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Press review: Does Erdogan want nukes and Boris Johnson dealt blow in Brexit battle

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, September 6
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
© Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Erdogan hints at nuclear ambitions

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted he was interested in obtaining nuclear weapons for his country. During a speech in the city of Sivas, he said it was unacceptable that Ankara was not allowed to have missiles with nuclear warheads. It is not improbable that his statement was prompted by Turkey’s standoff with the United States and Washington’s ambivalent stance on the nuclear programs of various Middle Eastern players, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Erdogan lamented that all developed nations had such arsenals, although, in actual fact, this is far from the truth. He also lashed out at Israel arguing that its nuclear weapons were a threat to other countries.

Some analysts emphasize the duality in Ankara’s approach to the nuclear nonproliferation issue. It is generally believed that Turkey opposes any attempts to tighten the rules for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. This suggests that, sooner or later, its peaceful nuclear program could evolve into a military one, and Ankara’s standoff with Washington only strengthens these suspicions.

What Erdogan is focusing on is the West’s attempts to dictate to other countries their terms, under which they can allegedly develop their defense industry, Ankara-based expert of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Timur Akhmetov explained to Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "The Turkish president’s remarks implicitly highlight that approach’s double standards. Countries that officially possess nuclear weapons caution other nations against developing their own arsenals, sometimes threatening to impose sanctions, as with Iran," he stressed.

One can hardly say that Erdogan’s words indicate Turkey’s nuclear ambitions, Akhmetov went on to say. "Nuclear weapons are effective during major conflicts, while the number-one threat to Turkey’s security comes mainly from non-state actors. Finally, Turkish nukes would further destabilize the situation in the Middle East, as far as the proliferation of missile technologies and unresolved international conflicts are concerned," he warned. That will lead to the inability to predict security risks, the expert added.


RBC: Boris Johnson suffers defeat in no-deal Brexit battle

The UK House of Commons has passed a bill prohibiting the government from leaving the European Union on October 31 without a preliminary agreement. The bill obliges Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask the EU to put off Brexit until October 31, 2020, if he cannot strike a deal on the terms of exiting the EU by October 19, RBC writes. The bill is expected to be approved by the House of Lords by the end of this week and endorsed by Queen Elizabeth II on September 9.

Meanwhile, the British premier said he remained committed to the goal of leaving the European Union by October 31. If both houses impose a ban on a no-deal Brexit, Johnson plans to hold early elections by the end of October, that is, before the Brexit deadline.

"If the elections take place in mid-October and if the conservatives get the majority, Johnson will have an opportunity to amend the bill on delaying Brexit. He will also receive the people’s mandate to leave the EU without a deal on October 31," Anna Nadibaidze, an expert of the Open Europe analytical center, explained to RBC.

On the other hand, Johnson is running out of time to arrange the elections, she noted. "According to the law, the parliament must be dissolved 25 working days before the vote. That is, in order to hold the elections on October 15, it is necessary to dissolve the parliament as early as next week," she stressed.

There are no guarantees that lawmakers will agree to hold the elections on October 15, as Johnson wants, the expert pointed out. "The opposition can just continue to vote against the elections so that they take place after October 19. If that is the case, Johnson will have no choice. He will either have to ask the EU to delay Brexit or fail to keep his promises," Nadibaidze said.


Izvestia: Ukraine’s economic recovery impossible without restoring ties with Russia, says politician

Ukraine will not be able to restore its economy and overcome its turbulent crisis without Russia and Russian investment, Ukrainian politician, Head of the Political Council of the Opposition Platform - For Life party Viktor Medvedchuk, told Izvestia on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum.

"I am sure that this is impossible, and not just because I am a proponent of reviving economic and trade ties with Russia. The new prime minister said in parliament at the first Cabinet meeting the principal objective was attracting investors. You cannot attract investors to the country where there is no peace and where hostilities are raging," he stressed.

Medvedchuk recalled that Russia had accounted for 34% of investment in Ukraine in 2018, which is more than any other country had invested. "That’s despite the fact that Ukraine joined the EU’s sanctions against Russia and Moscow imposed counter-sanctions against Kiev," he pointed out.

