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Press review: Will Kiev get new military package and Belarus, Russia concur on special op

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, January 20th

MOSCOW, January 20. /TASS/. The United States may announce a major military package to Ukraine at the Ramstein base later today, the positions of Moscow and Minsk on the special military operation coincide, and the top diplomats of Turkey and the US synchronized their watches in Washington. These stories topped Friday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Vedomosti: Major US military package to Ukraine may be announced on Friday

One of the largest military assistance packages to Ukraine may be announced at a meeting at the Ramstein base in Germany, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier. The latest package may include ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDB) that can hit targets up to 150 kilometers away. Friday’s announcement is also expected to include a large number of Western-made armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, ammunition, artillery systems and other weapons. However, no decision has yet been made on deliveries of German-and US-made tanks, but the issue is being actively discussed now, Politico reported.

The Biden administration would benefit from exacerbating the Ukrainian crisis to solve political problems it is facing domestically, Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies Vladimir Vasilyev believes. A NYT publication shows that Washington has taken a course to aggravate the conflict and involve NATO allies, mostly Germany, in it. This is meant to strengthen US President Joe Biden’s positions amid the scandal over secret files found in one of his residences and at a former office.

According to Vasilyev, this internal political crisis has helped Republicans and a number of Democrats who do not want Biden reelected to double down on their rhetoric against the White House occupant. To defend its positions, the Biden administration resorted to a move that is standard for US politics, creating a dangerous foreign policy situation. In such circumstances, the expert said, any pressure on Biden could be declared as actions "serving the interests of America’s enemies," so Washington will keep inflating the Ukrainian crisis further down the road, the more so since there is nothing to switch attention to except Ukraine.

Public pressure and the current situation require additional steps from the Biden team, said Alexander Yermakov, a researcher at the IMEMO of the Russian Academy of Sciences. And yet, the United States can no longer send some weapons to Ukraine in previous volumes due to depleted stocks, Yermakov added. "In fact, it would be of much more help for the Ukrainian armed forces to receive additional supplies of shells, gear, and logistical assistance, than nice-looking Western tanks or infantry fighting vehicles," the expert concluded.


Izvestia: Moscow, Minsk hold similar positions on special military operation

The West has failed to stifle either Russia or Belarus with its sanctions, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced at Minsk talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday. Russia’s top diplomat pointed to the coinciding positions of the two Union State members on the special military operation. And the Belarusian leader said his country did not observe any provocations from Kiev.

In the past 18 months, Russia and Belarus have progressed in many domains in terms of integration, Evgeny Preigerman, director of the Minsk Dialogue Council on International Relations, told Izvestia. "This sets a certain trajectory, however, given the entire scope of integration issues, one can hardly expect things to run smoothly. Moreover, there are a large number of contradictions. Industry and transportation, for one, will be the major holdup," the Belarusian political analyst warned.

Following his talks with the Belarusian leader, Lavrov said Russia and Belarus shared a similar stance on the goals that should be attained during the course of the special military operation. According to the Russian foreign minister, the two allies are doing their best to protect themselves from what he said were Western encroachments.

Preigerman expects military cooperation between Minsk and Moscow to become even more intensive in 2023 than bilateral economic integration, primarily in the context of growing tensions in relations with NATO. "We are seeing an increase in military activity on Polish territory. Of course, Belarus and Russia will respond to this by conducting joint activities," the Belarusian expert assumes.

Meanwhile, Lukashenko said he had regularly made it clear to his Western counterparts that Russia was ready for talks.


Kommersant: Turkey, US synchronize watches on mutual expectations

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has called on the Biden administration to act more resolutely on potential supplies of US F-16 fighters to Ankara, as he told reporters following his talks in Washington with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Turkey’s top diplomat also made it clear that his country’s decision on Sweden and Finland joining NATO depended on progress on the F-16 deal.

The United States views the two issues a bit differently. According to Cavusoglu, the Americans emphasized at the Washington meeting that events related to the two Nordic countries’ bid to join NATO could positively affect the sale of the F-16, but they said the two issues were not completely interconnected. Clearly, the US administration believes that Ankara’s consent to NATO expansion may facilitate the fighter deal passage through Congress.

