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Press review: Saudi royal shift on Russia and State Department’s N. Korea detente plan

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, October 6
Saudi King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
Saudi King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin
© AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Saudi royal visit signals seismic Sunni shift on Russian foreign policy


Following yesterday’s talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the leaders signed over a dozen documents, including a deal on Riyadh purchasing Russia’s renowned S-400 missile systems. Also, the parties inked an agreement on localizing the manufacture of Kalashnikov assault rifles in Saudi Arabia. However, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, despite successful cooperation deals in defense, communications, space, trade and on investment, the fact that the Sunni world might soften its attitude towards Russian foreign policy is one of the most important political ramifications of the visit.

The Russian leader and the Saudi monarch also agreed on issues related to terrorism in the Middle East. On that matter, King Salman talked about Riyadh’s initiative to establish an international center for combating terrorist movements under the aegis of the United Nations. As for international crises, Riyadh believes it is necessary to find a political solution with guarantees for preserving the security, stability and unity of Syria.

However, the reaction of Moscow's key partners in the Middle East, Turkey and Iran, to the expansion of contacts between Russia and Saudi Arabia, is unclear, the newspaper wrote. "It is possible that the arrival of King Salman to Moscow could change the way the Sunni world perceives Russian foreign policy in the Middle East. Russia's military campaign in Syria, which de jure was aimed at combating jihadists, has de facto strengthened Damascus' position, and has become an irritant for the Sunni part of the Arab world,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

"In the eyes of a large part of the Arab population, Russia was perceived as a state that gravitated towards a Shiite minority because it has good relations with Iran and criticizes those who support the Syrian opposition and anti-Assad elements," Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vitaly Naumkin told the newspaper. "The fact that the ruler of this country, which is perceived as a symbol of the Sunni world, comes to Moscow is a sign of recognition that Russia is a serious player in the Muslim world," he said, adding that such visits are rare for the king.

One of the leading Russian experts in Arab studies agreed with the assumption that now the Sunni world can soften its attitude towards Kremlin foreign policy. "This will somewhat change the understanding of Russian foreign policy," Naumkin told the newspaper, commenting on the monarch's visit. "The visit will be perceived as evidence that Russia is also ready to adapt its Middle East policy to the needs of its new partners. I think that is also well understood in the Middle East," he said adding, "This is a turning point in Russia's relations with the countries of the Persian Gulf and the Sunni world."


Kommersant: State Department hammering out de-escalation plan for North Korea

The US State Department has put together a plan to de-escalate the conflict between Washington and Pyongyang, according to Kommersant. The strategy includes freezing North Korean nuclear missile tests for at least two months, in return the US promises to begin a direct dialogue with Pyongyang. This idea might correspond to the needs of North Korea, however, the experts interviewed by Kommersant believe that there are few chances that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will accept these conditions. The country is a few steps away from acquiring full-fledged nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. At the same time, the Trump administration is facing an uphill battle on foreign policy issues in general, and on North Korea in particular.

A Kommersant source dubbed this proposal "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's plan." If the US proposals are accepted in Pyongyang, the Party Foundation Day celebrated on October 10 will not see another nuclear test.

According to Asan Institute for Policy Studies expert Go Myong-Hyun, theoretically the proposals can be accepted. However, the expert explained to Kommersant that the key point here is that this must be a unified position within the US leadership. According to him, Donald Trump does not seem to agree with this, and if that is the case, this proposal would be worthless.

Pyongyang closely follows the discord among America’s ruling elite, Georgy Toloraya, Director of the East Asian department at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the newspaper. In his opinion, it makes the North Korean leadership doubt that the US would adhere to the terms of a deal or that it is just a ploy. "Negotiations, if they happen, will be held at the level of military and security services for some time, because Pyongyang does not believe in the influence of the State Department on this issue," the expert said. He noted that no security guarantees, other than from the United States, would sit well with Kim Jong-un.

Under these conditions, Toloraya believes it is not surprising that potential US-North Korean talks would go largely through Moscow. "Of all the states involved in the North Korean issue, Russia has the least of its own interests in it," Toloraya told Kommersant. "And that’s why it has North Korea’s greatest confidence out of all the countries surrounding Pyongyang," he explained.

According to Kommersant, an attempt to resolve the North Korean problem could become one of the few examples of constructive interaction between Moscow and the Trump administration.


Izvestia: Kaluga delegates visit France to promote Russian regional ties with Europe

A Russian delegation from Kaluga arrived in Montpellier, France on a business trip for the dedication of a monument to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. State Duma (lower house) Energy Committee Member Gennady Sklyar, the delegation’s participant, let Izvestia in on the various levels of interstate cooperation, new Russian-French projects and the opening of foreign companies in the Kaluga Region.

