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Press review: Persian Gulf awaits Putin’s arrival and why Guaido wasn’t arrested at border

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, March 5
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and his supporters AP Photo/Fernando Llano
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and his supporters
© AP Photo/Fernando Llano


Kommersant: Preparing for Putin's Persian Gulf tour demands real diplomacy

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks in two Gulf countries on March 4, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Doha and Riyadh have not been maintaining diplomatic relations for a year and a half, and they jealously keep an eye on each other’s foreign policy contacts. Kommersant wrote. Thus, during the preparations for President Vladimir Putin's visit to Saudi Arabia, it turned out that other Gulf countries wanted to meet with him, particularly Qatar. However, the dates of the visits have not been set yet and according to Kommersant’s sources, the event's agenda so far has come up empty.

Lavrov plans to visit four countries in the region: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. On Monday, the top diplomat held talks in Doha and Riyadh. The tour schedule looks like an attempt to build a bridge between rival neighbors, the newspaper wrote. "Judging by the rhetoric between the parties politically, progress is not expected. However, there are some advances in certain areas," Yury Barmin, expert of the Russian International Affairs Council told Kommersant.

Meanwhile, Doha is waiting for Putin’s arrival and the main intrigue is whether the Russian president's visit will coincide with his announced trip to Riyadh. Even now, according to Kommersant's sources, the Saudis were very sensitive about Lavrov having flown to Saudi Arabia from Qatar.

At first glance, the relations between Moscow and the Persian Gulf nations look optimistic. General Director of Moscow Policy Group Alexey Potemkin told Kommersant that Russia has good prospects of cooperation with Qatar in agriculture, as well as in IT. Meanwhile, experts interviewed by the newspaper noted that cooperation is developing very slowly. The total trade between Russia and Arab countries in 2018 amounted to only $21.7 bln, and for the most part two countries - Egypt and Algeria - account for that figure.

According to Kommersant, a series of intergovernmental meetings between the Persian Gulf nations in March and April might change the situation. It is no coincidence that the Russian top diplomat paid that much attention to transitioning bilateral cooperation to a practical plane, the newspaper wrote.


Izvestia: Guaido allowed to freely cross Venezuela’s border

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido returned to the Latin American country after a 10-day hiatus, and was supposed to be detained for leaving the country based on a court ruling. However, according to Guaido himself, no one arrested him at the border. A source in US political circles told Izvestia, right now Washington is not ready to pour a lot of money into a military solution to solve the conflict.

"Expectations were that the opposition with feasible foreign aid, would overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime with its own forces. However, it turned out that the Venezuelans did not have enough protest potential for an independent change of government," the source told the newspaper. Meanwhile, Guaido warned that his possible arrest would be the current president’s "last mistake", since it would result in mobilizing the population.

The opposition leader’s return is detrimental to incumbent President Nicolas Maduro, Head of the Center for Political Studies of the Institute for Latin American Studies of Russian Academy of Sciences Zbigniew Ivanovsky told Izvestia. "If Juan Guaido is outside the country, then the opposition is beheaded," he noted. "So far, President Maduro is in control of the situation in the country, but it is difficult to say now what will come next," the analyst said, commenting on the current situation in the country. Ivanovsky noted that as head of the parliament Guaido should have parliamentary immunity.

According to Professor of Theory and History of International Relations at the St. Petersburg State University Victor Heifetz, given the current situation, Guaido’s arrest would only lead to further escalation and new economic sanctions. Against the background of the imposed restrictions, when Washington froze $7 bln belonging to the state-owned oil corporation PDVSA, and its subsidiary Citgo practically came under US control, additional measures would be a heavy burden on Caracas.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump’s ‘dollar is too strong’ remark might strengthen ruble

US President Donald Trump called the dollar too strong and criticized Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell for raising interest rates. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta recalled the previous successes of Trump's twitter diplomacy, believing that the onset of a weak dollar in the very near future cannot be ruled out. The ruble, however, is under pressure not from a strong dollar as much as from the threat of sanctions, which in the end might completely offset the effect of a possible weakening of the dollar.

According to Russian analysts, the American leader’s remarks might help the Russian ruble. After all, if the US president goes down the path of weakening the dollar, the ruble will only get stronger. According to analyst at Kalita Finance Dmitry Golubovsky, "Trump's Twitter and public diplomacy is working." "His statements should be taken as a message to future market movements," he said.

So far, the dollar has not reacted to Trump’s remarks, Deputy Director of Alpari’s Analytical Department Anna Kokoreva told the newspaper. "A reaction is possible only in the event of specific actions by the Federal Reserve," she noted. For Russians, she explained, in spite of whatever Trump says, the safest thing to do is to hold savings in foreign currency.

Meanwhile, some experts put their two cents in on the future of the ruble by saying that sanctions trump the exchange rate. "The sanctions threat for Russia still exists. The geopolitical component might once again prevail in relation to ruble assets. In other words, even if the dollar undergoes a moderate devaluation, the ruble may remain in isolation from the positive movements of the emerging market sector," Chief Analyst at BCS Premier Anton Pokatovich told the newspaper.


Vedomosti: India launches Kalashnikov production, soon to ink nuclear sub deal with Moscow

Vedomosti writes that its sources have confirmed that a contract is expected to be concluded on March 7 on the Chakra III project to lease the Project 971 multi-purpose nuclear submarine from Russia to the Indian Navy. The deal is estimated to be worth around $3 bln with delivery set for 2025. At the same time, the leasing contract for the nuclear submarine Chakra II might be extended for five years. A source in the Russian defense industry confirmed that the deal is close to conclusion.

Earlier, a production plant to churn out AK-203 Kalashnikov assault rifles opened in India’s Korwa. The project stipulates the manufacture of more than 700,000 rifles with gradual and full localization of production.

According Konstantin Makienko, an expert of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, the cost of the project to manufacture assault rifles in India can be more than $500 mln. Despite the fact that this is not the largest contract with India, such a deal to equip one of the largest armies in the world with Russian weapons is very prestigious and so far this is the second (after the Venezuelan) biggest contract for the supply of Russian military firearms in the post-Soviet era, the expert told the newspaper.


Izvestia: Russian Navy to get ammo armed with artificial intelligence

The Russian Navy will soon receive a set of self-learning minefields for service. These high-tech munitions have the ability to recognize ships, submarines, and even hovercraft by sound, magnetic field and a magnetosonic "portrait." The minefield control unit is equipped with elements of artificial intelligence and is able to independently decide when and what to blow up. This complex is almost ready and its tests will be completed in 2019, the Main Staff of the Russian Navy told Izvestia.

The creation of new mines significantly increases the combat capabilities of the Russian fleet. The concept is being developed for the use of new minefields, the Russian Navy Main Staff told Izvestia. According to Izvestia, this is a completely new Russian development and practically all classes of warships and submarines, as well as naval, tactical and strategic aviation, can carry the mines.

Mine weapons are constantly being improved and refined, taking into account modern technologies, so they remain very dangerous even in modern conditions, former Chief of Main Staff of the Russian Navy, Admiral Valentin Selivanov told Izvestia. "Mines are very dangerous in coastal zones, so they were mainly used for the defense of naval bases," the expert said. "But now the ships have weapons that are used at a distance from the coast, so the tactics of its use has changed. With technical improvements, new mines can be used in areas of projected fleet use. For example, in the locations of probable firing positions," he told the newspaper.


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