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Press review: Moscow gunning for arms deals with India and gets branded ‘the enemy’ by US

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, December 14
Tu-22M3 long-range bomber Yegor Aleyev/TASS
Tu-22M3 long-range bomber
© Yegor Aleyev/TASS


Media: Amid sanctions, Russia gunning for defense deals with India

Given the need to counter sanctions, Russia seeks to support its economy not only through oil and gas exports, but also through increased defense cooperation with other countries. The Thursday meeting of the Russian-Indian Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation, held in New Delhi, proves that again, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Russia’s Defense Ministry will share its combat experience with India of using not just conventional but strategic weapons. According to media reports, New Delhi will soon lease another Project-971I nuclear submarine from Russia. The Indian media reported earlier that the country’s Air Force was interested in purchasing or leasing the Tupolev Tu-22M3 long-range bombers (NATO reporting name: Backfire).

"The prospects for defense cooperation between Russia and India are not bad," said military expert Lieutenant-General Yuri Netkachev. "Cooperation is overshadowed by the fact that contracts between Moscow and New Delhi are not paid in dollars. However, a positive aspect is that the two countries find ways to use national currencies in the arms trade," the expert noted.

Meanwhile, according to a Kommersant source in the Russian Defense Ministry, the payment issue took a back seat at the commission’s meeting, while the focus was on after-sales service. There were many complaints from the Indian Air Force about the upgrade of the MiG-29 aircraft Russia had supplied to the country earlier but now the air force has acknowledged significant improvements. The issue of creating a joint venture involving the Kalashnikov Concern was also touched upon. According to one of Kommersant’s sources, a year has passed since an Indian delegation visited the gunmaker's plant in Izhevsk but no solid contract has been signed, though the parties already reached a political decision.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu could have met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, but India did not confirm such a meeting. A Kommersant source close to the Russian embassy said that "their schedules didn’t coincide." According to the source, internal issues facing Modi and his party are the reason. "All eyes in India are on the election, there is no time left for meetings with foreigners, even such important ones," he said.

No solid arms contracts can be expected to be signed before the parliamentary election as India is focused on its domestic affairs at the moment, the newspaper’s sources said. However, the delay is unlikely to have a significant impact on defense cooperation between the two countries.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: We’ve been branded as enemies, Russian envoy to US says

Donald Trump’s accession to the White House offered hope for better dialogue between Russia and the US. However, those hopes have been dashed. Bilateral relations have become hostage to the domestic political struggle in Washington, while the US president and his administration have made many decisions finishing off the few remaining trajectories for cooperation, including arms control mechanisms. Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov explained the prospects for Russian-US dialogue to Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

According to him, "anti-Russian hysteria has taken deep root in Washington." "There is a lot of fake news surrounding our country and its foreign policy. We have been actually labeled as ‘America’s enemies’," the ambassador noted.

"It is important to understand that creating a crisis is quite easy but it will take many years to overcome it," the Russian envoy stressed. "Improving Russian-US relations requires long and persistent efforts and a strategy of ‘small steps.’ We will have to start from scratch in many areas, particularly as far as mutual trust goes. However, the difficulty and immensity of the task are no excuse for inaction. We are ready for this work," Antonov said.

When asked how effective personal meetings between the presidents were, he said that they were necessary because a wide range of issues must be discussed, including strategic stability, the fight against terrorism and efforts to resolve regional conflicts.

"Talks between the Russian and US presidents are important not only for our countries, but for the entire world as well. Russia and the United States bear special responsibility for global security, so they need to act in a balanced way and avoid confrontation," Antonov said, expressing regret that "Russia-haters… are trying to prevent any positive changes in bilateral affairs." Such a policy is very harmful to Russian-US relations, he stressed, adding that Moscow "is ready for constructive, mutually beneficial and equal dialogue."

When touching on the INF accord issue, the Russian ambassador pointed out that "judging by the recent statements from senior administration officials, the US has chosen not to maintain the treaty." At the same time, "Washington is doing its best to shift responsibility to Russia for the collapse of one of the key documents on disarmament" and "avoids talks in every possible way."

In such a situation, the prospects for extending the New START treaty after 2021 look slim, according to Antonov. Meanwhile, "if it ceases to exist, nothing will stop the two countries from developing strategic offensive weapons, which will lead to an uncontrolled arms race."


Media: EU reluctant to deviate from anti-Russian sanctions policy

Economic sanctions against Russia were extended for another six months at the European Union’s summit but no restrictions were imposed over the Kerch Strait incident, Izvestia writes.

