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Press review: Moscow sharing Syria intel with Turkey and Russia's defense spending

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, October 24


Izvestia: Moscow sharing intelligence with Ankara on Syria

Russia has already started cooperating with Turkey on exchanging intelligence data needed for carrying out the Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria. According to Izvestia, the agreement was reached during last week’s talks between Russian and Turkish Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Experts believe that cooperating with Ankara on Syria may become more beneficial for Russia than cooperation with the US.

First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Defense and Security at the Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Franz Klintsevich, said Turkey quietly joined the pool on intelligence sharing created by Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran. "We pass on to the Turkish side radio intercept, radar data and imagery intelligence data that may be of interest to them," the senator said. "In response, they also share data. The Turks have very efficient special services and a very good network of agents in Syria."

The current cooperation between the Russian and Turkish armed forces has emerged thanks to Ankara’s decision to revise its foreign policy priorities after this summer’s failed coup, Klintsevich noted. "Although Turkey is a NATO member-state, it got very offended at the coup attempt that may have been the indirect work of certain Western powers, according to some data," he explained. "President Erdogan and Turkey’s leadership understood that they can have deals with Russia."

Vladimir Avatkov, Director of the Center of the Oriental Studies, International Relations and Public Diplomacy, said the direct dialogue between Moscow and Ankara is very important. "The Turks may be very useful for us in Syria and that’s why the priority in the Russian-Turkish relations now is establishing cooperation in defense and intelligence." "Turkey controls whole regions in northern Syria and has sway on very powerful groups." Ankara is showing its readiness to reach a compromise with Moscow in the Syrian issue, the expert said. However, Ankara is unlikely to be an "easy partner," but cooperation with it is necessary and beneficial for Russia, he stressed.


Kommersant: Anti-IS fighters fail to find common ground in build-up to Mosul offensive

The operation to take Mosul, the last remaining major Iraqi city under the Islamic State’s (terrorist group, banned in Russia) control, is facing more serious problems, Kommersant writes. A conflict erupted between the key participants of the US-led coalition - Turkey and the Iraqi government - which heated up to a point, where a visit by Pentagon chief Ashton Carter to the region was needed to resolve it.

But Carter’s talks in Ankara and Baghdad failed: the Iraqi authorities were adamantly against the plans for Mosul’s liberation by the Turkish military, the paper writes. However, media reports said on Sunday that Turkey’s army was already taking part in the offensive despite the protests by the Iraqi authorities. The unwillingness of Ankara and Baghdad to work together towards success in the anti-IS fight could disrupt the key military operation in the Middle East being carried out by the outgoing administration of US President Barack Obama. The conflict between the coalition members flared up at a very inappropriate time since now is the decisive moment in the fight for Mosul. Until recently the forces fighting IS carried out operations on the city’s outskirts and only now have they approached it directly. On Sunday, Kurdish sources reported that the coalition forces were just five kilometers away from Mosul. At this stage of the operation, as fighting in city streets looks imminent, with the urban population numbering roughly 1.5 mln people, this could turn into a very bloody and lengthy battle.


Izvestia: UN seeks to step up its role in Syrian settlement

Amid the criticism over Ban Ki-moon’s inactivity, the new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is set to boost the organization’s role in settling the Syrian conflict. The United Nations is eyeing an opportunity for the creation of a special body for solving the long-running crisis, a high-ranking source in the UN Secretariat told Izvestia on Monday. The new UN chief has already set up a team to analyze the situation.

Similar bodies already exist in the framework of the UN - one of them deals with Palestine and another with Lebanon. Christopher Gunness, Spokesman and Director of Strategic Communications at United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told the paper that the funds allocated for Syria’s assistance reached $329 mln in 2016, but this is not enough. Sergey Ordzhonikidze, former Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, has not ruled out that a new body for the Syrian settlement could be set up in the UN, but there is need for support from the UN Security Council.

Theodore Karasik, a senior advisor at the Washington-based Gulf State Analytics center, told the paper that the creation of a new body at the UN may become the organization’s most important mission and a positive step for the new leadership. In an interview with France 24 TV on Sunday, the new UN chief said a settlement on the Syrian crisis was his priority task.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukraine’s Tymoshenko wants secrets of Minsk 3 deal revealed

Ukraine’s Batkivschyna (Fatherland) Party leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is demanding that the president’s team publicize the protocols of the latest talks by the Normandy Quartet, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The politician told reporters that the authorities are hiding some agreements from the public. "This is dangerous. There can be no secrets from the Ukrainian people regarding the settlement in the east," she stated, hinting that the parties had discussed a plan behind the closed doors on "legalizing the occupation of the Ukrainian territory."

The October 19 talks between Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Pyotr Poroshenko in Berlin ended without signing any documents, joint statements or a news conference, the paper says. Statements by the four leaders on the discussion were marked by inconsistency. The Ukrainian opposition has expressed concern that the president may have made concessions which they would view as betraying national interests.

Director of the Institute for Political Crisis and former member of Ukraine’s Council of National Security and Defense Stepan Gavrish said the West is tightening pressure on the Poroshenko team for a settlement in Donbass. The main issue is local elections. However, full compliance with the demands of Moscow and the self-proclaimed republics could "not only create a terrible precedent for global stability, but would also contribute to a parade of local sovereignties in Ukraine," he warned. Experts believe that the situation in Donbass now is again on the brink of escalation.


RBC: Russia’s defense, national security spending to surge to $32 bln

Despite the current economic recession, Russia’s authorities have decided against cutting back military expenditures, RBC business daily writes. The draft budget says that annual spending on national defense will increase to 2 trillion rubles ($32 billion) from 1.94 trillion rubles ($30.9 billion) by 2019. These figures include the "closed part" of the budget that grew to 22.3% this year. So, the spending on national defense in the next three years will increase by 63 bln rubles ($1 bln).

Due to the emergence of the National Guard, also known as Rosgvardiya, this April, spending on Russia’s internal forces will almost double the paper writes.

The priority for authorities now is the redistribution of the budget in favor of foreign policy and security, and also social welfare payments to the public for maintaining stability, head of the Center for Economic and Political Reforms Nikolay Mironov told RBC. However, cutbacks are expected for education, healthcare and the domestic economy, despite the fact that these are strategic sectors, he said.


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