According to Sklyar, the parties plan to discuss prospects on creating so-called smart cities. "Representatives of Kaluga’s IT-business and their French partners will negotiate the use and further development of special information systems that manage city infrastructure. During the visit, we will also discuss the possibilities on exchanging medical experts, developing nuclear technologies for the food industry and joint production of new drugs for cancer treatment," he told the newspaper.

Sklyar noted that foreign investors are interested in opening enterprises in the Kaluga Region. "We are now beginning the construction of a new plant for the production of high-tech particle boards. An Austrian company has poured about 250 mln euros into the new enterprise. In 2018, five European enterprises are planned to open, including ones from Belgium, Britain, France, Switzerland and Hungary. The majority of them are related to pharmaceuticals," he stressed.

Speaking about the purpose of his visit, Sklyar said that such examples of "people's diplomacy" are extremely important. "Given today's conditions, when we see leading European powers using sanctions, we should not just sit around waiting passively until they are lifted. We need to overcome them and develop all forms of cooperation with individual countries. People's diplomacy means establishing interregional contacts in culture, business, the environment and science. We see that people are interested in establishing friendly relations with Russia," he told Izvestia.


Vedomosti: BMW intends to build full cycle plant in Russia

BMW intends to build a full-cycle car assembly plant in Russia, a source familiar with the carmaker’s management told Vedomosti. The main site for locating production is the Kaliningrad region with a special economic zone the residents of which receive budget subsidies.

The plant’s production capacity is likely to be consistent with sales in Russia, according to Vedomosti’s source. According to the source, the plant is likely to focus on welding and tinting (cars’) bodies. However, the stamping of body parts, as well as the production of engines and transmissions are unlikely, since the planned capacity of the plant is small.

According to Senior Vice President of BMW Hendrik von Kuenheim, the company is going to increase the level of localization of production. There are several technological zones in Russia where cars are manufactured, including Moscow, Kaluga, St. Petersburg, and Kaliningrad. The company has analyzed all the locations and are now hammering out a decision, he added. This process will take several weeks or months, he explained, and BMW’s investment might reach several hundred million euros.

Since 1999, BMW automobiles have been manufactured at Kaliningrad’s Avtotor facilities. Avtotor manufactures models from the 3, 5 and 7 series, and the X1-X6 crossover series. Its production capacity reaches around 40,000 cars per year.

"The project with BMW is active and ongoing. This year, new models of the 5th and 7th series were put into production. Next year, we will continue updating the model line," Avtotor’s representative said.


RBC: IT software rivals accuse Kaspersky Lab of reading customer data

International IT-company NovaStor sent emails to its potential customers and partners in Europe with a warning about the use of software products of its Russian competitors - Kaspersky Lab, Veeam and Acronis, RBC wrote citing the letter. Two sources in the IT market confirmed its authenticity to the newspaper.

The NovaStor letter reminded customers that US government agencies recently banned the use of Kaspersky Lab's programs in their departments. According to the company, using Russian software, for example from Kaspersky Lab, Veeam and Acronis, poses a danger that the user data will be read. NovaStor also recalls the legal consequences of inadequate data protection and the European Data Protection Regulation, which will enter into force in May 2018 and will establish rules for data processing.

Kaspersky Lab Representative Denis Zenkin told RBC that NovaStor's actions are not new, rivals have tried to use the uproar in the US to their benefit. "Marketing experts from some cyber security companies began taking advantage of the geopolitical tensions back in the summer. Most of these campaigns were immediately abandoned as unethical. Their top management publicly apologized, one example is the Avira and Malwarebytes anti-viruses’ manufacturers. The reaction of users was sharply negative," Zenkin told the newspaper.

The software companies, Acronis and Veeam, that are mentioned in NovaStor's letter are its direct competitors, RBC wrote. "Veeam is against generalizations made on national grounds. We are an international company with a head office in Switzerland and have employees all over the world. We are equally proud of both the cultural diversity of our employees and our customers' satisfaction with Veeam products. Our Consumer Loyalty Index is +73, which is direct evidence of the quality and reliability of Veeam Software solutions," a Veeam spokesman told RBC.

According to Opswat, a firm specializing in cybersecurity, Kaspersky Lab is currently one of the world's top 10 manufacturers of anti-malware protection with a market share of 4.5%. According to the Kaspersky Lab own data, about a third of its revenue, approximately $210 mln a year, comes from the European market.


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