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Press review: Roscosmos to build more satellites and Moscow, Minsk to use new nuke tactic

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, December 21st

MOSCOW, December 21. /TASS/. Russia and Belarus will use the same nuclear strategy as the United States and NATO, Roscosmos is set to reconsider its space program and build more satellites, while Tuesday’s incident on a key Russian gas pipeline will hardly affect the market, experts say. These stories topped Wednesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Kommersant: Russia, Belarus to adopt nuclear policy they used to criticize previously

Russia and Belarus will use the same nuclear strategy as the United States and NATO, according to the latest statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko. The two leaders announced after their Minsk talks that Belarusian warplanes would be reequipped to use weapons with nuclear warheads, while their crews are currently undergoing the necessary retraining. Meanwhile, Russia has for years criticized NATO for similar cooperation which it said runs counter to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Kommersant has asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to comment on whether the latest cooperation between Russia and Belarus would contradict the NPT. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova explained that the measures announced by the leaders of Russia and Belarus were a necessary response to NATO’s longstanding practice of conducting "joint nuclear missions." US nuclear bombs and warheads being used as part of those missions are currently being upgraded. Besides, NATO has been ratcheting up nuclear exercises, involving more members in these openly anti-Russian activities, she noted. Zakharova described this as an extremely negative aspect, as relevant nuclear weapons may hit targets on Russian soil shortly after appropriate orders.

The Russian diplomat also highlighted the recent calls to expand storage for US-made nuclear bombs in Europe and their partial redeployment to NATO’s eastern flank. "Poland, which has been seeking to fully join those `joint nuclear missions’, has said it is ready to deploy US nukes on its soil. This would mean bringing NATO’s nuclear weapons closer to the borders of the Union State," Zakharova clarified.

She assured that measures to be taken by Moscow and Minsk would be in strict compliance with the two countries’ commitments under the NPT. At the given stage, Iskander-M missile systems will be given to Belarus and part of Su-25 jets in service with the Belarusian Air Force will be reequipped to use nuclear weapons, while Russia is not planning to share the relevant technology with Belarus, Zakharova explained. "We will correlate our steps with NATO policies toward the Union State, and we reserve the right to take additional measures to safeguard Russian and Belarusian security in case of increased threats," she concluded.


Vedomosti: Roscosmos to increase production of satellites

In an interview with Vedomosti, Roscosmos chief Yury Borisov complained about the financial situation that the state-run space corporation is facing. In 2021, its losses amounted to 31 billion rubles, equivalent to $444 million in current dollar figures, and that number could exceed $50 billion ($716 million) in 2022, with quite a few international contracts phased out since February 24.

Also, almost all of Roscomos’s flagship enterprises failed to fulfill their obligations under their existing contracts in both 2021 and 2022, he lamented. However, Borisov said he expected to reduce his corporation’s accounts receivable to a reasonable level by mid-2024.

And Roscosmos will adjust its financial model to new tasks and goals, and reconsider its space program, he pledged. There are plans to raise money on the bond market for these purposes, Borisov said. Roscosmos’s financial subsidiary will sell its debt to authorized banks and private investors on Russian exchanges, with plans to issue a debut 10 billion rubles ($142 million) of bonds next year. The money will be used to build two satellite plants - one in Siberia and the other in the Moscow Region - making logistics as optimal as possible.

The corporation also intends to attract private business into projects to build satellites, a practice the US has been employing for a long time, Borisov noted. According to him, Russia should increase the production of satellites to 200-250 annually by 2025-2026 from today’s 15 and build at least a satellite per day by 2030 to cover the country’s economic needs. Moreover, Roscosmos is currently working with the private sector to redesign its space activities by 2030, Borisov said.


Izvestia: Will the Chuvashia pipeline blaze affect the natural gas market?

On Tuesday, a leak was reported on the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod natural gas pipeline that pumps Russian gas to Ukraine. Three people were killed in a blaze that ensued, and another one was hospitalized.

