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Press review: Putin offers missile moratorium and Biden says Russia biggest threat to US

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, October 27

Kommersant: Putin offers NATO moratorium on missile deployment

Russian President Vladimir Putin is continuing his policy of "multifaceted de-escalation," Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, commenting on the Russian leader’s new initiative in the sphere of arms control. Putin offered NATO a deal: Russia is ready not to deploy intermediate- and shorter-range missiles on the country’s European territory, along with weapons whose parameters and classification have remained a controversy between the two parties. However, NATO should agree to introduce a reciprocal moratorium, Kommersant reports.

Verification measures could include the Aegis Ashore systems equipped with Mk 41 launchers at US and NATO bases in Europe and the 9M729 missiles at Russian military facilities in the Kaliningrad Region.

Sources among Russian officials informed Kommersant that Putin’s initiative had been in the works for a long time, however, it "acquired additional relevancy" right now. The Russian president noted that the offer concerns not only Europe, but the Asia-Pacific region as well.

"NATO formulated its stance a long time ago - the 9M729 missile should be eliminated. However, even if Russia were ready to consider such a step, it is unclear how this could be done," Senior Research Fellow at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research Pavel Podvig told the paper. On the other hand, the expert notes, if both sides are ready to take the current situation seriously, the corresponding procedures can be worked out.

Andrey Baklitsky, an analyst at the MGIMO Institute for International Studies, is not confident that the initiative will be successful. "The offer on the non-deployment of 9M729 missiles on Russia’s European territory has been discussed in expert circles for a while, and it has been voiced at certain points by German lawmakers and American diplomats. Its approval as the official Russian stance is a good step towards a possible regulation of the situation. However, NATO members (excluding France) have not shown any practical interest in dialogue with Moscow on intermediate-range missiles in Europe," the commentator told Kommersant. "So far, European capitals are echoing America’s position, and Washington is not talking about diplomacy, it’s talking about missile deployment in Europe," he added.


Vedomosti: Exiled Belarusian opposition figurehead’s "people’s strike" fails to gain momentum

On October 26, former Belarusian presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya declared the start of a "people’s strike," as the deadline for the opposition-led People’s Ultimatum expired on Sunday, October 25. Incumbent Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was supposed to have fulfilled several demands put forward by the exiled figurehead. The ultimatum called for Lukashenko’s resignation, the release of political prisoners and an end to violence. In addition, the opposition called on workers at industrial enterprises to go on strike starting Monday, October 26, if these demands were not met.

The strike affected a number of private and state enterprises. According to the website, several private enterprises from Minsk, Grodno, Vitebsk, Brest and Nesvizh declared October 26 a non-working day. A number of shops, bars, cafes and medical centers shut down in Belarus on Monday. However, not all enterprises heeded Tikhanovskaya’s call to go on strike. Experts quizzed by Vedomosti provide different takes on the ongoing protests.

According to Valery Karbalevich, an expert from the Strategy think tank in Belarus, there has been an uptick in the protests’ dynamic. "Unrest was reported at several state enterprises, and universities. There is a conflict situation at enterprises, with some of the workers trying to organize a strike and the administration hindering it. There is no full-fledged strike, though. In some places, certain workshops are not functioning, in others, employees didn’t come in for their shift," Karbalevich said. The expert noted that the opposition had tried to block the country’s roads, but, those attempts were foiled by law enforcement. "The standoff in Belarus is building up," he added. "Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s call and her ultimatum became the mobilizing factor that boosted morale of the Belarusian protests," Karbalevich pointed out.

Meanwile, political analyst Yuri Shevtsov told the paper that Tikhanovskaya’s ultimatum did not bear any fruit. "Not a single reasonably important enterprise, especially a state one, went on strike. The ultimatum ended in a very spectacular and eloquent failure," he pointed out. According to the expert, in the future, Tikhanovskaya is unlikely to go back into Belarusian politics (after the election, she left for Lithuania). She already has diplomatic ties in the West, where she will remain as a prominent Belarusian politician in exile, Shevtsov told Vedomosti.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Biden sees Moscow as biggest threat to US

The US election campaign is entering its final stretch. On October 27, Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden will hold his last meeting with voters before the election on November 3. In the run-up to the meeting, Biden gave an interview to CBS, in which he said that Russia is the main threat to US security.

Over the course of his long political career, Biden has never had a reputation of being an anti-Russian hawk, Nezavisimaya Gazeta points out.

Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Foundation for United States Studies at Moscow State University Yuri Rogulev told the paper that the politician had made different statements regarding Russia. During his term as vice president in the Obama administration, Biden favored a "reset" of relations between both states. Rogulev recalled that during his speech at Moscow State University back in 2011, Biden referred to Russia and the US as friends.

"So, it’s not some rock-solid stance that cannot change. I can assume that Biden is singling out "the Russian threat" just to attack Trump right now. He [Trump] is talking about "the Chinese threat," and Biden chose to rebut him," Rogulev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The expert stressed that since the 1990s, the official US stance on Russia had been different, the former Soviet giant was seen as weak and non-threatening. This stance that suggests that dialogue with Moscow can be built from the position of power was shaped under US President Bill Clinton, who was a Democrat like Biden. So there is no need to rush to conclusions regarding Biden’s policy on Russia if he wins the election, the political analyst pointed out.


Izvestia: Erdogan lashes out at France after Macron’s speech on Islam

Paris and Ankara have engaged in a war of words that is now moving into a diplomatic and economic feud, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashing into his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron with scathing comments. Erdogan said that Macron "needs mental health treatment," and urged Muslims to boycott French goods. Paris responded by saying that such statements are unacceptable, and recalled the French ambassador to Ankara for consultations.

The standoff between France and Turkey - both NATO allies - has taken on a religious tone in recent days, Izvestia notes. The conflict was caused by Macron’s speech dedicated to countering religious separatism and extremism.

The French president’s claims that Islam is undergoing a worldwide crisis have created shockwaves throughout the Islamic world. These assertions, along with the notion of "building" some type of modern Islam have triggered a wave of criticism from Muslim states and believers across the world.

The aim of Erdogan’s scathing attack on Macron might be a display of Ankara’s unwavering resolve, the newspaper notes. Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations Vladimir Avatkov told Izvestia that Ankara does not care much about the backlash from the global community, be it the EU or the UN. "On the whole, Turkey builds it global policy on the belief that it is a world power and everyone should follow its logic," the expert said. The lack of unity among Turkey’s NATO partners and EU members on Erdogan’s policy can partly fuel Ankara’s claims.


Izvestia: Russian banks nearly double dollar import in August

The dollar import of Russian financial organizations climbed 1.8-fold higher in August than the previous month and the corresponding period of 2019, reaching $1.62 bln in cash, Izvestia reports, citing the Bank of Russia.

Meanwhile, the demand for the euro sank 66% lower than in July (coming up to $215.4 mln in the dollar equivalent) and was 5.7 times lower than in the parallel period in 2019.

The newspaper reports that in the first eight months of 2020, Russian banks attracted $12.7 bln in cash and the equivalent of $3.5 bln in EU currency. Last year, those figures reached $7.1 bln and $7.7 bln, respectively.

The press service of the Bank of Russia did not respond to Izvestia’s request for a comment on the reasons for the rise in foreign currency export to Russia.

According to the Bank of Russia, in July 2020, Russia also recorded an increase in foreign currency import, which was 34% higher than the prior month, with the volume of imported currency reaching $1.6 bln.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews.