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Press review: Netanyahu’s milestone Moscow visit and Trump’s upset of NATO’s anniversary

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin  AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin
© AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Israeli PM’s Moscow visit may serve as trump card in outcome of elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin has done a great favor for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Jewish state. The two leaders held talks only five days ahead of the polls, which is crucial for Netanyahu. Experts point out that a demonstration of good ties with Russia may influence voters, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

On April 9, it will become clear if Netanyahu can retain his position as prime minister. He has nothing left to do but play his trump cards, particularly demonstrating a rather high level of relations with other countries’ leaders. There is a good reason why Netanyahu is nicknamed Mr. Security: he has always given priority to foreign policy over domestic affairs.

Meanwhile, chances are that the Russian leader will visit Israel in the near future. There are many issues that require frequent Russian-Israeli meetings but the number of meetings and talks Putin and Netanyahu have held recently points to yet another goal the Israeli prime minister is pursuing, former member of the Israeli Knesset’s (parliament) Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Ksenia Svetlova told the newspaper. She emphasized that the Russian president and the Israeli prime minister had held personal talks in February, which was not so long ago. Putin and Netanyahu also had a telephone conversation on April 1. The fact that the Israeli prime minister made a visit to Moscow five days before the general elections proves that Netanyahu had deliberately chose the date for his visit to Russia, in a similar vein as his visit to the United States, where President Donald Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in his presence.

"Netanyahu believes that his recent international activities, including the Washington meeting with Trump; a visit to Chad, whose relations with Israel had normalized only a few months ago; the Warsaw summit on counterterrorism, which seems to have been aimed only at making as many Arab leaders as possible gather around Netanyahu; as well as his meeting with the Russian leader, play a certain role," Svetlova pointed out. "Netanyahu claims to be the only candidate who has good ties with leaders of almost all countries, from Russia to the US," the expert stressed, adding that it would impress a portion of the electorate.


Izvestia: Russia has the answer to Washington’s anti-Venezuela sanctions

If US lawmakers pass new legislation aimed at countering Russia’s influence in Venezuela, Moscow will have to take tit-for-tat measures, Russian Ambassador to Venezuela Vladimir Zayemsky told Izvesita. Washington has not yet clarified what kind of steps are in the works against Moscow, but the US has dropped some hints at restrictions on Russian-Venezuelan cooperation in the oil industry.

The only specific hint came from White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who said that Washington might impose secondary sanctions on third country entities that cooperated with Venezuela’s state companies. However, the Russian envoy to Venezuela noted that the US threats would not affect the intentions of Moscow and Caracas to continue mutually beneficial cooperation.

The United States indeed can slap restrictions on certain Russian companies that cooperate with Venezuela but impressive results will hardly be achieved, said Director of the National Energy Security Fund Konstantin Simonov. "For instance, Rosneft is already under sanctions, it has gotten used to them and despite attempts to crank up pressure on the company, it has been doing well so far," the expert noted. However, the new sanctions do carry some risks. "These sanctions can be viewed as a warning that if regime change does come to Venezuela, the country’s new authorities may refuse to fulfill the previous government’s obligations," Simonov noted.

Russian politicians and diplomats suppose that the threat of new sanctions points to Washington’s growing frustration with the fact that its major bets to quickly change the Venezuelan regime have failed miserably.

"The US is searching for an external excuse for the failure of its plans to carry out a quick coup in Venezuela. The White House cannot just go and admit that it made a mistake by betting on Guaido, a lame duck that has been unable to encourage the people to follow him. This is why the US is using an already proven method, searching for an external enemy to blame for the failure of its plans to bring democracy to Venezuela," Russian Institute for Strategic Studies expert Igor Pshenichnikov told the paper. "But our country has enough power, resources and wisdom to pursue a policy that we consider to be correct and necessary, based on international law, no matter if it is about Venezuela or any other country," the expert emphasized.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Trump rattles NATO’s 70th anniversary

The atmosphere at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Washington, dedicated to the alliance’s 70th anniversary, could hardly be described as festive. The event’s hosts, US President Donald Trump (who avoided attending the meeting, which experts consider to be a strong message) and Vice President Mike Pence, lashed out at their key allies on this side of the Atlantic - Germany and Turkey, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

In an interview with the newspaper, German political scientist Alexander Rahr spoke about disagreements between Washington and Berlin, and NATO’s prospects. According to him, "the alliance is deeply divided, disputes between the allied states have boiled over into serious conflicts." "I don’t rule out that by the time NATO turns 75, we will have witnessed its death. The United States has taken a dual stance. On the one hand, it considers having control over Europe as a strategic success it does not want to lose. On the other hand, related costs have grown too high. The Americans understand perfectly well that there won’t be a war with Russia, while the alliance has failed to show its efficiency in Afghanistan, and the Europeans are reluctant to wage wars in the Middle East," the expert pointed out.

