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Press review: Jerusalem summit sets way to Putin-Trump talks and NATO brass meets Pentagon

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday

Izvestia: Jerusalem security summit lays groundwork for possible Putin-Trump meeting

The long-awaited meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump at the Osaka-hosted G20 summit is likely to happen. According to Izvestia, this was the main outcome of the consultations held in Jerusalem by Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, and Head of the National Security Council of Israel Meir Ben-Shabbat. Although Patrushev and Bolton have already met and discussed disarmament issues, in this case the Israeli side also joined the dialogue, which led to the decision to create a new format designed to push ahead with resolving the conflict in Syria and hammering out a compromise on Iran’s presence there, the newspaper wrote.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu praised the negotiations as a good start, which will be continued. Nevertheless, judging by the final statements of Patrushev and Bolton, there was no breakthrough, at least not an obvious one. According to the newspaper, the parties still have disagreements, although the one thing that they agreed on was that the meeting would lay the groundwork for talks between Putin and Trump in Osaka.

Bolton noted this in particular. A similar position was also expressed by Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who noted that the consultations that Jerusalem hosted could be considered part of the preparations for the summit. "Despite the different tone in the statements that came from Jerusalem, it is quite possible to expect certain agreements between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in Osaka," Izvestia wrote. According to the newspaper, the issues concerning Israel’s security, among other things, are a rare example when Russia and the United States can reach a consensus. In addition, "Moscow could be the bridge that will connect Washington and Tehran", Izvestia wrote.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: NATO, Pentagon to hash over Iran, post-INF world order

A Brussels-hosted conference of NATO member defense ministers set for June 26, will give the alliance a chance to meet new acting Pentagon chief Mark Esper. The acting US Defense Secretary, who replaced Patrick Shanahan, intends to raise the issue of Iran’s policies. However, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the main agenda of the event will be focused on the problems of strategic stability, aggravated by the Russian Federation and the United States not being ready for compromises.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed earlier that the defense chiefs would discuss Russia’s "continuing violations" of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). According to the newspaper, mutual claims by the Russian Federation and the United States on this matter are likely to be among the topics planned for next week’s meeting of the Russia-NATO Council. At the same time, Stoltenberg assured that the military bloc does not intend to deploy ground-based missiles in Europe.

Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that there is practically no misunderstanding between the United States and Europe over the fate of the INF. Thus, former Director for Russia on the National Security Council Jeffrey Edmonds believes that the disagreement between the Europeans in NATO and the United States regarding the INF Treaty is over, because now NATO supports the US pullout from the deal. He also laid the blame on Moscow for the treaty’s collapse.

According to the expert, negotiations on strategic stability will now probably focus on the steps that NATO will need to take once the INF is null and void, which does not mean that NATO will immediately begin to deploy missiles in Europe. The NATO defense chiefs are likely to discuss a possible expansion of the New START Treaty, Edmonds told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.


Kommersant: Russia may put cork in Georgian wine exports

Tensions between Russia and Georgia may not be limited to direct flights being suspended. Kommersant reports that following statements by Russia’s consumer protection watchdog about monitoring the quality of Georgian wine, officials began collecting information from retail chains about the share of Georgian wine in their stocks. According to the newspaper, this could set the stage for introducing a ban on wine imports from Georgia, which currently occupies 17% of Russia’s imports. Restrictions might lead to growth of illegal imports and the closure of some Georgian wineries, experts told Kommersant.

A top manager of a large grocery chain told Kommersant about the details collected by the Ministry of Agriculture. Retail chains receive informal inquiries about the number of Georgian wines in stock, a source in the retail market confirmed to the newspaper, noting that there were no official requests on this issue. Another source, this one from the alcohol market, told the newspaper that retail chains received similar questions from Russia’s consumer protection watchdog.

These surveys may be associated with potential measures in the works for introducing a ban on wine imports from Georgia given the deteriorating relations between the two countries, Kommersant sources said. The previous conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi had previously led to a ban on imports of wine in 2006-2013.

Retail chain Auchan told Kommersant that Georgian wines occupy no more than 8% of the category in question. The share of Georgian wines in X5 Retail Group’s stores (Pyaterochka, Perekrestok, and Karusel) reaches 5-6.5% in this category, at Lenta chains Georgian wines take up around 9% and are in "good demand".


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Contaminated oil from Druzhba pipeline hurts demand for Russian oil

Two months have passed since oil contaminated with high levels of organochlorine compounds was discovered in the Druzhba pipeline. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, while the Russian authorities keep assuring the public that the oil crisis is over, this is far from the truth. Moscow has had its image tarnished since some customers refuse to accept oil from Russia even at a discount. According to experts, interviewed by the newspaper, this fiasco is serving as a huge advantage for other suppliers.

Czech refiner Unipetrol, owned by Polish company PKN Orlen, stopped accepting oil from the Druzhba pipeline due to its contamination. Even China has been reluctant to take Russian oil, the newspaper wrote. Chinese customs recommended their oil refiners not take Russian oil with an organochlorine content of more than 0.001%. In Europe, only a few buyers eventually took oil for refining - Spain’s Repsol, Sweden’s Preem, and Finland’s Neste Oil, with the entire volume of accepted oil around 600,000 tonnes. Thus, around $500 mln worth of oil is going around the world in search of buyers, the newspaper wrote.

According to experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Russia could end up facing not just millions but billions of dollars in losses. At the same time, so far Russia’s position as a supplier of hydrocarbons in general was significantly affected. "Yes, only 0.4 mln tonnes were supplied to consumers in May through Druzhba compared to 4 mln tonnes in the same period last year. However, due to the 6.5 mln tonne growth of shipments by sea by in January - May, for the first five months of the year oil exports not only did not decline, but grew by 2.9 mln tonnes," Director of Veta expert group Dmitry Zharsky told the newspaper.

Another issue is the attitude of consumers to oil from Russia. "Pumping dirty oil has once again put the question of the quality of energy resources exported by Russia on the agenda," Zharsky said. "The quality of Russian oil in conditions of limited access to the development of production at new fields and within the sanctions-related barriers to attracting foreign companies for development may decline further, which in a competitive market


Izvestia: Russians’ attitude towards West, EU, Ukraine getting better

The attitude of Russians towards the West in 2019 began to change for the better, according to a survey conducted by pollster Levada Center. Thus, the poll said that the level of positive attitudes that Russian citizens have for the United States, the European Union, and Ukraine has increased over the year. Meanwhile, Russia, according to research participants, is a role model and other states are eager to cooperate with it. According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, a period of steady growth in negative attitudes towards Western countries has passed: Russians are tired of confrontation.

The number of people holding negative views towards the United States declined is hovering at 52% instead of 69% last year. Russians share similar sentiments in relation to the European Union and Ukraine - 37% instead of 28% of respondents are positive towards the European Union, the public’s perception of Ukraine has also improved to 38% against 33%. In general, Russians respect (31%) Western countries. At the same time, 72% of respondents noted that "no one wants to do right by us." However, Russia, according to 52% of respondents, is a role model and other states seek to cooperate with it (72%).

Russians’ confidence that other states desire to cooperate with Moscow is based on the awareness of the failure of Washington and its allies to isolate Russia, leading expert of the Center for Actual Policy Viktor Olevich told the newspaper. “Contrary to forecasts and threats, Russia's participation in resolving the situation in Syria not only did not rattle Moscow’s position with Middle Eastern countries, but strengthened it. In addition, Russia is cultivating relations with China, with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, Turkey, and Latin American nations. Influence is also expanding on the African continent,” the political scientist explained.


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