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Press review: Ex-top diplomat offers 2019 forecasts and Rostec vows to ride out sanctions

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, December 18


Kommersant: Ex-foreign minister evaluates global risks for 2019

The coming year could be destructive for the existing system of international relations, President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov wrote in his article published by Kommersant.

"We can completely destroy the old international system without starting to build a new one," he warned.

According to Ivanov, the US administration will be the biggest international problem in 2019, just like in 2018. "Everything seems to suggest that, while pursuing its goals, the United States does not bother to take into account either international law or multilateral institutions. It unilaterally withdraws from crucial agreements, trying to impose its one-sided decisions on other countries and organizations. In 2018, the White House did not hesitate to put pressure on its partners and rivals. Considering the United States’ unique role in the modern international system, Washington’s obsession with unilateralism is particularly dangerous," he stressed.

Ivanov noted, however, that it would be a dangerous simplification to blame only Donald Trump and the US for all the challenges facing the world in 2018.

"We see that even in the European Union recognized as the multilateral diplomacy leader, this institution is facing serious and diverse problems. All of us will only benefit, if we begin to grasp the art of modern diplomacy jointly rather than separately," he stressed.

According to Ivanov, the biggest problem is the lack of states’ mutual responsibility, including those countries, which are assigned special responsibility for maintaining global peace and security by the UN Charter. "If these states do not put aside their disagreements on certain issues and do not pool efforts to tackle common problems, the world will not be safe," he warned.

"We need to abandon the concept of Western (liberal) universalism in favor of developmental pluralism. The emerging concept of a modern world order should offer the opportunity to preserve national traditions, culture, specific economic, social and cultural modes, which have nothing to do with Western models," Ivanov pointed out


Vedomosti: Rostec able to weather new sanctions quite well, CEO assures

The objective of Russia’s Rostec is to cultivate its businesses, on the one hand, and execute national tasks, including the state defense orders, on the other, its CEO Sergei Chemezov stressed in an interview with Vedomosti.

"If we look at 12 major national projects outlined by the president, you will see that we have a key, if not pivotal role in each of them. Also, there is an objective to preserve important industries that are necessary for a technological breakthrough. Rostec thus incorporates both the United Aircraft Corporation and the Tractor Plants Concern," Chemezov said.

Founded in 2007, the company currently unites more than 700 enterprises through subsidiary holdings, he added. "We attract private investors, give them stakes in our companies, even as much as a majority share. We are interested not only in additional funds, but also in acquiring new expertise, technology and markets. I believe our holdings can have the same positive development scenario as the Kamaz truck and engine producer, the Avtovaz carmaker and the Kalashnikov arms manufacturer."

When asked to comment on Washington’s plans to unveil fresh sanctions against Russia, Chemezov explained that Rostec had done its utmost to cushion the blow from the sanctions. "We have learned to work under such circumstances, and it is difficult to imagine more stringent sanctions. For example, we practically do not order any components from abroad and discontinued purchases in the United States, so new sanctions would hardly deal any sort of severe blow to us," he said.

Although sanctions create certain difficulties for Russia and its partners, who already encounter substantial pressure, there are no insurmountable obstacles, Chemezov pointed out. "We have signed the biggest contract in the history of military-technical cooperation between Russia and India (since the Soviet era) for the supply of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. Today we have a record order portfolio of over $50 bln, which shows that our partners are not afraid to sign contracts," he concluded.


Izvestia: Moldova’s integration to NATO to be revised after elections, vows president

Attempts by the current Moldovan government to cozy up to NATO are illegal, because this violates the country’s constitution, Moldovan President Igor Dodon told Izvestia. He noted that all agreements aimed at Chisinau’s integration into the alliance had to be revised after the upcoming parliamentary elections.

"Of course, there were attempts on the part of the current government to deepen cooperation with NATO. I strongly oppose these initiatives. We need to strengthen our neutrality status. That’s why an agreement with Romania and other accords on military cooperation contradict the constitution and should be cancelled after the parliamentary elections," he stressed.

