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Press review: Trump campaigns down to the wire and Armenia requests Russian aid

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, November 2nd

Kommersant: Trump touts his view of America as election approaches


President Donald Trump continues his tour of America, Kommersant reports. In the days leading up to the election, he is giving voters a clear alternative between his view of the United States and the America that his opponent Joe Biden offers the public. Polls still show that Trump is trailing his opponent, however, a number of experts think that it is too early for the incumbent president to throw in the towel.

A just free market or authoritarian socialism; lower taxes or the yoke of soaring ones; an effective vaccine or a long string of lockdowns; a strong industry or an outflow of jobs abroad: these are the alternatives Trump listed during his rallies leading up to the election.

According to RealClearPolitics, Biden is 7.8% ahead of Trump nationally and 3.7% ahead in swing states. During the entire 2020 presidential campaign, polls have never shown Trump taking the lead over Biden. Nevertheless, Robert Cahaly, an expert with Trafalgar Group who predicted Trump’s win in the 2016 election, said that the polls should not be fully trusted, as the number of "shy" Trump voters (those who are hiding their preference), may be quite high this year.

According to a poll carried out by Gallup, 61% of Americans (89% of Democrats and 23% of Republicans) are in favor of ditching the electoral college system, and introducing direct voting instead. Professor Lonna Atkeson of Political Science at the University of New Mexico told Kommersant that in the majority of cases, the outcomes of the national vote and the electoral college results are the same.

However, the expert pointed out that the electoral college delegates depend more now on the will of the people. In the past, they were elected by representatives of the state legislative assemblies, but now they are elected directly by voters. Besides, in the past, the delegates could vote any way they saw fit, which, according to the Founding Fathers, made the president independent from other branches of government. Now the delegates are tied to the candidate in advance, and this "bond" is rarely broken, and even when it is, it never affects the final result, Atkeson said.


Vedomosti: Armenia requests military aid from Russia under bilateral deal

On October 31, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan requested urgent consultations with Russia due to the Nagorno-Karabakh hostilities approaching the Armenian border, Vedomosti informs. In his address to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pashinyan said that Armenia wants to discuss "the type and quantity of aid" that Moscow can provide to Armenia in order to ensure its security. The Armenian leader justified his request citing the 1997 bilateral Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.

Putin has not reacted publicly to Pashinyan’s request so far, and Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not respond to Vedomosti’s request for a comment. The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed in a statement that Moscow adheres to its obligations under the deal, however, Russia will only provide "all necessary assistance to Yerevan if fighting spills over into the territory of Armenia."

Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Director General Andrey Kortunov told Vedomosti that Pashinyan needs to tie Russia and Armenia closer together in an attempt to involve it in the conflict with Azerbaijan. He noted that Moscow would resist this while it can. If Russia is brought into this conflict, there will be a two-on-two standoff: Armenia supported by Russia and Azerbaijan backed by Turkey. Strangely enough, both Armenia and Turkey are pushing Russia towards this scheme, the political commentator pointed out. "This position is not very comfortable for us. We want to be above the fray. Otherwise, firstly, we lose Azerbaijan and secondly, we get Pashinyan’s Armenia, which is not very stable."

According to Kortunov, Moscow and Yerevan will discuss what can be considered a threat to Armenia’s security during the upcoming consultations. Azerbaijan will act as carefully as possible, taking into account Russia’s obligations to Armenia. Moscow may interfere only if something extraordinary happens, like Turkey’s direct involvement or an advance towards Yerevan, the analyst said. "This seem unlikely. But anything can happen in a war," he concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Macron vows to uphold freedom of speech after wave of Islamist terror attacks

The French police are making arrests in relation to the terrorist attack in Nice on October 29, when three people were killed in a cathedral, as well as an attack on a Greek priest in Lyon. An entire network of suspects involved in religious hate crimes has been discovered, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. The French authorities are doing everything possible to maintain calm between the nation’s religious communities. French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with Al Jazeera that he understands that Muslims can be offended by caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, however, nothing can infringe upon freedom of speech, and any issues should be resolved in court, and not through violence.

