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Press review: What froze Russia-NATO council and how a missile dispute impacts sanctions

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, February 26


Izvestia: Russian diplomat elaborates on freezing military contacts with NATO

NATO has put an end to practical military cooperation with Russia and is not ready to conduct a constructive dialogue within the Russia-NATO Council. Instead, the bloc is focusing on "strengthening the eastern flank against a non-existent threat", Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Izvestia. A source in the alliance confirmed to the newspaper that the military-political bloc is not ready to restore normal cooperation with Moscow.

Preparations for the Russia-NATO Council, which has not convened since July 2017, was suspended. Grushko told Izvestia, there are no obstacles from the Russian side, but the alliance has not put forward any topics for discussion that could improve the situation in bilateral relations.

"We are not avoiding dialogue. Regarding them, there is one obstacle. Based on its practical actions, NATO is beefing up the eastern flank against a non-existent threat, and all cooperation was terminated in the spheres of common interests," the diplomat noted.

The diplomat added, "The leadership of the alliance likes to talk about the need for de-escalation, preventing dangerous military incidents and misreading intentions, but does nothing to restore normal military communications."

"Today it is clear that no organization, even the strongest, as NATO likes to call itself, is capable of ensuring its security. You cannot isolate yourself from the world around you. Only cooperation on equal footing with all global players, including Russia, can improve the situation and can lead to such interaction measures that will cope with all the numerous threats," he added.

Similarly, NATO’s press service told Izvestia that the nature of the trans-Atlantic alliance’s relations with Russia and the desire for partnership will depend on a clear, constructive change in Russia's actions that testify to the observance of international law, international obligations and Russia’s responsibilities.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US-Russian missile dispute could lead to new sanctions

Washington might crank up additional sanctions pressure on Moscow due to the atmosphere of mistrust surrounding the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), former White House staff told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. According to Western experts, the Trump Administration is likely to not only expand its missile potential, but also introduce new sanctions against Russia.

Former Director for Russia on the National Security Council Jeffrey Edmonds stated that the Russian leadership’s breach of the INF Treaty remains Washington’s long-standing grievance. Given Trump's national security and national defense strategies, he is expected to continue developing military capabilities to nullify the effectiveness of the Russian system, he told the newspaper.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the US has already announced its intention to expand its missile capabilities. In particular, this includes a draft defense budget for 2018, which was agreed upon by both legislative chambers, earmarking funds for the development of medium-range land-based missiles. The authors of the initiative believe this action would be a response to the fact that Russia ignores its obligations under the INF Treaty.

The United States is considering Russia's position on the treaty a serious problem, which jeopardizes its allies in Europe. Moreover, it is another example of Russia violating the status quo and its political agreements, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council and Obama’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia Evelyn Farkas told the newspaper.

Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Igor Sutyagin told the newspaper that new sanctions against Russia due to disagreements over the treaty are possible. "The Russian defense industry now safely exists primarily because it carries out the Defense Procurement and Acquisition program to supply systems contracted earlier. The systems were developed in time after 2010, when there was a lot of money and good relations with Western suppliers. All those systems that are now successfully used by the Russian army include, to varying degrees, a share of imported parts," the expert said.

The idea that Russia is violating the INF Treaty indicates that a part of the US political establishment believes that the agreement is dead, Senior Adviser and Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at CSIS Olga Oliker told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.


Kommersant: Deputy PM notes Russian defense export orders portfolio hit $50 bln

The total volume of export orders by the Russian defense industry reached $50 bln, according to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who has been in charge of Russia’s defense industry, since 2011. In an interview with Kommersant, Rogozin talked about the recent changes in the defense industry, lessons learned from the Syrian campaign, and Western sanctions.

"The portfolio of export orders of the domestic defense industry currently comes to $50 bln, the volume of exports has been steadily growing over the past five years," Rogozin said.

