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Press review: Shoigu’s answer to INF collapse and Taliban’s two-day Moscow tour

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, February 6


Izvestia: Russia’s new weapons to change balance of power

The new missile systems developed by Russia, which is no longer bound by obligations under the INF Treaty, will shake up military affairs, Izvestia writes. An advanced Russian-manufactured hypersonic missile will be able to strike targets over thousands of kilometers within a few minutes and, at the same time, will have an unpredictable trajectory. Given that fact, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu issued a directive to roll out these missiles before the end of next year. The emergence of these new weapons systems will require fundamental changes in tactics and strategy, experts stress.

The new weapons systems will target those areas and bases where the US could deploy its short-and medium-range missiles posing a threat to Russia, Viktor Murakhovsky, Chief Editor of the Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, told the paper. The issue at hand is, first and foremost, the potential European and Asian theater of military operations. In Europe, American missiles previously banned under the INF accord, could be deployed to NATO member-states, and in Asia - to Japan or South Korea where US military bases are situated. However, medium-and shorter-range missiles can be fired directly from US. In fact, Alaska is separated from Russia by the Bering Strait, which is just 86 km wide.

"Vladimir Putin said that Russia would not stoke tensions, which are bound to emerge after the termination of the INF Treaty," Murakhovsky said. "However, we should be ready for a tit-for-tat response. New long-range Kalibr and hypersonic systems will be developed, tested and prepared for mass production. Then, everything will depend on the Americans. If they embark on producing and deploying missiles that threaten Russia’s territory, our army will promptly place systems capable of providing an adequate response on full combat alert."

Russia has to respond to Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement, Alexei Chepa, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma (lower house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee, stressed to Izvestia.

"Unfortunately, the interests of lobbyists promoting the production of new weapons have prevailed now. These people are interested in making profit, and Donald Trump took his cue from them." According to the lawmaker, Russia’s alleged violations of the treaty are just a pretext for the US to stop honoring its commitments.


Kommersant: Despite sanctions, Russian defense deals flourishing worldwide

Russian arms exports have resolutely stood at $15 bln over the past three years, Dmitry Shugayev, Director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told Kommersant.

"The primary goal, which we are trying to achieve despite everything, is promoting our products in foreign markets regardless of any external circumstances. I can assure you that we have maintained the volume of exports at $15 bln," he said, adding that everything that was tried and tested in battle on Syrian soil, including the Kornet anti-tank missile systems and the Pantsir anti-aircraft missile systems, is highly sought after by foreign customers.

Commenting on Western sanctions, Shugayev noted that there should be no illusions here. "We just need to be more up-to-date and respond to all challenges swiftly. A pragmatic approach should have the upper hand. I would say that the sanctions are a real example of unfair competition. This is not just a standoff, this is an explicit no-holds-barred fight. Although we have already adapted ourselves to that, we have to learn to work with more sophisticated cases of unfair competitive games," he pointed out.

"Today, Russia maintains military-technical cooperation based on appropriate inter-governmental agreements with 107 countries. There have been no profound changes in geography due to the sanctions, which seems to be a good thing, because this attests to stability. There are new trends as well. We are working to strengthen cooperation on both bilateral and multilateral foundations. In 2018, we signed a corresponding document between Russia and the Southern African Development Community. Other regional organizations are likewise ready to keep up dialogue with us," he stressed.

Russia has carried on defense cooperation with Venezuela since 2005 with large amounts of military equipment having been delivered there, Shugayev went on to say. "Our equipment has demonstrated that it benefits both Venezuela and its neighbors Peru and Brazil. We will do our best to keep it in fighting shape. We are keeping a close eye on the political situation in Venezuela. We are very much concerned about it, but we do not feel like curtailing cooperation," he added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Taliban capitalizes on discord between Moscow and Washington

Taliban (outlawed in Russia) members have arrived in Moscow for the second time for negotiations to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The Russian conference is an informal meeting between Afghanistan’s leading political players, and according to Moscow, the event was organized by the Afghan diaspora in Russia. Ghulam Mohammad Jalal, an Afghan community leader in Russia, confirmed that the meeting had been proposed by the diaspora and was financed from non-government sources.

