September 25, 13:00UTC+3
Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday
S-300 air defense systems
Media: S-300s coming to protect Syrian skies
Russia will provide Syria with the S-300 air defense systems. Thus, Moscow will ensure the safety of Russian military personnel in Syria and strengthen the capabilities of Syria’s air defenses, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a telephone call with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on Monday. Russia had to take this step following the downing of its Il-20 aircraft, which claimed the lives of 15 servicemen. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the S-300 systems will be deployed to Syria within two weeks, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.
Moscow’s decision will bring Russia and Israel to the brink of a direct armed conflict, Israeli military expert Andrei Kozhinov told Kommersant. “Any statements claiming that the S-300 deliveries will not complicate relations with Israel are unrealistic since it is a serious threat to us,” he said. In Kozhinov’s opinion, after getting the S-300 systems, the Syrians will have carte blanche in downing Israeli aircraft. They will also be able to control the air space as far as Ben-Gurion International Airport. The expert added that using the “Russian umbrella” as cover, Iran would inevitably step up arms trafficking to Syria and Lebanon – a move that Israel would have to respond to. At the same time, Kozhin noted that Israel had been developing methods to counter the S-300 systems for years.
Meanwhile, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee Andrei Krasov told Izvestia that the delivery of the S-300s to Syria may cool down a lot of hotheads. “Syria currently has the Russian S-200 systems. The delivery of the advanced S-300 complexes will significantly ensure Syria’s security against possible foreign airstrikes. Their range is rather wide, about 250 kilometers. As for the areas of deployment, first of all, big cities and strategic facilities need to be protected,” he stressed.
Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee for Defense and Security and former Commander of the Russian Aerospace Force Viktor Bondarev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that Russia should “place priority on the protection of our military servicemen rather than relations with Israel.” “A treacherous attack on our aircraft was provoked by Israel. It is not us but them who should be concerned about maintaining normal relations with us and Syria because together with the Syrian army, we have been eliminating terrorists,” he noted.
Kommersant: China blasts US sanctions as ‘trade bullyism’
The White House will release an “administration-wide, broadside” in the coming weeks that would be used to accuse China of cyberattacks, election meddling and intellectual property theft, the Axios news website reported, citing White House sources. Meanwhile, China’s State Council has published a white paper on trade disputes with the US, which slams Washington’s policies as “trade bullyism” and being “disrespectful towards the Chinese state and people.” Beijing earlier demanded that Washington remove “the so-called sanctions” imposed over China’s purchases of Russian Su-35 aircraft and S-400 air defense systems, Kommersant writes.
As for trade, China is urging the US to hold talks, but it does not intend to pull back in the defense field. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said at a briefing on September 21 that defense cooperation between Beijing and Moscow would go on.
Senior Researcher at the Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin pointed out that the US had actually applied the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act retrospectively. “The law took effect on August 2, 2017, while the contracts to purchase the S-35s and the S-400s were signed in 2015 and 2014 respectively,” the researcher said, adding that most of the money had been transferred at the time.
“US sanctions apply to those engaged in ‘significant transactions’ with Russian defense agencies but there is no clarification of what ‘significant’ means,” Kashin pointed out. “Since definitions are vague, any country can be targeted by sanctions, including those who pay Russia for the repair and upgrading of the military equipment they had bought earlier,” the expert emphasized.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: US spooked by Russia’s grain boom
American farmers are facing financial losses due to Russia’s booming grain exports, while more and more agricultural companies in the US are closing down. According to The Wall Street Journal, record harvests in Russia are the reason, Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote.
Indeed, Russia produced a record yield in the past agricultural year, which ended on June 30, 2018, collecting a total of 135.4 mln tonnes and exporting over 40 mln tonnes of wheat. Grain exports doubled compared to the previous year. Our country took the lead for the second time, following its first lead in 2016. The US remains Russia’s main rival on the world grain market.
