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Press review: Trump’s state visit to the UK and Syria’s response to Iran pullout demands

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and US President Donald Trump at Buckingham Palace in London Victoria Jones/Pool Photo via AP
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and US President Donald Trump at Buckingham Palace in London
© Victoria Jones/Pool Photo via AP

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump's British tour aimed at huge deal with UK

US President Donald Trump is on his first state visit to the United Kingdom, which comes amid the upcoming resignation of British Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

Ahead of his UK tour, Trump said in an interview with the British press that the UK's ex-top diplomat, Boris Johnson, would make a good prime minister. The US president also commended "the father of Brexit," Nigel Farage, whose party had done a great job during the European Parliament elections. The White House occupant did not rule out he would meet with Farage and Johnson during his visit. Trump added that some candidates to the position of the UK's Conservative Party leader had asked him for support, but he refrained from giving any names. The US commander-in-chief claims he can significantly influence the race for the British prime minister’s post.

However, Head of the Strategic Assessment Section at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations Sergei Utkin doubts that Trump’s visit will affect whoever takes May’s place. "There is a serious struggle going on inside the Conservative Party," he told the newspaper. "This is why I don’t think that Trump’s opinion will have a decisive role in picking a new prime minister and leader of the Conservatives. The support each candidate has within the party is more likely to play a key role," the expert said.

At the same time, Trump definitely can have some sway on issues concerning future trade relations between the US and Great Britain, Utkin pointed out. "Trump has made a number of rather bold and poorly justified statements that relations with the United States may offset the losses Great Britain is likely to suffer in trade with the European Union in the wake of Brexit," he noted. "Apparently, no one has gone into detail about how it can happen. It is more like a political slogan but the position Trump takes in this regard will be crucial for whether he will be able to convince British politicians that boosting trade with the US is a promising and beneficial policy. Basically, he is capable of doing it," the expert said. On the whole, in Utkin’s view, given that London still doesn’t have a full understanding of what turn Brexit will take next, the United States is very likely going to try to avoid making excessive commitments but can show readiness to support its strategic ally.


Izvestia: Syria resists demands for Iranian troop pullout to break free of US sanctions

Damascus has no intention of turning away Iran’s military assistance or demanding an Iranian troop withdrawal even in return for an easing of US sanctions, Chairman of the Syrian parliamentary committee on foreign affairs Butrus al-Marjan told Izvestia. The media reported earlier that Washington and Tel Aviv intended to offer a deal to Moscow and Damascus: the Americans are allegedly ready to remove sanctions and recognize Bashar al-Assad’s government as legitimate in return for a pullout of all Iranian troops from Syria. Vitaly Naumkin, Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Science told the paper that Moscow would not spoil relations with Iran for the sake of a doubtful deal with the Americans.

Iran’s military presence in Syria is not subject to bargaining, the United States has no right to impose conditions on Damascus, Butrus al-Marjan told the newspaper. He added that Syria had not yet received any official proposals from the US. "Washington is not in a position to tell a sovereign state whose troops it may or may not host. The Iranian troops are deployed to our country based on our government’s official request and will leave Syria when it is necessary," the lawmaker pointed out. At the same time, he noted that Damascus was ready for talks with the West and kept a window open for diplomatic efforts.

Russia will not ruin relations with Iran for the sake of a US proposal, said Naumkin, a Russian Middle East specialist, who served as Senior Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General’s envoy to Syria in 2014-2018. "Frankly speaking, I don’t trust the Americans much because they are strongly set against Syria and aren’t ready to rehabilitate Damascus. The main thing is that we won’t spoil relations with Iran over it and Bashar al-Assad himself is not inclined to take such steps," the Mideast expert explained.

According to Chairman of the Russian Society of Friendship and Business Cooperation with Arab Countries Vyacheslav Matuzov, efforts to fuel rumors about an alleged deal make it clear that neither Israel nor the US is ready to take positive actions to resolve the Syria crisis and stop interfering in the country’s affairs. The recent bombing of Syrian military facilities near Quneitra and an air base near Hama did not happen at the same time by chance but were part of the same campaign, the specialist emphasized.


Kommersant: Zelensky’s pursuit of US support may open lead to Ukrainian election meddling

The US Congress is considering a bill, which stipulates a sharp increase in military assistance to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has been invited to make an official visit to Washington, and new US envoy to Ukraine Kristina Kvien has arrived in Kiev, Kommersant writes.

