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Press review: New START’s fate still vague and Moscow wary of Paris climate deal pitfalls

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, November 8

Kommersant: Russia, US seek to find common ground on extending New START

Moscow and Washington still disagree on arms control issues. On Thursday, in Geneva, participants of the Russian-US commission on fulfilling New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) discussed the accrued differences on the implementation of the nuclear arms reduction treaty. Russia’s Foreign Ministry hoped that at the meeting the US would finally show a constructive stance, Kommersant writes.

However, the fate of the accord, which is due to expire in February 2021, is still vague. Meanwhile, the two countries’ experts, unlike politicians and diplomats, share the view that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump, must show political will in order to save the key arms reduction treaty.

According to former chief of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces headquarters (in 1994-1996) retired Col. Gen. Viktor Esin, both Russia and the United States will benefit from extending the treaty. This is vital for Moscow since Russia’s strategic nuclear forces cannot provide an adequate response to the significantly growing potential of the US strategic offensive forces, which would be inevitable if the treaty collapsed. The expert believes that Washington is able to increase the number of warheads on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles from 400 to 800 and from 900 to 1,920 on submarines within a short period of time.

As for Washington, a decision to preserve the treaty would enable it to comprehend Russia’s steps in the sphere of strategic nuclear weapons. According to Esin, this is especially vital given the fact that starting from 2021 Russia will launch the serial mass production and deployment of the Avangard and Sarmat ICBMs, new Borei-A class submarines and Tu-160M2 heavy strategic bombers. "These strategic nuclear armaments are covered by New START and therefore are subject to control by American inspectors if it is preserved," the expert noted.

The participants of the Geneva conference pointed out that New START’s extension does not demand any accord by the legislative branch and only a political decision of the Russian and US leaders was needed.


Izvestia: US wants to keep Damascus, Moscow out of Syrian oil fields

US President Donald Trump has endorsed a decision on extending a mission to ensure the security of oil fields in eastern Syria. Under the plan, the US will protect large Kurdish-controlled areas in the Al-Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor governorates. If earlier Washington justified its presence in the oil fields by an imminent threat of an attack by the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) now the array of "threats" has expanded, Izvestia writes. Pentagon Chief Mark Esper explained that Washington would repel any attempt to take Syria’s oil fields away from US-backed Syrian militia, even by Moscow and Damascus.

The question is whether Washington could deliver strikes on these two countries’ militaries, Izvestia writes, noting that an armed confrontation with Moscow would lead to a nuclear war. Meanwhile, the US won’t limit itself to just protecting oil fields. It’s clear now that the United States is trying to restore control over some areas to the east of the Euphrates, recouping whatever it can. Apparently, the US chose this step in order to prevent a void, which could inevitably emerge if the Americans continued scaling back their presence in Syria. And Russia would be a key rival for the US here, the paper says.

The influence of Moscow and Damascus has been seriously growing in the areas to the east of the Euphrates, where the US, Turkey and the Kurds used to call the shots. Obviously, this served as a reason for the US military’s return to Syria. Until recently, there was some hope that Moscow, Ankara and some other players would be able to create conditions for stabilizing the situation on the ground, reconcile the Kurds with Damascus, and promote a peaceful settlement, now they will have to deal with the US. Washington clearly says that it needs Syrian oil. In response, Russia has branded Washington’s seizure of the oil fields as "banditry" that helps US and private companies earn some $30 mln per month.

There are no clear recipes on how to counter the latest negative trends, but it is evident that the Kurds’ reconciliation with the Assad regime would be a major breakthrough, which could deal a serious blow to US positions in Syria, Izvestia writes.


Media: India set to continue buying Russian weapons despite US sanctions

Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh has wrapped up his visit to Moscow, holding a series of meetings on November 5-6 with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, who is in charge of defense and industrial development. The Indian defense chief said New Delhi was determined to continue cultivating military and technical cooperation with Russia and enhance ties between the two countries’ defense enterprises.

