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Press review: US drives Pakistan into arms of Russia, China and Iran deal jitters return

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday

Kommersant: Trump pushes Pakistan into the arms of Beijing and Moscow

Islamabad is suspending large-scale military-technical cooperation with its chief ally, Washington. Pakistan’s unprecedented move came in response to a decision made by US President Donald Trump to freeze aid programs to the South Asian nation, which is accused of failing to honor its allied commitments and aiding and abetting terrorism.

The chill in relations between Washington and Islamabad is nudging Pakistan towards rapprochement with China and Russia, which can eventually result in a change in the balance of power and a redistribution of roles in the Asian region, Dmitry Mosyakov, Director of the Center for South-East Asia, Australia and Oceania Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Kommersant. "Considering that Islamabad needs foreign assistance, it will try to receive it from Moscow and Beijing, which likewise have problematic relations with Washington," he explained.

Meanwhile, Pakistani political scientist Ahsan Chaudhary said in an interview with the paper that, no matter how strong Pakistan’s ties with China and Russia may be, its rapprochement with them has certain limits. In his view, one should not expect relations between the US and Pakistan to cool down dramatically. What we see now is some kind of bargaining rather than any fundamental change in position, he stressed.

However, the basic reason why cooperation between Washington and Islamabad will not be frozen altogether is Pakistan’s role as a transit country for the US and NATO in their operation in Afghanistan. "There is no alternative to this transit. Logistics issues need to be tackled regardless of the formidable and unpredictable statements made by Donald Trump," Ivan Konovalov, Director of the Center for Strategic Trends Studies, told the paper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Iran nuclear deal becomes major global headache again

The United States is expected to make a decision on Friday on whether or not to comply with its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for Iran signed in Vienna in 2015, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed last week that Washington could reconsider the terms of the deal reached by Iran and a group of six world powers soon. Similarly, US National Security Advisor, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, recently spoke out in favor of imposing additional sanctions on Iran over the situation in that country.

According to Professor Vladimir Sazhin, Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, Tehran’s military and political activities are the key reasons behind Washington’s anti-Iranian moves. Iran’s actions in the Middle East and its focus on Shia groups in Syria and Iraq make it possible for it to dominate the region despite US active military presence there.

Besides, Washington is concerned about Tehran’s missile program, support for terrorism and the human rights situation in Iran," he explained in an interview with the paper.

The expert noted that the nuclear deal is a huge achievement for global diplomacy, adding that its breakdown would be an irreparable mistake.

Sazhin stressed that Washington’s policy aimed at derailing the agreement would further exacerbate relations between Tehran and Washington, especially in light of the recent protests in Iran. Moreover, Tehran has warned more than once that, if the nuclear deal collapses and tough sanctions are slapped on Tehran, Iran could withdraw from the IAEA and resume its nuclear program at an accelerated pace.


Izvestia: Moscow hopes Ankara takes constructive approach to Syria

Russia is interested in maintaining constructive cooperation with Turkey on Syria, but has no plans to make concessions on such sensitive issues as the fate of the Jabhat al-Nusra terror group (outlawed in Russia), three Russian diplomatic sources told Izvestia. They commented on Turkey’s move to summon the Russian and Iranian ambassadors to its Foreign Ministry because of the Syrian army’s offensive in the Idlib province.

“We are working productively within the Astana format, and this work must continue. However, our principled stance is that Jabhat al-Nusra should be eliminated, and we have no intention of abandoning this position,” one of the sources emphasized.

Russia’s Federation Council has rejected all accusations that the Russian Aerospace Forces had carried out strikes against the armed opposition in Idlib, Franz Klintsevich, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s (upper house) Defense and Security Committee, told the paper. "We target only terrorists, which makes some players angry, since a lot of money was invested in these militants," the senator said, adding that NATO member-countries’ special services continue to provide assistance to Jabhat al-Nusra.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Samir Suleiman, head of the Media Affairs of the Syrian Defense Ministry's Political Office, stressed in an interview with Izvestia that Ankara supplies weapons to armed groups in Idlib, primarily Jabhat al-Nusra. "This group is currently sustaining major defeats in spite of supplies and weapons coming from Turkey. As for the story with the Russian and Iranian ambassadors, Ankara is trying to show the terrorists that it still backs them," the general pointed out.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: EU’s ‘green energy’ drive may weaken Russian gas exports

Europe’s energy sector is becoming increasingly more ‘green’ every year, and this casts doubt on the forecasts of a never-ending increase in Russian gas exports, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The New Year kicked off with a symbolic record in Germany. According to German media, on January 1, for the first time renewable energy sources provided 95% of the country’s power demand. However, that lasted for several hours only due to strong wind, slight sun and relatively low demand for electricity due to holidays. Thanks to the autumn hurricanes, the wind generators in the 28 EU member-states produced 24.6% of the total energy consumption in one day.

Alexander Perov, Special Project Manager at the National Energy Security Fund, noted in an interview with the paper that the development of renewable energy sources would hardly affect gas consumption volumes in Europe. "The most affected type of fuel under pressure from green energy is coal, which, as we know, is considered to be the dirtiest energy source from the standpoint of environment and influence on the climate. Moreover, gas, along with renewable energy, is seen as an alternative to coal in the energy sector. One should not forget that solar and wind generation must be backed up by traditional energy sources," the expert explained.

"Europe’s long-term strategy boils down to removing coal from the energy balance, its use will be halved by 2040. The same will apply to nuclear power plants. These volumes will be compensated by renewable energy sources (sun and wind), which envision a 4-percent growth every year, and other sources, but not at the expense of gas," Vyacheslav Kulagin, department head at the Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained in an interview with the paper. "Since gas production in Europe is declining, optimists are certain that our exports could grow in the future. However, tough competition from liquefied natural gas can prevent new Russian export records."


Vedomosti: FIFA World Cup will bolster Russian beer market, experts say

The 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia this coming summer will boost beer consumption, Vedomosti writes citing data provided by Morgan Stanley. The investment bank’s analysts estimated football fans’ impact on beer consumption at 2%. As a result, Russia’s beer market is expected to grow during 2018, for the first time in a decade.

Beer sales in Russia, which have declined steadily over the past few years, could indeed grow in 2018, the Russian Brewers’ Union confirmed. To begin with, there is no bad news. The excise duty has not risen in 2018, no new restrictions have been imposed, says Kirill Bolmatov, Corporate Relations Director at Heineken Russia. A substantial contribution has been made by non-alcoholic beer, which is the most promising segment at the moment, he added. Despite a decrease in beer consumption, sales of non-alcoholic beer grew by 5.6% from January to September 2017, according to the Russian Brewers’ Union.

Football can be of help as well. As a rule, during World Cups, beer consumption in a host country grows by about 5%, Oraz Durdyev, Legal & Corporate Affairs Director at SUN InBev, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, pointed out. "This is due, to a large extent, to the established consumption culture in Western countries, because beer is always associated with football," the paper quotes him as saying.

In addition to that, the event will be held in the summer, and this is the peak season for brewers, said Pavel Filippov, PR manager at Efes Rus.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review