Chuvashia’s leader Oleg Nikolayev could not say when the gas pipeline’s repairs would be completed. According to Dmitry Gusev, deputy chairman of the supervising board of a lobbying association, the repairs could take three to seven days. However, Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom, has not yet used part of its capacities to redirect supplies from the damaged pipeline, so the incident will hardly affect either the market or Russian gas exports to Europe, Deputy Director General of the National Energy Institute Alexander Frolov told Izvestia.

The damaged pipeline is the last one being used to pump Russian natural gas to Europe, Gusev explained. Also, there are offshoots of this pipeline to Blue Stream from Russia to Turkey, the expert added.

According to Vladislav Antonov, a financial analyst at BitRiver, the incident hardly affected the market, while Russia’s expected response to Europe’s decision to introduce its much-talked-about gas price ceiling could influence it. The €180 gas price limit agreed on by EU energy chiefs on Monday will be imposed on February 15. In response, Russia could fully terminate its energy supplies to Europe or ban any reexport to the EU, Antonov forecasted. And Moscow’s hardline stance could quintuple gas prices by next year, he warned.


Vedomosti: Russia turns out to be key factor in Europe’s domestic politics in 2022

Russia has been an important aspect impacting domestic policies in a number of European countries, the Progressive Policy Foundation discovered. "Russia could claim a leading role among conservative forces internationally in previous decades, but will hardly be able to do so after February 24. Despite the crusade to cancel Russia and its culture, Russia’s share in domestic European policies has increased," the foundation’s director Oleg Bondarenko believes.

Another expert, Doctor of Economic Sciences Sergey Serebrennikov pointed to the resignation of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson this summer as an example. To him, Johnson’s ploy to blame Russia for all problems flopped, while he greeted the arrival of a socially-oriented and balanced politician, Rishi Sunak.

According to Bondarenko, pro-Russian forces mobilized their electorate in the presidential elections in Serbia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The right-wing has been strengthening in Serbia: three out of seven political blocs are staunchly pro-Russian, he said, while some 80% of Serbs still support Russia under the current circumstances. This is why Serbian leader Alexander Vucic is unlikely to succumb to Western pressure or impose even part of the anti-Russian sanctions, he explained. "At the very least, he would just resign if pressure persists, rather than become the politician who agreed to impose sanctions," the expert argues. He slammed Brussels’ stance as "incorrect and insane", as he insisted that none of Serbia’s politicians could either agree to join the anti-Russian sanctions or recognize Kosovo.

Bondarenko said next year, Russia could also affect the presidential elections in the Czech Republic, Montenegro and Turkey. Experts warn that Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan may lose power, so it is time Moscow contemplated how this would affect its relations with Ankara, he said.

Political scientist Ilya Grashchenkov told Vedomosti he could witness similar political trends in Israel and Italy. In those countries, skeptics defeated populists, and both nations veered to the right, he said.


Izvestia: Palestinian diplomat sees no prospects for talks with Israeli government

Commenting on the potential coalition government in Israel, Palestinian Ambassador to Moscow Abdel Hafiz Nofal said the Palestinian leadership and President Mahmoud Abbas remained committed to the two-state solution under UN international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, despite recent steps by Israel who he said has rejected dialogue. And the new Israeli government which is still in the making could be one of the most far-right in Israeli history, he warned. This opinion, he said, is shared by the Biden administration and Europe. The new cabinet will install a religious regime in Israel, which could aggravate the situation in the region, the Palestinian diplomat warned. He also said his country did not see any prospects for talks with such an Israeli government.

He urged the international community to make Israel comply with the resolutions to establish the two-state solution, otherwise the entire region could plunge into a religious war with devastating consequences, he cautioned.

Hafiz Nofal complained that his country had so far received no humanitarian aid from Russia, citing Western restrictions. Palestine should have received its share from the 500,000 metric tons of grain Russia has donated to needy countries, however, the sanctions and logistical hurdles have hampered the initiative, he lamented in an interview with Izvestia.

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