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Press review: Russia may clip Israel’s wings in Syria and gears up to use Iranian airbase

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, September 24
S-300 missile system Donat Sorokin/TASS
S-300 missile system
© Donat Sorokin/TASS


Kommersant: Russia may deploy S-300s to Syria after Il-20 downing

Russia’s Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that Israel is solely to blame for the crash of its Il-20 aircraft in Syria last week. The Israeli F-16 fighter jets had not only issued a warning about carrying out strikes on Syrian facilities but also used the Russian military jet as cover knowing that Syrian air defense missiles would hit a larger target. The visit by the Israeli military delegation to Moscow, which denied the complicity of its Air Force in the tragedy, did not ease tensions over the incident, Kommersant wrote. Russia has vowed to respond and may deploy S-300 missile systems to Syria.

Meanwhile, Israeli politicians believe that coordination of their steps with Moscow will continue. They insist that the entire responsibility for the tragedy lies with the Syrian regime, Iran and Hezbollah, whose military facility came under attack. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Kommersant the militaries of Israel and Russia need to act responsibly and prudently to keep up coordination in Syria and prevent Iran from turning Syria into its advanced stronghold.

Israel is not ruling out that Moscow may clip its wings in Syria by closing its airspace to Israeli military jets or seriously limit military operations. According to Kommersant, one of Russia’s retaliatory measures, declared by President Vladimir Putin, would be deploying an S-300 battery to Syria. This measure, which was announced after the Western coalition attacked Syria for the first time, has not been implemented so far. Should the S-300 be sent to Syria, this will be "a serious argument for the Israeli Air Force to stop carrying out strikes on Syria," a high-ranking military source told the paper. "De-facto, Syria’s airspace would be protected by an efficient modification of the S-300 system, rather than just outdated air defense systems," he said.


Kommersant: OPEC plus participants pause for US sanctions against Iran

Contrary to expectations by Western analysts, after the Algerian summit, the OPEC plus deal participants did not give a clear signal to the market on their willingness to boost output to replace Iranian oil supplies, Kommersant business daily writes. Its exports may be cut after the US sanctions come into effect in early November. The OPEC plus deal participants met Iran halfway as it was against any production growth since this would elbow out its own oil from the market.

The leading participants of the deal - Saudi Arabia and Russia - have apparently taken a break to assess how Iran's oil will be really cut. This position encourages oil price growth. However, the deal's participants may still ease their position at the upcoming mid-November meeting. It’s a paradox that compliance with the oil cut deal reached 129% in August, meaning that producers extract less oil than they should. This is linked to falling oil production in Venezuela and the beginning of a reduction in oil output in Iran amid expectations of the November US sanctions, which ban oil exports from that country, Kommersant says.

For Russia, the current situation is rather convenient. By maintaining cooperation with Saudi Arabia and constructive relations with Iran, Russia cast off the restrictions under the OPEC plus deal on production growth, the paper writes.

Maria Belova, an analyst at Vygon Consulting, believes that the OPEC plus participants have decided not to take any particular steps in connection with the situation around Iran, since it’s unclear how much Iranian oil will leave the market due to the US sanctions. This volume may be between 0.6 mln and 1.4 mln barrels per day. According to the analyst, in case of a sharp oil price increase due to this decision, the OPEC plus participants may hold an emergency meeting that would positively influence the market. The OPEC plus meeting is scheduled for December, but Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the participants could meet in Abu Dhabi in mid-November.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia set to use Iranian airbase for Syrian operations

After Saturday's terrorist attack during a military parade in Ahvaz, which claimed more than 30 lives, Iran plans to pursue a tougher policy to promote its interests in the region, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The Iranian leadership claims that the terrorists who carried out the attack were connected to the United States and Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.

