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Press review: Medvedev’s hi-tech ASEAN initiatives and secret talks with Afghan leadership

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, November 5
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
© AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

Izvestia: Medvedev puts forward winning initiatives at ASEAN

The ASEAN summit and East Asia Summit held in Bangkok allowed Russia to once again establish its position in the region, Izvestia wrote. Given the fact that the United States was represented only by a national security adviser - Asian leaders took this as a clear sign of disdain. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s traditional participation seemed like a win in itself. However, his visit to the capital of Thailand was not just for show, Prime Minister Medvedev put forward new initiatives at the summit, including cooperation along the lines of high technology and energy.

High tech was the centerpiece of Dmitry Medvedev's speech. He focused on the idea of de-monopolizing the sphere, which is dominated by several corporations, thereby stifling healthy competition and new promising ideas. "Participation in such events is a reflection of the systematic work to promote and consolidate our positions in the region," a high-ranking source in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia. "But we also have something to offer. For example, Russia has sound experience in combating infectious diseases. In addition, Russia is one of the countries with the highest cellular coverage territory-wise," the source stated.

Meanwhile, Director of the Center for Regional Policy Development Ilya Grashchenkov told Izvestia that the main export products that Russia is trying to promote in ASEAN are nuclear energy and weapons. "Full cooperation on nuclear energy is hampered by attempts by a number of ASEAN countries to drive down preferential prices, while Moscow is in no hurry to enter the market at a loss," the expert said. "The development of military-technical cooperation is complicated by the presence of competitors such as the US and China," he added.

Russia has to compete in the ASEAN market with the latter in the field of gas and mineral extraction equipment, the newspaper wrote. Russia’s equipment withstands wear and tear better, but Chinese analogues are cheaper, and often serve as a decisive factor, Grashchenkov noted. According to Izvestia, deliveries of liquefied natural gas can significantly increase turnover, especially with the commissioning of the Northern Sea Route by 2022.


Kommersant: EU offering Balkans membership alternative

The European Union will offer a substitute accession model for Balkan countries aspiring to join its ranks: economic integration instead of full membership. Balkan leaders have reacted negatively to this proposal. They regard it as a suspension of the EU enlargement process and a refusal to include the region in a unified Europe, Kommersant wrote. According to the newspaper, the new model for the Balkans is expected to be approved within six months.

A European diplomatic source confirmed to Kommersant that the alternative for Balkan states seeking to join the EU is indeed being discussed. So far, however, "at a semi-official level". Information on developing the new EU membership model has recently been confirmed by the European Stability Initiative (ESI) research center. They specified that instead of EU membership, applicants will be offered accession to the European Economic Area.

In addition to backlash from regional leaders, many Balkan experts also criticized the EU’s membership alternative. Head of the Belgrade Center for Foreign Policy Dragan Djukanovic told Kommersant that the European Union has made certain commitments towards the Balkans, so changing this approach would stir up regional instability. The expert believes that the region might begin to look for other options with China, Russia, and Turkey.

According to the newspaper, in the meantime, the Balkan states intend to develop a joint position in response to the new EU model.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow, Kabul hold secret talks on SCO summit sidelines

Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met in Tashkent on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit that brought together the leaders of Eurasia’s political, economic, and security grouping. The meeting between Abdullah and Medvedev, and its circumstances sparked a rather intense discussion among political circles in Kabul, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. Meanwhile, official information on the discussion was limited to welcoming remarks.

The composition of Abdullah’s delegation suggested that the purpose of his meeting with Medvedev was not to discuss the real problems of Russian-Afghan cooperation, but some political consultations that concerned Abdullah personally, the newspaper wrote. "All this resembles secret negotiations or political bidding, shrouded by the scenery of the SCO summit, which Dr. Abdullah may be conducting with the Russian side," a Kabul-based political observer told the newspaper, noting that "Afghans will now be interested in what precisely did Dr. Abdullah offer Moscow, and what he sought to receive in return."

Immediately after the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic returned to Kabul from Tashkent, he met with Afghanistan’s ex-President Hamid Karzai. "Karzai personally went to Abdullah’s residence on the same day, and there is no doubt that the main topic of their conversation was to exchange views on the outcome of Abdullah’s meeting with Medvedev," a Kabul expert commented on the situation to the newspaper.

However, other Afghan experts believe the importance of the dialogue should not be exaggerated. They believe that the intrigue would certainly be very serious if the Russian president had participated at least once in it. According to experts, without Putin’s participation, any international projects and promises from Moscow are meaningless, the newspaper wrote.


Izvestia: Russia plans to re-introduce ‘military secret’ classification

The ‘military secret’ classification may make return to Russian law. According to Izvestia’s sources in the Ministry of Defense, the department is currently working on the issue. The legal term ‘secret in the field of defense’ includes information regarding weapons, manpower, and deployment of troops, as well as mobilization plans. Currently, this information is classified as a state secret.

According to Izvestia, the requirements of the law will apply only to military personnel. People allowed to know secret information will receive certain privileges, and for disclosing such information those responsible could face criminal charges. Experts interviewed by the newspaper noted that the current law "On state secrets" does not close all loopholes for leaks, and warn that the effectiveness of the new document will depend on practical law enforcement.

The appearance of a legal norm regarding military secrets is necessary, General Boris Kurdyumov told the newspaper. According to him, the number of classified leaks has recently increased. "The international situation is now tense, and many countries are interested in our secrets. Unfortunately, there are many leaks. Often, information about new weapons begins to flow to the West immediately after it was received by [our] units or for tests. This mustn’t take place," he told Izvestia.


Kommersant: Internet connection glitches affect almost 30% of Russians daily

Almost 30% of Russia’s Internet users have daily problems loading pages on the Internet, according to TelecomDaily. The cause of these difficulties can be blamed either on the operator or the user’s equipment, or on the large amount of content on a site, Kommersant wrote. Online stores suffer from such problems the most, since slow page loading reduces conversion of visitors to customers.

Thus, according to TelecomDaily report, 72% of Russian Internet users have complications loading websites, 43% report crashes several times a week, and for 29% this is a daily occurrence. The agency interviewed over 1,500 Internet users from different regions across Russia.

In terms of revenue, online stores lose the most from such glitches. Only 36% of users consent to waiting for a webpage to load, while 33% will close the page and start looking for another store.

Telecom providers have identified various potential sources of these problems.  They may include the signal level of the base station and its load, a Tele2 operator told the newspaper. Download speed directly depends on the amount of content on a page, a VimpelCom representative noted. On the other hand, outdated client equipment may also be one of the reasons for the low speed, an ER-Telecom representative told Kommersant.

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