A source close to Russia’s Defense Ministry told Vedomosti that the visit by India’s top defense official was crucial for Moscow in terms of confirming New Delhi’s unchanged course towards military and technical cooperation with Russia. The Indian delegation signaled that New Delhi planned to foster cooperation with Russia despite Washington’s threat to slap sanctions on Indian officials and local defense enterprises. Now, there are no serious concerns that India could change its position under US pressure given the fact that New Delhi has made an advance payment to the tune of $900 mln for the first batch of Russia’s S-400 missile system, the paper says. The deal’s implementation is expected to start in 2020.

Popular Indian business daily Economic Times reported that New Delhi and Moscow had signed a $3-bln contract on leasing Russia’s Akula-class nuclear-powered submarine to the Indian Navy. The sides have not officially refuted the report and it’s clear that this publication came in the run-up to the Moscow meeting of the Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission on military and technical cooperation on Wednesday, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Meanwhile, Russian Navy veteran Capt. 1st Rank Oleg Shvedkov warns that the deal could trigger negative consequences, explaining that this could fuel an arms race involving third countries. Besides, India has serious military and geopolitical issues with Pakistan and China. "If the Indian Navy gets Russia’s Project 941 Akula submarine, they will be able to use sea-based ballistic missiles with the range of 4,000-8,000 km. These missiles have already been tested in India. This does not contribute to strengthening global military security," the expert stressed.


Izvestia: Russian ministry warns Paris climate deal’s pitfalls may harm public

Russia could face serious social and economic risks due to ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change. This could bring down the living standards of Russian citizens, the Ministry of Natural Resources said in its recommendations obtained by Izvestia. The government agency suggested a range of measures that would protect Russia’s interests and enable it to fulfill its commitments. Besides, the ministry notes that there is the need to wait until a strategy for low-carbon development and a law on state regulations for greenhouse gas emissions will be introduced. The ministry noted that when fulfilling the Paris climate deal, Russia should not apply models that would increase unfounded financial burdens on basic economic sectors, resulting in greater industrial spending and a deterioration of people’s everyday lives.

Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Ecology and Environmental Protection Vladimir Burmatov expects that the government will introduce a law on regulating greenhouse emissions. This would become the next step towards fulfilling the Paris climate deal, he said, describing it as Russia’s political move.

Experts have different views on Russia’s implementation of the climate deal. Director of the All-Russian Nature Institute Andrei Peshkov believes this was a forced measure. "This financial pyramid has been imposed on 197 states, while the United States, the biggest polluter, has now withdrawn from it. This is an environmental weapon, which is aimed at preserving industrially developed countries’ domination," the expert told Izvestia. According to him, Russia could have faced large-scale economic sanctions if it had refused to join this deal.

However, Roman Pukalov, director of environmental programs at Green Patrol, does not see any disadvantages in the treaty. According to him, Russia is the planet’s major oxygen donor and the Paris deal would encourage its industrial modernization.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russian candies satiate world’s sweet tooth

Sweets are ranked fourth among Russia’s major export items, after grain, fish and fat-and-oil goods. The geography of Russian confectionery exports covers more than 100 countries, the Ministry of Agriculture said. In 2018, Russia sold its candies abroad ringing up $1.2 bln in revenues, Executive Director of the Association of Confectionery Manufacturers Vyacheslav Lashmankin told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Since early 2019, these exports have grown more than 14% to $930 mln, Deputy Agriculture Minister Oksana Lut said. Three major exported goods are chocolate, pastries and sugar products (caramel, marshmallows and marmalade). Russia sells nearly a half of these confectionery goods to non-CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, Lashmankin noted.

By 2024, the Asian market is expected to account for an enormous increase in exports, the ministry said, adding that the supply of Russia’s sweets there could double. China is a major buyer of Russia’s candies, yet it takes a back seat to Kazakhstan in terms of volume, but outperforms it as far as the growth rate is concerned. While citizens of southern China prefer Russia’s renowned gingerbread, the country’s north loves the legendary Alyonka chocolate bar, caramel and marshmallows. In general, some 30% of all chocolate products manufactured in Russia are sold to foreign markets.

Russian confectionery manufacturers also see the Persian Gulf states as a potential export market. Manufacturers are also setting their sights on Africa. Supplies there have just begun, amounting to $8 mln. Russia also exports sweets to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.


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