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Press review: IOC reinstates Russia’s membership and Moscow, US nix nuclear disarmament

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, March 1


Izvestia: Russian Olympic Committee’s membership reinstated, RUSADA’s future uncertain

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) reinstated the membership of the Russian Olympic Committee in the organization on Wednesday. The decision was made after all of the final doping tests of Russian athletes in PyeongChang had been negative, Izvestia writes. "No doubt, this is a positive moment that the IOC has restored the ROC’s accreditation, but it is difficult now to forecast how our relations with this international organization will unfold in the future," President of the Russian Bobsleigh Federation Alexandr Zubkov told the paper. "We need to build future relations so that situations like Rio de Janeiro and PyeongChang never repeat again."

Meanwhile, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) is still considered to be non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Code, the paper writes. The organizers of international competitions in Russia may face more problems as RUSADA still doesn’t have its license. On April 1, 2018 a new document will enter into force under which WADA will recommend international federations accept applications for hosting international competitions only from those countries where national anti-doping agencies are fully functioning.

In the future, this provision may be included in the Code that will order international federations to reject Russia’s bids on holding international competitions, but this may occur not earlier than in 2021. However, this will create a challenging situation for some international federations, namely in such sports as chess and wrestling, and Russia hosts a huge number of these competitions, Izvestia says.

Meanwhile, the chances of RUSADA’s reinstatement are rather slim. For this, Russia needs to recognize the report of WADA’s independent commission headed by Richard McLaren, which had been officially rejected by the Russian Investigative Committee.

"Unfortunately, our contacts with WADA regarding the full reinstatement of RUSADA’s status are not over," ROC President Alexander Zhukov told Izvestia. "This won’t be any easier than the ROC’s reinstatement. This work needs to be completed as soon as possible," he stressed.


Kommersant: Russia, US unwilling to reduce nuclear arsenals

At the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Russia and the United States to further reduce their nuclear weapons. However, the delegations’ heads from both countries made it clear: neither Moscow nor Washington plan to continue disarmament in the near future, Kommersant writes. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov named a number of reasons for Russia shrugging off the UN chief’s call, namely the presence of US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and US deployment of the global missile defense system.

The US ambassador to the conference, Robert Wood, said further disarmament was impossible as rival and rogue states were threatening his country. Against this background, the prospects for a new initiative on reducing nuclear arsenals, which the UN chief promised to unveil soon, look doubtful, the paper says.

However, on February 18 a breakthrough was made at the conference. Sixty-five participants agreed to divvy up its work into five panels focusing on nuclear disarmament and reach an agreement on each of them separately. "For Russia the new format may create an opportunity to reset the discussion of the Russian-Chinese drafted Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space," expert of the PIR Center, an independent NGO, Andrey Baklitsky said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington intends to get tough on Moscow’s ‘influence’ in US

The Trump administration will look for the new ways of containing Moscow’s attempts at influencing US policy, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta. One of these steps will be allocating $40 mln to the Global Engagement Center (GEC) to finance private organizations countering foreign propaganda, including by Moscow, she said. US President Donald Trump is also considering other measures that may be announced in the next weeks or months.

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Russian-US relations have reached their low and there are no preconditions for restoring them, noting that the countries’ differences go far beyond Russia’s alleged meddling and also concern such issues as Syria and Ukraine.

Washington may soon introduce new sanctions against Russia, even going as far as freezing the accounts of major Russian banks and energy companies. In addition, more restrictions are possible in the defense sector. The reason for the new steps may be Moscow’s alleged violation of the New START Treaty.

The climate of Russian-US relations signals the beginning of a new Cold War, President of the US Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass noted.

The key goal for Moscow and Washington is now to agree on a clear set of rules for the game, Yury Rogulev, Director of the Franklin Roosevelt US Policy Studies Center at Moscow State University, told the paper. "Even when we talk about the Cold War, for example, a lot depends on its particular period. Yes, during the Soviet-US standoff tensions ran high, but we should give credit to both sides. They managed to hammer out rules on cooperation and also agree on the arrangement of weapons control."


Izvestia: Russian officials may be in US special counsel’s crosshairs

Robert Mueller, US Special Counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, may introduce charges against Russian officials, a senior fellow at The Atlantic Council Anders Aslund, who is taking part in compiling the sanctions lists, told Izvestia.

Mueller has already indicted 13 Russian citizens and the next step is going after officials in Moscow, he said. The special counsel has apparently uncovered much more information than US media outlets and the public know, and it will be shared soon.

Former UN Deputy Secretary General Sergey Ordzhonikidze told the paper the US possible decision on Russian officials would be "an example of the most inadequate foreign policy act."

"This is not the right way to pursue foreign policy. If charges against our officials are pressed, this will lead to the worst deterioration of bilateral relations. I cannot imagine anything worse," he explained.

"On the other hand, these plans are laughable. Certainly, this won’t yield any results. We can also open criminal cases against US officials in a similar way. But what does the future hold? Is this called foreign policy? These ideas come only from people who have never been engaged in foreign policy and don’t understand how international relations work," the diplomat stressed.


Vedomosti: Car plant closings unlikely in Russia, some brands may make a comeback

There is no risk that local car manufacturers may curtail production in Russia, according to a draft strategy of the car market’s development up to 2025, approved by the government earlier this week, Vedomosti writes. The Russian Economic Development Ministry and the Ministry of Industry and Trade put forward the strategy. A year ago, the document’s original text included this risk along with tougher sanctions, a lack of competence and means to develop car production, increase its efficiency and boost exports.

Consumer demand started growing last year, the paper says. This followed a long downturn (2013-2016) with market halving. By the end of 2017, car sales in Russia grew 12.4% to 1.48 mln vehicles, and production rose by 20.3% to 1.34 mln vehicles per year, the strategy says.

By 2025, the car market will reach 2.23 mln vehicles and output will grow to 2.21 mln vehicles (12-14% of them for exports), the document’s authors expect. Compared with the draft strategy published in May 2017, the forecast for the market and production improved by 1% and 4%, respectively.

The Russian authorities also expect that some brands will return to the market. "It is clear that now rivalry has somehow weakened - some car brands have left the market. Nevertheless, they may come back. Our market is open in this respect and one should be ready that rivalry may increase," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said.


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