Russia This Week is a weekly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest Russia-related news and analysis from media in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.
Photo Of The Week
In The News:
Speech Of The Week – Russian FM Lavrov: An Order Based On One Center Of Decision-Making As Promoted By Our Western Colleagues Cannot Be Effective By Definition
Drills – Center 2019
Russia In Syria
INF Treaty And The Global Strategic Stability
Conspiracy Theories – Russian Experts: Environmental Disasters In Siberia Were Caused By The US-Funded HAARP
Russia's Local Elections
News In Brief: Iran-Russia Relations; Russia-China Relations
Speech Of The Week
Russian FM Lavrov: An Order Based On One Center Of Decision-Making As Promoted By Our Western Colleagues Cannot Be Effective By Definition
In a meeting with the students and faculty of MGIMO University on the occasion of the new academic year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said:
"I believe that more people are realizing that an order based on one center of decision-making as promoted by our Western colleagues cannot be effective by definition. As I said, this does not take into account the appearance and consolidation of new world centers that do not want to be token money in somebody else's game. These people are primarily guided by their own national interests. They show a willingness to take an active part in forming and implementing the international and regional agendas.
"A realization of the cardinal changes in the geopolitical picture of the modern world was recently reflected in a colorful statement by President of France Emmanuel Macron at the meeting of French ambassadors where he bluntly predicted the end of Western hegemony in international relations and emphasized the need to develop cooperative work with the involvement of Russia, China, and other leading countries of the modern world. Of course, we can only welcome such initiatives and their implementation. The main point is for them to develop into practical actions and help maintain an equitable dialogue aimed at reaching practical agreements based on equality, mutual respect and a culture of consensus.
"Russia is the largest Eurasian power. We will continue to contribute to the consolidation of international and regional security in all dimensions, from military and political to economic and energy, and others. We will work on eliminating any dividing lines that, unfortunately, are still there after the end of the Cold War, contrary to all assurances and promises; they remain in Europe, and are even moving closer to our borders, cutting 'deeper,' as they say."
(Mid.ru, September 2, 2019)
Lavrov: Bolton's Dismissal Will Not Influence Relations Between Moscow And Washington
During a press conference with his Moldavian counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov answered a question on U.S.-Russia Relations.
(Source: Kremlin.ru, October 23, 2019)
Question: "Do you see any new potential for improving Russian-U.S. relations in the context of John Bolton's resignation? How do such frequent changes in negotiators affect the development of relations? If this is appropriate, can you tell us what impression you had of him considering that at home he is seen as a somewhat controversial figure?"
Sergey Lavrov: "I will try to be politically correct. I have known John Bolton since the 1990s. He was Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. I did the same job in our Foreign Ministry. Later on he worked as U.S. acting ambassador to the UN. We met, but when I was sent to New York he left government service and worked in different political think-tanks. We spoke from time to time and had coffee when he came to New York from Washington. He is very pleasant to talk to, a very knowledgeable and educated man. It is very interesting to talk to him. As for his political views, we did not agree most of the time. He has a sharp style with an emphasis on using power, including armed forces. As you know, he put forward quite a few initiatives on current crises, in Venezuela, Iran, and in other countries.
"I do not want to guess how this will affect Russia-U.S. relations. Policy in the United States is determined by the president. He has repeatedly expressed interest in normalizing trade, economic, humanitarian, and political ties between our countries and in promoting cooperation in the international arena. We have heard such statements and we welcome them. This was reaffirmed in the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka last June. Importantly, those that fulfill the president's policy need to translate these declared political principles into reality. This is not yet the best process, but there is progress in some areas. Thus, we have resumed the dialogue on counterterrorism. Recently, our deputy foreign ministers completed yet another round of talks. We have contacts on Syria, the Korean Peninsula, and Afghanistan. We are interested in developing cooperation although the mechanisms that existed in these spheres have yet to be revitalized. However, we are ready for it.
"As for changes in the U.S. position on various foreign policy matters, I heard Mike Pompeo saying at yesterday's news conference that there would be no changes. Let us be guided by what is happening in reality. This is how we will understand if there are changes or not."
