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Press review: Trump’s ‘Bolton-free’ policy plans and Moscow’s multilateral strategic model

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday

Media: Trump’s policy prospects after clipping hawkish adviser’s wings


US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s firing will make Washington’s policy even more "Trump-centric", but this is unlikely to result in any serious deterioration of the international climate. Ahead of launching his new presidential campaign, Donald Trump will prefer a more moderate policy than Bolton, a dyed-in-the-wool hawk, had advised him to pursue, experts told Vedomosti.

The dismissal of Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser who got sacked over the past three years, came as a surprise that was welcomed by everyone. Bolton’s views on foreign policy and US global actions conflicted with those of the president. He had been vigorously trying to influence Trump’s foreign policy decisions and did not hesitate to argue with the president. The ex-White House adviser was a leading foreign policy hawk, who insisted on getting tougher with Iran and Russia and was opposed to easing tensions with North Korea, said Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). The last straw that had led to his firing was Bolton’s attempt to stave off a deal with the Taliban and the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. Now Trump will solve international issues himself and Bolton’s successor will be just a figurehead, expert in international relations Vladimir Frolov said. Washington’s foreign policy could become even more impulsive, but will remain rather predictable, Frolov noted. Trump is set to continue his policy on curtailing US combat operations across the world and decreasing US involvement in global conflicts. Unlike Bolton, the president views diplomatic pressure as a means of achieving compromise rather than as a curtain-raiser for a military conflict, according to the expert. Now given a freer hand, the US president, who has called himself an expert dealmaker, is poised to strike "great deals" with authoritarian regimes. Meanwhile, he understands that foreign policy and military failures will be used against him in the 2020 presidential campaign.

Trump’s decision will affect Russian-US relations, which Bolton had overseen, the paper writes. Dmitry Trenin, Director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, wrote on his website that recent contacts between Bolton and Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev have been the only regular dialogue platform between the US and Russia at the highest level. These meetings did not result in any breakthroughs, but were still useful. Bolton’s dismissal may ease the talks on extending the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) deal and personal contacts between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

For his part, Fyodor Lukyanov, Professor at the Higher School of Economics, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that Bolton’s real passion was hatred for any deals on limiting and reducing nuclear weapons. His influence had accelerated the US pullout from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. So, Bolton’s departure raises the chances for extending the New START, which will expire in 2021. This won’t demand any great efforts and the two countries just need to make statements on keeping it for another five years, the expert said.


Kommersant: Russian experts lay out new notion dubbed ‘multilateral strategic stability’

Kommersant has obtained a new report on Russia’s relations with the United States and strategic stability, drawn up by leading Russian experts and rolled out at the Russian Foreign Ministry. The authors came to conclusions, which run counter to Moscow’s current foreign policy. They believe that Russia’s traditional strategic stability concept is outdated and branded the country’s highly valued mechanisms of limiting armaments as inefficient. This is reminiscent of a modern US approach to the problem, Kommersant says. The authors of the report are convinced that the situation in strategic stability is facing a deep crisis, which is rooted in a radical shift in the military and strategic landscape, making traditional mechanisms of limiting armaments ineffective and even senseless.

"The traditional understanding of strategic stability as a situation, characterizing Russian-US relations in the sphere of nuclear weapons, when neither party has any incentive to be the first to deliver a nuclear strike against the other party and which involves maintaining the approximate parity in strategic nuclear forces through bilateral systems of limiting nuclear weapons, is outdated," the report says. "Today the nature of strategic stability is multilateral - involving China and other nuclear states, while a non-nuclear conflict and its consequences can be compared with a nuclear one and there are higher chances than before that it may trigger the use of nuclear weapons."

Experts suggest coining a new term - "multilateral strategic stability": this implies that nuclear powers must prevent any military confrontation between each other - both deliberate and unintended - since any standoff could spark "a global nuclear war." The authors of the report believe the collapse of bilateral Russian-US ties and even multilateral deals on limiting nuclear weapons should be viewed as a normal development amid a changing military and strategic context. "It’s not only impossible but probably counterproductive to apply traditional approaches to a new context and try to develop new deals on limiting weapons," they said.


Izvestia: Italy’s government reshuffle unlikely to undermine strategic cooperation with Russia

Moscow is sure that its relations with Rome under the new Italian administration will remain friendly and will further develop on the basis of mutually beneficial cooperation, members of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house) told Izvestia, stressing that Italy is suffering the most from the EU’s sanctions against Russia. However, politicians and experts believe that the new Italian leadership will be more focused on European integration and will seek to call the shots in the EU. Italy’s new government will be led by the center-left Democratic Party (PD), and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, while the pro-Russian Lega party has been pushed into the opposition. This means that if earlier the EU’s sanctions cancellation was an important goal for the Italian government, now this initiative has vanished from the agenda.

