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Press review: INF’s fate to guide New START and Maduro’s chances of clinging to power

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday
Russia's 9M729 missile that US cites as reason for leaving INF treaty  Sergei Bobylev/TASS
Russia's 9M729 missile that US cites as reason for leaving INF treaty
© Sergei Bobylev/TASS

Izvestia: Russia fails to convince US to stick to INF deal

The US pullout from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) seriously undermines the system of international stability and calls into question the remaining arms control agreements, Chairman of the Federation Council's Committee on Foreign Affairs Konstantin Kosachev told Izvestia. Following the expiration of the INF accord, the Americans might refuse to extend the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which expires in 2021. Sources in Washington political circles told the newspaper that the country’s leadership has not yet decided on the future "strategic" agreement.

"The Americans want to relieve themselves of all arms control obligations. It all started with the ABM Treaty. Now it's the INF Treaty. There are major fears that Washington could start dismantling the New START deal. These steps do not bring anything but instability to the international security system," a source in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia.

According to Kosachev, the US may not immediately denounce the INF, instead it would freeze its obligations. That is, the Americans will be able to develop and even manufacture these systems.

"However, this does not mean that they will deploy them, as long as the relevant European and Asian countries seriously frown upon this. Obedient and loyal allies can be found, but it is more difficult to do this now," he told Izvestia.

The US exit also poses a problem for prolonging the New START, which would lose any relevance, Kosachev noted.

Director of the Center for Military-Political Studies at the Hudson Institute Richard Weitz told Izvestia, it is obvious that the INF will end, and Russia and the United States will be able to use missiles previously forbidden in range, the same way as China. However, he did not rule out that a new agreement on strategic offensive arms may introduce changes to restrict the INF systems.

According to him, the Trump administration is still pondering over whether to extend the New START for five years after its expiration in 2021 or to replace it with a new deal covering additional systems and countries - like Moscow wants - or allow the agreement to end. Should Washington let it become null and void, that would provide the US with greater flexibility in determining the size of nuclear forces, Weitz explained.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Global community embarks on efforts to resolve Venezuela's unrest

Given its mounting concerns about the turmoil in Venezuela, the international community is embarking on a search for a solution to the unrest. Uruguay and Mexico took the first step, offering their services as mediators in negotiations between the current government of Nicolas Maduro and the opposition, convening an international conference on Venezuela. A number of countries, including Russia, have already made statements calling for a resolution through dialogue. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that negotiations might be difficult, but the country's current President Nicolas Maduro might not remain in power for much longer.

Director of the Institute for Latin American Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Dmitry Razumovsky told the newspaper he believes that reaching agreements through negotiations is possible if the current configuration of power is changed. According to him, the situation in Venezuela will be resolved within a year. "Perhaps, Maduro will be able to stay in power for some time, but we understand that support for the National Assembly speaker is significant," he said. "Ensuring that Maduro remains in power for some time will be impossible. He is very much a hated figure. I think the parties can succeed in the talks if the Chavistas, instead of Maduro, propose alternative options that would more or less suit the opposition. Although, in my opinion, at the moment, there are no such figures in their ranks right now," the expert added.

Razumovsky criticized the European Union's decision to put forward an ultimatum to Maduro as hasty, given the situation in the country. "The Europeans have driven themselves into a corner, it is unclear how they will get out of it now. Logically, now they should not even recognize Guaido, but someone else instead," he said.

The Latin American expert raised doubts over conducting elections in the near future. According to the expert, the EU had no opportunity to influence the situation in Venezuela, although initially it tried to act as an intermediary. "The Europeans have no levers of pressure on the situation in Venezuela. They are not present in this country, they have no investments there, unlike America, China and Russia," the expert concluded.


