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Press review: Russia gives nuclear triad workout and EU’s sanctions well finally runs dry

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, October 27th

MOSCOW, October 27. /TASS/. Russia continues to make further upgrades of its nuclear triad; Brussels runs out of ideas for fresh anti-Russian sanctions as the EU leaders meet; and the US faces its inability to rein in the proliferation of guns after news of the latest mass shooting rocks the country. These stories topped Friday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia continuing to make further upgrades of nuclear triad

Russia continues to prioritize the development of strategic industry sectors, including the production of weapons that can reliably guarantee its national sovereignty and security, as testified by the latest meeting, chaired by President Vladimir Putin on October 26, focused on developing Russia’s aerospace sector as well as an exercise of the Russian Army’s strategic offensive forces held a day earlier.

At first glance, the drills, in which the Russian Armed Forces "practiced delivering a massive nuclear strike in response to an enemy nuclear attack," were routine, as the Army and Navy held a similar exercise a year ago as well as in the fall season of previous years.

"Testing the strategic troops of the Russian Armed Forces, which will be ready to use nuclear arms, if need be, is a major element of their combat training. For these troops actually perform combat duty tasks and should be ready to act in a due manner at any moment," retired Lieutenant General Yury Netkachev, a military expert, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He noted that the latest test of the country’s strategic nuclear forces came amid the special military operation in Ukraine and the armed conflict in the Middle East. "Our strategic adversary, the United States, as you know, has withdrawn from agreements on missile defense, the intermediate-and long-range missile test ban, and the Open Skies Treaty. The Pentagon has deployed nuclear weapons in Europe, which increases the risk that they may be used. Therefore, our strategic nuclear forces should be ready for that. And the enemy should know that they will receive a guaranteed nuclear missile response from us," he warned.

The retired senior officer also highlighted that Russia is continuing to upgrade its strategic nuclear forces. "Among other things, Russia’s latest strategic missile system, with the Avangard hypersonic cruise missile, has recently been put on combat duty. Apart from that, Russia has lunched the serial production of the Sarmat missile, the world’s most powerful, at the Krasmash plant. Just like the Avangard, the Sarmat can securely breach any existing or future enemy missile defense systems," Netkachev stated.


Izvestia: Brussels runs out of ideas for fresh anti-Russian sanctions as EU leaders meet

On Thursday, the EU leaders met in Brussels for a two-day summit. They discussed the latest escalation in the Middle East and support for Ukraine, and revisited their long-term budget for 2021-2027. The agenda also included a 12th package of anti-Russian sanctions, according to media reports. Although the news emerged prior to the meeting that the G7 is mulling a ban on Russian diamonds, aluminum and dual-purpose goods, no specific initiatives have so far been submitted to EU agencies. "The EU Council has not yet received any official proposals on a fresh package of sanctions," an EU official told Izvestia.

While the European Parliament is confident that the bloc will adopt another package before the year-end, Croatian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Ivan Vilibor Sincic doubts that any restrictions on Russian diamonds or uranium will be agreed upon given that the EU is too reliant on Russian exports of such goods. "I don’t think they will ever reach an agreement on diamonds, and especially on uranium," Sincic said, adding that the radioactive metal has been of particular value since France lost its effective control over Mali and Niger. "There is almost no space for further restrictions; this [sanctions] policy is disastrous for the EU," he concluded.

Any ban on Russian diamonds would mostly harm the EU, Konstantin Andrianov, associate professor in the Department of Institutional Economics at the State University of Management, told Izvestia. Russia can ultimately redirect its exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India, Israel and other markets, the expert said. "And any potential decline in Russian uncut stone exports would have a positive effect, as these diamonds would be redirected toward meeting the domestic jewelry sector’s needs," he added.

Since the launch of the special military operation in Ukraine, the European Union has imposed 11 packages of anti-Russian sanctions. Brussels has in effect acknowledged that the imposition of more sanctions is meant to weaken Russia, in line with the EU’s longer-term goal of inflicting a strategic defeat on Moscow. The EU's special envoy on sanctions, David O'Sullivan, recently announced that the bloc would not lift its ant-Russian sanctions even after active fighting ends in Ukraine, but fully intends to keep its sanctions on Moscow in place for another five to ten years.

However, the restrictions imposed by Brussels have not brought about the desired effect, the EU admits. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in late September that the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions had failed, while newly installed Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico warned that he would not support any new anti-Russian measures if they are harmful for Slovakia. Meanwhile, in Germany, the right-wing Euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has the support of more than 20% of the electorate, is calling on the federal government in Berlin to lift the restrictions altogether "for [the sake of the] citizens’ well-being."


