Kommersant: US ignores Russia’s initiative for joint statement on prevention of nuclear war
According to Kommersant, Moscow called on Washington to make a high-level joint statement on the prevention of nuclear war and the need to strengthen strategic stability. A draft statement was handed over to the US in October 2018 but Washington has not yet responded to Russia’s initiative.
The newspaper said that the Russian-drafted joint statement on behalf of the Russian and US presidents was supposed to confirm the two countries’ intention to avoid a nuclear confrontation, eliminate the possibility of nuclear war and take the necessary measures to prevent the accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.
The paper points out that back in 1985, Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union and Ronald Reagan of the United States had adopted a statement, which said that nuclear war was unacceptable because there could be no winners in it.
"That statement was a signal to end the nuclear arms race and launch constructive talks on arms control and the easing of global tensions," Russian International Affairs Council President and the country’s former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Kommersant. "The global situation now is far more complicated that it was in the 1980s, while the threat of nuclear conflict is becoming increasingly obvious. The Cold War-era mechanisms for nuclear deterrence have practically vanished. Unless urgent measures are taken, the world will suffer the fate of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral," he added. According to Ivanov, "as leading nuclear powers, Russia and the US have a special responsibility to preserve peace and they are the ones that should initiate a process to make international relations manageable once again."
However, the White House is not ready to listen to this. In response to the newspaper’s request to comment on Washington’s lack of reaction, Spokesperson for the US embassy in Moscow Andrea Kalan only said that Washington was committed to effective arms control that helped ensure the security of the United States, its allies and partners, was verifiable and implementable, and involved partners that responsibly fulfilled their obligations. According to Kalan, the US is ready for arms control talks with Russia under these criteria.
Izvestia: ‘If Putin was in power then, they would not have bombed us,’ Serbian top diplomat says
In an interview with Izvestia, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic spoke about Belgrade’s refusal to introduce sanctions against Russia, the Kosovo issue and who could have prevented the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia.
According to Dacic, relations between Serbia and Russia have reached a strategic partnership level, which is why "Serbia has never imposed any restrictions on Russia and will never do so, although it has been facing heavy pressure."
"Serbia seeks EU membership but it doesn’t mean we should forget about relations with our friends such as Russia. We must stand up for our national interests and Moscow definitely helps us do that. Besides, it also helps us preserve our territorial integrity as far as Kosovo goes," he pointed out. Dacic said that it was impossible to resolve the Kosovo issue unless Belgrade and Pristina hammer out an agreement, so Serbia was open for talks aimed at reaching a compromise but it was not ready to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
When speaking about NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia, which took place 20 years ago, Dacic said: "We cooperate even with NATO but we will never forget what happened then." "It must not be forgotten particularly because Kosovo’s independence resulted from their actions," he added. "We are grateful to Russia for the help it offered us then. However, had Putin been in power at that time, they would not have had the courage to bomb us. I think Russia would have taken a different stance," he emphasized.
Turning to economic matters, the Serbian top diplomat noted that the country was in free trade talks with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and a deal was expected to be signed in the fall.
When asked about the prospects for Serbian-Russian energy cooperation, Dacic noted that Belgrade was facing oil and gas shortages. "The TurkStream project is under implementation, the construction of the pipeline’s Serbian segment is expected to be completed next year… We certainly feel Western pressure over the matter but no one else has offered to supply us with gas yet. This is the reason why participation in the TurkStream project is our national interests," the Serbian foreign minister concluded.
Vedomosti: Putin-Kim summit will not hinder talks between US, North Korea
President Vladimir Putin has invited North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to visit Russia, the Kremlin said on its website. Kim Jong-un’s first visit to the country is expected to take place before the end of April. Last year, the Kremlin said several times that the North Korean leader’s visit was under consideration. Both presidents were supposed to meet on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in September 2018, but Kim Jong-un didn’t come. At the same time, he has already held two meetings with US President Donald Trump, Vedomosti writes.
However, the North Korean and US leaders failed to adopt a joint statement at the Vietnam summit and there has been a lull in talks since then. North Korean officials say relations between Kim Jong-un and Trump remain positive and blame the summit’s failure on sharp statements made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who misinterprets the North Korean leader’s words and has been hampering progress in the negotiations.
