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Press review: Xi agrees to talk nukes with US and Russia, India ink huge arms deal

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, November 18th
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping EPA-EFE/SARAH SILBIGER/POOL
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Xi Jinping agrees to talk nukes with US

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan unveiled an agreement between Presidents Joe Biden of the US and Xi Jinping of China that has not been mentioned before. The two leaders will look into starting discussions on strategic stability. This, according to Washington, is a shift from China's earlier attitude, in which it refused to participate in US-Russian negotiations, claiming its nuclear arsenal dwarfs that of Moscow and Washington. However, it is unclear how the talks with Beijing will progress, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. According to Sullivan, this will not be similar to a debate between Moscow and Washington, where the ground rules are well known.

The newspaper writes that it seems like Xi and Biden are going to continue communicating on a regular basis and this should affect their allies and partners. Especially Moscow, linked to Beijing by strategic partnership ties, will have to carefully follow the development of the situation.

Senior Research Fellow at the Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta: "According to the United States, Beijing has agreed to consider negotiations on strategic stability. That is, we are talking about some preliminary consultations, within the framework of which, apparently, the formats of negotiations will be discussed. This may take some time. This, I believe, does not imply that China is prepared to discuss 'ceilings' for the quantitative deployment of nuclear warheads, but rather that they will discuss common approaches, the types of weapons that may or may not be manufactured, the deployment of specific weapons in Asia, and the role of missile defense. And discussing quantitative ‘ceilings’ like in the case of Russia and the US could only be possible in the distant future."

As for the growth of China’s arsenal, "The latest estimate by the Stockholm Peace Research Institute is 350 warheads. According to the institute, their number is increasing by 10% per year. So, China is in third place after Russia and the United States and somewhat ahead of France", Kashin emphasized.


Vedomosti: Russia, India plan to ink largest-ever contract for Kalashnikov assault rifles

India will sign an agreement with Russia on the licensed production of 700,000 Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifles for its armed forces, a source close to the Russian military-technical cooperation system and a source at one of the defense industry enterprises confirmed to Vedomosti.

This is the largest export agreement for Russian small arms in all of post-Soviet history, and in monetary terms, in the entire history of the Kalashnikov assault rifle since its development in 1947, Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov told the newspaper. The contract is massive by the world standards, he added. Supplying Kalashnikov assault rifles to such a large country as India is very prestigious, the expert continued, especially given the fact that this market is very competitive and open to the world's leading manufacturers.

According to Head of the Group on South Asia and the Indian Ocean at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations Alexey Kupriyanov, India sees the AK-203 as a replacement for its INSAS assault rifle, which performed poorly under critical conditions. Due to technical problems that the INSAS was experiencing in the mountains and jungle, the Indian military decided to switch to a "proven, quality assault rifle". At the same time, along with Russian developments, New Delhi will arm its border guards with American M4 assault rifles, Kupriyanov added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Tehran accused of covertly boosting manufacture of centrifuge components

Iran has ramped up the production of components for advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in recent months. Western diplomats believe and do not rule out that the country is signifying its intentions as far as nuclear capabilities go. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, this puts into question the feasibility of negotiations on the restoration of the nuke deal, which should resume in Vienna at the end of November.

The subject of the production of advanced centrifuges is one of the key issues in the negotiations in Vienna on the restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Western diplomats are now warning that negotiations are meaningless without a clear understanding of what materials and equipment Iran has, the newspaper writes.

"Over the past two years, Iran has been consistently building up the pace of its nuclear program, and this represents some pressure primarily on the United States, showing that they made a big mistake by withdrawing from the nuclear deal and that Iran is not bound by anything and will expand its nuclear program," an expert on Iran with the Russian International Affairs Council Nikita Smagin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The expert believes the prospect of negotiations in Vienna remains dubious. "Both Iran and the United States go to them with positions that largely contradict each other. Both sides are not ready to sacrifice their political capital and make any serious concessions over the agreement," he said.


Izvestia: Russia to ramp up development of genetic technologies

All scientific projects in Russia should be focused on improving people’s well-being, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting on the development of genetic technologies. For two years now, a federal program on genetic technologies has been in effect nationwide, operated by Russia’s renowned Kurchatov Institute. Experts told Izvestia that the program will help Russia fight global challenges in a time when many fundamental discoveries have already been made and countries need world-class technologies.

Russia has been paying special attention to the development of genetic technologies for several years. In 2019, the government approved a corresponding federal scientific and technical program aimed at enhancing gene-editing technologies that can be applied in medicine, agriculture, and industry. The program will be prolonged until 2030.

According to Director of the Kurchatov Institute Mikhail Kovalchuk, Russia can confront global challenges with the help of the program. Discoveries in genetics, in particular, will make it possible to avert environmental problems or minimizetheir impact. Fostering genetics is utterly crucial, Kovalchuk told Izvestia. "Knowledge of the genome offers the opportunity to look scientifically at what we have done empirically. This means making the world a better place on a new level - creating personalized medicine, personalized agriculture," he said.

Head of Genomic Engineering laboratory at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology Pavel Volchkov told Izvestia that medicine and biotechnologies are the most actively developing areas right now. According to the expert, today many fundamental discoveries have already been made, and humanity has entered an era when it is necessary to create world-class technologies based on them with the help of startups, venture capital funds, and private companies.


Vedomosti: Russian companies could be allowed to ‘move’ to local offshores

The authorities plan to provide Russian holdings with the opportunity to register in a special administrative region (SAR), or what’s known as Russian offshores. A federal official, a source close to the government, as well as three sources familiar with the development of the amendments to the Tax Code, told Vedomosti. Now this option is accessible only to foreign organizations, and not to Russian companies.

It is necessary to include Russian holdings in the list of organizations that can qualify for moving to the SARs in order to reduce the risks of recognizing Russia as a harmful tax regime, sources told Vedomosti. Earlier, the European Code of Conduct Group in Business Taxation made a number of claims against the SARs for discriminating against Russian groups in favor of foreign ones.

Sources told Vedomosti that the Federal Tax Service is hammering out the bill, but it will not be submitted to the government before another package of amendments to the legislation on SARs is adopted; reforms to the system in order to stimulate companies to form a real presence on the islands, the so-called substance. According to Vedomosti's sources, these conditions may form the basis of the bill.

"Not all top managers of the largest companies will be ready to move to the islands for the sake of benefits. The point is not even that it is more comfortable in conventional Moscow, but in the reputation of the whole group, especially if it is public. It is unlikely that investors will be enthusiastic about the news that the president of some flagship Russian company has announced a move to optimize taxation," a source told Vedomosti.

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