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Press review: US pursues Iran’s isolation and Romania gets Patriot missiles

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, September 21st
Senior officials and military participating at the reception ceremony for the first Patriot surface-to-air missile system in Romania EPA-EFE/ROBERT GHEMENT
Senior officials and military participating at the reception ceremony for the first Patriot surface-to-air missile system in Romania

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US seeks to further isolate Iran from the rest of the world

The White House has announced that starting from September 20 all UN Security Council’s sanctions against Iran would be reinstated. However, the UNSC has not given its permission for this move. Furthermore, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that any countries violating these sanctions would face consequences. Washington attributes its harsh unilateral policy to its objective of changing the Iranian leadership’s behavior. Obviously, the US-brokered Gulf Arab-Israeli deal boosted the Trump administration’s confidence in its strength, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The White House is not worried about any legal aspects of reinstating restrictions and the key goal for it is to defend its position.

Meanwhile, Iran has taken a wait-and-see attitude. Officials in Tehran are downplaying the importance of the new US sanctions initiative. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced that Washington could not stop his country from buying armaments from foreign states, including China and Russia, after the arms embargo expires. According to him, Washington’s secondary sanctions against these countries are unlikely to become an obstacle.

Anton Mardasov, a researcher at the Washington-based Middle East Institute (MEI) and expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, told that ending the UN embargo would in any case create certain difficulties for Russia in the sphere of military cooperation with Iran. "There is an obvious contradiction between Moscow’s tendency to sell defensive arms and Tehran’s wish to buy offensive weapons," the analyst said. "Iran’s negative image is a factor that Russia should take into account. The sale of such items as warplanes, missiles and warships will trigger a large-scale response from both regional states and the US."

However, Moscow is quite capable of approving the sale of assault weapons while ignoring the image problems, the expert pointed out.


Izvestia: Patriot games - Romania receives US missile system

Romania has received the first shipment of US Patriot surface-to-air missiles. Bucharest is expected to acquire a total of seven Patriot systems, which will enhance the Aegis Ashore system deployed by the United States in Deveselu in 2015. Romania and other Southeastern European countries link the re-equipment process to a threat allegedly mounting along NATO’s eastern flank, Izvestia writes.

In general, Romania like some other countries of Southeastern Europe, for example, Bulgaria, have been actively stepping up military and technical cooperation with the West. Besides re-equipping its allies in Eastern and Southern Europe, the US could increase the number of its own military contingents based there.

Konstantin Bogdanov, a senior researcher at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, notes the deployment of US Patriot systems to Romania and Poland is not surprising. "Both these states are backbone countries, where NATO military contingents’ deployment is planned in the event of a threat," the expert told Izvestia. In terms of politics, the deployment of defensive systems, which do not undermine strategic stability, is not creating any problems, Bogdanov said. "The range of these air defense systems in peacetime does not create any difficulties for the Russian military, including those on duty near Crimea. No doubt, these armaments will be considered as targets when planning hypothetical operations in Romania," he pointed out.

According to Ilya Kramnik, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, Moscow will probably respond to the positioning of the US Patriot Systems in Romania. "Such things will never be ignored," he stressed. "Probably, more attention will be paid to the air capabilities of the Black Sea Fleet and the Southern Military District in terms of offsetting air defense systems," Kramnik specified. "There are certain weapons, for example, anti-radar missiles designed to neutralize missile systems and radars."


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Belarus vows to hit back against pending EU sanctions

On Monday, EU foreign ministers are scheduled to gather in Brussels to discuss sanctions against Belarusian officials allegedly linked to vote rigging and violence against civilians. Belarusian opposition figurehead Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, whom the West is peddling as the elected president, will also take part in this meeting. Meanwhile, Minsk has branded any attempts to exert influence on the authorities as meddling in the country’s domestic affairs and has promised to introduce "adequate" measures, which could go as far as severing diplomatic ties, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Member-states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have also initiated launching the so-called Moscow mechanism against Belarus. The idea is to send an OSCE mission to analyze the situation and suggest measures for changing it. Meanwhile, experts are harboring no illusions about the OSCE mission's prospects to visit the country, but they still can draft a report after talking to the participants of the events and victims while remaining abroad. UN experts have documented 450 cases of torture and cruel treatment. On September 18, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution on Belarus. They also demanded that the authorities stop the violence, investigate all instances of brutality, release political prisoners and enter into dialogue with the opposition’s Coordination Council and civil society.

