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Press review: NATO to suffer from US Open Skies exit and Trump sees fraud in mail-in vote

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, May 26
US President Donald Trump AP Photo/Evan Vucci
US President Donald Trump
© AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: NATO to face problems in wake of US exit from Open Skies Treaty

US President Donald Trump's move to pull out of the Treaty on Open Skies won’t have serious consequences for Washington or Moscow because although surveillance flights had some political importance, they were almost useless from a military standpoint. Experts believe that by withdrawing from the treaty, the US is putting its NATO allies in danger, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Political scientist and Russian Academy of Sciences member Alexei Arbatov pointed out that "Trump does not understand the value of existing international agreements." "It’s an absolute puzzle to him and he has no intention of sorting it out," he said. According to Arbatov, the US presidential administration is equally irresponsible. "These people have inherited the results of a 50-year effort to build a system of global security but they are treating it all like contracts to supply food to supermarkets," the expert stressed.

Academy of Military Sciences Professor Vadim Kozyulin, in turn, noted that Washington’s NATO allies in Europe would face a major blow following the US withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty. "They are the ones who believe that the ‘Russian threat’ is real. Otherwise, why would Warsaw beg the White House to relocate its nuclear air bombs from Germany to Poland? In addition, the Polish authorities have purchased the F-35 Lightning aircraft and have given the go-ahead to establish a US missile defense base and launch ‘Fort Trump’. The same goes for the Baltic states, which desperately seek to become a World War III battlefield, allowing NATO to set up its military facilities on their soil," the expert emphasized.

However, Arbatov believes that Washington will eventually return to the negotiating table. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg did not rule out that another agreement involving Russia could replace the Treaty on Open Skies.


Media: US can’t stop Beijing from adopting new national security law for Hong Kong

A new wave of protests hit Hong Kong after the Chinese government had come up with a new national security law allowing Beijing to send law enforcement officers to Hong Kong and prosecute locals for separatism, treason and subversive activities, Vedomosti wrote.

The United States has widely criticized Beijing's initiative. US President Donald Trump promised a tough response to the national security law. The Chinese authorities, in turn, slammed Washington’s intention as interference in China’s domestic affairs.

Tim Summers, a lecturer in the Center for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, pointed out that some in the West were calling for targeting Chinese officials involved in the enforcement of the new legislation. The expert believes that it is an unlikely option, whereas Washington could abandon special trade relations with Hong Kong.

This sort of development would cause serious harm to the region’s economic role and make it harder for the Chinese government to carry out foreign trade operations through Hong Kong, said Vasily Kashin, an expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies. However, in his view, given the deterioration in economic relations between China and the US, "it will be unpleasant but not fatal."

According to the expert, Beijing believes it will survive the Trump administration’s decision. This is illustrated by the fact that this time, the new law was initiated by the central government and not by the local authorities, Kashin pointed out. "Last time, the Chinese leadership did not expect a huge wave of protests, so the extradition law was eventually withdrawn but now, Beijing is clearly better prepared and will hardly back down. As for Hong Kong, it may exacerbate its economic downturn," the expert said. However, in Kashin’s opinion, a thing to keep in mind is that neither China nor the West believes that Hongkongers belong with them, so in fact, no one truly cares about Hong Kong citizens amid the standoff between two superpowers, China and the United States.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump suspects Democrats aim to rig elections

US President Donald Trump believes that the Democratic Party’s push for mail-in voting is rife with corruption and experts say that the US will soon see an escalating debate over whether voters should go to polling stations in the November presidential election, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

According to US legislation, it is up to the state governments to decide on methods to hold elections and the president has no leverage over them.

Experts point out that Trump's opponents are not only guided by concerns for people's health. The Democrats are likely to benefit from a mail-in ballot because they will be able to mobilize their voters who potentially outnumber Trump’s supporters. Swing voters will be more willing to participate in a mail-in voting than go to polling stations, particularly if a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic hits the world in the fall. Trump, in turn, is relying on the gradual lifting of lockdowns across the country. A thing to note is that states less hit by the pandemic are those where most voters support the Republicans.

In addition, remote voting also involves the use of the Internet, and some states may prefer such an option.

"Trump will strongly oppose this way of voting because it will leave behind voters who aren’t that Internet-savvy and very well educated, and on whose votes the incumbent president counts on," said Director of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for United States Studies at Moscow State University Yuri Rogulev. "At the same time, tech-savvy and well-educated Americans who can’t stand Trump will surely take part in such a voting," the expert emphasized.


Izvestia: Western banks expect new sanctions against Russia this fall

As the US presidential election approaches, Washington may impose new sanctions on Russia, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said. However, Russia has been pursuing a conservative economic policy for years and is prepared for any new restrictions even amid the crisis, Izvestia wrote, citing experts.

Sanctions against Russia will hardly be the focus of the US presidential campaign like it was in 2016, said Alexander Deryugin, an expert at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. Even if the US introduces more restrictions, they will not be too harmful because Washington has no reason to impose serious sanctions. On the other hand, restrictions against China pose a significant threat to the Russian economy. Deryugin is confident that debates over who is to blame for the coronavirus pandemic will be the main tool of the US presidential campaign. Any sanctions against China may turn out to be unprecedentedly tough, dealing a blow to Russia’s economy because China is Moscow’s major trade partner, the expert explained.

Meanwhile, IIF analysts point out that Russian sovereign bonds have become "a safe haven" for investors compared to bonds issued by other developing countries such as Mexico, India, Brazil, South Africa and Turkey.

Russian federal bonds indeed look very attractive, Chief Analyst at BCS Premier Anton Pokatovich noted. Moreover, investors’ interest in these assets will grow in the near future because Russia’s Central Bank is likely to keep reducing the key rate.

A low key rate will facilitate efforts to resume business activities, which will add to the Russian market’s attractiveness, Freedom Finance expert Georgy Vashchenko said. In his view, the main threat is from a weakening ruble. However, the current macroeconomic situation will make it possible for Russia to overcome export, debt and geopolitical risks, which are key factors in determining the value of the national currency.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia begins clinical trials of coronavirus drug

There is no magic drug to treat the coronavirus but the one that is undergoing trials in Russia may prove to be very effective, Russian Academy of Sciences member and the chief clinical researcher of the drug Dmitry Pushkar told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

The drug’s active ingredient is called favipiravir. According to Pushkar, it performed very well during preliminary research. Favipiravir was developed in Japan several years ago and fitted well into the regimens to treat various viral infections, including the most complicated ones.

"During the weeks of quarantine, a group of our researchers — biologists, pharmacologists and clinical physicians — redefined treatment regimens for viral diseases, as well as dosage rates. We have never used this substance before and now we have launched its production in Russia. We are using it to develop a domestic drug," Pushkar said.

The academician pointed out that "when it is about a new drug, even if it is urgently needed, researchers have no right to rush things because human lives are at stake." The trials are expected to be completed in six to eight weeks.

Pushkar noted that Russia "has always been prepared for such epidemics." "Such drugs are a safety umbrella that we need to think about at the moment because no one is safe from a second wave of the virus, which can also become a seasonal illness. The important thing is that drugs are developed here, we don’t depend on anyone," the researcher stressed.


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