RS-28 Sarmat Russian advanced silo-based system

In the coming weeks, the administration of US President Joe Biden will intensify its foreign policy in the post-Soviet space, and will also try to work out a compromise with Russia on prolonging the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. In addition, in their opinion, the new head of the White House will revise the legacy of Donald Trump. However, he urgently needs to turn the tide with the COVID-19 pandemic and keep the economy afloat. This is the only way he will really be perceived as a good alternative to his predecessor.

Now, Biden must begin to prove that he is not Trump, Head of the Washington DC-based Center on Global Interests Nikolay Zlobin told the newspaper. COVID-19 will remain the number one task, as well as the domestic economy. “If Biden does not succeed, then no matter what he does with other issues, no one will perceive him as a fighter against the legacy of the previous president. After all, Trump has largely lost because of the coronavirus,” the expert explained to Izvestia. In his opinion, the new US leader will face difficulties in implementing his initiatives in the social sphere, since he will need additional funds, which means raising taxes.

Despite the seemingly internal orientation of the new administration, Washington will not delay its foreign policy course, experts added. “There is no doubt that the Americans are becoming more active in the post-Soviet space. This administration will be much more ideologized, and its approach will in this sense become characteristic of the Barack Obama era by putting pressure on Russia with the help of the territories of the former USSR, and holding back Moscow on the distant frontiers,” Director of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for the Study of the United States (MSU) Yuri Rogulev stressed.

Meanwhile, according to Rogulev, the main question now is for how long New START, set to expire on February 5, will be extended. “Trump torpedoed this issue by putting forward conditions unacceptable for Russia. If the decision turns out to be temporary, then massive negotiations on a big agreement will begin,” the expert believes.

Zlobin believes that both Putin and Biden understand New START’s importance, therefore the forecast on the issue is positive.

Izvestia: How the West’s new sanctions impact Nord Stream 2’s fate

New US sanctions, as well as the European Parliament’s threats against Nord Stream 2, will not disrupt its construction, politicians and experts interviewed by Izvestia believe. Analysts predict that the pipeline will be completed in 2021, but due to Washington’s policy, the start of the first gas deliveries may be postponed indefinitely, which would be the most negative scenario. A more realistic option is that the German authorities would maintain a firm position on the project’s early completion. In this case, the gas pipeline will be put into operation in the fall or closer to the end of 2021.

The only real obstacle that could lead to the disruption of the project’s construction would be EU sanctions, expert at the Financial University under the Russian Government Igor Yushkov told Izvestia. However, the EU is not unanimous on the decision.

The European Commission told Izvestia that the project could not be abandoned as long as Germany supports it, even if the commission has repeatedly stated that the pipeline does not lead to the diversification of the EU’s energy sources. Meanwhile, a member of Alternative fur Deutschland fraction in the Bundestag and a member of the Bundestag Committee for Foreign Affairs Waldemar Gerdt told the newspaper that the completion of the gas pipeline is a matter of the country’s energy security and sovereignty.

Natalya Milchakova, Deputy Head of Alpari IAC, ruled out a scenario where, the pipeline’s construction would be completely stopped. In her opinion, the most negative scenario would be finishing the gas pipeline in 2021, but delaying pumping gas for years.

The most realistic option is that the German authorities maintain a firm position on the early completion of Nord Stream 2’s construction, she believes. In this case, the gas pipeline will be put into operation in the fall or closer to the end of 2021, she told Izvestia.

Kommersant: Indian military heads to Russia for S-400 training

The Indian military will go to Russia to master using the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, according to Russian Ambassador Nikolay Kudashev. He called the upcoming trip by the Indian delegation a practical step towards implementing the contract for the supply of five regimental sets of S-400s, signed in October 2018. New Delhi is showing its resolve to see the deal through, despite rumors circulating in Washington that the new Biden administration could punish India for buying the Russian systems under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), Kommersant writes.

American officials hinted at possible sanctions even during Trump’s presidency, but the previous White House administration did not dare to take such a radical step in relation to its strategic Indian partner. Meanwhile, India’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Anurag Srivastava said that his country had always pursued an independent foreign policy based on national security interests, which also applies to its defense contracts.

Head of the CCEIS International Military-Political and Military-Economic Problems Sector Vasily Kashin explained to Kommersant that the recent surge in capabilities of the Chinese and Pakistani armed forces makes the S-400 purchases virtually the only option for the Indians. “India needs a long-range ground-based air defense system capable of repelling massive attacks by precision-guided aircraft and intercepting medium-and short-range ballistic missiles. Otherwise, the increase in the number and accuracy of Chinese and Pakistani missile weapons, both ground-based and airborne, creates serious risks of undermining strategic stability between India and its neighbors,” Kashin elaborated.

According to him, the political aspect of the problem is just as important. India views itself as an emerging superpower that values its independent foreign policy, so it cannot just sit by and let Washington determine its partners for military-technical cooperation.

Vedomosti: Russian airlines ask for more subsidies due to pandemic-related losses

The Association of Air Transport Operators (AEVT) asked the Russian government to earmark another 53 bln rubles ($716 mln) for airlines as subsidies to compensate for their expenses from December 2020 to June 2021, Vedomosti writes citing a letter addressed to Director of the Transport Ministry’s Civil Aviation Department Svetlana Petrova.

“During the first half of 2021, the economic situation of air carriers will continue to deteriorate due to lower consumer demand, the population’s low purchasing power, restrictions on international traffic, and the volatility of the ruble,” the letter said.

These payments will help reduce the threat of airline bankruptcies, the association believes. It was suggested to allocate the funds primarily for the salaries of aviation personnel, leasing and payment for parking idle aircraft.

The Ministry of Transport confirmed receiving the letter to the newspaper, but did not comment on it.

According to the association’s forecasts, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the operating losses of Russian airlines in 2020 will reach 200 bln rubles ($2.7 bln). In October 2020, Russian airlines had already contacted the government with a request to earmark 50 bln rubles ($675 mln) in addition to the already allocated 23.4 bln rubles ($316 mln) due to the losses associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Kommersant: Russians skeptical about coronavirus vaccine

Russians turned out to be one of the most distrustful nations towards coronavirus vaccinations, according to a study by Gallup International. In general, more than 50% of the respondents in the world talk about potential consent to be vaccinated, in Russia it was less than a third, Kommersant writes. Experts believe that there are a number of reasons for this reaction: not trusting official information, lacking positive examples, and even a well-functioning healthcare system. At the same time, Director of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center Konstantin Abramov is confident that in February the number of people who want to be vaccinated will grow to 50%.

Respondents in Vietnam (92%), Thailand (80%), India and South Korea (78% each), Argentina (77%), Indonesia (75%) and Malaysia (68%) were the most trusting of the coronavirus vaccination. In general, 53% of the world’s population said they would get vaccinated, and only 30% concurred in Russia. The relatively low level of readiness to get vaccinated in Europe, in particular in Russia, is due to the fact that we “have not yet developed a fear of infections,” member of the Russian Civic Chamber Ekaterina Kurbangaleeva told Kommersant. “For a very long time, within several generations, we have not encountered such a serious virus, which cannot be said about the inhabitants of Asian countries,” she said.

A December study by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center showed that 38% of Russian residents planned to get vaccinated. The center’s General Director Konstantin Abramov believes that this is a “good figure for the country.” Commenting on the Gallup International study, Abramov noted, “Our citizens generally understand that the health care system is more or less coping, and this is also the factor that makes them postpone the decision to get vaccinated.” He told Kommersant that the share of Russians willing to get vaccinated will rise to 50% in February.