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Press review: What follows after Moscow’s security bid and NATO spurs Kiev’s aggression

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, December 20th

Izvestia: NATO approaching Russia’s borders

Ukraine plans ten large-scale military drills with NATO’s participation in 2022, which obviously raises serious alarm bells in Russia. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that the alliance’s actions appear to encourage Kiev’s belligerent sentiments. According to him, these drills are a cover for Ukraine to attempt yet again to resolve its internal problem by using force. Earlier, he stressed this sort of escalation of NATO’s presence in the region may lead to "the most serious consequences" for Ukraine.

"The drills that Ukraine is conducting with NATO are a serious threat since they are directed at working on conducting a war against Russia. Additionally, they may serve as a cover for the deployment of a force grouping. Their arrival may end up with them not leaving," military expert Konstantin Sivkov told Izvestia. In his opinion, Moscow should prepare to deflect the military aggression in addition to diplomatic statements which would involve the creation of force groupings, the development of new weapon systems and the holding of drills.

Former commander of Russia’s paratrooper forces, retired Colonel General Georgy Shpak pointed to the sheer number of drills underway, in which Ukraine’s territory is being scrutinized for military purposes. He reiterated that the US views China and Russia as enemies and Ukraine is just a "bargaining chip in this major military game." His standpoint is that a positive resolution of these issues shouldn’t be expected until there is a change in the Ukrainian leadership.

"Given the number of drills, they can only cause concern. A document is needed that will provide security guarantees to the Russian Federation," Director of the Institute for Peacekeeping Initiatives and Conflictology Denis Denisov told the newspaper. According to him, consultations are underway on such a document. "It is difficult to say what it may look like. As well as to presume that it will be signed. Since it will mean that Ukraine will radically change its position which does not look particularly hopeful right now," the expert noted.


Vedomosti: Russian Foreign Ministry submits tough demands to US, NATO in order to begin talks

Russia’s drafts of two security treaties with the US and NATO should be considered as a whole, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said after they were made public on December 17. The drafts involve NATO rejecting the membership bid of Ukraine and Georgia and the US not deploying medium-range missiles in Europe, minimizing the scale of drills near Russia’s borders, not stationing its troops in Eastern Europe and other limitations. On December 19, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said that NATO representatives will discuss Russian proposals within a week.

According to Mikhail Barabanov, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, the drafts would be seen by the West as completely unacceptable. However, it is impossible to entirely reject it since then the West will have to admit that it is completely against any security talks with Russia. According to him, the Russian initiative intends to get the US involved in formal talks and then attempt to attain some informal results, above all, on NATO’s expansion to Ukraine.

According to Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrei Kortunov, the Russian leadership is distrustful of any agreements with the West that are not legally binding since Moscow remembers too well the verbal promise on NATO’s non-expansion that was not kept. He concurs that Moscow’s demands are unacceptable for the West yet it is possible to reach an agreement on rebuilding trust and contacts and on containing the deployment of new medium-range missile systems. According to the expert, if the alliance rejects all of Russia’s offers, Moscow will deploy new missile systems and create strategic tension.

The Russian Foreign Ministry wants to demonstrate the validity and serious nature of its position by making such statements, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine says. According to him, Moscow is deliberately escalating the situation to force the West to respond. However, he thinks that strategic stability in Europe won’t be shattered should NATO refuse to hold talks with Russia since it is ensured by Russia-US nuclear parity, which won’t vanish any time soon.


Izvestia: Russian envoy tackles Ukraine question, EU involvement in Karabakh conflict and Sputnik V recognition

Russian Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov talked to Izvestia about Russian "aggression" against Ukraine, Brussels attempts to get involved in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and the recognition of vaccine passports.

In response to a question about numerous accusations by the West that Russia is intending to invade Ukraine, the envoy noted that there was no convincing evidence and all accusations were based on unfounded hearsay, however, the rumors were picked up by a number of media outlets and became a popular subject at various political events, including the Eastern Partnership summit and the current EU summit.

Touching on Brussels’ involvement in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the diplomat said that a lot of work is still ahead. A meeting on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership summit was yet another opportunity for a direct contact between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia. He pointed out that there are issues that these two countries prefer to discuss directly between themselves, some other issues with Russia’s participation. Still, the EU may be useful in discussing their economic recovery and eliminating the consequence of military actions.

As for the mutual recognition of COVID certificates, the envoy said: "This is a rather acute problem, not just for us but also for our colleagues in the European Union. There are two parallel processes. One is the recognition of the vaccine itself, Sputnik V in our case. This is the issue the World Health Organization is involved in. The issue of the mutual recognition of certificates is parallel to that. Those are not parts of the same process. When will it all happen? Nobody can answer this question now. I hope that it happens sooner than later."


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Migrant workers send billions of dollars home annually

Private individuals send $6.2 bln from Russia to CIS countries annually, according to the Central Bank. The bulk of this amount is made up of earnings of labor migrants which they send home. Some 97.4% of foreign workers support their families in this way.

President of the Federation of Migrants of Russia Vadim Kozhenov says that there are about 10 mln labor migrants in Russia while only 4% of them were able to leave during the peak of the pandemic. According to him, the number of migrant workers in Russia has not changed significantly over the past year and a half.

Center for Strategic Research (CSR) President Vladislav Onishchenko is confident that the number of migrants in Russia will only increase, they will occupy higher positions and earn more money since Russia’s economy won’t be able to develop without this process. He noted that twice as many people are currently retiring than entering the job market, and a new work force to replace them can only come from abroad. Therefore, money transfers to neighboring countries where such workers come from will only grow.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Israel may not be ready for war with Iran

Israel may not be ready for a full-scale military scenario regarding Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, experts say. The situation is complicated by Iran’s enhanced defense capabilities. It is quite possible that Israel’s only option will be targeted attacks against Iran’s nuclear objects.

Retired Israeli Air Force General Relik Shafir noted that the only Air Force capable of conducting an operation against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is America’s. According to him, Tehran has dozens of nuclear factories, some of them located underground, and it won’t be possible for Israel to destroy them. Additionally, Israel does not possess the necessary number of fighter planes to do so.

According to military intelligence forecasts, an escalation would trigger the activation of Hamas that is in close partnership with Tehran and Hezbollah which is based in Lebanon. Israel also thinks that Syria, where pro-Iranian irregular formations are active, is a potential threat as well. "It is possible that when Israeli planes will try to land in Israel, they will discover that Iranian missiles destroyed their landing strips," Tal Inbar, an expert on anti-missile defense, said describing a possible military scenario.

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