Izvestia: US faces inability to rein in proliferation of guns after latest mass shooting

The latest mass shooting to rock American society, this time in Lewiston, Maine, on October 25, claimed the lives of 18 victims, with 13 others being wounded, Maine Governor Janet Mills said. The heaviest death toll to date this year may go even higher if US media reports that the number of victims of the Lewiston shooter could reach 22 are ultimately confirmed, thus surpassing the record for lethality set in 2019.

Maine is considered one of the safest US states, where no permit is required to carry a gun. Nor are people required to hold a license to buy weapons in most other US states. Alexander Vorobyev, a researcher at the Institute of Asian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Izvestia earlier that the United States lacks a nationwide database on the owners of weapons, nor is gun trading on the secondary market regulated. Against the backdrop of such a ready supply of arms, in the past decade Americans have bought around 150 mln weapons, The Guardian calculated. According to the Annual Report 2018 by Small Arms Survey, there were more guns than people in the country in that year.

The excessive supply of guns available to consumers and the government’s reluctance to adopt at least reasonable control measures sound like key problems to Saeed Khan, professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, who told Izvestia that US President Joe Biden is being hampered by members of Congress who are supported by groups lobbying against any legislative restrictions on the Constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms.

In contrast to the US’ well-developed defense industry, which deals with government-level customers, the firearms industry is interested in selling weapons to literally anybody, be they sane or insane, and the US domestic market for arms is huge, said Konstantin Blokhin, a leading research fellow at the Center for Security Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Jeremy Kuzmarov, editor-in-chief of Covert Action magazine, argues that gun control could be an important step. However, Republican members of Congress, he noted, have repeatedly blocked relevant bills as opposition to gun control is a bedrock plank in their political platforms, the more so as gun ownership gives a sense of empowerment to many, who view it as their inalienable Constitutional right. Biden or any other national leader can do little amid such widespread public sentiment, he concluded.


Vedomosti: Pashinyan questions benefit of keeping Russian military base in Armenia

In its dialogue with Yerevan, Moscow expects clarification on a recent remark by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who stressed the need "to diversify relationships in the security sphere," Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday, commenting on the Armenian premier’s interview with The Wall Street Journal. Pashinyan told the WSJ that Yerevan saw no advantage in continuing to host the Russian military base in Gyumri in northern Armenia amid Yerevan’s ongoing conflict with Baku.

The size of Russia’s 102nd Base in Gyumri is equivalent to a motor rifle brigade of up to 3,000 troops. In addition, a Russian aircraft group, including MiG-29 fighter jets and helicopters, is stationed in Armenia. Under the existing agreement, they can remain there until 2044.

Armenia has been revising its foreign policy toward achieving a rapprochement with the West for several years already, said Andrey Areshev, an expert on the Caucasus. According to him, since the Karabakh issue was actually resolved, Armenia has been seeking closer ties with Turkey. Moreover, in their quest for historical narratives, the Armenian authorities will try to blame all their troubles on Russia, in the context of the Karabakh conflict as well, he argues. "This would enable the Armenian side to reorient itself toward the West; later on, Yerevan will insist that Russia withdraw its troops from Gyumri," the expert surmised.

The West will not fully include Armenia in its orbit, however, says Armenian political scientist Grant Mikaelyan. Yerevan distancing itself from Moscow and seeking rapprochement with Ankara is quite enough for Western countries, he elaborated. Meanwhile, the policy course being pursued by the Pashinyan government does not enjoy strong popular support in Armenia, Mikaelyan added. As regards the Russian military base in Gyumri, the opinion of Pashinyan alone will not be enough here and the troops will be withdrawn only when Russia itself is ready to leave, the expert concluded.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia exports almost half of its crude oil to China

In the first eight months of 2023, Russian oil exports to China increased by 24.4% year on year to 79.9 mln metric tons, according to China’s customs bureau. Oil supplies are expected to exceed 100 mln metric tons this year, which means that almost half of Russian crude oil is being directed to China.

This year, Russia is China’s top oil supplier, as it overtook last year’s leader, Saudi Arabia. However, Russia relies on China for its oil exports more than China does. Ivan Timonin, a senior consultant at Implement, agrees that China is the largest market for Russian oil imports, indeed, with oil exports to the country growing. And it will likely remain so in the longer term, he believes, citing the deficit of oil production in China and the availability of infrastructure, in particular the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline.

However, the question arises as to whether Russia should diversify its oil exports by reducing its reliance on a single buyer. National Energy Security Fund Director Konstantin Simonov says Russia does need diversification, as the buyer can use its position as leverage in its relations with the supplier. However, he suggested considering the scope of competition for Russian crude in the market, with China and India being the largest oil buyers. While India has been something of a counterweight to China in Russian exports, Europe refused to buy Russian oil itself, he recalls. Therefore, the bulk of oil flows will go to the largest of the remaining markets, and Russia should not ignore them for diversification purposes, he insists. Moreover, Russia should try to increase supplies to other Asian markets on favorable terms, and the country has every opportunity to do just that.

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