Some EU members called for tightening sanctions before the summit, but an EU diplomatic source told the paper that Berlin and Paris had opposed such harsh steps. However, the EU did not deviate from the already existing restrictions.

The news came as no surprise for Russia. Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee First Deputy Chairman Vladimir Dzhabarov told Izvestia that other countries’ sanctions policy did not affect Russia’s position.

"Everyone in Europe understands that Ukraine staged a provocation in the Kerch Strait, so Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron showed limited response," the senator noted. "We definitely stand for improving relations. The European Union has been and should remain our partner. But our relations must be equal, there should be no place for the policy of containment and sanctions. The sooner relations are restored, the better it will be for all EU countries," he added.

Member of the German Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs Waldemar Herdt (Alternative for Germany) shares this view. According to him, sanctions should not be expected to be removed soon, but there still is hope for improving relations between Brussels and Moscow.

"Let us be real and understand that sanctions are a project aimed at destroying relations between Russia and the European Union. They should not be expected to be lifted soon. This is why there is a need to boost efforts in areas not affected by these measures so that with time, these restrictions become a thing of the past," the lawmaker told Izvestia.

"We imposed sanctions to show Russia that we don’t approve of its actions," Dirk Schuebel, the head of the Eastern Partnership division in the European External Action Service, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. According to him, the EU is ready to boost dialogue with Moscow, provided that Russia facilitates the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.


Kommersant: China takes tit-for-tat action against Canada for Huawei executive’s arrest

Chinese authorities have confirmed the arrest of Canadian national Michael Spavor, who assisted western businessmen in building ties with North Korea. He is the second Canadian arrested in China in the past week. Authorities said they both were suspected of threatening national security but in fact, this is China’s response to the recent arrest of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Canada, Kommersant writes.

Michael Spavor, the founder of the Paektu Cultural Exchange, a non-profit organization, was arrested on suspicion of endangering China’s national security. The same reasons were provided for the previous arrest of Canadian national Michael Kovrig, who was engaged in research activities in China for the International Crisis Group, an NGO.

This most likely is Beijing’s tit-for-tat response to Ottawa’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the paper notes since the Chinese Foreign Ministry had warned Canada that it would have to face severe consequences. The woman, whom Washington accuses of selling US-made equipment to Iran, was released on $7.5 mln bail on Tuesday.

Director of Programs at the Russian International Affairs Council Ivan Timofeev told Kommersant that the United States had violated the usual procedure and turned an administrative case into a political one. "In the past year, US authorities closed six cases against commercial companies breaching US sanctions," the paper quoted the expert as saying. "There were three US companies, one Chinese, one Swedish and one French. Neither of the cases involved arrests and resulted only in fines to the US Department of the Treasury," he noted.

According to Timofeev, the reasons behind Meng Wanzhou’s arrest are hard to understand as in the past, Chinese companies (namely ZTE) often times preferred to cooperate with the Treasury Department and pay fines for supplying equipment to Iran and North Korea. "Because of the Chinese woman’s arrest, the issue was taken from the financial level to the political one so the Chinese provided a political response, detaining two Canadians," he explained.

Timofeev also supposed that it would only foment tensions because the US and Canada were highly likely to impose additional sanctions on those involved in the move.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington’s anti-OPEC bill may throw oil market in chaos

The US Congress is working on a bill aimed at destroying OPEC. According to media reports, this is what made Qatar withdraw from the organization. If the Trump administration choses to wage a legal war against OPEC, the oil market may plunge into chaos, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

In May 2018, a new version of the NOPEC (No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act) bill was submitted to the House of Representatives and was approved by the Legal Committee in June. No other steps followed, yet discussions intensified in the wake of the OPEC+ agreement to cut oil output.

Experts do not rule out that US authorities may succeed in pushing the NOPEC bill through Congress under the current circumstances. "First, the US is now less dependent on Saudi oil supplies, moreover, it has become a net oil exporter. Second, internal contradictions have weakened OPEC like never before, even driving some members to pull out of the organization. And lastly, Trump may emotionally support the anti-OPEC bill as he has been bullying other countries in order to make oil prices go down," TeleTrade’s Currency Strategist Alexander Yegorov said.

Should the bill be passed, the collapse of OPEC would follow, wreaking havoc on the market. "If OPEC ceases to exist, some countries may start to increase oil production uncontrollably, seeking to protect their share of the global market, which will inevitably lead to a drop in prices. Consequently, declining oil export revenues will mean lower budget revenues for Russia," said Andrei Kochetkov, a leading analyst at Otkritie Brokerage.


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