Tehran is sure that after the downing of the Il-20 military jet, which Russia blamed on Israel, Moscow will enhance Syria’s air defenses and won’t prevent Iran from taking similar steps. Internet portal published an article, citing ‘trustworthy sources’ claiming that Iran’s defense chief promised to send surface-to-air missiles to Syria, which may place Israeli flights over Syria and Lebanon in jeopardy. The aircraft with these weapons was destroyed at Damascus Airport last week when Israel delivered strikes on Syria while using Russia’s Il-20 as cover.

Russia is set to boost military cooperation with Iran, the ANNA-News analytical agency reported citing Syrian sources. Moscow has allegedly asked Tehran to provide access to its northwestern Noyeh military airbase. "The airbase is expected to be used as an interim airfield on the way to Syria where Russian military and transport jets will be refueled."

According to the portal, the Russian Aerospace Forces had earlier used the Noyeh base. In April, Russian long-range bombers, which flew on missions to destroy militants in eastern Syria, made a stop there. The Russian and Iranian defense agencies have neither confirmed nor denied the report.


Media: US sanctions China for buying Russian jets, missiles

The US Treasury Department has announced sanctions against China’s General Armaments Department and its chief Li Shangfu under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) following China’s purchase of Sukhoi-35 fighter jets and S-400 missile systems, Vedomosti writes. The contracts worth more than $3 bln were signed back in 2014 and 2015. A source close to Russia’s Defense Ministry said the new sanctions won’t affect these contracts.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang slammed the US move, demanding the withdrawal of the illegal sanctions, and assured that they won’t affect military ties with Russia. In response, China has canceled the visit of its Navy Commander Shen Jinlong to the US and a meeting on a communication mechanism between the Chinese and US joint chiefs of staff, scheduled for September 25-27 in Beijing. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov castigated the sanctions as unfair competition stressing that Russia and its partners should abandon accounts in dollars.

Washington has slapped sanctions on a Chinese department, the purchases of which amount to tens of billions of dollars, for the first time, Vasily Kashin from the Higher School of Economics told Vedomosti. Apparently, this is the continuation of the US trade war with China, he noted. "In response, China may think about the rationality of its financial system’s response to the US sanctions." So far, major Chinese banks have been obeying US sanctions against Russia even more than US banks.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that China is deemed to be a major threat to the US along with Russia, Iran and North Korea. "The [US] defense industry and all persons related to it need an external foe, and they are working in this direction," Deputy Head of the Center of China Social and Economic Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Pavel Kamenov, said.

The expert has described Washington’s interference in Russian defense weapons sales as "absolutely insolent." Beijing’s response will be "to continue military and technical cooperation with Russia," he said. "China won’t react and stop the purchase of what they see as essential on US orders."


Vedomosti: Russia to beef up food exports

Russia’s federal project on agricultural exports will be presented to the government by October 1. According to President Putin’s May decree, annual agricultural exports should more than double to $45 bln by 2024. According to Vedomosti, the Agricultural Ministry expects Russia’s grain supplies to account for the largest volume of its agricultural exports. Russia’s grain exports will reach $11.4 bln in 2024, it said. These are modest plans since these supplies may more than double, Director of the Sovecon analytical center Andrei Sizov told the paper. Traditional consumers are Egypt, Turkey, and Bangladesh, where the population has been growing, and Russia will play a major role in providing them with grain.

The export of fat-and-oil products will more than double by 2024 to $8.6 bln, according the ministry’s forecast. Sizov notes that oil and oilseeds are the fastest growing global market and Russia plays a key role there, and is a major supplier to Turkey. The demand for Russia’s soy and rapeseed is growing in China and India.

Russia’s fish and seafood exports are expected to more than double to $8.5 bln by 2024.

A major breakthrough is expected in meat and dairy products, which is expected to more than quadruple reaching $2.8 bln in six years. "The growth of meat exports will depend on Russia’s talks with other countries to open up their markets, namely China, the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa," Head of the Executive Committee of the National Meat Association Sergey Yushin said.


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