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Press review: Turkey eyes buying more S-400s and is NATO tightening a noose around Serbia

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, April 11
S-400 air defense systems Sergei Malgavko/TASS
S-400 air defense systems
© Sergei Malgavko/TASS


Kommersant: Turkey may buy another batch of Russia's S-400s

Russian industry has all the necessary capacities to meet Ankara’s request for the S-400 air defense systems, Kommersant’s sources said in the wake of remarks by top Turkish diplomat Mevlut Cavusoglu who said that his country could purchase an additional batch of S-400s and, possibly, Russian-made fighter jets. According to Kommersant’s experts, the key condition is Turkey’s political will.

Today, Moscow and Ankara have one arms contract providing for the supplies of four S-400 battalions to Turkey in the summer of 2019. The deal, which includes the delivery of various components, 40N6 missiles and the training of Turkish personnel, is estimated at $2.5 bln, with 55% of its cost covered by a Russian loan. That factor made it possible for Russian negotiators to tilt the balance in their favor, a defense industry source told the paper. He explained that the Americans "twisted Turkey’s arm," threatening Ankara that it would only get the Patriot air defense systems if it made an advance payment.

According to the information obtained by Kommersant, currently there are no steady agreements concerning the delivery of additional S-400 systems. The issue at hand is Turkey’s push for the partial localization of certain S-400 components on its soil.

Against the backdrop of Washington’s preconditions for the purchase of US-made F-35 jets, Turkish specialists have already shown interest in Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35 fighters, according to Kommersant’s source in the defense industry. "If the Turkish leadership gives the go-ahead, Russian negotiators will be able to come up with a purchase proposal within a short period of time, which, by contrast with the initiatives put forward by our Western counterparts, will not be affected by any short-term considerations," he said.


Izvestia: Serbia condemns NATO for destabilizing the Balkans

The policy pursued by NATO destabilizes the entire Balkan region, Serbian Ambassador to Russia Slavenko Terzic told Izvestia.

"NATO is not a guarantor of stability in the region. The last 30 years have shown that it backs some very dangerous projects, like, for example, Greater Albania, which destabilizes the entire Balkan region. Another example of this sort of behavior is support for radical Islamists, primarily in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia’s southern province of Kosovo and Metohija."

The diplomat added that Belgrade had no plans to join any military alliances.

"The aftermath of the terrible [NATO] bombing raids is still fresh in our memories. Serbia is a neutral country militarily and does not want to join any military bloc, including NATO," the ambassador stressed, adding that peaceful co-existence of various cultures and traditions, dialogue and mutual understanding should be an alternative to militarization in Europe.

NATO’s policy in the Balkans is aimed at preventing rapprochement between Russia and regional countries, said Aleksandar Seselj, a lawmaker from the Serbian Radical Party. Besides, the West is interested in breaking historically close ties between Moscow and Belgrade, he told Izvestia. "Western countries have undertaken vigorous efforts to integrate Bosnia and Herzegovina into NATO. If you look at the map, you will see that Serbia will soon be fully surrounded by the military alliance," he stressed.

According to Seselj, NATO’s expansion and the emergence of new dividing lines create an explosive situation in the Balkans and postpone the resolution of the Kosovo issue, the primary factor of instability in the region.

"If the Kosovo Albanians decide to deploy their armed forces to the north of the region, which has a predominantly Serbian population, Belgrade will have to send its troops to protect its fellow countrymen. That scenario could mean the start of a war," Oleg Bondarenko, Director of the Progressive Politics Foundation and an expert on the Balkans, told the paper.

If NATO forces intervene in a potential conflict, a complete destabilization of the region cannot be ruled out, he warned. According to the expert, the demarcation of territories between Belgrade and Pristina could prevent that, but it will be rather difficult to do that due to the lack of will on the part of Kosovo.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Seoul seeks to rebuild bridge of trust between US, North Korea

Washington will host a meeting between US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in on April 11. The South Korean leader is expected to call for holding the third US-North Korean summit despite the fact that the second one ended in failure, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Seoul wants to persuade its senior partner to ease sanctions against Pyongyang and thereby revitalize the peace process.