Rahr believes that the Trump administration "has just decided to do business." "The logic is the following: we will maintain the bloc, but our allies will have to dip into their pockets - they will buy our weapons and pay for the deployment of our missiles on their soil. Such an approach whips up debate among the Europeans, particularly in Germany, where the social welfare system is very expensive and requires huge expenditures. Berlin is ready to spend money on defense but its view of the matter is different. Rather than purchase tanks, aircraft, submarines and cruisers, (they believe) there is a need to take preventive measures, construct infrastructure facilities in Africa and the Middle East and create conditions for people living there, in order to stop migration flows to Europe," the expert explained.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) has held a meeting in Moscow, which involved expert discussions of tensions between Ankara and Washington over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile systems from Russia. According to SETA Strategy Director Hassan Yalcin, the US will continue to turn up the heat on Turkey. "However, it will not bring Turkey closer to Washington," the expert stressed. "The S-400 missile systems are an important element of the Turkish security architecture," he said.


Izvestia: Moscow concerned about rising tensions in Libya

Russia has urged the warring sides in Libya to return to the negotiating table, Head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Contact Group on the intra-Libyan Settlement Lev Dengov told Izvestia. The diplomat pointed out that tensions started erupting two weeks ahead of a conference that was supposed to have involved representatives of both sides: a delegation led by Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, and members of the Tobruk government controlled by Libyan National Army Head Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Tensions started flaring up on April 4, when Khalifa Haftar announced the beginning of a military operation "to liberate Tripoli" and called on the city’s residents to surrender and side with him. Fayez al-Sarraj, in turn, ordered to put troops on full combat alert in order to protect civilians.

According to Dengov, Moscow is concerned about the situation and urged both parties to resolve the disputes peacefully. "All this time, our county has been maintaining contacts with all parties to the conflict. We call on them to resume peaceful dialogue and confirm the positions they took at the Palermo conference," the Russian diplomat said, adding, "the most important thing is to prevent foreign interference so the conflict can be resolved without the participation of third players."

In fact, it was foreign meddling that has brought Libya to where it is now, said Head of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies’ Center of the Near and Middle East Vladimir Fitin. In his view, "the interference has never stopped." "US aircraft continue to carry out strikes on terrorist groups," the expert noted. "The situation is unstable because there are two centers of power, as well as numerous groups that have their own armed units, but it can’t go on like this forever," he explained.

According to Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov, since there are multiple centers of power in Libya, hardly any of the Western countries hold enough credibility to make them try to reach a compromise.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia sees increase in online food ordering

Russians have been ordering vegetables, fruit and bottled water online more often than before, the Russian Association of Internet Trade Companies (AITC) told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. According to AITC President Artyom Sokolov, "online sales of food doubled in the past year." "In this regard, Moscow, which has a 45% share of the market, is in the lead, followed by St. Petersburg (10%)," he said. Frozen food, dairy, refrigerated meat and poultry, fresh vegetables and fruit are the most popular items among online shoppers.

Director General of the Magnit food retail chain Olga Naumova, in turn, said that the company planned to launch an online ordering service with a pick-up-in-store delivery option.

As for prepared foods, the prospects are huge. Online food aggregators have every chance to elbow out restaurants. News broke recently that the average amount of money people spend on ordering food home has almost reached the average restaurant check. Due to its high popularity, the Yandex.Eats service has recently cancelled the free delivery option. Those who order prepared foods, prefer pizza, Japanese food and burgers.

Market participants are confident that the food delivery sector will continue to grow in the next three years. "In 2018, according to our estimates, the market share of online food delivery aggregators was only 15-17% but it can reach 55-60% by 2022," said Maxim Firsov, CEO of Yandex.Eats.

People tend to choose online food delivery over going to restaurants and cooking food at home. The changing food consumption culture is believed to be the reason. "Office workers order food online more often than others, as well as busy residents of big cities, who don’t want to spend time on cooking or just don’t enjoy it," said the Delivery Club service, which saw a twofold increase in prepared food orders in the first quarter of 2019.


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