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Press review: US Ambassador to Russia resigns and how the INF's demise affects China

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, August 7
US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Anton Balashov/TASS
US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman
© Anton Balashov/TASS

Kommersant: US ambassador to Moscow tenders resignation

United States Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman has sent a resignation letter to US President Donald Trump saying that he planned to step down in October. Huntsman, who unlike his predecessors in Moscow, came to diplomacy from politics and tried to reverse the negative trend of recent years, through his resignation revealed a growing crisis in Russian-American relations, Kommersant writes.

The ambassador’s letter to Trump, with whom, according to US sources, Huntsman is on friendly terms, is emotionally-tinged and does not adhere to the style of a formal document. The part of the letter devoted to Russian-US ties contains an outspoken regret over the fact that relations between Moscow and Washington are going through such a difficult period. While resorting to harsh rhetoric against Russia, Ambassador Huntsman, nevertheless, stressed that "while times are tough, it is critical that we expand the exchanges of people and maintain channels for dialogue" on key issues.

Commenting on Huntsman’s letter to Trump, former US Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul told the paper that he was not surprised to hear that Huntsman decided to tender his resignation. He noted that there were no favorable conditions for reset in bilateral relations during Huntsman’s tenure in Moscow.

During their work, Jon Huntsman and his Russian counterpart in Washington Anatoly Antonov encountered the same problem: high-ranking officials were reluctant to meet with them. Anticipating these difficulties, the two envoys agreed in the autumn of 2017 to assist each other in arranging such meetings. However, the endeavor did not work out, a Russian diplomatic source told the paper. While some Russian officials agreed to meet with Hutsman, Antonov often receives refusals in response to his requests.

In order to elicit a positive response from high-ranking Russian officials, in 2018, the US ambassador posted a video on Twitter, elaborating on whom he would like to meet. He mentioned Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov, Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Energy Minister Alexander Novak among others. Some of them, including Valentina Matviyenko and Valery Gerasimov, eventually agreed to meet with Huntsman.

Therefore, in addition to calling on his future successor to maintain "sustained dialogue," Jon Hutsman left him a long list of potential participants in that dialogue, which he himself was unable to complete.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China to respond to America at sea and in the air

Washington has threatened Russia and China that it would soon deploy land-based medium-range missiles in Asia in the wake of its exit from the INF Treaty. For its part, Moscow said it would not initiate an arms race. Meanwhile, China has no intention of twiddling its thumbs, judging by a statement made by its Foreign Ministry, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Fu Cong, director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Arms Control Department, warned that Beijing would not turn a blind eye to Washington’s actions and would be prepared to retaliate.

The termination of the INF became a major headache for China, the paper quotes Samuel Charap, senior political scientist at RAND Corporation, as saying. Beijing will now have to take into account the fact that its potential adversary, that is, the United States, could strike its nuclear assets deep inside China’s territory. Moreover, the consequences of such an attack could be disastrous, since China’s arsenal is relatively modest.

"After the 2015 military reform, China created some sort of arms forces known as the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force. An increase in the number of its military personnel could be a response to the United States’ actions," Pavel Kamennov, leading research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, told the paper.

The INF accord focused on land-based missiles, while naval and air force weapons have always been the Americans’ strong point, the expert explained. The fact that the US withdrew from the accord makes little difference. In actual fact, the Americans retain full superiority, mainly in the air and at sea, he said.

"Of course, China lags behind the US in terms of intermediate-and shorter-range missiles. So China could respond by creating sea-based and air-based missile groupings that could threaten US forces in the Asia-Pacific region. China is capable of doing that," Kamennov concluded.


Kommersant: Washington, Taliban nearing deal

The US and the Taliban terrorist group said progress had been made at the latest round of talks in Doha, Kommersant writes. According to a Taliban source, the parties overcame disagreements over the US troop pullout.

However, Taliban members have not changed their attitude towards the government in Kabul. They consider it a puppet regime arguing that the presidential election scheduled for September will be illegitimate due to foreign military presence. However, the Afghan government insists the election should be held on September 28.

The parties may have made progress, but it has nothing to do with peace in the country, Andrei Serenko, an expert at the Russian Center for Contemporary Afghan Studies, explained to Kommersant. "The talks with the Taliban are a political move demonstrating that US President Donald Trump is ending the war. The war will not stop for Afghanistan, but it could stop for America. That’s why progress on [US] troop withdrawal is quite possible," he said.

The expert added that Afghan law enforcement would be able to ensure that the presidential election takes place despite threats from the Taliban.

For his part, Arkady Dubnov, another expert on Afghanistan, did not rule out that the September-scheduled election could be cancelled. "The current stage of the negotiations means that the presidential race becomes pointless, since an interim government is expected to be formed. In this case, the West needs to hurry up and either announce that the voting will be called off or earmark funds for holding it," he told the paper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Diplomats gather in Lima to discuss Venezuelan crisis

An international conference on Venezuela bringing together diplomats from 59 countries has kicked off in Lima. According to media reports, the Peruvian authorities invited top diplomats from about 100 countries, including Russia, China, Bolivia and Turkey, to take part in the event aimed at facilitating dialogue between the Maduro government and the Venezuelan opposition. Both Moscow and Beijing refused to get involved, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Moscow is not sure that the approach, which implies discussing "the problems of democracy" in Venezuela without Venezuelans, is correct. The ministry stressed that the key goal now is to assist the intra-Venezuelan dialogue brokered by Norway.

Regime change in Venezuela is important for the US, which actually acts as one of the parties to the Venezuelan crisis and supports the opposition, Dmitry Rozental, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Latin American Studies, told the paper. "Trump has been banking on that for a long time. Now he will be gradually involved in the election campaign. In light of that, I believe that some kind of pressure on Venezuela’s leadership will continue and may even be stepped up," the expert pointed out.

He described the ongoing negotiations between the Maduro administration and the opposition as the calm before the storm. "A new intense stage of pressure on Maduro could commence, which is quite logical," Rozental noted.

He also did not rule out military intervention by Washington. "However, this would be a last-ditch effort that Trump might resort to," the expert said, adding that none of the Latin American countries backed this scenario.


Izvestia: Russia’s regional airlines need about 800 aircraft

Russian air carriers will need about 300 aircraft with a seating capacity of 30 to 110 passengers and nearly 500 planes that would seat less than 30 passengers within the next 20 years, Rostec State Corporation told Izvestia.

"Although regional aviation is not the largest segment in Russia and across the globe, it is an important industry and a promising market for the country’s socio-economic development," the corporation’s press service noted.

The two key aircraft for regional air transportation, which domestic manufactures are pinning high hopes on, are the Ilyushin Il-114-300 and the TVS-2DTS Baikal. The first plane will be assembled at the United Aircraft Corporation’s enterprise in the Moscow Region, and the second — at the Ulan-Ude aircraft plant, which is part of the Russian Helicopters holding company.

Right now, Soviet-made Antonov aircraft dominate local and regional lines, especially in Siberia and the Far East, Alexander Fridlyand, director of the Research Center for Economic Monitoring, Analysis and Forecasting at the State Scientific Research Institute of Civil Aviation, told the paper. Regional airlines really need planes like the Il-114-300 and the Baikal. However, it is unclear so far how effective they will be in terms of operational characteristics and financial costs, the expert added.

The only short-haul airliner made in the post-Soviet era that is currently being used by regional air carriers is the Sukhoi Superjet 100. According to the United Aircraft Corporation, about 140 Superjets are currently in operation, 105 of them are in Russia. These planes perform both trans-regional and international flights. The firm order portfolio for Superjets is another 78 aircraft, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft said.


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