The French government needs to provide a careful reaction to the incident, without offending the country’s Muslim population, which makes up roughly 10% of the nation. However, France needs to show that the government can guarantee the security of its citizens.

Vera Ageeva, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and International Affairs of the HSE Campus in St. Petersburg told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Macron had not said anything unexpected in his statement. "Essentially, Macron is doing the same as his predecessors: Chirac, Sarkozy and Hollande. The latter supported Charlie Hebdo to a much greater extent than the current president," she noted. The lack of mass demonstrations in support of the victims of the Nice attacks can only be attributed to the lockdown introduced in France to curb the spread of COVID-19, Ageeva stated. "We do not see any demonstrations. Restrictive measures make it easier to ensure security," the expert pointed out.

The expert thinks that on the whole, French law enforcement is doing its job well, halting the spread of weapons and explosives in a more effective way than in Russia, which is why the perpetrators carry out knife attacks. She reiterated that the issue of terrorism had also surfaced in Germany and Austria: in Vienna, an attack on a Catholic church took place recently.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ruble likely to crash after November 3

The Russian ruble is currently weakening, which can lead to a record crash upon the results of the US presidential election on November 3, experts predict. Officials are telling the population to disregard the changes in the exchange rate, focusing instead on "the predictability of the national currency exchange rate." However, the only predictable thing about the ruble in the past 30 years is that it has been permanently going down, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes. Since the shift towards a commercial exchange rate, the Russian ruble has lost its value against the dollar 40,000 times in nominal terms.

The Russian ruble continues to drop. On Friday, the ruble’s exchange rate against the dollar reached 79.53, which is 3.4 rubles higher than the week before that.

The US election is a significant threat to the Russian currency. A renewal of the sanctions rhetoric will put pressure on the ruble, experts point out. For example, if Democratic contender Joe Biden wins the election, the dollar exchange rate may reach 120 rubles by August, analyst Dmitry Golubovsky told the paper. According to the expert, this may happen if the US introduces sanctions against Russia’s national and corporate debt.

The results of America’s election will affect the ruble immediately, Ivan Kapustyansky, an expert with Forex Optimum, told the paper. If the new leader announces a sanctions crackdown, the ruble will crash. Besides, the newly elected president will decide on the US economy's aid package, which can stir investor interest in risk assets, making the dollar cheaper and supporting the ruble, he continued. "If the aid package is approved, the dollar will not be higher than 74-76 rubles in November, and the euro will remain at the 89-ruble mark. If this does not happen and the rhetoric of the new president is tough, the dollar will climb to 81.97 rubles, and the euro will reach 93.32," Kapustyansky stated.


RBC: Experts predict shortages in cybersecurity specialists

Given the mass shift to teleworking, companies across the world plan to hire more cybersecurity specialists, which will lead to a deficit of such workers by 2021, RBC informed.

Over the next year, 51% of global companies and 42% of Russian enterprises plan to raise the number of cybersecurity specialists, research carried out by professional services network PwC cited by RBC reports.

The rise in demand for cyber experts is confirmed by Russian recruiting agency HeadHunter, with the number of available jobs showing double-digit growth. In 2018, 17,000 job openings in this sphere were recorded over the course of the entire year. Meanwhile, there are 30,000 job offers on the market from January to October 2020 alone. The level of competition in this sphere was very low, reaching one person per job offer in 2018-2019, and going up to 2 people per job offer in 2020. "This means that there is an acute deficit, and the normal competition is five-six CVs per job offer," HeadHunter spokesperson Alexander Dzhabarov told RBC.

Head of the SuperJob research center Natalya Golovanova points out that cybersecurity specialists are in high demand right now at IT and finance companies. She expects "a gradual rise in demand for cybersecurity specialists" over the next year, with the number of job offers rising by 12-15%.

According to PwC, in 2021, 55% of companies across the world and 52% in Russia plan to increase their spending on cybersecurity. This will happen despite the majority of organizations (64%) expecting a drop in revenue. "In the current conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations had to revise and rethink their cybersecurity strategies. Nearly all participants of our poll (96%) said that they were ready to do this," Partner at PwC Russia Vitaly Sokolov noted.

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