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Press review: NATO bid for Brazil may jolt BRICS and US eyes ‘Star Wars’ after INF failure

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and US President Donald Trump  AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and US President Donald Trump
© AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Izvestia: Farewell to disarmament: INF collapse may trigger chaos in missile defense

Washington’s remarks about its plans to sign a new comprehensive deal on intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles is just wishful thinking, a Russian diplomatic source told Izvestia. The US dreams of limiting Chinese missiles and has even asked Moscow to help it persuade Beijing to agree to this. However, Beijing has signaled that it is not planning to destroy its arsenals. Speaking at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Washington’s destruction of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the creation of uncertainty around the future of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) could ruin the mechanisms of nuclear arms control.

"The United States buried the INF Treaty. Neither China nor other states possessing intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles will agree to sign a new deal because for many these missiles are the basis of their defense potential," the diplomatic source told the paper.

Director of the Center for Military-Political Studies at the Hudson Institute Richard Weitz believes that it’s very unlikely that a global treaty banning all countries from producing and deploying missiles with the range of 500-5,500 km will be signed. However, it’s quite real to agree on several options of limiting such missiles. For example, according to the US expert, states could reach an agreement on banning intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles in particular regions or to establish limits on the number of warheads for each country. For complying with these restrictions, the world community will have to develop a control mechanism.

Although Russia has made it clear that it is not going to deploy intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles in those regions where the US won’t do this, Washington is ignoring this and has started developing missiles, which had been banned. Lavrov stated that Russia would respond in kind but would not be drawn into a costly arms race.

Meanwhile, the US has been allocating funds to create a space-based defense system and deploy strike weapons along the near-Earth orbit, Russia’s top diplomat noted. This means that Washington would be able to "clean" outer space from undesirable objects of other countries, creating a risk of opening a Pandora’s box, the paper says.


Media: NATO’s invitation to Brazil could spell trouble for BRICS

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has wrapped up his three-day official visit to Washington, which culminated in his meeting with US President Donald Trump, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes. At the news conference, the White House occupant made a bombastic statement, inviting Brazil to join NATO. Although Bolsonaro declined to give a direct answer, just confirming that this issue had been discussed, it is expected that this week Brazil would launch consultations on potential NATO membership.

This year, Brazil is hosting a BRICS summit, an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Speaking on how Brazil’s possible accession to NATO could affect the development of ties with its BRICS partners, Academic Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Latin American Studies Vladimir Davydov told the paper that "these issues are not solved quickly and by the time any decisions linked to NATO are taken, Brazil’s chairmanship in BRICS will come a close."

Brazil seeks to become a superpower, which has access to global settlement mechanisms and it’s important for it to have a positive relationship with China, India and Russia, the expert noted. "Brazil’s elite is interested in keeping the reputation of an autonomous force," Davydov said, adding that not everything declared by Bolsonaro would be implemented. Brazil will continue meeting its commitments to BRICS, but its activity in the group is highly likely to diminish.

Now the issue of Brazil’s role in solving the Venezuelan crisis has taken a new angle, Director of the BRICS Center at the MGIMO Institute for International Studies Lyudmila Okuneva told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Should the invitation be accepted, the alliance would force Brazil to act in solidarity. For Russia, the issue of Brazil’s possible NATO membership is also of special importance. It’s unclear how Brazil’s NATO aspirations will be combined with its BRICS membership, the expert notes.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Assad battles IS again in southwestern Daraa province

The US airstrikes and the assault by Kurdish militias have destroyed the last stronghold of the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia) in Syria, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Shortly before that, US paratroopers had carried out a raid against IS sleeper cells in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate. In Jarabulus, an armed clash broke out between pro-Turkish Islamist groups. Thanks to the assistance of significant air power, the Syrian Republican Guard is quashing the opposition’s resistance in Daraa, southwestern Syria. Simultaneously, Damascus is getting ready for an offensive in Idlib, while Moscow is redeploying additional forces to Hmeimim and Tartus.

Unfortunately, the destruction of the last IS stronghold has not brought to an end the conflict in war-torn Syria, the paper says. At the moment, Damascus has not gotten control of the Idlib Governorate, the left bank, the areas around Al-Tanf, some parts of the western Aleppo Governorate, in the north of the Hama Governorate and the northern territories bordering Turkey, also known as Syrian Kurdistan or Rojava.

Ankara has reasons to worry. Now, the Kurdish militias may be deployed to support their ‘comrades’ in the fight against Turkish troops and Ankara’s allies, which occupied Rojava. However, Washington, which backs the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish militia group, could become entangled in this brewing conflict. Apparently, Washington has changed its mind on withdrawing its forces from Syria, the paper writes. At the same time, it has tough relations with the Shiite government of Iraq, which opposes the US military presence in the neighboring Middle Eastern country.

Damascus is gearing up to return Idlib and other Syrian regions under its control. Assad’s Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub believes that the Syrian army has enough capability for that. Earlier reports said that Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces had deployed attack aircraft to the Hmeimim airbase. Experts link this to evidence that the Free Syrian Army may be gearing up for an offensive around Idlib.


Kommersant: Ukraine slaps new ineffective sanctions against Russia

Kiev’s new anti-Russian blacklist of nearly 300 companies and some 850 individuals will traditionally have little effect, Kommersant business daily said. Most of the key targets of these sanctions have been working under restrictive measures introduced earlier by the European Union, the United States and Canada, and have minimum links with Ukraine. For dozens of small and medium-sized companies, mostly suppliers of goods and services for construction to Crimea or in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republic, the restrictions won’t be vital as well. Apparently, the new restrictions will only seriously hit publishing companies, but they claim that this move will be mostly harmful for Ukrainian citizens themselves.

Among the new targets of Ukraine’s sanctions are Severstal owned by Russian billionaire Alexei Mordashov and VF Tanker, part of UCL Holdings owned by Russia’s steel tycoon Vladimir Lisin. Severstal has slammed these sanctions as "illegal and unfounded," but is not expecting any problems. The company explains that it does not have any production assets in Ukraine, and bilateral trade volume is small and has seriously declined after martial law was introduced in the country.

Another newcomer to the blacklist is the Kuban agricultural holding of Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, which manufactures agricultural goods in Russia’s southern Krasnodar Region. Among other similar enterprises targeted by the sanctions are Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Concord Catering, major starch producers Amylco, ND Tekhnik and the Southern Project owned by Yuri Kovalchuk’s Rossiya Bank. A source in the agricultural sector believes that Amylco and Kuban may be suspected of supplying goods to Donbass.

For the first time, sanctions have been imposed on Promsvyazbank, which is a major bank for Russia’s defense sector. The bank said the restrictions would not have any impact because it had neither clients nor assets in Ukraine.


Kommersant: Gazprom starts developing major gas field on Yamal Peninsula

Russia’s energy giant, Gazprom, which seeks to compensate for falling production in old regions and ensure future export, has started developing a major natural gas field in Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula - the Kharasavey gas field - which it had delayed several times. The Russian company will have to pour funds into both the gas field and build additional infrastructure for transporting gas. The two branches of the gas pipeline for supplies from the neighboring Bovanenkovo gas field became one of the longest and the most expensive construction endeavors in Gazprom’s history and now the company will have to continue it.

The Kharasavey gas field, which is due to be launched by 2023, will have a capacity of 32 bln cubic meters, which should compensate for the falling production of the Nadym-Pur-Tazovsky Region. Still, some gas will be supplied for export, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said.

Kharasavey will become Gazprom’s second gas field in Yamal after Bovanenkovo, and also a major deposit in the zone of the Unified Gas Supply System since the launch of Bovanenkovo in 2012. The projects along with the Kruzenshternsky field are part of the Bovanenkovo group with the reserves to the tune of 7.5 trillion cubic meters and 149 mln tonnes of condensate and should become a basis for Gazprom’s production by the middle of this century. Deputy Head of Russia’s National Energy Security Fund Alexei Grivach estimates that Gazprom will spend up to 130 bln rubles ($2 bln) on the Kharasavey gas field.

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