(Mid.ru, September 11, 2019)
Drills – Center 2019
On September 3, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu talked about the upcoming Strategic Command Post exercise, called "Center-2019," which will be held from September 16-21 and will complete the complex of measures of combat training of the Armed Forces this year. Its main purpose is to train troops to conduct military operations in modern conditions and improve the interoperability of the military command and control organizations of the armed forces of Russia and the allied states.
As part of preparations for this large-scale event, since June, many things have been worked out, including: issues of localization by the state and the armed forces of military threats; the management of force groupings in the fight against international terrorism; and the prevention of possible aggression in the Central Asian region.
Currently, the troops are completing development into areas where the exercise will take place. The exercises will involve about 128,000 servicemen, more than 20,000 units of equipment and weapons, about 600 aircraft, and up to 15 ships.
Together with the Russian military, their colleagues from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, China, and Pakistan will solve the tasks. The presence of heads of state and defense departments of the participating countries is expected. The main actions will unfold on eight training grounds, as well as in the Caspian Sea. Interested persons and representatives of the military-diplomatic corps were informed of the timing, the number of troops, weapons, and military equipment, as well as the design of the exercise.
According to Sergei Shoigu, "Center 2019" is not directed against other countries and the "warring party" simulated in the exercise is meant to represent conditional states that contribute to the spread of terrorism.
(Mil.ru, September 3, 2019)
INF Treaty And The Global Strategic Stability
In a meeting with the students and faculty of MGIMO University on the occasion of the new academic year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was asked of the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty.
Question: "Could the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty lead to the end of the existing system of maintaining global strategic stability? What steps will Russia take in this context?"
Sergey Lavrov: "The U.S. terminated the ABM Treaty and now it has walked away from the INF Treaty under a far-fetched pretext. These are done deals. The U.S. has already tested a medium-range ground-based missile using a facility that it claimed was only capable of launching anti-missiles. We said the opposite, and now the Americans have proved that we were right. Their actions show that they do not intend to return to the treaty. Demands and preconditions are being made on what to do with medium- and shorter-range missiles. The main precondition is the participation of the PRC [People's Republic of China] in future talks. China has said that the scale of its nuclear potential is incomparable to the U.S. and Russia's and for this reason its participation cannot be supported. But the U.S. continues to insist on it and asks us to persuade the PRC to take part. We are not going to do this. If the U.S. gets the PRC's consent, we will be ready for talks. But in my opinion compelling Beijing to do this against its will is not right and inappropriate.
"There are other nuclear powers. As President Vladimir Putin has said more than once, we are ready to meet in any format. The Nuclear Five format is one of the main ones. We are working on a daily basis in the UN and in other capitals. Depending on the consent of the relevant countries, we are ready to meet in any format. Let me recall that despite the termination of the INF Treaty by the U.S., we have made a very important political gesture. Vladimir Putin said that even though the INF Treaty does not exist, we will only take reflective measures. If the U.S. starts developing relevant weapons we reserve the right to do it as well. If the U.S. tests these weapons, we will have the right to follow suit. But the President emphasized that we will not deploy medium- and shorter-range missiles in regions where U.S.-made weapons systems are not deployed. If the U.S. does not deploy them in Europe or Asia we will not do it either. This is a serious proposal, in fact, it is a moratorium that we have announced for NATO. We have proposed that NATO join it collectively. For now, they have not expressed their consent.
"As for the termination of the INF Treaty, does it mean the complete end to arms control? We still have the START III Treaty, that is, the 2010 Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms that will expire in February 2021. The Russian Federation has already expressed its willingness to extend it for up to five years. We are waiting for Washington's response. President Vladimir Putin spoke about this with U.S. President Donald Trump when they met at the G20 summit in Osaka last June. We have not yet received a response. There are certain questions regarding the implementation of this treaty today. I think dialogue on this important issue is necessary in any event. We would prefer its extension for another five years to be the main goal of the dialogue."
(Mid.ru, September 2, 2019)
Russia In Syria
Comment by Russian Foreign Ministry regarding the U.S. airstrike in the Idlib de-escalation zone:
"... According to reports, at 15:00 on August 31, two USAF aircraft carried out a raid on the command center of the Hurras Al-Deen armed group located seven kilometers northeast of the city of Idlib... At the same time, the Russian Defence Ministry's Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria said in a statement that the U.S. airstrike was carried out in violation of the Idlib de-escalation agreements and that Russia and Turkey, which have military experts in the region, had not been notified of the planned attack. Besides destruction, witnesses report numerous casualties, among them children, in Maarat Misrin and Kafer Haya following the U.S.-led airstrike." (Mid.ru, September 2, 2019)
Commenting on the strike, Russian security expert Evgeny Mikhailov said: "The American strike is first of all a demonstration of the fact that Washington is not going to listen to anyone and not going to coordinate its action with anyone."
