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Press review: How Trump’s Jerusalem move plays into Russia’s hands and INF impasse thaws

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, December 8


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: How Trump’s Jerusalem move plays into Moscow’s hands

The decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has damaged Washington’s image in the Arab world, as evidenced by the current backlash from Muslim countries. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that the US new position on the city’s status might enable Russia to bring some Middle Eastern countries towards Moscow’s orbit.

Russia shares the opinion of the Arab world about the consequences of the White House’s initiative. "We believe that now all efforts should be made to resume the negotiation process, we believe that there is an internationally recognized base for this," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said. "We would be ready to continue our joint efforts with other players directly involved in the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including those within the framework of the Middle East Quartet," he added.

Head of the French-Russian think tank Observo Arnaud Dubien told the newspaper that Trump's decision on Jerusalem could strengthen Russia's position in the Middle East, but mostly its public image rather than on the state level. The expert did not rule out Russia gaining more popularity in the Middle East in general, even in countries where its image has suffered or where its positions were not strong. On the other hand, Russia continues to maintain close relations with Israel.

Experts on Russia believe it is important to understand whom the US leader’s statement targets. "It seems that this is primarily targeted at the American public, possibly at an influential lobby. Many associate this with Trump's election promises and with the complexity of the political situation in his relations with different categories of the political and social establishment, social groups," Head of the Department of Oriental Studies and African Studies at the Higher School of Economics Evgeny Zelenev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

"It is unlikely that Russia will be able to use the decision on Jerusalem," Zelenev added. "Only if it wants to be viewed once again as a country that interferes in US domestic affairs ... In all other cases, we can give an assessment of Trump's actions, but real results are unlikely," he said.


Kommersant: Russia, US plan to reconvene commission on INF Treaty

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) between the United States and the Soviet Union is going to celebrate its 30th anniversary on December 8. Signed in 1987, in Washington by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and then US President Ronald Reagan, the treaty for the first time in history enabled the scrapping of a whole class of missiles. According to Kommersant, the parties seek to lift current mutual claims to the deal’s terms in the near future. Moscow and Washington are getting ready to resume the special control commission under the INF Treaty, which has not convened for a year.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the newspaper about the intention to hold the meeting in the near future, US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon confirmed the information. The last time the meeting was held in Geneva was last November. Prior to that, the commission had not assembled for 13 years.

However, according to Kommersant, the forthcoming meeting is not likely to eliminate the threat posed by the treaty. "Last year's commission meeting ended, in fact, to no avail, and since then new circumstances have arisen that make it very difficult to look at the future of this key bilateral agreement in the sphere of arms control," the newspaper wrote.

Diplomats from Russia and the United States, however, are more optimistic. Both Ryabkov and Shannon assured Kommersant that their countries are committed to the implementation of the INF Treaty and consider its preservation to be extremely important. However, at the same time, both called accusations against their countries unfounded and blamed the collapse of the agreement on the opposite side.


Izvestia: Russia initiates conference of intra-Libyan dialogue

Russia is launching a conference of national dialogue in Libya along the lines of the national congress in Syria, Head of the Russian contact group on the intra-Libyan settlement of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the State Duma Lev Dengov told Izvestia. Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that this idea might work and in the long term it could lead to stabilizing the divided North African country.

"In Italy a few days ago, Russia’s initiative on the convocation of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress was positively assessed, it was noted that this is a unique format of communication. Why not apply it in Libya, given that we have already built dialogue with all parties to the conflict," Dengov told the newspaper.

An informed source in Tripoli’s government told Izvestia that the parties are already hashing over the convergence of positions and "in this context, Moscow's initiative will be met positively."

Chief Researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies in the Russian Academy of Sciences Anatoly Yegorin, told the newspaper that if Russia comes out with a conciliatory initiative, there will definitely be a chance for success. "In contrast to the West, Moscow has maintained contacts with all the opposing sides in Libya in recent years. This pleased the Libyans and contributed to strengthening our positions. Thus, people will treat Russia as an intermediary with greater confidence," the expert explained.

"The crisis in Libya has dragged on, and in contrast to Syria there are still no positive developments. In this regard, a new initiative that would allow the conflicting parties not to repeat accusations against each other at different venues, but to begin negotiating, will be relevant," Izvestia concluded.


Kommersant: Government draws up list of companies to be shielded from West’s sanctions

The Russian government proposed a preliminary list of companies, whose purchases might be transferred to a closed trading platform because of the potential widening of US sanctions, Kommersant wrote after seeing the list. It is highly likely that the list, containing 126 organizations overall, describes the government’s guess about who might fall under new sanctions. The most complicated parts of the list include more than ten private banks, and the closure of financial statements of virtually the entire Russian military-industrial complex would be the most sensitive for investors.

The list of 126 companies was mentioned in the draft annex to the government directives for the governing bodies of state companies. Based on its content, this is a probable list of counterparties for state enterprises, and the details of their deal would be anonymous. A significant part of them is in the state property. According to the newspaper that would be: Gazprom, Rosneft, Russian Railways, Rosseti, Rostelecom, and others. Recommendations were made to the companies to initiate a meeting of their boards of directors before December 1 to change the purchasing policy of their JSC and subsidiaries. All state companies were encouraged to approve the possibility of non-disclosure of information about individual transactions.

According to the newspaper, a significant part of the "list of 126" already appears on the sanctions lists of Ukraine, the EU and the United States. "Obviously, the need to close information on transactions of large state-owned companies and, in general, any structures affiliated with the state is caused by the risk of "attracting" sanctions and possible assets seizures," the newspaper wrote. The list is extremely wide in terms of the military industrial enterprises, which includes almost all significant Russian defense companies. As for logistics companies, there are no big changes in comparison with the lists of the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) - companies connected with the business of Rosselkhozbank, for example, are not included on the list, unlike the US Treasury.

Kommersant notes, with the exception of banks, fears that the list might be used to close the information of large companies is confirmed only in part. The government does not seem to have any direct impact on corporate markets. "It seems that the government is ready to fully anonymize all information, including civil transactions of the entire defense industry, part of Rostec, and all others," the newspaper wrote.


Izvestia: VEB CEO believes Siberian cities ideal for blockchain projects

Siberian cities are perfect for carrying out blockchain technology projects, Vnesheconombank (VEB) CEO Sergey Gorkov told Izvestia.

"Siberia is a unique region of Russia, seemingly created for IT hubs. Rivers such as the Ob, the Yenisei and the Lena provide tremendous prospects to get access to cheap electricity. The cold climate enables less expenditures on server cooling, while the scientific facilities of Krasnoyarsk and Novosibirsk offer up highly skilled programmers," he said.

According to Gorkov, all this together creates conditions for testing blockchain projects and creating hubs in Siberia.

"We had an idea. There is an excess of electricity, and we do not export it much, which is due to logistical restrictions. There was a plan to transfer cities with excess energy to mining and export hashcodes," Gorkov told the newspaper.

Blockchain technology is a growing list of records, or blocks, which are linked and secured through cryptography. Each block contains a hash pointer as a link to a previous block, timestamp and transaction data. Thus, it is impossible to make changes in the database distributed across different blocks. According to experts, this technology increases the reliability of operations, and significantly diminishes the need for lawyers and other professionals servicing transactions.



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