However, Belarusian officials keep denying any use of repression and call the events across the country an effort to restore law and order. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has described Tikhanovskaya’s planned participation in the Council’s meeting as a slap in the face to Belarusian citizens. in addition, Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei vowed that Belarus would offer an appropriate response to EU sanctions. In particular, Minsk is looking into personal sanctions against EU officials. Belarus could also withdraw from various initiatives and organizations and even cut diplomatic ties with some countries.

Meanwhile, Belarusian citizens continue demonstrating and their demands for holding a new election and Lukashenko’s resignation are a conscious decision, which won’t be reviewed. The Belarusian protesters note that the current confrontation is merely political and they seek the assistance of international structures and institutions since the authorities won’t listen to their own people and are refusing to hold any dialogue.


Izvestia: New global economic crisis looming as coronavirus rebounds

Israel has imposed a renewed lockdown in response to a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases. Earlier, several Australian states had extended a harsh lockdown. A new round of restrictions is being introduced in various spots of the world and this is a really ominous sign for the global economy. In the current situation, the chances of a new general quarantine over the coronavirus are nearing 50%. In the event of new harsh restrictions, there will be no talk of any quick economic restoration after the crisis, Izvestia writes.

According to Yevgeny Mironyuk, an analyst at Freedom Finance, the second wave is very unlikely. "This is confirmed by the experience of China - in that country separate outbreaks of the coronavirus still occur but this does not cause any global economic consequences." However, if the Russian economy faces a second wave of recession, the downturn in the financial sector will be more painful than in April-May, he pointed out. The growing debts of enterprises and organizations combined with difficulties in repaying current loans could lead to a surge in overdue bank payments and trigger a debt crisis, he warned.

Sergei Khestanov, a senior lecturer at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, noted that the authorities in many countries have experience that allows them to impose "surgical lockdowns" while avoiding a full suspension of economic activities. "For the economy of many countries another lockdown would be grave and the authorities understand this very well. That’s why even if the second wave of the disease is large-scale, the decline will be less than in March-April 2020," he explained.

Lockdown scenarios in Europe can be hardly implemented. What’s more the United States is definitely not going to put its economy on hold ahead of the November election, given that a vaccine is about to be developed. Europe cannot allow itself to lag behind its partners from overseas, the paper writes.


Vedomosti: Nearly one in seven Russians live below poverty line

In the second quarter of 2020, the number of Russian citizens, whose revenues sank below the minimum subsistence level was 1.3 mln higher than the same period last year, and reached 19.9 mln, according to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service. So, some 13.6% of citizens are poor now, which translates to nearly one in seven Russians, Vedomosti writes.

According to Natalya Zubarevich, a professor at Moscow State University, there are several groups of regions, where the population was the hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. First and foremost, these are regions, where the economy is oriented towards exporting coal, metals and hydrocarbons. The Kemerovo Region is facing really hard times, since coal output there dropped amid declining exports. The second group are regions, where production is focused on the domestic market. These are the Ulyanovsk, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod and Kaliningrad Regions, which manufacture cars, as well as the Kostroma Region, which produces jewelry and Yakutia, which specializes in diamond extraction. Besides, the living standards dropped in the regions, where the economy relies on the services sector - in Moscow, the Moscow Region and St. Petersburg.

However, official salaries did not decline in March-June 2020. Economists explain this strange fact by a high share of "wages in envelopes."

Meanwhile, specialists believe that by the end of the year official statistics could improve and the number of poor citizens could decline. "As we see now, businesses are recouping losses and the citizenry’s revenues have begun growing," said Sergei Smirnov, a researcher at the Higher School of Economics.

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