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Press review: Russian aircraft carrier as means of truce talks and China as new US rival

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, November 11
Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov AP Photo
Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov
© AP Photo


Izvestia: Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov warship scares Aleppo militants into ceasefire talks

The arrival in the eastern Mediterranean Sea of Russia’s naval task force led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier has forced militants encircled in eastern Aleppo to search for possibilities to escape, Izvestia writes on Friday. So far, neither Russian, nor Syrian aviation have been delivering strikes on the terrorists, but things may change in the near future.

A source in Syria’s security agencies told the paper that Russia’s growing presence in Syria and the arrival of the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier has forced the militants in Aleppo to come to the negotiating table for a ceasefire. "Of late, the terrorists in Aleppo have started putting forward initiatives on a truce. We link this to the arrival of the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea and reports of its readiness to carry out strikes on the militants’ positions using Kalibr missiles. In general, we can say that the terrorists have been very demoralized," he said.

Syrian expert in strategy and geopolitics Hassan Hassan said all attempts of the militants to change the power landscape on the battleground have failed to produce their desired result. "They cannot do anything. The pressure on the terrorists is not only growing but they are starting to grasp the reality of the situation and this forces them to make proposals on holding talks," he said, adding that the West cannot provide them with any support. The expert did not rule out that like the last time the extremists’ call for talks was a ploy for a pause to be able to regroup.

The surging Russian naval force in the Mediterranean Sea signals the desire to cut off the militants’ supply in eastern Aleppo since they continue to receive weapons and ammunition. Any possible strikes from the Admiral Kuznetsov would target only the terrorists adjacent to Aleppo, and not the city itself which is home to tens of thousands of civilians, the expert added.

The proposal on talks was voiced by the Jabhat Ansar al-Din and the Levant Corps, but the Al-Nusra Front (terror group, outlawed in Russia) remains the key force in eastern Aleppo. Talks on the withdrawal of the militants of the two groups are possible, but there is still the need to mop up the city of the remaining terrorists, Izvestia writes.


Kommersant: China may replace Russia as key rival under Donald Trump

Once Donald Trump takes the reigns as US president, there will be a shift in priorities in America’s relations with the world, Kommersant business daily writes. China could once again become the key US opponent as it was under previous US administrations, experts interviewed by the paper said. Among Trump’s national interest priorities, defending the US market is high on the list. So, any plans to introduce protectionist measures against China could deliver a serious blow to its economy.

Meanwhile, Russia is expecting the sanctions to be lifted and relations with the West to be gradually restored. Washington may even try to seek Moscow’s support in containing China, the experts said.

"Indeed, China has fears that relations between Washington and Beijing under Donald Trump will deteriorate," said Alexander Lomanov, Chief Researcher of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies. Expert of the Russian International Affairs Council Maxim Suchkov said Moscow is hoping for a shift in national security policy in the White House where "Russia won’t be a major threat." But to achieve this goal Russia’s authorities should take the respective steps, he said.

"First of all, there is the need to reduce the level of the anti-American rhetoric and grassroots anti-Americanism and the dialogue with the US representatives should focus on the mutual threats," Suchkov stated. "If the new US administration is more receptive towards Moscow’s signals and largely focuses on the search for new possibilities with America, a reasonable containment of China would become a much more relevant task for Donald Trump than confrontation with Russia."

Director of the Russia-East-West Center Vladimir Sotnikov shares the opinion, saying that Trump is a pragmatist rather than an ideologue and understands that Russia does not threaten any key US interests. "These vital interests are not in the post-Soviet space and Ukraine, but in other regions. This means that a path opens for dialogue with Moscow and for possible geopolitical exchanges that would have never been accepted by a Democratic administration in the White House," Sotnikov said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Donbass could be bargaining chip for Crimean status with new US administration

The arrest of another group of Ukrainian saboteurs in Crimea coincided with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics taking a tougher stance at the Minsk talks, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Kiev suggests that the stepped-up activities by Russia’s Federal Security Service and the self-proclaimed republics in Donbass are linked to Moscow’s plans to raise the stakes in the run-up to a potentially new phase of dialogue with the United States.