Mikhailov asserted that Moscow's and Ankara's reaction to the strike should include a coordinated strike against the U.S. allies in the conflict zone. "Yet, we should be somehow grateful to the Americans for their arrogance and self-confidence in taking such decisions, that pushed Turkey to strengthen an economic and military-political alliance with Russia," Mikhailov said.
(Sputniknews.ru, September 3, 2019)
Russian Middle East expert Kirill Semenov said that the U.S. strike cannot be considered a ceasefire breach. "In this case the U.S. acted against internationally recognized terror organization, namely Al-Qaeda," Semenov said.
Semenov also said that neither Turkey nor Russia will react to the U.S. strike. Semenov opined: "Both countries [Russia and Turkey] consider Al-Qaeda a terror organization... Maybe the Russian and Turkish sides got offended since the U.S. did not notify them prior to the strike..."
(Sputniknews.ru, September 3, 2019)
Conspiracy Theories – Russian Experts: Environmental Disasters In Siberia Were Caused By The U.S.-Funded HAARP
Russian experts hinted that the recent environmental disasters in Siberia were caused by the U.S.-funded "Weather Control Weapon," the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP).
Komsomolskaya Pravda military correspondent, Colonel (ret) Victor Baranetz, talked to various Russian experts exploring the possibility that the latest natural cataclysms in Russia were caused by HAARP.
Nikolay Levashov, an academic and physicist, said: "What is happening in Russia right now proves the use of geo-physical and climate change weapons. I, at least, am witnessing this for the first time in my career. The Americans used climate weapons in the past – for example against Europe in 2003, when [they created] an artificial heat wave. It happened in France and other EU countries, while the goal was to force the Europeans to buy U.S. genetically modified products. Europe expressed its firm stance for the consumption of organic products, which is damaging the U.S. profits. Thus, the United States arranged a drought, which led to a lack of crops."
Andrey Volkov, physicist, professor, and head of the research laboratory for climatic anomalies at the Russian State Research Institute, said: "Essentially, HAARP is a huge microwave oven. It radiates with a focus on any point on the Earth. Any point! Including Siberia, Far East, Central Russia, and Europe. The Americans keep silent regarding their research, yet in many places different actors try to 'cook the weather.' Our satellites spotted a very powerful radiation originating from Alaska. Including this summer. According to the information our laboratory obtained, I am increasingly convinced that HAARP is one of the sources of global geophysical weapons, which cause natural disasters – wildfires, earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis."
(Kp.ru, September 3, 2019)
Russia's Local Elections
On September 8, 2019, Russians went to the polls for local and regional elections. However, the focus of debate within the opposition was the vote for the Moscow city council, as the summer's organized rallies protested the barring of dozens of independent candidates from these elections.
Meduza.io: Moscow's Election Results The Opposition Wins Nearly Half The City Duma Seats, And United Russia's Local Leader Loses His Seat
Members of Russia's "systemic opposition" (registered parties and candidates that ostensibly oppose the ruling party, United Russia) won 20 of the Moscow City Duma's 45 seats.
In Moscow's September 8 parliamentary elections, the Communist Party won in 13 precincts, the liberal opposition party "Yabloko" won in four, and "Just Russia" won in three.
The authorities' winning candidates were nine active members of United Russia who ran for Moscow City Duma seats as independents, as well as three incumbents from the pro-government "My Moscow" association.
Additionally, the capital's parliament will welcome another 13 independent winners whom Meduza and BBC Russian Service have identified as candidates promoted by the Moscow Mayor's Office. According to Andrey Turchak (the party's General Council secretary), United Russia's faction in the City Duma will be made up of independent candidates and include 24-25 deputies.
Twenty candidates endorsed by Alexey Navalny's "Smart Vote" system won their elections...