When asked whether the new Ukrainian parliament would take any steps aimed at protecting the Russian-speaking population, the politician stressed that was the primary goal of his party. "As an opposition force, we will insist and fight for the protection of the Russian language from discrimination that has been practiced in recent years, when [then Ukrainian President Pyotr] Poroshenko professed ‘Neanderthal’ Russophobia and actually pushed through a discriminatory law against Russian and other ethnic minority languages," he said.

Commenting on the prospects for the next Normandy Four summit, Medvedchuk noted that the meeting was long overdue. "For this to happen, let’s commit the Steinmeier formula to paper, disengage forces at the experimental sections of the contact line. This is not only Stanitsa Luganskaya, where the process is nearing completion. That also concerns Zolotoye and Petrovskoye where the parties disengaged their forces in 2016 after an agreement had been reached. However, later on, breaches began, and the ‘grey zone’ was again occupied. All these agreements have to be implemented, and then such a meeting will take place," he said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US-Taliban agreement in jeopardy

A proposed peace deal between the United States and the Taliban (outlawed in Russia) in Qatar, has raised an uproar among Washington’s elite, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Among those who are opposed to the document is US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Taliban insists that the agreement should mention the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, that’s what the group calls its regime that had been toppled as a result of NATO’s operation in 2001. Pompeo fears that his signature on a document with this wording will be seen as a recognition of the existence of two Afghan governments by the United States.

For its part, the administration in Kabul believes it is unacceptable that the deal does not include the Taliban’s obligation to start a dialogue with President Ashraf Ghani. Moreover, the Doha negotiations did not help reduce the level of violence in the country.

Former US ambassadors to Afghanistan earlier urged Trump to provide guarantees that the Taliban would really begin a peaceful dialogue with Kabul. They warned that otherwise the country would plunge in a bloody civil war with unpredictable consequences.

Yury Rogulev, Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Foundation for United States Studies at Moscow State University, noted in an interview with the paper that US President Donald Trump was interested in reaching an agreement with the Taliban in the near future. That stems from the interests of Trump’s election campaign.

"Of course, foreign policy issues are not something that interests US voters first and foremost. The country’s domestic affairs are far more essential to them. However, the war in Afghanistan has been raging on for almost 20 years, and there is no end in sight. That certainly is bound to bother Americans. Besides, Trump’s foreign policy is not particularly successful, so he does need some accomplishments. The end of war in Afghanistan could be such an accomplishment," the expert pointed out.


Vedomosti: Rosneft announces plans to produce LNG

Shareholders in the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project - Rosneft (Russia), ExxonMobil, Japan’s Sodeco and India’s ONGC - have agreed to build a liquefied natural gas plant in De Kastri in Russia’s Khabarovsk Region, Vedomosti writes citing data provided by the Russian oil titan.

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin has been quoted as saying that its products would be sought after in Japan thanks to the geographical proximity of the two countries. LNG in Russia is currently produced by Gazprom (Sakhalin-2 controlled by it produced 11.4 mln tonnes in 2018) and Novatek whose Yamal LNG plant started operating at full capacity in late 2018 (16.5 mln tonnes per year).

Rosneft does not want to give the LNG market over to Novatek and Gazprom completely, the paper quotes Fitch Corporations Department Director Dmitry Marinchenko as saying. According to the expert, the project will be competitive despite its relatively small capacity.

Rosneft and ExxonMobil have discussed the construction of an LNG plant in Russia’s Far East for a long time. Initially, the issue at hand was a plant with a capacity of 5 mln tonnes per year with a price tag of $8 bln. Later on, the project’s capacity was increased to 6.2 mln tonnes, while the price first grew to reach $15.3 bln and then decreased to $9.8 bln.

The decision to build a plant on the Sakhalin-1 resource base could mean that Rosneft failed to reach an agreement with Gazprom on supplying its gas for the planned third Sakhalin-2 leg, says Sergei Kapitonov, an analyst at the Energy Center of the Moscow-based Skolkovo School of Management. "Given the growth rate of the global LNG market (about 10% per year), the rapid growth of China’s LNG imports (over 40% per year over the past three years), the advent of new small importers (Bangladesh, Pakistan and Thailand), the construction of a new plant near the consumer centers seems to be a reasonable strategy," he said.


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