Moscow, which is aware of the latest political changes in Italy, still believes strategic policy towards friendly contacts will remain unchanged. Russia’s Ambassador to Italy Sergei Razov told Izvestia that intergovernmental relations did not only depend on politicians. "Governments on the Apennine Peninsula may come and go, but key national and state interests, which our countries have in common, remain in place," the diplomat stressed, noting that Moscow wants Rome to remain its key partner in Europe.

Konstantin Kosachev, who chairs of the Russian Federation Council’s (upper house) Foreign Affairs Committee, told the paper that Italy was one of a few Western states, which had a constructive stance on fostering ties with Russia and pursued a consistent policy.

Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov is not expecting any serious shifts in Russian-Italian relations. "Another thing is that we will deal with the Italian government, that has a much more reserved stance than Matteo Salvini had, and it will be focused on Brussels and the EU’s general line," the politician said, noting that Italy suffers the most from the EU’s sanctions on Moscow.

Experts believe that Brussels will be more satisfied to have this new Italian cabinet since the Democratic Party is a more predictable partner for the EU. According to Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe Elena Maslova, the new Italian government will keep cultivating good relations with Moscow and will back Brussels in case it decides to lift sanctions. However, Rome won’t dig its heels in during EU discussions on Russia policy, she pointed out.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump eyes jumping on board Normandy Four for sake of ‘small victory’ in Europe

Washington is considering plans to join the Normandy Quartet group (Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine) on resolving the crisis in eastern Ukraine, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes, judging by the recent statements of US President Donald Trump, his former National Security Adviser John Bolton and US Charge d’Affaires in Ukraine William Taylor. Trump is expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine with the country’s new leader Vladimir Zelensky in the near future. The two presidents will take part in the UN General Assembly’s session in New York, where they could have a one-on-one meeting, Taylor said in his recent interview with Voice of America.

Analysts in Ukraine pointed out that Washington started showing interest in joining the Normandy Four talks, although earlier it had only made statements about consultations with the European mediators - Germany and France. "While making Berlin and Paris look like ineffective negotiators and losers, Washington is ready to "come, see and conquer" and solve all Donbass problems, at the time when a clear prospect of ironing them out is on the horizon," the paper writes, citing an anonymous expert. For Washington, this would be a "small convincing victory in Europe," which is important for Trump ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director of the Institute of World Politics Nikolai Beleskov told 24 channel that Ukraine needed the US’ helping hand, but it was highly unlikely that Trump would join the Normandy Quartet leaders’ talks. According to the expert, it’s more advantageous for Trump to hold simultaneous negotiations with the participants of the Normandy Four group rather than to sit down at the negotiating table with them on equal terms. Besides, Washington will be ready to join the Normandy Quartet only when there is a chance that it will yield a result. The US will be reluctant to take part in it if the settlement prospects remain vague, according to Beleskov. Judging by the latest statements, the situation at the talks is changing and therefore Washington is showing notable interest in them, the paper writes


Izvestia: Russia goes on gold buying spree to shield itself from crisis

Russia has gone on a record-breaking gold buying spree, and by the beginning of September, its gold reserves had reached $110 bln. Although many analysts have previously said banking on gold was a bad idea, now it seems that this asset is bringing significant benefits to Russia, Izvestia writes. Thanks to these measures, Russia’s push for dumping the dollar has been less vulnerable.

Moscow has been forced to search for alternatives to investments in US assets amid the worsening international climate. Although this year, gold purchases by Russia’s central bank turned out to be 8% less than last year, they nevertheless remain the highest in the world. Even China, which is the world’s major gold producer, has been stockpiling it less actively. Besides Russia and China, other leading gold buyers are Qatar, Poland and Kazakhstan, the paper says.

Gold is high in demand amid crises, periods of high anxiety, and especially when the global economy’s future is anyone’s guess. Among key reasons behind the rising demand for gold and its mounting prices this summer, is a trade war between the US and China, which has triggered major uncertainty. In this context, in the near future gold will have brilliant prospects for investment. Turbulence in global economy will remain in place, namely given the upcoming recession in Europe. The 2020 US presidential election will also add certain political risks.

According to Citigroup analysts, over the next two years, the price of gold could hit a record high of $2,000 an ounce.

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