Also, there are disagreements between the US and Turkey on a number of other issues: Ankara is unhappy with the lack of balance in how US relations with it and with Athens have been developing, while Washington does not like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s intentions to meet with his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad. However, despite all these contradictions, Cavusoglu and Blinken focused on common interests in their joint statements following the talks. These include growing trade, the fight against terrorism, efforts to promote peace in the South Caucasus and the political process in Syria. The top diplomats of Turkey and the US also mentioned their unconditional support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as they agreed that Russia’s war was unacceptable and reaffirmed their support for finding a solution to ending the hostilities.

Also, Washington made it clear in the joint statement and Blinken’s message of greetings to his guest, as well as in the statements by the US State Department that it was grateful to Turkey for its role in the signing of the agreements on Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea route. And the expression of this gratitude was clearly not superfluous. "Given the growing military, political and economic power of Russia and China in Eastern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, it is clear that the cost of losing Turkey would be high for both the US and the transatlantic alliance," Muhittin Ataman, the director of foreign policy studies at SETA, a Turkish think tank, said in an article published in the Daily Sabah a month ago.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia’s gas route to China would run via Central Asia

On Wednesday, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller held a working meeting in St. Petersburg with Kazakhstan’s First Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar. Following the talks, the two sides signed off on a roadmap for gas cooperation. No details of the document are available, but experts say this could be the first step toward establishing a natural gas union that would benefit everyone.

"The agreement signed between Kazakhstan and Gazprom is a step closer to a major project that is commonly called the trilateral alliance," Head of the Central Asia and Kazakhstan Department of the Institute of CIS Countries Andrey Grozin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. According to the expert, this is how Russia has been implementing its new energy strategy that will be reoriented southwards from the west. "This will be Russia’s new state policy course, and it is obvious that neither Astana, nor Tashkent will refuse to participate in the project. Experts agree that Southeast Asia will become the largest energy consuming region by the middle of this century, and an expanded network of gas pipelines to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and China, as fantastic as it sounds today, will soon become a reality. Therefore, it is necessary to market [Russian] raw materials in the economies of the South," Grozin believes.

However, Senior Researcher at the IMEMO Center for Post-Soviet Studies Stanislav Pritchin warned that if Astana and Tashkent viewed the trilateral gas union through the prism of geopolitics, fearing Western sanctions, nobody would win, for such a position would be counterproductive, originally envisaging conflict and playing against the interests of the union members themselves.


Izvestia: Russia expects Turkmen enterprises to replace Western rivals

Trade turnover between Russia and Turkmenistan has grown to $1 billion, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said during his first foreign visit to Ashgabat on Thursday. And yet, this level should not be the limit, he added, as both countries are seeking to develop cooperation on all fronts, including the energy sphere, which has been a priority for Russia and Turkmenistan.

"The two countries are large gas producers, so there is a good prospect for developing economic relations," political scientist Azhdar Kurtov told Izvestia. According to him, under the new leadership, Turkmenistan has been relinquishing self-isolation, a policy of the 1990s, while increasingly showing interest in cooperation with the CIS and SCO member countries in various fields.

According to Yevgeny Kozhokin, a MGIMO Professor, who sits on the Russian International Affairs Council, relations between Russia and Turkmenistan look stable. This, he said, is thanks to Ashgabat’s consistent foreign policy course based on the principle of neutrality. Besides, Turkmenistan has huge oil reserves and remains a large cotton supplier, the expert said. Also, Russia may take interest in developing cooperation in the sphere of transportation and logistics, since the eastern railway route along a strategically important transport corridor, linking Russia, Iran and India, runs via Turkmenistan, Kozhokin specified.

Mishustin will have an opportunity to discuss these issues with senior Turkmen officials later on Friday, when he is scheduled to meet with Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhamedov. The talks will focus on efforts to enhance bilateral cooperation in the spheres of trade, transportation, manufacturing, energy, and culture as well as humanitarian issues, the cabinet announced.

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