NATO is trying to drag as many former Soviet states into the alliance as possible under the pretense of its "open door policy" (enshrined in Article 10 of the alliance’s founding document), First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s (upper house) Foreign Affairs Committee Vladimir Dzhabarov told the paper. According to the politician, both Western countries and Romania are interested in bringing Moldova closer to NATO.

"Bucharest makes no secret of its interest in dragging Moldova into NATO. Meanwhile, NATO once again wants to get closer to Russia’s border and create a ‘buffer zone.’ The alliance is interested in building new military bases, and deploying its weapons to exert pressure on Russia," Dzhabarov said.

Moldova’s parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on February 24, 2019. According to the latest surveys, the opposition Party of Socialists led by Igor Dodon is likely to secure the majority of seats, anywhere from 35% to 51%. The ruling Democratic Party can garner about 15%. If the socialists can win the elections and secure the most seats in the nation’s parliament, then the country will be in for domestic political reforms and profound changes in foreign policy.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Faced with tough choices, Turkey may play by Russia’s rules

A deal on the Syrian Constitutional Committee is expected to be signed in Geneva on December 18. Russian, Turkish and Iranian top diplomats are due to hold a meeting as well. Ahead of the talks, officials in Ankara made an important statement. They do not rule out a change in Tukey‘s stance on Syrian President Bashar Assad, if he is reelected in transparent and democratic elections, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The biggest problem was the formation of a civil group, which will account for one-third of the Constitutional Committee, Yuri Barmin, an expert with the Russian International Affairs Council, explained to the paper. "There is the government delegation, the opposition delegation, and one delegation should consist of representatives from civil society. There were some problems with that, because the parties were unable to come to terms on specific individuals. Naturally, the Syrian government tried to make sure that its candidates are in the group, while the opposition rejected them," he pointed out.

Another problem was that Damascus refused to send delegations even to technical negotiations in Geneva. "Assad’s representatives openly said they were not going to discuss the constitutional process in Geneva, because this is a domestic affair. That, of course, sent the wrong signals to the global community," the expert added.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a recent interview that, if Assad won transparent, democratic and internationally recognized elections in Syria, Ankara would consider all options for cooperation.

According to Turkish political scientist Kerim Has, the top diplomat’s remark raises questions, which are increasingly difficult to answer. On the one hand, no radical changes in Turkey’s stance on Syria can be expected, he told the paper. On the other hand, it is apparent that the Turkish political elite is in search of some tactics, if the situation comes to an impasse. If Turkey’s dependence on Russia grows, and relations with the US continue to deteriorate, Ankara will have to play by Moscow’s rules in the region, which is strategically important for Turkey. On the other hand, free and democratic elections in Syria are unlikely in the near future, while the regional situation might change substantially, the expert noted.


Izvestia: Fast food’s popularity on the rise in Russia

Russians visited fast food restaurants twice as much in 2018, Izvestia writes citing research conducted by Yandex.Money. Consumers choose fast food because of the relatively low prices, and what’s more, these are mainly young people, experts interviewed by the paper noted.

According to the survey, the biggest demand for fast food was registered in Voronezh, a city in central European Russia, while Muscovites’ interest in fast food has dwindled, with the average restaurant check seeing a 50% plunge.

Russians are switching to fast food outlets partially because it is cheaper than cooking at home, Alexei Skopin, Professor of the Moscow Humanitarian University, told Izvestia. "The cost of foodstuffs and electricity exceed fast food price tags," the expert said.

According to Alexei Barov, Director General of the OFD Platform (fiscal data operator), the growing popularity of fast food stems from the needs of young people who attach great importance to swift service and convenience of payment.

Fast food restaurants today are different, and some of them try to offer healthy meals too. However, in most cases, fast food is bad for one’s health, said Darya Khalturina, a member of the Russian governmental expert commission. According to Khalturina, it is essential for the state to work with fast food restaurants so that they offer more beneficial products to consumers.


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