Izvestia: Russia beefs up Mediterranean might to shield Syria

Russia is deploying a group of its most powerful warships in Moscow’s entire involvement in the Syrian conflict to the Mediterranean, Izvestia writes. It includes 10 vessels, and most of them are equipped with the Kalibr cruise missiles, and two submarines. A few more warships are expected to arrive soon. Political analysts note that Russia, as a guarantor of stability in the region, is preventing large-scale hostilities from breaking out again.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, ships from the Northern, Baltic and Black Sea Fleets and the Caspian Flotilla have been deployed to the Mediterranean.

The presence of Russian warships in Syria is in line with international law and has been authorized by Damascus, a Syrian lawmaker told the paper.

“Russia’s presence is important to prevent Western countries from hindering efforts to end hostilities as soon as possible. Russian forces act as a guarantor of stability in the region and are not letting a large-scale regional war break out,” he stressed.

The Syrian army is gearing up for an operation in the Idlib Governorate, the country’s only region controlled by militants. Russian warships will back the Syrian offensive, if necessary, says military expert Dmitry Boltenkov.

“That’s why eight Kalibr-equipped ships have been deployed to the Mediterranean simultaneously. These systems hit coastal targets effectively and can provide powerful fire support to Syrian troops during a ground operation,” the expert explained.

Russia’s increased presence in the Mediterranean is primarily due to the fact that the US naval forces are being deployed there and information on a potential false flag ‘chemical attack’ to be pinned on Damascus, the paper quotes political scientist Roland Bijamov as saying. “This provocation is quite possible. As soon as real preconditions for peace emerge, the Americans work to crush them,” he emphasized.


Kommersant: Europe shifts to green energy

The demand for natural gas in the European market began declining for the first time since 2015 dropping 2.6%, Kommersant writes citing data provided by Gazprom Export. This is likely to affect exports by the Russian energy giant Gazprom to Europe, although competition with other suppliers continues to languish. On the other hand, Gazprom increased its market share to a record-breaking 34.1% in the first half of this year.

The reduction in gas consumption has mostly affected the energy sector (4.2%), which stems from growing fuel prices. It is noteworthy that this niche was occupied by green generation (+19%) and hydroelectric power stations (+17%) rather than coal thermal power plants.

The emerging decline in demand for natural gas in Europe is a signal for Gazprom, which means that at current prices the potential for export growth is close to exhaustion. Although higher prices are more preferable for Gazprom than high sales volumes, it is important for the company to prevent the plunge in demand, the way it was in 2010-2013 (consumption in the EU dropped 30% at that time).

“A certain slowdown in demand has already occurred, a noticeable drop has been registered in Turkey, but that has not affected Gazprom’s exports so far,” the paper quotes Alexei Grivach from Russia’s National Energy Security Fund as saying. In his view, it is too early to weigh the situation relying on data obtained in the first half of this year. Temperatures during the coming winter will be crucial on that score. The expert also recalled that gas production in the Netherlands would be dropping quickly in the coming years, while Europe’s energy balance would be affected by nuclear power plants in Germany and old coal power plants. All that is expected to expand the niche for additional gas imports.


RBC: Brussels seeks to break away from US hegemony

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for stepping up efforts to boost the European Union’s capacity as an independent player on the global stage. In his speech on August 27, he lamented that the EU could not ‘rely on the US’ and that Washington does not consider Europe to be an independent force with the same degree of autonomy.

Macron’s comments testify to his desire to revive France’s image as a world power, RBC quotes Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, as saying. “The French leader’s goal is to return to the times when Paris could pursue an autonomous policy while remaining a US ally,” the expert explained.

The French leader’s statement echoed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s earlier remark that Europe could no longer depend on the United States. Brussels also criticized US President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and raise tariffs on European goods.

Despite bombastic statements, EU members have so far been unable to substantiate their intentions with serious steps, Lukyanov stressed, referring to the Iran nuclear deal. “European politicians say that Washington’s behavior is unacceptable for them and that the deal with Tehran remains in force. However, European corporations are withdrawing their assets from Iran fearing a potential cutoff from American markets. The EU realizes that the US has good levers to turn up the heat on them, but they took no specific measures to overcome this pressure, and their demarche boils down to slogans,” the expert went on to say.

The fate of the Nord Stream 2 project will show whether the EU states are actually ready to be independent from the US, Lukyanov added. “If Washington is able to pursue its agenda once again, that will be a manifestation of the EU’s inability to act independently. However, if Berlin can somehow shield this project, it will be possible to talk about the EU’s growing political independence from the US,” he explained.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Can Russia profit from India’s surge in defense spending

New Delhi has earmarked $6.5 bln for purchasing military equipment. The program to modernize its army envisages that most of its weapons and military equipment will be manufactured domestically. Russia, which is offering its equipment to India, is facing fierce competition from US and Western European corporations, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

India is not the only country, which is pumping up its military muscle. The arms race in Asia is proceeding at a rapid pace. Military spending in that part of the world has more than doubled since the beginning of the century to reach $450 bln. According to Australian Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, this stems from two factors, firstly, that China is creating military bases in the South China Sea and secondly, instability on the Korean Peninsula.

India’s Hindustan Aeronautics manufactures, together with its Russian partners, the Kamov Ka-226 helicopters. However, according to Ruslan Pukhov, Director of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, New Delhi tends to purchase Western-made military equipment. “It is not implausible though that India will buy a large batch of Mi-17 helicopters. That will be of great help to the Kazan helicopter plant, which is currently underloaded, because there are not too many contracts with foreign clients,” he noted.

Concerning the impact of US sanctions on Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation, Pukhov recalled that the US had made an exception for three countries, India, Vietnam and Indonesia, adding that the sanctions pressure would be heating up.

“That’s why we need to eye new practices, and perhaps, switch to settlements in national currencies or revive clearing schemes. Meanwhile, the arrangement, which was used for the past 20 or 25 years, can no longer be considered reliable,” the expert concluded.


Izvestia: Russia to invest in promoting tourism

Russia is expected to spend more than 4 bln rubles ($60,000) to promote tourism in global and domestic markets. More than half of these funds are set to be allocated from federal and regional budgets, Izvestia writes citing the federal draft program on the development of tourism until 2025.

Advertising will be able to boost the popularity of Russia’s huge tourism potential, says Dmitry Davydenko, Chairman of the Tourist Rights Protection Club. “For example, participating in international exhibitions is quite expensive, but these costs pay off in the end. Tourism presentations are exhibited there, contracts are signed with operators and travel agencies. All that is very important for the industry’s development,” he added.

Russian tourism products lack advertising and external communication, according to Elena Lysenkova, Director General of Hospitality Income Consulting. Against the backdrop of heightened interest in the country that emerged after the 2018 FIFA World Cup, a good platform has been created for Russia to start promoting its tourism products as early as next year, the paper quotes her as saying.

The effect of advertising will be much more noticeable in conjunction with other, no less important factors for cultivating tourism in Russia, says Alexei Zaretsky of Travelata travel agency. When consumers see that they are offered vacations in hotels with good services at adequate prices, when there is a well-developed infrastructure at vacation sites, people will be more willing to travel around the country, the expert said.


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