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Press review: Russia to assist Africa in fighting terrorism and S-400s arrive in Serbia

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, October 25
Russian President Vladimir Putin  Valery Sharifulin/TASS
Russian President Vladimir Putin
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Media: Russia to assist Africa in the war on terror

Moscow plans to boost joint efforts with African countries to fight terrorism and extremism, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the Russia-Africa Summit in the resort city of Sochi. According to experts, this major event will enable Russia to strengthen its position in the region.

The focus of the summit’s plenary session was on efforts to usher in a new era in relations between Russia and African nations. A number of participants pointed out that the Sochi summit was an unprecedented milestone. However, Moscow is concerned about the security situation in many parts of Africa.

Russia will continue to train military servicemen and law enforcement officers from African states. Our country has enormous experience in the fight against terrorism, which we are ready to share with all other nations, a member of the Federation Council’s Committee on Defense and Security Frants Klintsevich told the newspaper. Russia’s success in Syria is the most important indicator of our effectiveness in this area, the senator added.

As for the economy, Russian Presidential Aide Anton Kobyakov said that economic agreements worth a total of 800 bln rubles ($12.5 bln) had been clinched at the summit. However, according to experts, large-scale events like this are not anticipated to bring immediate benefits, ensuring an upsurge in economic and political relations. "In this regard, Russia didn’t invent anything new. India, Japan and the European Union have held such summits with African countries," Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for African Studies Albert Khamatshin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "The first China-Africa Summit was held in Beijing back in 2000, and has been taking place every three years since then. Until recently, Russia wasn’t eager to boost business ties with African countries but in the wake of Western sanctions, Moscow became interested in diversifying its foreign economic relations," the expert explained.

According to Khamatshin, now that Russian companies actively work on the African continent, it would have been strange if Russia did not arrange such a summit.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: S-400s now on Europe’s soil, as Serbia gets renowned defense system

A division of S-400s and a battery the Pantsir-S missile systems of the Russian Aerospace Forces have been delivered to Serbia, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. According to military sources, these Russian weapons "will be involved in a military drill abroad for the first time," Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote.

The military exercise, dubbed Slavic Shield 2019, in which Russian military servicemen will participate, is aimed at testing air defense practices.

"Defense cooperation between Russia and Serbia has been quite productive. We supply the Serbs with [our] Mil Mi-35M combat helicopters, Mil Mi-17V5 transport helicopters, T-72 tanks, BRDM-2MS armored reconnaissance vehicles and [our] Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters. Belgrade has repeatedly pointed to possibly purchasing the Pantsir-S and the S-400 systems," Russian Officers Presidium Chairman Major General Sergei Lipovoi told the newspaper.

He emphasized that Serbia was Russia’s staunch ally in the Balkans. The southeastern European nation has not joined NATO and refused to support the sanctions against Moscow. "As a non-bloc state, it needs constant protection, particularly since Serbia is literally surrounded by NATO bases in Romania, Hungary, Italy, Bosnia and Bulgaria. Besides, let’s not forget about the Kosovo separatists who regularly carry out provocations against the Serbs, as well as neighboring Montenegro’s NATO accession," the expert noted.

"This is why it’s important to make it clear that Serbia is under Russia’s protection, which means that not a single issue in the Balkans will be decided without us," General Lipovoi added.


Izvestia: Damascus wants oil fields back

Syria has demanded that the United States pull out of the oil fields in the Deir ez-Zor province. This came as a response to US President Donald Trump’s statement that American troops will remain in eastern Syria, where the oil fields are, Izvestia notes.

"America has been defeated in Syria, so US President Donald Trump’s words sound like another attempt to assert himself," Deputy Chairman of the Syrian parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Ammar al-Assad told the paper. "The Syrian state will soon regain control of all oil fields, perhaps, through a military operation. At the same time, government forces and players present in Syria with Damascus’ consent will ensure stability in the region instead of Kurdish militias and some foreign troops," he added.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces currently control the country’s 11 largest oil fields. It is a priority for the Assad government to get those back, as Syria is facing a huge fuel crisis. The country’s daily oil requirement stands at 136,000 barrels but infrastructure facilities produce only 24,000 barrels. Iran used to be Syria’s main oil supplier but after sanctions had been tightened, the Iranians had to reduce oil supplies.

Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Information Policy and Cooperation with the Media Alexei Pushkov told the newspaper that Washington’s decision came as no surprise. "However, their presence there is illegal, and we will continue to demand their full withdrawal from Syria. As the legitimate government regains control of Syria’s lands, it will become increasingly hard for the Americans to maintain a hold on the region. They will have to leave, it is only a matter of time," the senator assured.

For Damascus, taking back control of Deir ez-Zor is as important as restoring its sovereignty over the Idlib de-escalation zone. Syria is very likely to act simultaneously in both directions, Middle East guru Vladimir Fitin said. He also noted that it is too early to call the Kurds Russia’s partners. The fact that on October 13, they arrived at Russia’s Hmeymim base and signed an agreement on cooperation with the Syrian government doesn’t mean they have completely cut ties with the Americans, the expert stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington weaponizing visas, seeks to clamp down on China

US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer is calling for a tougher policy against Beijing by mustering together the efforts of all government agencies to counter China. This propaganda blitz comes amid rising diplomatic tensions between the two countries following the US State Department’s move to prevent Chinese representatives from participating in a space conference. According to experts, these moves make it clear that from Washington’s standpoint, China has taken Russia’s place as the United States’ main geopolitical rival, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

When speaking at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, Spencer called China "a competitor now that has no differentiation between military and civilian," pointing out that America should act in a similar way, which means that the Pentagon should coordinate its activities with other government agencies. Meanwhile, US ships keep venturing into the part of the South China Sea that Beijing claims to be part of its territory. However, the United States not only ignores this claim but also sends warships to that area on a regular basis.

While both navies have managed to avoid incidents, the US Department of State has failed to issue visas to members of a Chinese delegation who planned to participate in an international space conference. In other words, the Department of State first discriminated against Russian politicians and then targeted Chinese officials. However, it doesn’t mean that Washington puts Russia and China on par, Chief Research Associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for the US and Canadian Studies Vladimir Batyuk told the newspaper.

"From the standpoint of the US ruling elite, Russia is a weakening power that is yielding its positions on the international stage. Though it is still capable of some destabilizing actions, China seems to be a far more serious adversary. China is their number one adversary and will remain such throughout the 21st century," the expert emphasized.


RBC: As sanction fears fall, investors upbeat on Russia

The cost of Russia’s country risk has dropped to a 12-year low as investors stopped including the possible tightening of sanctions into Eurobond prices, RBC writes.

Russia’s credit default swap (CDS) plummeted to 74 points this week, which is the lowest level since November 2007, said Chief Economist at Nordea Bank Tatyana Evdokimova. "A CDS plunge points to the declining risk of a default. In fact, it means, market participants acknowledge that Russia’s fundamental macroeconomic indicators are super stable, including a low level of debt, budget and current account surpluses and a high level of foreign exchange reserves, Evdokimova specified. The shrinking risk premium may mean that investors see chances for an upgrade in Russia’s sovereign credit rating in the near future, she added.

Sanctions are unlikely to be tightened and based on the current data, Russia’s credit rating may be increased, Director of Loko-Invest’s Analytical Department Kirill Tremasov said.

In 2018, Russia’s credit default swap hit the 170-point mark, Chief Portfolio Manager at Aton-Management Konstantin Svyatny pointed out. Investors currently don’t include the risk of new sanctions into their assessments of Russian Eurobonds’ risks, he said. According to Svyatny, the recent round of sanctions in August 2019 had no consequences. Russian Eurobond prices have been growing this year and yields have been declining, the expert noted.

However, Russia’s situation seems better than those countries with similar ratings. Before 2008, excessive revenues from increasing oil prices were spent on consumption but now that the so-called ‘budget rule’ has been introduced, so all additional foreign currency is accumulated and invested in the Russian National Wealth Fund, Svyatny said, noting that the pattern was more stable.


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