Russian experts believe the country will continue to beef up its position on the global market. The Ministry of Agriculture expects a yield of 150 mln tonnes this year. About 30 mln tonnes of wheat are planned to be exported.
Russian grain prices are indeed lower than its rivals. However, Russia is not conducting any sort of “dumping”, Director General of the ProZerno think tank Vladimir Petrichenko stressed. According to him, it is just that other exporters, including France and the US, sell grain at extremely high prices due to elevated expenses. This season, Australian grain is particularly expensive, the expert noted.
Russia will increase its grain exports, said Russian Grain Union President Arkady Zlochevsky. The country has resources to accomplish this task since revenues earned on the global market allow Russian grain companies to pour money into bolstering production.
“We are now competing for India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Indonesia is particularly important, because it will soon become the number one grain buyer in the world,” Petrichenko emphasized.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Will Turkey and Saudi Arabia lock horns in Syria?
Turkey has pledged to expand its zone of influence in Syria to Kurdish-controlled areas, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Taking into account that Saudi Arabia seeks to strengthen its presence in the Kurdish zones, there is a risk of a direct standoff between Ankara and Riyadh, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
It is no secret that areas east of the Euphrates River are considered the US zone of influence. “I don’t think the US can give up the Eastern Euphrates area because its military and political presence there is strategically important for Washington,” Turkish political expert Kerim Has told the paper.
“At the same time, the possibility of the US making some concessions and accepting Ankara’s presence in the territories adjacent to the Eastern Euphrates area, might happen only on two conditions. First, if Washington and Ankara agree on the possible ‘co-existence’ of the Turkish regime with Kurdish militias in the region, which seems unlikely at the moment. Second, if Washington thus undermines cooperation between Ankara and Moscow in resolving the Syrian crisis and ensuring Syria’s territorial integrity.”
However, the possible expansion of the Turkish-controlled forces east of the Euphrates River will not only raise the question of a possible conflict with the US, an ally of the Kurdish units, but also risks a standoff with Saudi Arabia. In mid-September, moderate Syrian opposition sources said that Saudi intelligence agents had met with leaders of the tribes residing east of the Euphrates. According to reports, the talks were aimed at making sure the tribes accepted the authority of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a multiethnic alliance with its backbone made up of Kurdish militias. In return, the Saudis promised financial assistance.
A month ago, Saudi Arabia acknowledged shelling out about $100 mln on “projects to stabilize” northern Syria. The money was used to reconstruct infrastructure facilities and create conditions for the return of refugees. Overall, the possible advance of pro-Turkish forces to the east bank of the Euphrates River may be firmly opposed.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Too few online shoppers in Russia
The number of Russians who shop online every day has dropped from seven to two percent over the past four years, as seen from a poll conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes.
According to the pollster, 81% of Russians use the Internet on a regular basis but not all of them have skills and wish to learn how to shop online. Some like to try things on and thoroughly inspect them before making a purchase, which is hard to do at a pickup point or in a delivery guy’s presence.
However, almost all young internet uses (aged 16-29 years) place orders online regularly, Association of Internet Trade Companies (AITC) President Artyom Sokolov said. “By the same token, these are not ‘everyday’ orders,” he noted, adding, “Actually, in my view, a person who buys things online every day is hard to imagine.”
Experts also say that Russians have taken a more balanced form of consumer behavior. In the past, they used to order things online on a daily basis but now people have a more responsible approach towards online shopping and the number of impulse purchases has been declining.
Another thing to note is that there is a group of people who purchase goods and services online so often they stop realizing it is actually online trade. It means that those polled could have forgotten to mention ordering taxis via mobile apps and using car sharing services.
Market participants are confident that in fact, online trade is flourishing. The AITC expects Russia’s online trade to grow by 20% in 2018. Social media will be helpful as they have accumulated more than seven percent of online trade and the number may rise by 50%-80% within the next two years.
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