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Press review: Is doomsday just two minutes away and what Trump’s visit means for the UK

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, June 5


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: World just two minutes away from doomsday

Renowned experts from eight countries have gathered in Rome to discuss the potential pullout of Russia and the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and try to develop new methods of arms control, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The organizers told the newspaper that the conference’s participants would adopt a declaration containing their conclusions and recommendations for international organizations and heads of the world’s leading countries concerning ways to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation and ensure global nuclear security.

Undoubtedly, the focus will be on the prospects for arms control cooperation between Russia and the United States. Former Pentagon chief William Perry, who is now a professor at Stanford University, pointed out that Washington and Moscow were obliged to maintain dialogue on strategic stability. He believes that an impasse in US-Russia relations can lead to tragic consequences, even as devastating as a nuclear strike. Since 2018, the so-called "Doomsday Clock" has remained at two minutes to midnight.

While commenting on the global strategic stability situation, Russian International Affairs Council President Igor Ivanov told the paper that "all the mechanisms that made it possible to reach agreements in the past decades have run their course." "We are walking on thin ice and no one can predict where it will break. This is why the task of politicians is to resume constructive talks on an entire range of disarmament issues.

These talks should be comprehensive and aimed at assessing risks and developing measures that would make it possible to control these risks. Two countries - Russia and the United States - are capable of leading such negotiations," he emphasized.

When asked if it was possible to engage China in the negotiation process, Ivanov said: "The conference’s participants share the opinion that it won’t be possible to engage other countries, including China, until the US and Russia resume strategic dialogue."


Media: What Trump’s visit means to the United Kingdom

In light of the domestic political issues that the United Kingdom is facing, US President Donald Trump’s visit to London has been more symbolic rather than having any practical importance, said experts interviewed by Izvestia. While the political elite were exchanging vows of eternal friendship and cooperation, the British public took to the streets to protest the US president’s visit.

According to Director of the Institute for US and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences Valery Garbuzov, many European nations share a dislike for Donald Trump. "Trump’s earliest statements are one of the reasons. In particular, his statement that Europe must ensure its security itself caused a huge outcry at the start of his presidency," the expert explained.

At the same time, Brexit supporters want to believe that Trump’s visit offers the promise of a new beneficial trade deal with the US, which would offset the UK’s losses from declining trade with the European Union, Head of the Strategic Assessment Section at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations Sergei Utkin told Kommersant. "Trump has little understanding of the intricacies of European integration, which makes it impossible to take the ideas that he gives to the British seriously. Even if Great Britain leaves the European Union without an agreement, it will have to build normal relations with the EU, its major trade partner," Utkin pointed out. "Perhaps, Trump believes it’s not the worst scenario so he seeks to rearrange Europe to his liking but such games may end in a massive crisis," he added.

It would be unwise to expect any breakthrough decisions to be made during the visit. British Prime Minister Theresa May has recently announced she would step down on June 7 so she was participating in the talks as a "lame duck."

"Trump’s visit is more like an attempt to prove to himself and everyone else that although Euro-Atlantic values are going through a crisis, the alliance between Great Britain and the United States is still strong," Kira Godovanyuk, Senior Researcher at the Center for British Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, told Izvestia. "In fact, except for Queen Elizabeth, there is no one with power in Great Britain right now. This is why the focus shifted to the ceremonies during the visit," she added. According to the expert, the big question is whether the United States will try to influence the selection of a new British prime minister.


Izvestia: Ukraine’s opposition plans to unite forces

Ukraine’s "Opposition Platform - For Life" and "Opposition Bloc" parties plan to unite after a six-month split, seeking to seize the initiative in the country’s southeast and gain more votes at the upcoming parliamentary election, Izvestia notes.

Sources close to the negotiation process told the paper that the Opposition Bloc’s rating currently stands at 2-4%, while the Opposition Platform enjoys a rating of 10-15%. According to one of the sources, if the two parties unite, they will be capable of receiving over five percent of the vote, which will allow them to enter the Verkhovna Rada "as a serious political force capable of influencing the agenda."