According to Jalal, the choice in favor of Russia stems from the fact that it is one of the few nations maintaining neutrality with respect to the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan. The Afghan government refused to send its representatives to the meeting.

According to political scientist and Central Asia expert Arkady Dubnov, Russia has the right to claim the role of beneficiary in the Afghan peace process. "If we assume that the ultimate goal of this process should be establishing peace and a stable government system in Afghanistan, for Russia, which does not take part in the negotiation process between the Americans and the Taliban, it is important to have guarantees of stability in the northern provinces," he explained.

Russia’s interest in stability in Afghanistan is a natural thing, the expert went to say. "Today, it borders on Russia’s partners in Central Asia, whose stability should likewise be Russia’s objective. In that sense, Afghanistan’s northern provinces should be recognized as zones of Russia’s special interests," he pointed out.

According to Dubnov, the Taliban’s motives behind sending its delegates to Moscow are quite simple. "The Taliban is pushing the United States towards further negotiations. This is blackmail taking advantage of relations with Russia: bear in mind that there is another major power, which will be much more favorably disposed towards us. This is a pragmatic blackmail approach," he concluded.


Izvestia: Putin, Lukashenko to meet for Round Four in mid-February

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko will meet in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on February 13, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Izvestia. According to Peskov, issues related to the Union State of Russia and Belarus and bilateral ties will top the agenda of the meeting. That will the fourth meeting between the two leaders since December 2018.

"Russia would like to implement the agreements reached within the Union State. If that is done, it will stimulate stronger Eurasian integration," the paper quotes Vladimir Evseev, Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS Countries, as saying.

The expert is certain that the parties will reach a compromise, but it is hard to guess what concessions Moscow and Minsk could make.

"The Belarusian economy’s stability margin is approximately two years. Belarus’ dependence on economic ties with Russia is so great that Lukashenko just cannot wait for a long time. He needs some concession from Russia, primarily on the tax maneuver," the expert emphasized.

If Minsk agrees to intensify the integration process, Russia could agree to meet it halfway and take some economic steps in response, he added.

Putin and Lukashenko met three times in December. However, no solutions to some disputed issues have been found so far.


RBC: Kiev files criminal charges against prominent opposition politician

The Ukrainian authorities have launched criminal proceedings against Viktor Medvedchuk, Chairman of the Political Council of the Opposition Platform - For life party, accusing him of high treason and separatism.

The move came in the wake of Medvedchuk’s speech at the party’s recent congress, in which he pointed to the need to establish the so-called autonomous Donbass region within Ukraine by amending the Ukrainian Constitution and the laws that stipulate the establishment of a legislature, government and other autonomous governing bodies. According to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office, this contravenes the country’s Constitution, which says that Ukraine is a unitary state.

"I believe these accusations are politically motivated. Poroshenko’s potential voters view Medvedchuk as a politician who openly upholds Russia’s interests in Ukraine. Many proponents of the Ukrainian authorities’ current policy have long called for punishing Medvedchuk, and now we see this happening," said, Oleg Ignatov, Deputy Director of the Center for Current Policy.

"It is not improbable that Prosecutor General Igor Lutsenko wants to play into Poroshenko’s hands in a situation where the latter seeks to regain support in the west of the country where leader of Batkivshchina Yulia Timoshenko could garner too many votes," he explained.

"This case has no legal prospects. However, it polarizes the campaign, with President Pyotr Poroshenko standing to gain from it. That’s his strategy. He persuades his supporters that there is a patriotic, heroic, Ukrainian column on one side and a pro-Russian, collaborationist one on the other," the paper quotes Director of the Kiev-based Institute of Global Strategies Vadim Karasev as saying.


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