Izvestia: Yalta Forum organizers propose Crimea ‘session’ at Davos

World Economic Forum (WEF) Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab will be invited to the 5th Yalta International Economic Forum (YIEF), its co-chair Andrey Nazarov told Izvestia. According to him, the YIEF organizers are interested in cooperation with their Swiss colleagues, and they will propose a separate session on Crimea during the next forum in Davos. The idea of cooperation between the Yalta and Davos forums has already garnered support from European parliamentarians.

The atmosphere during the recent World Economic Forum in Davos (January 22-25, 2019) showed that Russia’s Western colleagues have a great interest in Crimea, Nazarov told Izvestia. He noted, "This topic popped up at every discussion one way or another." At the same time, the majority of foreigners who addressed the Crimean question have never been to the peninsula.

"It turns out, not all of them know what they are talking about. Taking into account the keen interest, WEF participants had for the Crimean agenda, we decided to propose that the founder of the forum, Klaus Schwab, hold a separate session next year on Crimea’s development prospects. Naturally, with the participation of those foreign politicians who have already visited the peninsula or expressed the need to recognize the status of the region, and those experts who are skeptical about this status," he added.

A Crimean ‘session’ at Davos and Schwab’s participation in the work of the Yalta forum could serve as a boost for overcoming the differences around the Russian peninsula, Slovak lawmaker Peter Marcek told Izvestia. According to him, it is extremely important that politicians, as well as top managers visit Crimea and independently assess the situation in the region. This can help stabilize the situation, attract investment and tear down political barriers, the parliamentarian emphasized.


Kommersant: Uprising in Sudan won’t morph into ‘second Venezuela’

Protests resumed in Sudan on January 31, after the country's authorities ordered to release all detainees from the riots that began in December. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir accused "external forces" of destabilizing the situation. At the same time, foreign countries are not interested in repeating the Venezuelan or Libyan scenario in Sudan, and they are providing the African Republic with all kinds of assistance, both economic and advisory, Kommersant wrote. Thus, this week Moscow confirmed the fact that Russian military instructors were working in Sudan.

The protests began on December 19, 2018 because of the government’s decision to triple the price of bread and cut subsidies. By the end of January, according to official data, about 30 people were killed during clashes with security forces, and 200 others were injured. The opposition claims that the death toll has reached 50. Experts suggest that a part of the ruling elite might be behind the unrest, unhappy with the al-Bashir’s decision to run again for the presidency.

According to Associate Professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities Sergey Seregichev, the Sudanese authorities, recounting previous coups and civil wars, are trying to prevent bloodshed, often engaging in dialogue with protesters, making certain concessions.

By the same token, in this situation the United States does not seem to object to the Sudanese president remaining in power. "The fall of al-Bashir is not beneficial to anyone; neither the region, nor beyond its borders," Seregichev told Kommersant. "The US position is as follows: We will not do anything to save al-Bashir, but we will not lift a finger to help the opposition overthrow him," he added. According to the expert, Washington is interested in cooperation with Sudan in the war on terror.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that Russian military advisers are indeed working in Sudan. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the operation is within the framework of Russian-Sudanese bilateral relations, and is absolutely legitimate. Putin’s envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov noted that "both private and state structures" work in Sudan.


Kommersant: New antimonopoly package submitted to Russian government

The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has submitted its so-called fifth antimonopoly package to the government, which includes amendments to the law on competition and the Administrative Offenses Code, Deputy Head of the FAS Sergey Puzyrevsky said in an interview with Kommersant.

"The work has been completed, the FAS has submitted the documents to the government. We hashed over the bill with the working group of the autonomous non-profit Digital Economy. Despite certain disagreements over the text with the federal executive bodies and the business community, we will try to defend our position in the government," Puzyrevsky vowed.

According to him, the project seeks to protect the Russian segment of the digital market. The regulation would mainly concern digital platforms owned by foreign companies, he added.

"I mean large sites that belong to Amazon. In a certain sense, they can include organizations that are associated with sales and online commerce, for example, the Alibaba Group," he told Kommersant.

Puzyrevsky added that the bill is expected to be adopted by the State Duma in 2019.


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