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Press review: BRICS membership may triple and German radical 'coup plot' foiled

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, December 8th

MOSCOW, December 8. /TASS/. Russia sees BRICS as an alternative to the EU's fragility, Germany arrests suspects in a plot to overthrow the government, while Russia and the US may be on the verge of a new Euromissile crisis. These stories topped Wednesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Vedomosti: Number of BRICS members may triple

At the Primakov Readings, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized that the current political environment in the European Union (EU) is humiliating for European states. According to him, in light of the collective West's policy, Russia is no longer interested in engaging with it. Organizations such as BRICS are becoming an alternative against the backdrop of the weakness of the EU, Vedomosti writes.

"We have real partners - BRICS, the SCO, the EAEU, and the CSTO, regardless of what is written about it," Lavrov stated. The top diplomat stated that the RIC structure (Russia, India, China), a Primakov initiative, "spawned the BRICS five, which currently receives enormous attention." Several states are lined up for full membership, and the five could expand to roughly 15-17 countries, Lavrov added.

The emphasis on cooperation with non-Western states appears to be even more warranted in light of Europe's current problems. The minister spotlighted the US and its closest allies' unjust policy toward key EU members.

Berlin and Paris do not have complete autonomy in international politics, thus they deliberately cede some of their foreign policy functions to Washington, according to Alexander Kamkin, senior researcher at IMEMO. The expert admits that the European countries are capable of taking the initiative in a few circumstances, but on the whole, they follow Washington's lead.

According to Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, BRICS can provide countries with an alternate partnership path to the EU that does not require a high admission threshold. According to him, the group is now developing along two avenues: by admitting new members and by strengthening cooperation. In the second case, additional nations will not be admitted to BRICS, but each organization's partner will be able to choose a convenient mode of cooperation within the BRICS+ structure. Kortunov noted that the EU is unwilling to seek strategic autonomy from the US not only due to the Ukrainian crisis, but China's ascent.


Izvestia: Radical 'plot' in Germany to seize power foiled

The German Federal Prosecutor's Office announced the arrest of 25 people suspected of plotting a coup on December 7. Behind the provocation is the extremist Reichsburger movement, which does not recognize Germany's democratic state. Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that because one of the conspirators is a former member of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, this incident will be utilized to tighten the screws on right-wing forces in the Bundestag. A Russian woman was also on the list of suspects. Nonetheless, so far both Berlin and Moscow deny Russia’s role in the "coup."

Jan Nolte, an AfD Bundestag member, told the newspaper he believes that the German government and the media will continue to try to undermine his party by exploiting the issue. According to Alexander Kamkin, senior researcher at IMEMO, the German authorities hope to use this case to get ahead of the curve and avert protests from residents upset with the effects of the energy crisis.

According to German officials, the conspirators attempted to contact Russian representatives but received no assistance. However, a Russian woman was accused of assisting a terrorist organization. The Russian Embassy in Germany told Izvestia that they had not yet received news from the German side regarding the custody of the Russian individual.

Nevertheless, researcher at the Center for European Studies at the Institute for International Studies at MGIMO Artem Sokolov believes that this incident in Germany may be picked up by supporters of a policy seeking a complete severance of relations with Russia. "So far, the situation looks like an opportunity for a campaign against elements aggressively opposed to the Olaf Scholz government's agenda. Despite the fact that German officials stated that Russia was not involved in the incident, the inclusion of a Russian citizen among the 'revolutionaries' will be used to put pressure on individuals and organizations in Germany that want constructive dialogue with Moscow. The same pressure would be applied to the AfD party," the expert told Izvestia.


Kommersant: US gets first missile system, previously banned under deal with Russia

The United States has taken a key practical step toward acquiring systems prohibited until August 2019 under the Russian-American Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty). The Pentagon received the first battery of the new MRC Typhon missile system, the US Army's first medium-range ground attack weapon since the Cold War ended and the INF Treaty expired. New systems can be built on European soil in the next two or three years, to which Russia will almost certainly respond in kind, Kommersant writes. Experts warn of a repetition of the 1980s "Euromissile crisis" between NATO and the Soviet Union.