(Meduza.io, September 9, 2019)
'Intimidation and robbery' Police launch nationwide raids against Alexey Navalny's regional offices, days after 'Smart Vote' potentially shifts election results in Moscow. (Meduza.io, September 12, 2019; read the full article)
St. Petersburg Re-Elects Governor Beglov After Controversial Campaign. (Themoscowtimes.com, September 11, 2019; read the full article)
"People on horses" opened fired at elections observers in Tuva. On September 8, unknown assailants attacked a bus with observers and journalists traveling to the elections of deputies of the Supreme Khural [Parliament] of Tuva. As the State Duma deputy from the Krasnoyarsk Territory Sergei Natarov reported on the social network, the incident occurred at the border of these two regions. Local media reported that the attackers were on horses, their faces were covered with masks. They opened fired at the bus wheels. (Mk.ru, September 8, 2019; read the full article in Russian)
Kremlin spokesperson Dimitry Peskov commented on Google's "interference" in the Russian elections. "I hope that the State Duma commission will objectively investigate on Google's interference in the election", Peskov said. (Mk.ru, September 9, 2019; read the full article)
Google has responded to allegations of meddling in the internal policy of the Russian Federation on election day, saying it supported "responsible political advertising that complies with Russian laws," RIA Novosti reported. (Crimerussia.com, September 9, 2019; read the full article)
St. Petersburg police completely ignored an attack on an election monitor inside a polling station, even though it happened right before their eyes. (Meduza.io, September 9, 2019; read the full article)
News In Brief
Iran and Russia to hold joint military drills in Indian Ocean. Iran and Russia will hold joint military exercises in the Indian Ocean, visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a briefing on September 2. (Tass.com, September 2, 2019; read the full article)
US sanctions against Cuba, Russia, Syria and Iran serve as an attempt to achieve illegitimate political objectives through intimidation of innocent people, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated on Twitter. (Tass.com, September 6, 2019; read the full article)
Russian and French Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron, called for pooling efforts of all the parties concerned to keep the Iran nuclear deal in place, the Kremlin press service said on Sunday after their telephone conversation. (Tass.com, September 8, 2019; read the full article)
Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, Russia's Permanent Representative at International Organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said at a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors. (Tass.com, September 10, 2019; read the full translation)
Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Iran's third stage of nuclear commitments reduction is about building research centrifuges to enrich uranium and "Iran accepted those limits within the 2015 nuclear agreement." (Mehrnews.com, September 10, 2019; read the full article)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said Iran has been able to hold regular and constant talks with Russia over the past six years, adding that the Iran-Russia relations are in the interest of international peace and security. Zarif said that Iran-Russia relations have been growing to a considerable degree over the past six years. The Foreign Minister noted that the relations between the two countries are based on mutual interests and mutual understanding of international issues, and this situation is unprecedented in the history of relations between the two countries since the Islamic Revolution Iran in 1979. (Mehrnews.com, September 3, 2019; read the full article)
The Iran-Russia cooperation is fully-fledged and is definitely in the interest of the two nations, the region and the entire world, according to the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. Zarif made the remarks in a joint conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. (Mehrnews.com, September 2, 2019; read the full article)
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said Moscow is interested in overcoming the impasse surrounding the situation with the implementation of the JCPOA. "We follow and look at how the situation is developing, we welcome this if the steps are aimed at overcoming the current impasse, returning to the implementation of activities that are consistent with the JCPOA," Lavrov said in a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Moscow. (Mehrnews.com, September 2, 2019; read the full article)
The global economy is experiencing a slowdown because of the US-China trade dispute, and Russia will have to take this into account, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Rossiya 24. (Lenta.ru, September 11, 2019)
Russian Senator Viktor Bondarev, chairman of the defense and security committee of Russia's Federation Council, said that Russia and China do not threat U.S. security. (Ria.ru, September 11, 2019)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will pay an official visit to Russia from Sept. 16 to 18 at the invitation of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson announced. During the visit, Li and Medvedev will hold the 24th regular meeting between Chinese and Russian heads of government, according to spokeswoman Hua Chunying. (Xinhuanet.com, September 9, 2019)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that his country welcomes Chinese investment and expects more positive outcomes from bilateral cooperation. Putin made the remarks here at a meeting with visiting Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua on the sidelines of the fifth Eastern Economic Forum (EEF). (Xinhuanet.com, September 5, 2019)