Press review: Takeaways from trilateral Sochi talks and no unilateral Afghan pullout by US

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Izvestia: Moscow gears up to respond to new US sanctions

Russia reserves the right to respond to Washington’s new restrictive measures if they are introduced, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Andrey Klimov told Izvestia. According to politicians and experts interviewed by the newspaper, the Russian economy has adapted to the sanctions pressure and can cope with the upcoming round of punitive measures. However, some potential weakening of the ruble can occur. Sources in Washington’s political circles told Izvestia that introducing these measures has not yet been fully decided on, and the establishment is in disagreement about the need for such restrictions.

A source in political circles in Washington told Izvestia that so it is not clear whether the package would be approved. “The main purpose of such documents is to surgically strike the Russian economy and currency. Even if these sanctions are not taken, the effect for Russia from just the news of these intentions will be negative,” another source told the newspaper.

Nevertheless, Moscow reserves the right to respond to the restrictions if they are adopted, Klimov informed Izvestia. “We need to respond not to words, but to specific actions,” he said noting the need to look at the final restrictions.

According to the legislator, the restrictive measures are going to be introduced under far-fetched pretexts, and their real reason is to deter Russia. In addition, “obviously unrealistic conditions” were put forward for Moscow, which means imposing sanctions will continue, he added.

President of the Institute for Energy and Finance Vladimir Feigin told the newspaper that the bill seems to be more about financial measures, limiting the opportunities for the oil and gas industry to attract investment. “I do not think that these financial restrictions will affect our oil and gas companies. They are less dependent on Western funding,” he pointed out.

 

Izvestia: Sochi’s trilateral talks to speed up Syrian peace process

The Astana negotiating process has become an effective mechanism for normalizing the situation in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the trilateral Sochi summit between Russia, Turkey and Iran. Following the talks, Moscow, Ankara and Tehran adopted a joint statement in which they once again confirmed their “firm and unwavering commitment” to the unity and territorial integrity of the Arab Republic. The Russian side will inform Damascus about the outcome of the recent negotiations “through working channels,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Izvestia. That said, Turkey will host the next trilateral summit in April.

According to the joint document, the Syrian conflict has no military solution and can only be resolved through a political process led and carried out by Syrians themselves with the assistance of the UN.

Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Izvestia that Ankara is ready to indirectly contribute to resolving the situation in the war-ravaged Middle Eastern country. However, he added that Ankara would not permit any terrorist organization to function in Syria, including Kurdish units that operate against Turkey.

According to First Deputy Chair of the Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov, such meetings show that complex global issues can be solved without the United States.

Chairman of the Russian Society of Friendship and Business Cooperation with Arab Countries Vyacheslav Matuzov mentioned to Izvestia that the Sochi talks were held simultaneously with the Middle East conference in Warsaw spearheaded by the United States. Both meetings, according to the expert, demonstrated to the world two different approaches on to how to solve the greatly complicated problems dogging the Middle East region.

 

Kommersant: US pullout from Afghanistan to be coordinated with NATO

The United States will not withdraw troops from Afghanistan without NATO approval, Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told his counterparts at a meeting of NATO member defense chiefs. At the same time, the pullout will not happen until the Taliban (outlawed in Russia) and the Afghan government conclude a peace deal. According to Kommersant, despite political support for the peace process in Afghanistan, NATO representatives are extremely wary of Moscow’s initiatives in this direction.

A source in the alliance’s headquarters told Kommersant that the contingent would not be increased, adding that the rest of NATO would follow the United States if they withdrew the troops.

The NATO source told Kommersant that support for both the “Moscow format”, and especially for the negotiations between Afghan politicians and the Taliban in Brussels, which took place on February 6, has been lukewarm. The reason is that “Afghan government representatives haven’t participated in them,” Russia “enters into various peculiar negotiations with the Taliban,” and the Kremlin’s special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, “says that NATO’s policy is a complete failure and the alliance should leave the country,” the source told the newspaper.

Moscow, in turn, has its own problems with the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan. On February 12, Russia’s ambassador to the country, Alexander Mantytsky, stated that NATO is not coping with its chief task, which is to create efficient Afghan security forces that would be able to independently protect the country and ensure law and order.

 

Vedomosti: Novatek might receive state support in case of new US sanctions

Novatek may receive financial assistance from the government to implement the Arctic LNG-2 project if the company is hit by US sanctions, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov suggested that money could be loaned to them from the National Wealth Fund, Vedomosti wrote.

According to Siluanov, the new sanctions may take aim at this project. He added that the measures are based on the protectionist policy of the US.

In addition to Novatek, Gazprom could theoretically suffer from the new restrictions, Vedomosti wrote. In early November 2017, the company signed a memorandum on implementing LNG projects with Iran. According to the document, the parties considered cooperation in the field of gas liquefaction. In December 2017, Russia and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding on prospects for cooperation within Iran’s LNG project.

“The mention of non-existent Russian LNG projects in the US bill is somewhat ridiculous, but the fact that liquefied gas has generally been mentioned in the sanctions context is a bit worrying,” Director of Fitch’s corporate department Dmitry Marinchenko told the newspaper. Russia is not yet able to construct LNG plants without the participation of western contractors, so it is important that it is Russian plants, especially potential ones, do not fall under sanctions, the expert noted.

 

Vedomosti: Single 5G operator can pose serious losses for Russian economy

Investments in the development of 5G – the next generation mobile communication standard – in Russia can reach 360-480 bln rubles ($5.4-7.2 bln) over 5 years – in the event that operators will compete with each other, according to experts of the Institute for Analysis of Enterprises and Markets of the National Research University Higher School of Economics. Since the Russian Communications Ministry insists on creating a single 5G operator, investment may decline by 161-214 bln rubles ($2.4-3.2 bln), Vedomosti wrote.

According to the newspaper, a single infrastructure operator, that is to say a monopolist, would likely start implementing 5G network 1-2 years later than competing operators would do. Thus, this scenario is fraught with other hidden losses to the economy, which are more difficult to estimate at the moment.

The creation of a single 5G operator has been discussed since last year, but the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) opposed the move.

Alexey Merkutov, a representative from the Russian mobile operator MTS, agrees that the losses for consumers, the industry and the economy surpass the benefits from setting up a single infrastructure operator. “We did not carry out our own assessments, but the study is generally in line with our position. We stand for the competitive development of the 5G network, which will provide quality services at affordable prices,” Merkutov said.

Vimpelcom has the same position. An infrastructure operator is not the most optimal way to develop 5G networks, as it does not meet the market requirements in terms of security and competition, company spokeswoman Anna Aybasheva told Vedomosti. She sees establishing a consortium for frequency sharing to be a more justified scenario.

 

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

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