According to the US media, the meeting between Kim and Putin may become an issue for Trump: last year, Russia stayed out of the denuclearization talks, but if Moscow chooses to play a more active role, it can offer strong political and financial support to Pyongyang.
On the one hand, North Korea’s talks with the US and Russia are interrelated, said Alexander Vorontsov, the Head of the Korean and Mongolian Department at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies. According to him, both processes are aimed at easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and finding a solution to the nuclear issue that will be acceptable to all parties.
"On the other hand, each negotiation has its own logic and there is no direct link between the obvious slowdown in the North Korea-US talks and Kim’s upcoming Russia tour. The visit has been under consideration for a long time, everyone has been waiting for it and there have been delays simply because it is difficult to harmonize the leaders’ schedules," the expert explained. On Thursday, Pyongyang said that Kim Jong-un had witnessed a test of a new tactic weapon but it does not violate sanctions or mean that North Korea has chosen to abandon dialogue for the sake of military confrontation, Vorontsov emphasized.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington sanctions baton may accelerate global de-dollarization
Washington has banned Venezuela’s Central Bank from using the US dollar and conducting gold transactions. The sanctions are meant to be a warning for Russia in case Moscow tries to bolster its military presence in the region, refusing to accept the United States’ exclusive right to control the Americas according to the Monroe Doctrine. Russian-US relations, strained as they may be, have not yet reached the level of fatal financial restrictions, experts say, but if military capabilities that could be used against the US are stationed in Latin America, an escalation of tensions will be inevitable, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Moscow was surprised to hear Washington cite the Monroe Doctrine, which has already shown its ineffectiveness as far as Cuba and Nicaragua goes. "It’s a last resort measure, which the Russia-US standoff does not require yet," said Alexei Arbatov, the Director of the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations.
"New US sanctions against Venezuela’s Central Bank are kind of a trial balloon," Associate Professor at the Plekhanov Economics University Ekaterina Novikova noted. She pointed out that Russia, China and some other countries had already launched the process of de-dollarization, which may even accelerate if there were more restrictions on the use of the greenback. "Taking historical experience into consideration, one can assume that the American age is coming to a logical end so we are witnessing the agony of the key global economy of the 20th century, but only time will tell who will be the 21st century leader," Novikova speculated.
"The abandonment of the dollar as an international means of payment has been under consideration for several years (for instance, between Russia and China). Life will still go on without the dollar. There indeed will be a short crisis and countries will need to introduce new currency settlement mechanisms," said Russian businessman and political activist Konstantin Babkin said. "Another question is that the US may seize Russia’s assets… In order to minimize this risk, there is a need to withdraw Russia’s reserves from the United States in time and invest money in the real economy of Russia and allied countries," he added.
Vedomosti: Moscow’s new sanctions against Kiev may send oil prices in Ukraine through the roof
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree imposing new sanctions on Ukraine, which include a ban on the export of oil and petroleum products and expanded the list of banned Ukrainian goods, Vedomosti notes.
For a long time, Ukraine remained one of the major markets for Russian oil exporters as far as former Soviet countries were concerned. Russian oil products account for nearly half of Ukraine’s annual consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel, said ACRA analyst Vasily Tanurkov. According to him, if the ban on fuel exports comes into effect, Ukraine will see prices soar, while Russia will face almost no consequences.
Ukraine’s oil refining company Ukrtatnafta has been trying for a long time to draw the state authorities’ attention to the "dangerous dependence of the country’s fuel market on monopolistic oil supplies from Russia," the company said in a statement. Now that the supplies are about to stop, it may result "in the collapse of not only the fuel market but of the entire Ukrainian economy, undermining the country’s national security."
Ukraine produces very little oil; most of its refineries are outdated and have long stopped operating, which is the reason behind the country’s heavy dependence on oil imports, Senior Director at Fitch Ratings Dmitry Marinchenko pointed out. Ukraine imported about eight mln tonnes of oil products in 2018, mostly from Russia and Belarus. "However, Belarusian oil products are in fact made from Russian oil. If this channel is cut off, the Ukrainian economy could face a fuel crisis," the expert added.
Belarus can replace Russia as an oil product exporter, Tanurkov said. Marinchenko agreed that it was possible to replace Russian oil supplies by increasing imports from Lithuania and Poland but the logistics would have to be changed, which could lead to a hike in gasoline prices.
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