The bill’s crucial provision makes it possible to grant Kiev the status of a major non-NATO ally until the country’s possible accession to the North Atlantic Alliance. If the bill is passed, anti-tank, anti-ship and anti-aircraft systems may be included in the list of weapons Washington will provide to Kiev.

Meanwhile, according to the American media, the Ukrainian president may visit the United States in late summer or early fall.

Washington’s growing activities towards Ukraine stem, among other things, from the upcoming US presidential race. Anton Fedyashin, Professor at the American University in Washington, DC, explained to the newspaper that Vladimir Zelensky was in a tight spot as American politicians were entering a new stage of their struggle for power, and Ukraine was going to be a tool in that fight.

"The main question is whether Zelensky will succeed in taking advantage of the domestic political situation in Washington in order to achieve his own goals and secure US support on as many issues crucial for him and Ukraine as possible. For instance, he can initiate an investigation into the possible involvement of former President Poroshenko’s associates in anti-Trump actions taken by Hillary Clinton’s election campaign team in 2016. In addition, he can provide help in investigating links between Donald Trump’s potential presidential rival in 2020, Joe Biden, and Ukraine’s energy sector," Fedyashin noted. "It would have been much easier if there was no Donald Trump because the two political parties in the Congress don’t have fundamental disagreements on Ukraine. However, there are disagreements between the Congress and Trump, which may damage Ukraine’s interests in the future," the expert emphasized.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Pyongyang’s missiles shake up US-Japan-South Korea ‘alliance’

The defense chiefs of the United States, Japan and South Korea said at a Singapore meeting they were ready to boost trilateral cooperation to resolve issues on the Korean Peninsula, meaning Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament. However, behind the facade of unity, there are deep disagreements between the three countries, which particularly concern North Korea’s military potential. When Pyongyang tested short-range missiles in May, US President Donald Trump said it didn’t concern him much, while Tokyo condemned the tests as a violation of UN resolutions, on the other hand, Seoul preferred to stay mum, Nezavisimaya Gazeta recalls.

The three defense chiefs met for the first time after North Korea had test-launched what some experts called short-range ballistic missiles on May 4 and 9.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya signed a joint statement, which says they will actively cooperate and support diplomatic efforts to free the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons. The United States also reaffirmed its defense obligations to Japan and South Korea.

Moscow State Institute of International Relations Professor Georgy Toloraya told the newspaper that "in the past, the US-Japan-South Korea trio only existed in the minds of Soviet analysts." "No actual military alliance or bloc exists in reality. There are certain obligations between the US and Japan, as well as between the US and South Korea. They are rather clear and the Americans have tight control over them. It would be a stretch to say that the parties may reach an understanding on basic issues. At the moment, there are differences on North Korea’s missile launches. The US and South Korea tend to underestimate this move for political reasons because no one knows if those were ballistic missiles. Japan, however, doesn’t hide its concern. Apart from that, there are other disagreements that the public is just unaware of," the expert pointed out.


Kommersant: Online flicks for the price of a subway ride

More than half of Russians (27%) paid for the movies and TV series they watched online in the past six months, compared to 12% two years ago, Kommersant wrote, citing data provided by the BrandScience agency. According to the market’s participants, the paying audience is growing particularly because of anti-piracy initiatives. However, those opposing online regulations say that a decrease in online content prices has played a role.

The audience of online video content has been growing: 94% of Internet users in Russia occasionally watch videos online, said Head of Research Projects at Deloitte CIS Mikhail Gordeyev.

"In five years, people will get used to paying for movies and TV series subscriptions like they pay for online music services now," Olga Filipchuk, the Development Director at Yandex media services, said with confidence. Okko Director General Ivan Grodetsky, in turn, pointed out that paid services "are actually becoming the only place where much-talked-about movies and shows premiere."

According to Filipchuk, "the market participants’ increasing joint activities to combat the spread of illegal content" is another reason behind the surge in paying audiences. In November 2018, search engines and copyright holders signed an anti-piracy memorandum, which requires removing links to pirate websites from search results without a court ruling.

The number of paid subscription users is rising not because of restrictions but because legal services are becoming better and easier available, leader of the Pirate Party of Russia Anton Yershov noted. High content prices are the main reason behind consumer piracy, he said, adding, however, that the final season of Game of Thrones was available legally "for the price of a subway ride."


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review