At the same time, according to the Deputy Prime Minister, the president signed the new state armament program. "Yes, the document was signed by the president, originally the program was expected to be adopted in 2016, but due to the events of 2014, the decline in oil prices and currency exchange rate fluctuations, the government's financial and economic block could not issue an accurate macroeconomic forecast," he said.

Since 2014, Russia has replaced components produced in EU/NATO states with domestically made ones for almost 200 models of weapons and military equipment. In addition, it replaced Ukrainian components with Russian ones in around 100 models, according to Rogozin. Similarly, manufacturing S-500 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems on automobile chassis has already begun at the Nizhny Novgorod machine-building plant, Rogozin pointed out.

"A comprehensive assessment of weapons and equipment under combat conditions was conducted, and the effectiveness of the combat use of the new systems and complexes under extreme external factors was assessed," he said, adding that "it is better to have one expensive impact attack than one hundred random strikes." "At the same time, one should not turn a blind eye to the build-up of NATO's military potential, the US concept of a "global strike", the intention to deploy weapons in outer space, in addition to the deployment of strategic non-nuclear systems of precision weapons. We will have a sufficient answer to all this," Rogozin told Kommersant.


Izvestia: Russian Science Foundation to allocate $392 mln in grants to researchers in 2018

In 2018, the Russian Science Foundation plans to provide grants of up to 22 bln rubles ($392.4 mln), according to Head of one of the largest organizations that supports basic research in Russia, General Director of the Russian Science Foundation Alexander Khlunov. In an interview with Izvestia, Khlunov said that thanks to the programs that the foundation finances, there are changes in the activities of leading scientific and educational institutions.

"We currently support more than 2,500 scientific projects worth more than 16 bln rubles ($285.33 mln), and in 2018 are going to use about 22 bln rubles ($392.4 mln) for grants. We have not let out scientists down, we have not reduced grants, and the funding is on time," he told the newspaper.

In addition to physics of elementary particles and high energies, a significant share of projects funded by the organization now belongs to life sciences, Khlunov said. "The share of projects in biology, agriculture, fundamental medicine among the projects supported by the Fund is more than 25%," he told the newspaper.

"We are happy with these changes, because the 21st century will be defined by achievements in life sciences more than by the creation of nuclear potential. Those who solve the problem of oncological and neurodegenerative diseases will most likely own the world," he added.


Kommersant: Rostelecom eyes cloud gaming with Nvidia

Russia’s communications services provider Rostelecom has backed out of its plan to enter the computer games market by refusing to partner with Russian cloud platform LoudPlay and is exploring the possibility of cooperating with foreign players, including the US-based Nvidia, in order to "form" a new industry in Russia, According to Kommersant.

Thus, Rostelecom curtailed a project to create a joint venture with the cloud gaming platform LoudPlay, representatives of the parties told the newspaper. "The project was closed at the stage of establishing a joint venture. There are no obligations to each other," Andrey Polyakov, a Rostelecom representative told Kommersant.

Rostelecom and LoudPlay created Laudpleplay Rus in October 2016, and both companies were planning to promote the software for cloud gaming among Rostelecom’s clients with older computers, the company’s co-owner Vitaly Starodubov told Kommersant.

The decision to abandon the joint project was made after Rostelecom Senior Vice-President Vladimir Kirienko considered that financing the project through a joint venture is not the most effective way for both parties, Starodubov said, adding "It is more efficient to work with an external partner on commercial terms."

According to Starodubov, Rostelecom is looking at foreign partners for cloud gaming , for example, Nvidia GeForce Now service. "We are studying various opportunities for cooperation in the segment of cloud games, including Nvidia. In general, the industry is seen as promising and we plan to participate in its formation in the country," Rostelecom representative told Kommersant. Talks are being held with Rostelecom to provide Nvidia technological solutions, a source in the American company told the newspaper.

According to Kommersant, the potential market of cloud gaming is large, as only in Russia more than 86% of computer owners have outdated technology



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