing countries. At the same time, they are willing to increase investment in US assets amid the sustainable growth shown by the US economy.

In late July, the US administration confirmed plans to slap 25% tariffs on Chinese goods and services worth $200 bln per year, and last week US President Donald Trump announced an increase on steel and aluminum duties for Turkish companies. According to the survey, one in three of the interviewed portfolio managers described the situation as a major risk with unpredictable consequences for the global economy.

"We can safely assume that Donald Trump opened another front in the large-scale trade war, this time against Turkey," the paper quotes Trinfico Group Portfolio Manager Farit Zakirov as saying.

"As a rule, both sides turn out to be losers in trade wars in global markets. Protectionist measures result in higher prices and services and a reduction in output. This has an adverse effect on the global economy," Vladimir Vedeneyev, Head of the Investment Division at Raiffeisen Capital Asset Management, explained.

In addition to growing cash shares, managers have increased their investment in US stocks. The demand for US assets is at its highest since January 2015, the poll revealed. "Growing risks make people invest in US assets, as the US economy shows rapid growth," UFG Wealth Management Portfolio Manager Yevgeny Pundovsky told the paper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US concerned about growing Russian, Chinese presence in Latin America

Pentagon chief James Mattis has begun a tour of Latin America. Although US President Donald Trump has so far offered no positive agenda for cooperation to countries in that region during his presidency, the US envoy’s visit is expected to highlight Washington’s close ties with them and warn that their relations with Moscow and Beijing could be harmful, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

US Vice President Michael Pence and then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited the region earlier this year. The aim of these visits was to send a signal about strengthening inter-American alliances amid increased interest in the region shown by Washington's competitors, primarily Russia and China, which have been successful in establishing ties with Latin America in recent years.

Officials in Washington accuse Moscow of stepping up its military presence in the region. Russia indeed offers its partners military equipment, which can compete with its US counterparts. In addition to Moscow’s key Latin American partner, Venezuela, Russian military equipment is successfully used in Brazil, Colombia and Peru. Moscow also pins high hopes on ties with Argentina and Mexico.

Donald Trump’s win in the US presidential race triggered concern in many Latin American nations, and there were good reasons for that, Pyotr Yakovlev, Head of the Center for Iberian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Latin America, told the paper. "After the parties were able to improve the climate in inter-American relations under Barack Obama, the new White House occupant took steps running counter to the interests of Latin American countries during the first months of his presidency. The US’ withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which involved Mexico, Peru and Chile, was out of the blue. It was followed by a decision to reconsider the terms of the North American integration and tough negotiations with Mexico. Regardless of their outcome, the Mexican economy is already sustaining losses," he said.


Izvestia: Crimean airport modernization to expand Russia’s capabilities in Black Sea

The modernization of the Belbek airport is nearing completion in Crimea. The revamped airfield can, if necessary, become a permanent base for strategic missile carriers and long-range bombers, Izvestia writes.

Belbek, located close to the Black City port of Sevastopol, is strategically important as one of the southernmost military bases of the Russian Aerospace Forces, which makes it possible to control a sizeable part of Asia and southern Europe.

A source in the Russian Defense Ministry told the paper that the bulk of the work is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Russia is modernizing both the military airfield and the infrastructure, which ensures its operation.

Following the revamp, Belbek will permanently be able to receive and deploy any types of strategic bombers that are currently used by the Russian Aerospace Forces, namely, the Tupolev Tu-95, Tu-160 and Tu-22M.

Plans are also in store to build a passenger terminal. Work is already in progress.

Belbek’s modernization will substantially expand the Russian Aerospace Forces’ capacities in the Black Sea region, military expert Anton Lavrov told Izvestia.

"The issue at hand is, first and foremost, the deployment of the Tu-22M," he said. "These long-range bombers are capable of carrying anti-ship missiles. The Tu-22M air group will make it possible to ensure more reliable control of the Black Sea and its coastal area."

Crimea is considered the birthplace of Russian aviation. In 1910, the first officer aviation school in the Russian Empire was established there. It was located in the Kacha River area. The Belbek airfield was built in 1938. The first planes deployed to it were I-15bis fighters.


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