Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin is continuing his policy of “multifaceted de-escalation,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, commenting on the Russian leader’s new initiative in the sphere of arms control.
Putin offered NATO a deal: Russia is ready not to deploy intermediate- and shorter-range missiles on the country’s European territory, along with weapons whose parameters and classification have remained a controversy between the two parties. However, NATO should agree to introduce a reciprocal moratorium, Kommersant reports.
Verification measures could include the Aegis Ashore systems equipped with Mk 41 launchers at US and NATO bases in Europe and the 9M729 missiles at Russian military facilities in the Kaliningrad Region.
Sources among Russian officials informed Kommersant that Putin’s initiative had been in the works for a long time, however, it “acquired additional relevancy” right now. The Russian president noted that the offer concerns not only Europe, but the Asia-Pacific region as well.
“NATO formulated its stance a long time ago – the 9M729 missile should be eliminated. However, even if Russia were ready to consider such a step, it is unclear how this could be done,” Senior Research Fellow at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research Pavel Podvig told the paper. On the other hand, the expert notes, if both sides are ready to take the current situation seriously, the corresponding procedures can be worked out.
Andrey Baklitsky, an analyst at the MGIMO Institute for International Studies, is not confident that the initiative will be successful. “The offer on the non-deployment of 9M729 missiles on Russia’s European territory has been discussed in expert circles for a while, and it has been voiced at certain points by German lawmakers and American diplomats. Its approval as the official Russian stance is a good step towards a possible regulation of the situation. However, NATO members (excluding France) have not shown any practical interest in dialogue with Moscow on intermediate-range missiles in Europe,” the commentator told Kommersant. “So far, European capitals are echoing America’s position, and Washington is not talking about diplomacy, it’s talking about missile deployment in Europe,” he added.
On October 26, former Belarusian presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya declared the start of a “people’s strike,” as the deadline for the opposition-led People’s Ultimatum expired on Sunday, October 25. Incumbent Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was supposed to have fulfilled several demands put forward by the exiled figurehead. The ultimatum called for Lukashenko’s resignation, the release of political prisoners and an end to violence. In addition, the opposition called on workers at industrial enterprises to go on strike starting Monday, October 26, if these demands were not met.
The strike affected a number of private and state enterprises. According to the tut.by website, several private enterprises from Minsk, Grodno, Vitebsk, Brest and Nesvizh declared October 26 a non-working day. A number of shops, bars, cafes and medical centers shut down in Belarus on Monday. However, not all enterprises heeded Tikhanovskaya’s call to go on strike. Experts quizzed by Vedomosti provide different takes on the ongoing protests.
According to Valery Karbalevich, an expert from the Strategy think tank in Belarus, there has been an uptick in the protests’ dynamic. “Unrest was reported at several state enterprises, and universities. There is a conflict situation at enterprises, with some of the workers trying to organize a strike and the administration hindering it. There is no full-fledged strike, though. In some places, certain workshops are not functioning, in others, employees didn’t come in for their shift,” Karbalevich said. The expert noted that the opposition had tried to block the country’s roads, but, those attempts were foiled by law enforcement. “The standoff in Belarus is building up,” he added. “Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s call and her ultimatum became the mobilizing factor that boosted morale of the Belarusian protests,” Karbalevich pointed out.
Meanwile, political analyst Yuri Shevtsov told the paper that Tikhanovskaya’s ultimatum did not bear any fruit. “Not a single reasonably important enterprise, especially a state one, went on strike. The ultimatum ended in a very spectacular and eloquent failure,” he pointed out. According to the expert, in the future, Tikhanovskaya is unlikely to go back into Belarusian politics (after the election, she left for Lithuania). She already has diplomatic ties in the West, where she will remain as a prominent Belarusian politician in exile, Shevtsov told Vedomosti.
The US election campaign is entering its final stretch. On October 27, Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden will hold his last meeting with voters before the election on November 3. In the run-up to the meeting, Biden gave an interview to CBS, in which he said that Russia is the main threat to US security.