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Press review: Will the door slam shut on the INF and Boris Johnson pursues no-deal Brexit

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, August 2
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson AP Photo/Matt Dunham
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson
© AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Izvestia: Russia banks on extending New START, but leaves INF return option open

Despite the termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2, Russia is ready to return to the implementation of that key arms control accord, Chairman of the Russian Federation Council (upper house) Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev told Izvestia.

"We are not burying the INF Treaty and we are ready to get back to it at any time, if the United States does so. Besides, the [Russian] president gave explicit instructions to the defense and foreign ministers not to take any practical steps that would contradict the treaty until Washington does so and not to initiate any new negotiations until the United States shows an interest in them. That being said, we fully lay the blame for the termination of the INF Treaty and the responsibility for its potential resumption on the Americans. Russia will always be ready to return to its implementation," the senator stressed.

On the other hand, Moscow is perfectly aware of the fact that Washington does not intend to backpedal on its decision, a Russian diplomatic source told the paper.

"Off the record, the Americans say: ‘This is not against you. We want to engage China in arms control, and you must help us.’ If that is the case, they should have openly told us about their objectives instead of accusing us of violating the INF Treaty. Moreover, destroying the existing arms control mechanism for the sake of ensuring a third party’s involvement is inadmissible," the source pointed out.

Moscow and Washington currently focus on extending the New START accord, the source said. Despite the fact that the consultations had begun, substantial disagreements between the parties on some aspects of the deal persist. Besides, the agreement will expire in February 2021, which means that Russia and the US should hurry up in order not to leave the world without the last arms control accord, the source added.

Kommersant: Boris Johnson pushing for no-deal Brexit

London will earmark additional 2.1 bln pounds on arrangements for a no-deal Brexit, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has said. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was trying to persuade Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that a ‘hard’ Brexit would not lead to disastrous consequences for the country. However, he received a chilly welcome, Kommersant writes.

For one, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said right before her meeting with Johnson that the people of Scotland had voted neither for the Tory government, nor for the new prime minister, nor for Brexit, particularly a no-deal Brexit. Sturgeon is also in favor of holding a second referendum on Scottish independence from the UK. The first referendum took place in September in 2014 with 55% of citizens saying ‘no’ to independence. However, that number may change following Brexit.

The UK’s territorial integrity in light of the looming Brexit showdown is a pressing issue, Igor Kovalev, deputy dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the Higher School of Economics, told the paper. "Moreover, according to a recent poll, about 60% of Conservative Party members who voted for Boris Johnson are in favor of Brexit even at the cost of Scotland’s and Northern Ireland’s secession," he explained.

At the same time, Scotland is unlikely to hold another independence vote, the expert went on to say. "We should not expect any referendums in the near future, either regional or national. Experience has shown that their outcome turns out to be very unpredictable," he stressed.

Izvestia: Russian military battling wildfires in Siberia

The Russian Defense Ministry’s special aviation group has joined the firefighting effort to prevent the blazes sweeping across Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Region from spreading further, a source in the ministry told Izvestia. The source noted that the endeavors have helped fend off the wildfires thanks to Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft dousing the blazes.

"The military has been tasked with stopping the spread of the blazes to other parts of wooded areas and localizing small fires," the paper’s interlocutor said. The latter confirmed that military aviation planned to cope with key hotspots within the next five days.

Currently, the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s task force in Siberia and the Far Eastern Region includes more than 2,800 people and 390 pieces of equipment, the ministry’s press service informed Izvestia. According to the Emergencies Ministry, six aircraft (five Beriev Be-200s and one Ilyushin Il-76) and five helicopters are working hard to put out the raging forest fires.

"Mobile air groups of the Emergencies Ministry’s main directorates for the Far Eastern and Siberian Federal Districts, which have the necessary equipment and gear, are on high alert," the press service stressed.

Experts will be able to assess the damage inflicted by the forest fires only after they are extinguished, the press service of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment told the paper. Images from space satellites will be used for the purpose, it added.

The wildfires in Siberia and the Far East will accelerate climate change both regionally and globally, cautioned Daria Bedulina, leading researcher at the Institute of Biology at Irkutsk State University. The expert explained that the planet’s Arctic belt, which includes Alaska and Canada, along with Siberia, heats up two to three times faster than other regions. She warned that, in the future, wildfires in Siberia and the Far East could cause the destruction of ecosystems and change the hydrological regime.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US interested in weakening China amid trade war

The commander of the Chinese military garrison in Hong Kong has said that after several weeks of unrest the army is determined "to protect national sovereignty, security, stability and the prosperity of Hong Kong," Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The spark that ignited the fire was a local bill, which proposed the extradition of individuals suspected of committing crimes to mainland China, where the Communist Party controls the courts. Statements by officials in Washington who assert that troops have been amassed near Hong Kong are adding fuel to the fire.

It is difficult to forecast how the events will unfold, Andrei Karneev, deputy director of the Institute for Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University, told the paper. "Some even say that Beijing could abandon the ‘one country, two systems’ model, which was the basis for Hong Kong’s transfer to China. I believe that is being construed in order to sober up those who support radical steps. Indeed, growing radical sentiment scares many, especially businesspeople," he told the paper.

On the other hand, if the army is deployed, China’s prestige as a country which favors more active cooperation with the global community, will be affected. It is also clear that the use of force will impair Hong Kong as a territory where human rights are observed. If the protests do not cross the red line, Beijing will confine itself to military exercises and a show of force, the expert concluded.

For his part, Andrei Ostrovsky, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Far Eastern Studies, stressed to Nezavisimaya Gazeta that a hallmark of the current situation is that the protests are being fueled from the outside. "The United States is interested in weakening China amid its trade war with it," he explained.

Vedomosti: Central banks buying up record amounts of gold

Central banks across the globe have purchased a record 374.1 tonnes of gold in the first half of 2019, Vedomosti writes citing data provided by the World Gold Council.

Global demand for gold grew 8% to reach 1,123 tonnes in the second quarter and 2,181.7 tonnes in the first half of the year, which is a record number over the past three years. That was largely due to central banks, which accounted for one-sixth of the demand. They spent a total of $15.7 bln on purchasing gold in the first half of the year, the Financial Times reported.

Russia, which is pursuing a policy of de-dollarization, purchased 274.3 tonnes of gold in 2018.

There are perfect conditions for a long-term period of rising gold prices, the paper quotes Alexei Potapov, head of Portfolio Management at UFG Wealth Management, as saying. The leading central banks are once again softening their monetary policy, while yields on US Treasury bonds have fallen to levels approximately equal to current inflation rates (about 2% per annum). At the same time, the extended growth cycle of the US economy and the stock market prompts investors to gear up for a recession, so gold is becoming attractive again, the expert pointed out.

On the other hand, central banks are gradually increasing their purchases in order to de-dollarize reserves. "At a time when the US uses its financial system as a weapon or a tool of blackmail, the emergence of alternatives is inevitable, and gold is one of them," Potapov said.


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