The MRC Typhon is the first new US medium-range ground-based missile system since the end of the Cold War. It can be used to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles and SM-6 missiles. According to experts from military blog BMPD, various surface-to-surface missiles, including hypersonic ones, could be utilized in the MRC Typhon complex in the future.

The Russian side, according to IMEMO RAS expert Alexander Ermakov, is most interested in the German group, which is already shaping a headquarters structure and personnel. "We can expect that new American missile systems — not only the MRC, but also the considerably more dangerous LRHW — will be transferred to Germany and deployed there in the next two or three years," he told Kommersant.

"Given the well-known level of 'warmth' in Russian-US ties and the open focus of the European MDTF on 'containing Russia', this, of course, will elicit a response. Moscow will announce that Washington has rejected its offer of a 'moratorium on the deployment of systems previously banned under the INF' and will respond by developing local comparable complexes," Alexander Ermakov forecasts. "Of course, a repeat, albeit at a lower level, of the Euromissile crisis of the 1980s will complicate the talks between Russia and the US on strategic stability," the expert added.


Izvestia: Russia plans to ban foreigners from using its surrogate mothers

Russian lawmakers are ready to pass legislation prohibiting foreigners from using Russian surrogate mothers. One of the sponsors of this bill, MP Pyotr Tolstoy, said that the draft could be adopted quickly in the second and third readings. The initiative, according to lawmakers, will "put an end to child trafficking." At the same time, lawyers told Izvestia that this legislation had a number of inconsistencies.

"Minor comments were taken into consideration in the amendments proposed for the second reading. Most importantly, this bill would put an end to child trafficking," Tolstoy told the newspaper.

According to the legislation, only married Russian residents or single Russian women who are unable to have children will be permitted to use the services of local surrogate mothers. At the same time, only Russian citizens can become surrogate mothers. This service will no longer be available to foreigners.

According to lawyer Igor Trunov, Russia is not selling children, but rather technology. "We facilitate childbirth and collect payment for it. Foreigners who come to Russia leave with their genetic child, not a Russian. This suggests that they are unable to access appropriate medical technologies in their home country and travel to Russia to do so," he said.

Russia will suffer financial losses as a result of the bill, according to former Russian Medical Tourism Association president Konstantin Onishchenko. At the same time, Onishchenko stated that the general trend of surrogate motherhood in medical tourism is now declining.


Kommersant: Uralchem ready to buy Russian assets of global grain traders

Local players are very interested in the business of multinational grain traders operating in Russia. According to Kommersant, Uralchem, a major fertilizer provider, notified President Vladimir Putin of its intention to buy out Cargill and Viterra's holdings and requested approval for the government commission's negotiations. However, neither company intends to leave Russia and is not considering a sale. Lawyers believe that in such cases, obtaining consent for these transactions would be difficult.

General Director of Uralchem Dmitry Konyaev wrote in a letter that Cargill and Viterra allegedly intend to stop working in Russia in 2023, and their activities in the grain trade, including export, largely overlap with the business of Uralchem. A Kommersant source in the government confirmed that the issue is being worked out.

Sovecon Director Andrey Sizov stated that Uralchem's influence has likely expanded considerably in recent years, given that it oversees ammonia transit through the Tolyatti-Odessa pipeline, which was a critical issue in discussions about extending the grain deal. Sources told Kommersant that Uralchem may need permission for the deal if negotiations occur in the future.

According to a grain market source, the purchase of assets of global grain traders against their will may result in new complications with Russian grain exports. Furthermore, talks about transit through the Tolyatti-Odessa pipeline and the easing of sanctions against Rosselkhozbank may be put on hold.

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