Military expert Oleg Zhdanov said the incident in Crimea is a specific signal for the new US president. "Russia is being proactive. They create a picture for Donald Trump…that Ukraine is a country of terror and saboteurs and that there should be no dialogue with us, and we should be only pressured," he told the 112 Ukraine TV channel.

A source close to authorities said the new developments in Crimea and the deterioration in Donbass over the past weeks has the goal to bring the US back to the beginning of talks on Ukraine’s future. "For Russia, Crimea is the principal issue, while Donbass is a bargaining chip," he said, recalling that back in 2014 the situation in eastern Ukraine was artificially provoked to create a stage for further recognition of Crimea as Russia’s territory. "Now they tell US authorities again that the proposal remains in force: Russia may solve the Donbass crisis, if the US helps it recognize Crimea. We are back to the drawing board," the source said.

Experts say in spring when the Trump administration starts working in full the issue on resolving the Donbass conflict in exchange for the Crimean status may become topical again.

Political scientist Vladimir Gorbach said regardless of the situation in eastern Ukraine recognizing Crimea as part of Russia in exchange for ending the war in Donbass is impossible. The Americans simply cannot abandon their previous position on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, he said. And Ukraine’s authorities cannot give up part of the country’s territory for the sake of settlement in another one.


Izvestia: Russia’s upper house delegation plans to visit Tehran to boost ties

A delegation from Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, led by Speaker Valentina Matviyenko will pay a visit to Iran on November 13-14 for the first time over the past several years, Izvestia says. During the visit, the senators plan to discuss with their Iranian counterparts bilateral cooperation in nuclear energy, trade and economic relations and military and technical cooperation.

Matviyenko told Izvestia that Russia and Iran are paying special attention to the settlement in Syria and the war on terror. "We share the opinion that only the full destruction of terrorists and their armed formations, channels of financial, information and other support, including on Syria’s territory, will create preconditions for ending the bloodshed and returning a peaceful life to the region," she said.

Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council Ilyas Umakhanov said the upcoming visit is aimed at bringing inter-parliamentary cooperation between the two countries to a higher level. Viktor Ozerov, who heads the upper house’s committee on defense and security, said Matviyenko could also meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He recalled that after the UN Security Council’s sanctions against Iran were lifted, Russia’s prospects expanded for large-scale cooperation with Tehran ranging from nuclear energy, economy to uniting efforts on the anti-terror fight in the Middle East.

"I think this is a timely trip, since the trade and economic relations of the two countries need to be strengthened, the political and diplomatic relations of Russia and Iran have much in common and this should be deepened and expanded. This will be one of the tasks for the delegation of the upper house of parliament," said Vladimir Sazhin, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


RBC: China becomes biggest importer of Russia’s foodstuffs

China has become the major buyer of Russian foodstuffs this year, replacing Turkey, RBC business daily reported on Friday analyzing data of the Federal Customs Service. In January-September, China’s imports of Russian foods exceeded $1.13 bln, a 22.1% increase compared with the same period last year. China’s share in the overall imports of Russian foodstuffs reached 10.8%, according to the Russian Export Center.

Experts interviewed by the paper said China is expected to remain Russia’s major importer in the future. The country mostly imports Russia’s frozen fish, soy, sunflower and soy oil. China also became the second-largest buyer of Russian chocolate after Kazakhstan, said Executive Director of the Research Center for Confectionery Market Elizaveta Nikitina. That said, last year, China was not even among the top ten importers, she said.

Most notably, China’s imports of Russian ice cream quintupled to $4.2 mln.

The growing middle class is the major food consumer in China but it distrusts local producers, experts told the paper. To feed the population of more than 1 billion, China was earlier forced to use a great amount of chemicals, President of the Russian-Asian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Vitaly Monkevich said. "That’s why today the issue of natural organic products and healthy food is very vital in China," he stressed, adding that the demand for these goods is growing despite their high price.

The ruble’s depreciation became an encouraging factor for Russian goods which have not changed their quality, but have become cheaper now. Russia’s producers have started entering foreign markets more actively to get revenues in foreign currency, said Mikhail Mamonov, Director of International Projects at the Russian Export Center.

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