The collapse of the previous Trump-Kim summit held in Hanoi in February not only dashed any hopes that the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear issue would be resolved soon, it also dealt a blow to the domestic popularity of the South Korean president, who seeks reconciliation with North Korea.

Meanwhile, Konstantin Asmolov, a leading Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, noted in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the Americans started talking about the third Trump-Kim summit before the South Korean leader’s visit to Washington. "The completion of the investigation, which cleared Trump of any suspicion of collusion with Russia, untied his hands at the least. His domestic position has somewhat consolidated, and now he can agree to hold another summit with Kim."

"Moon, who is trying to position himself as a vital link between Pyongyang and Washington, particularly needs this meeting," the expert went on to say. "However, Moon is not Kim’s spokesman, although that’s what conservative lawmakers call him. Moon is facing problems in his country, and he can improve his ratings through successful moves on the inter-Korean track or in establishing dialogue between the United States and China."


Kommersant: Shell’s pullout from Baltic LNG project could delay its implementation

Shell’s decision to withdraw from its joint venture with Gazprom, the Baltic LNG, announced on April 10 should not create substantial difficulties for the Russian energy giant, Kommersant writes. However, it will now have to look for over 700 bln rubles ($10.8 bln) for the construction of both the Baltic LNG and the entire complex combining gas liquefaction and its processing. So, it runs the risk of becoming yet another long-term Gazprom project.

Cederic Cremers, Shell Russia Chairman, earlier said that the company decided to stop its involvement after Gazprom announced it would change the concept of the project’s development. There will be no legal issues here, as the parties who had been in talks for several years, have signed no legally binding accords.

Kommersant’s sources agree that Gazprom did not seek Shell’s continued involvement in the project. The Russian energy giant is certain that it will be able to implement it on its own, even by using the experience of the Amur Gas Processing Plant built by the Sibur petrochemical company. However, Kommersant’s sources in the industry are skeptical about Gazprom’s ability to implement this project without assistance from a strong partner on time and meeting budget requirements.

There is nothing new in the concept of building such combined facilities, the paper quotes Rupec Head Andrei Kostin as saying. This is widespread in the Middle East, and this option is considered when construction is underway in hard-to-reach places, for example, Alaska. The expert noted that Gazprom should have no problems with buying the LNG technology in the market, while the key hurdle for the project will be its cost and time efficiency. Kostin stressed that for both parts of the complex, the LNG and the chemical one, "it is crucial to be extremely low-cost," considering that the plant’s production will be transported to Europe, where competition with Middle Eastern and US producers is tough.


Izvestia: Acclaimed Russian polar explorer elaborates on Arctic development prospects

Russian polar explorers will receive the North Pole 2020 drifting research station in 2020, President of the Association of Polar Explorers and Russian Special Presidential Envoy for International Cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic Artur Chilingarov told Izvestia at the 5th International Arctic Forum, which was held in St. Petersburg.

Referring the UN’s decision to recognize part of the Arctic as an extension of Russia’s continental shelf, he said that was a very important move. "The issue at hand is 1.2 mln square kilometers, which are recognized by the international community as an extension of our country’s territory. That is the result of very extensive, complex and long-term work by scientists and experts from the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Hydrometeorological Service and many other organizations. I believe that was the most important event at the forum," he said.

When asked to comment on the need for drifting ice stations, Chilingarov noted that these operations were risky. "However, fortunately, we have been able to preserve the contingent that can work under the ice conditions of the drifting stations. I myself used to be the head of the North Pole 19 drifting station, so I do know how to live on an ice floe, how to preserve equipment and, most importantly, people."

"As for the drifting station, the decision on that has already been made. We will have the North Pole 2020 station in 2020," he pointed out, adding that the Kapitan Dranitsyin ice breaker would likewise perform the functions of a drifting ice station during a full-year cycle.

When asked how he felt about security in the Arctic region, Chilingarov said, "A lot of efforts are being undertaken now, but the most important thing that they are backed by the government. Its involvement guarantees security for any work in the Arctic. Everyone who begins working in the Arctic should be told about two instances. These are human safety and environmental security," he said.


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