All news

Press review: Do Putin, Merkel see eye to eye and will Turkey’s S-400 deal threaten NATO

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, August 20


Media: Putin, Merkel synchronize watches on pressing global issues

Saturday’s meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Meseberg Palace, outside Berlin, attests to the intensifying cooperation between the two major European powers in spite of all the discord in bilateral relations that has accumulated recently, Izvestia writes. The fact that both sides see eye to eye on the need to shield the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project from third countries proves that too.

Putin and Merkel not only exchanged views on key issues, they also made it clear that the two countries are ready to move from negotiations to specific steps. The German summit could, in particular, contribute to efforts to ensure the return of Syrian refugees to their homes and rebuild the war-torn country, the press service of Syria’s ruling Ba’ath Party told the paper. "The meeting can contribute to the return of Syrian refugees who wound up in Germany. That, in turn, will help accelerate the process of restoring and rebuilding Syria," the press service stressed.

Despite all disagreements, the strategic alliance between the two powers is gaining momentum, says Alexander Vedrussov, Director of the Strateg-PRO analytical center. Moscow and Berlin happen to be on the same side of the fence on both the Nord Stream 2 project and the Iran deal, the expert noted.

"Although the sanctions are still in place, key EU countries, paradoxically enough, conduct business with Russia as if they (the restrictive measures) did not exist," he emphasized, adding that Merkel is interested in ironing out relations with Moscow no less than Russia is.

The fact that the detailed results of the negotiations were not made public in Germany and Russia is a positive sign, Vedomosti quotes Vladislav Belov, Head of the Center for German Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, as saying. That means that a constructive working dialogue on problematic issues took place. According to Belov, the two leaders can be commended for pragmatic interaction despite the discord.


RBC: Experts weigh risks of potential Russia-Turkey S-400 deal for NATO

The deployment of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems to Turkey could pose risks to NATO’s security, RBC writes citing a report by the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM).

According to the center’s experts, Defense Analyst Can Kasapoglu and former Turkish diplomat Sinan Ulgen, "the fear is that, even if not networked, potential backdoors in the S-400 system could study critical operational data and electromagnetic signatures of the high-end aircraft, and transmit them to the Russian military intelligence."

They also pointed to the additional threat posed by the simultaneous use of the S-400 missile systems and the F-35 fighter jets, which Ankara plans to purchase from the US.

Joel Johnson, Executive Director of the defense consulting firm Teal Group Corporation, confirmed these fears to RBC. According to the expert, the US will be far from enthusiastic about the state of affairs when Turkish F-35 jets will fly in the zone of operation of Turkey’s S-400 systems, which will make it possible for Russian experts to receive information on shielding themselves from that model of fighters.

Ankara could eventually abandon the purchase of the S-400 air defense systems from Russia despite statements from Turkish officials, the paper quotes retired Lieutenant -General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, who is an expert at the PIR Center, as saying. According to Buzhinsky, the integration of domestic systems into NATO’s air defense system is an issue that can be tackled technically but is very difficult to resolve organizationally.

"This is not only software. These are also the codes and the friend or foe identification system," the expert noted. That’s why the S-400 is a stumbling block in supplying the F-35s, the expert stressed. In his view, Turkey is unlikely to enter an open standoff with Washington on the issue, thus throwing into question its NATO membership.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US sees China as its key rival

There have been profound changes in Washington’s foreign policy recently. After portraying North Korea as the key threat to its national security for 18 months, the Trump administration’s focus has now shifted towards China, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes pointing to the trade war between the two major powers, which is gaining momentum, in addition to steps aimed at thwarting China from gaining control of the western part of the Indian Ocean.

The White House’s revised stance translates to a departure from the policy pursued by the previous administration. Former US President Barack Obama sought to cooperate with Beijing on such global initiatives as the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran deal. From Obama’s point of view, that prompted Beijing to behave more responsibly on the global stage.

Vladimir Batyuk, Chief Research Associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for the US and Canadian Studies, recalled in an interview with the paper that China and Russia are Washington’s key adversaries, according to the US National Security Strategy endorsed by Trump in December 2017. "This was reflected in defense planning, the defense budget and US estimates of Chinese military power, which triggered a negative response from Beijing. The current US administration is fairly consistent in its actions."

As for Russian-US relations, they are unlikely to improve in the near future, and the anti-Russian sanctions will remain, the expert noted. "One can hardly count on the progressive development of trade and economic ties between Russia and the US."

Besides, profound contradictions between Moscow and Washington persist, while there is no such ideological rift in Russian-Chinese relations. According to American experts, it would be good to win over Russia in order to isolate China successfully. However, this is not a current issue, nor will it be one in the foreseeable future," he explained.


Izvestia: Russia to earn $10 bln from grain exports

Russia has exported 5.6 mln tonnes of grain since the beginning of the current crop year, which is 50% more than last year, Izvestia writes citing data provided by the Russian Agriculture Ministry. Wheat exports amounted to 4.6 mln tonnes as of August 8, which is nearly twice that of the previous season.

According to Pavel Skurikhin, President of the National Union of Grain Producers, unfavorable weather conditions in some grain-producing countries, especially in the European Union, forced them to revise harvest forecasts downwards. The decrease in grain production prompted price hikes, with grain prices exceeding $230 per tonne. Considering the high competitiveness of Russian grain and demand for it in the global markets, there are good prospects for domestic grain producers and high export rates, Skurikhin explained. He added that the depreciation of Russia’s national currency likewise contributed to rising grain exports.

According to the union’s forecasts, plans are in store to export 43-45 mln tonnes of grain this season. "This is less than the record-breaking levels of the last season, when more than 52 mln tonnes were exported, but the grain harvest this year is projected to be 15-25% lower than last year," Skurikhin noted.

Meanwhile, a source in the SovEcon analytical center informed Izvestia that grain exports at the end of the 2018-2019 season would amount to 44.8 mln tonnes ($9-10 bln in monetary terms). The company initially estimated the total export volume at 47.2 mln tonnes, but later on the figure was revised downwards due to declining harvest prospects.


Vedomosti: How Gazprom’s new electronic trading system will affect the EU

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom is opening an electronic trading platform to sell natural gas to European countries, Vedomosti writes. According to Elena Burmistrova, Director General of Gazprom Export, this tool will help improve the company’s cooperation with its customers in Europe making the gas sales mechanism even more effective.

The dates for the first trading session have not been announced yet, but the platform is open for participants to register. Gazprom could open trading on its electronic platform as early as September.

The platform could be a significant channel for selling natural gas in the future, the paper quotes Fitch Corporation’s Department Director Dmitry Marinchenko as saying. "First of all, at the expense of those countries, which seek to reduce the share of long-term contracts with Gazprom in the overall volume of imports, such as Poland. The issue at hand could be additional supplies of 10-15 bln cubic meters per year at the beginning," he explained.

The development of the electronic trading system shows that Gazprom is determined to increase its share in the European market, Marinchenko said. "Gazprom has excess gas reserves and excess transportation capacity, especially if it is able to maintain the Ukrainian route after the commissioning of the Nord Stream 2 project. The cost of delivering 1,000 cubic meters, with all taxes and transportation included, does not exceed $120-130 at current prices of about $250. The new tool will make it possible for Gazprom to boost the operational cash flow with minimum efforts invested," the expert went on to say.

Besides, the proposed move shows that Gazprom is likely to preserve Ukraine as an essential transit channel, he added.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews