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Press review: Turkey picks S-400s over F-35s and can ties with Ukraine be restored

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, July 19
S-400 missile systems  Sergei Malgavko/TASS
S-400 missile systems
© Sergei Malgavko/TASS


RBC: Turkey chooses Russia's S-400s over US' F-35s

Washington has removed Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program and may impose sanctions on Ankara following its purchase of the S-400 missile systems from Russia. RBC reports that other countries willing to buy these systems may now have second thoughts.

The United States is about to introduce sanctions against Turkey over the purchase of the S-400 missile systems from Russia. On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump announced that Washington would not provide F-35 jets to Ankara, nor would it continue to cooperate with Turkey on their production. Experts warned earlier that tougher sanctions on Ankara were to follow. As a result of the US decision on the F-35s, Turkey will forfeit about $9 mln in future earnings, US Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said at a briefing on Wednesday. The Pentagon, in turn, will lose between $500 mln and $600 mln. On Thursday, July 18, Turkey’s Special Presidential Adviser Ibrahim Kalin cautioned US National Security Adviser John Bolton that relations between the two countries could not progress positively through unilateral decisions.

The United States has already slapped sanctions on a country that purchased the S-400 systems. It was China, who faced restrictions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which bans major defense deals with Russia.

In August 2018, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugayev said that Moscow had received ten requests for the delivery of its S-400s. The media mentioned Vietnam, Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco and Iran among the potential buyers. Iraqi and Bahraini officials also expressed their interest in the systems. However, according to open sources, substantive talks are underway with only three countries.

The US will work to crank up pressure on those countries that haven’t signed S-400 contracts yet because it is easier than trying to influence them once a deal is signed and its implementation has begun, Chief Editor of the Arms Export magazine Andrei Frolov told RBC. Even when contracts are reached, the US sanctions hinder their implementation, Chief Editor of the Arsenal Otechestva (Arsenal of the Fatherland) magazine Viktor Murakhovsky pointed out.


Izvestia: Putin highlights importance of restoring ties with Ukraine

Restoring meaningful relations with Kiev is very important for Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with Viktor Medvedchuk, one of the leaders of Ukraine’s Opposition Platform - For Life party, Izvestia writes.

However, Putin pointed out that it was only possible to truly resolve the situation in southeastern Ukraine if there were direct contacts between Kiev and the Donbass republics. Medvedchuk, in turn, cited polls saying that 70% of Ukrainians are in favor of talks between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents, while 55% are ready to support dialogue between Kiev and the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics.

Putin was actually addressing not only Medvedchuk and his party, but all members of the Ukrainian elite, said spin doctor Dmitry Fetisov. "The Kremlin is demonstrating its readiness to resolve issues through equal dialogue and would like to see the same willingness from Kiev," the expert told the newspaper. "At the same time, Moscow trusts Medvedchuk and would like him to represent Ukraine in negotiations," he added.

There will be no progress in resolving the conflict in Donbass if there is no direct dialogue, Director of the International Institute of the Newly Established States Alexey Martynov emphasized. "If [Ukrainian President] Vladimir Zelensky proves that he is able to come to the negotiation table with the leaders of the LPR and DPR [the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics] and make some agreements, then Russia, for its part, will be ready to act as mediator and guarantor together with the Europeans," the expert said.

Moscow has always been ready for constructive dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities, Center for Contemporary Politics expert Viktor Olevich noted. At the same time, in his words, Russia has no illusions about the domestic and foreign policy priorities of Zelensky and his administration.


Media: Europe’s peaceful future involves Russia

The Petersburg Dialogue Russian-German Public Forum has kicked off in Germany’s Konigswinter. For the first time following the developments in Crimea, both countries represented by their top diplomats - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his German counterpart Heiko Maas - are participating in the event. Experts regard it as a good sign indicating an easing of tensions in Russian-German relations, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

The German top diplomat pointed out that Berlin and Moscow "currently have completely different opinions on many issues" but nevertheless, maintaining dialogue with Russia was important for Germany. Maas and Lavrov discussed ways to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, arms control and the situation in eastern Ukraine.

German political scientist and German-Russian Forum Research Director Alexander Rahr told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the Petersburg forum was a unique platform that played an important role in German-Russian relations. He noted that other European countries would like to have such a tool for dialogue with Moscow. However, despite the forum’s importance, the dialogue is anything but easy, the expert said. Still, members of various working groups have managed to achieve progress in a number of areas. "Dialogue on religious, scientific, cultural, environmental and, in particular, economic matters is successful. There is trust there and new projects are evolving. That said, the Petersburg Dialogue is a necessary thing," Rahr emphasized. "Germany understands very well that it is impossible for others to isolate Russia though it can isolate itself.

Germany can see that Russia has returned to the major league: it is active in the Middle East and makes agreements with America on various global issues, while the Europeans are standing aside," Rahr said.

Minister President of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet, in turn, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that it was crucial to continue dialogue, particularly when views differed that much. According to him, cooperation with Russia is necessary for resolving global issues, including the conflict in Syria and the fight against climate change via the Paris Agreement.


Media: Moscow-Minsk talks heavy on symbolism

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko have held talks in St. Petersburg, which resulted in a decision to 'move forward' in terms of integration and overcome existing differences by December 8, when the Union State of Russia and Belarus will mark its 20th anniversary, Kommersant writes.

However, Belarusian experts interviewed by the newspaper expect no crucial changes in relations between Minsk and Moscow. "The presidents have just put off efforts to reach an agreement until December in order to buy time to hammer out a compromise," said news website columnist Artyom Shraibman. However, he considers a major disagreement between Russia and Belarus to be irresolvable. "The matter is that Minsk is reluctant to boost integration under Moscow’s scenario, while Russia doesn’t want to restore preferences for Belarus without deepening integration. There is only one way to settle this difference: Moscow reduces its level of support and Minsk gets used to being poorer and tries to diversify its economy. This process will take years," the expert said.

Director of the Belarusian Center of European Integration Issues Yuri Shevtsov noted that "only a jolting event - a shake-up - could take relations to a different dimension. For instance, if global tensions were to suddenly escalate. In that case, many issues would be resolved faster," the expert told Kommersant. "However, if nothing like that happens, the focus of bilateral relations will remain on the usual issues, including gas prices for Minsk in 2020 and other economic disputes," Shevtsov said.

"Integration between our countries is the deepest. However, as it happens between partners, we sometimes tend to view the purposes of the Union State differently," Institute for Regional Problems Director General Dmitry Zhuravlev told Izvestia.

The recent summit was aimed at stepping up integration efforts by the two countries’ regions, Professor at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Dmitry Gorin pointed out. "Relations between the two countries aren’t free from trouble," the expert went on to say. "Issues concerning Russian oil transit via Belarus and Belarusian food products supplies to Russia are added to differences on Russian gas prices and occasional political disagreements," Gorin explained.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Pentagon suggests setting up more military bases in Asia

Chinese troops have conducted exercises to carry out missile attacks on US military bases in Japan in the Gobi Desert. According to US analysts, this scenario may become possible if Beijing comes to the conclusion that Washington is infringing on its core interests, primarily in Taiwan and the South China Sea. Amid these developments, Mark Esper, the likely future Pentagon chief, has suggested scattering US strategic forces around Japan and East Asia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The last time the United States and China came to the brink of war was in the early 1960s, when then Chinese leader Mao Zedong had deployed troops to the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese People's Liberation Army shelled small islands located 5-10 kilometers from the mainland. In response, Washington threatened to use nuclear weapons against Beijing. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had to persuade Mao not to escalate the situation into a military clash with the Americans.

The armed forces continue to work on possible confrontation scenarios, which is obvious from a report that Mark Esper, the nominee for Secretary of Defense by US President Donald Trump, presented to the US Senate. While calling for expanding the military base network, Esper indirectly cited Washington’s decision to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Moscow. Following the move, the US will have the opportunity to deploy land-based missiles of longer ranges to Japan and other areas in order to deter China.

Vladimir Batyuk, Chief Research Associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for the US and Canadian Studies, told the newspaper that Washington saw a clear difference between full-fledged military bases where US troops were deployed on a regular basis, and facilities where troops were on rotation or where they arrived for drills. Perhaps, Esper meant the need to increase the number of such facilities to demonstrate the US flag to China and Russia, too.

As for the INF Treaty, it is already dead, the expert pointed out. "It opens up a possibility for the Americans to deploy land-based cruise and ballistic missiles aimed at China to their Asian facilities. However, documents from the US Department of Defense and think tanks say that America needs to build up its military presence in Asia bearing in mind not only China but Russia as well," Batyuk emphasized.


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