Verkhovna Rada MP Yevgeny Balitsky confirmed to the paper that small formalities needed to be addressed before a union was finally formed. He said the two political parties had been prompted to take this step because people living in southeastern Ukraine wanted to see a single political force that would represent their interests in parliament. In addition, the move will allow the opposition to rival against Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s Servant of the People party in the regions where he received strong voter support.

Opposition members will be able to gain more votes if they pool their efforts, leading researcher at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Oleg Nemensky said. According to him, if the parliamentary election was held in the fall as it had been planned, both opposition parties would make it to the parliament each on its own, but a snap election upset their plans.

"This is a rather reasonable decision because it will allow both parties to enter the Verkhovna Rada. If the election took place in October, the new president’s policies could have disappointed some of Zelensky’s supporters, making them cast their ballots in favor of an opposition force. But there will be no mass voter frustration under the current situation," the expert pointed out.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Malaysia calls for de-dollarization of foreign trade

Asian countries need to create a single currency for foreign trade operations in order to resist external pressure, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad said. Experts believe that a new single currency could significantly weaken the power of the US dollar, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The Malaysian premier’s statement coincided with a report by the US Department of the Treasury, dedicated to a list of countries, whose monetary and economic policies, according to the federal agency, need to be thoroughly assessed. The list of countries the US suspects of interfering with currency markets particularly includes Ireland, Italy, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.

Many experts consider Malaysia’s initiative to be interesting, as it would facilitate the de-dollarization of trade. "The regular purchases of gold by Asian countries, including China, as well as the gradual de-dollarization process throughout the continent, pave the way for talks on a new Asian currency that would help reduce trade barriers between the countries of the region and improve its investment climate," said Associate Professor at the Plekhanov Economics University Ekaterina Novikova.

However, "the prospects for a single Asian currency are unclear," senior analyst at BCS Premier Sergey Suverov told the newspaper. "As for Europe, the creation of the euro stemmed from deep regional integration, there was a customs union and a single central bank. There is nothing like this in Asia, so Asian countries compete for investments and have numerous differences," the expert explained.

"Introducing a new means of payment in trade will hardly make countries abandon their national currencies, which means that the dollar will remain in high demand," said Alor Broker analyst Alexei Antonov. In his opinion, a shift to such a means of payment may only make sense "for geopolitical purposes, in order to reduce the United States’ influence, which is sensible when a trade war is raging on."


Kommersant: More Chinese students coming to study in Russia

The number of Chinese students in Russia’s higher education institutions has grown by more than ten percent in the past year, Russian Minister of Science and Higher Education Mikhail Kotyukov told Chinese reporters earlier in the week. Experts believe that an increase in short-term educational programs and large quotas for foreign students are the reason, Kommersant notes.

According to the Ministry of Science and Higher Education’s 2018 data, 30,000 Chinese nationals are studying in Russia’s higher education establishments. Kotyukov said that in the 2017-2018 academic year, Chinese students were enrolled in universities and colleges in 85 Russian cities though they preferred to study in Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Far East. Moscow State University ranks first as far as the number of Chinese students goes.

Chinese students studying in Russia tend to choose humanitarian and social sciences, including the Russian language, economics and management, as well as engineering and technical training related to the construction industry and machine-building.

Head of the School of Oriental Studies at the Higher School of Economics Alexei Maslov sees three reasons behind the rising number of Chinese students. "First, statistics used to include only students who came here for several years and now it also includes students coming for short-term programs and courses. Second, Russia used to offer less short-term programs that are popular in China. Third, Russia has become an educational brand. In the past, those who failed to enter US, European and even respectable Chinese universities chose to go to Russia but now people in China believe that getting an education in Russia will raise them to a higher social status. This applies not only to Moscow and St. Petersburg but also to universities in other Russian regions," the expert pointed out.


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