Russia-NATO Update is a new monthly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest news on Russia-NATO relations from the Russian and East European media.
Cartoon Of The Month
Vk.com/13studiya, August 15, 2016.
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds the world in equilibrium, with Russia serving as the barycenter.
Quotes Of The Month
At the opening of the Russian-German summer school in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke on "Ways of Developing the Energy Sector: Modern Challenges":
"By the way, we were told that only NATO members can obtain legally binding security guarantees. This confirmed NATO's choice of a quite arrogant and confrontational line to keep expanding indefinitely without regard for anything so as to impress non-NATO countries that only by joining the North Atlantic Alliance will they receive security guarantees. This notion is totally wrong. For instance, when in 2004 the Baltic states were frantic to join NATO, and our western partners told us that as soon as they become NATO members, all their phobias regarding Russia will calm down, since they will feel protected, taking into account their 'historical hardships', so their accession would benefit all, these promises have never materialized."
(Mid.ru, August 15)
In a state TV interview, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that the Americans and NATO were "fanning the flames of hysteria" and exploiting the situation "in order to refill the coffers or so that the military industries would make additional profits."
Shoigu said: "Let me tell you this: It is the fifth year in a row that we have been acting according to a previously approved plan of building our armed forces and of rearmament. That's why if anybody thinks that our actions are a reaction to this, that, or the other - that's not true. What outrages us? We say: 'Guys, there is a balance. If you exploit the current situation, fanning the flames of hysteria in order to refill your coffers, or so that the military industries will make additional profits, that's your own business.'
"But what I really want to say to them is: "Stop frightening your own population. Those who are educated and know how to count to 100 have a clear understanding of the situation."I don't understand why they are exacerbating the situation. We, of course, would like our [American and NATO] colleagues to stop, and to understand that we are open to dialogue."
(See MEMRI TV Clip No. 5630, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu: We Say to Our American and NATO Colleagues: There Is a Balance of Power; Don't Fan the Flames of Hysteria, August 13, 2016)
In the News:
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that Russia had no demands to use Incirlik air base in the southern province of Adana. However, he added that if Russia wants to use the base to hit ISIS targets in Syria, it can do so.
(Hurriyetdailynews.com, August 20)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov may visit Turkey in November or December.
(Hurriyetdailynews.com, August 18)
On August 9, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Konstantin Palace, 20 kilometers from St. Petersburg. The meeting was described by the media as "historic," since the two leaders were meeting for the first time since the Turkish air force shot down a Russian plane in November 2015. The meeting focused on the normalization of economic and political relations.
(See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6562, Russian FM Lavrov On Putin-Erdogan Meeting; 'As For The Restoration Of Trust... Much Will Depend On Our Cooperation In Settling The Syrian Crisis', August 9, 2016; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6564, At Putin-Erdogan Meeting, Putin Says: 'Regarding The Full Restoration Of Relations - Do We Want It Or Not? Yes, We Want It And Will Do This'; Erdogan: 'Turkish-Russian Relations Are Not Limited To Trade And Economic Ties', August 10, 2016; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6567, Russian Reactions To The Putin-Erdogan Meeting, August 11, 2016)
The Turkish media reported that Turkey and Russia are building "a new mechanism between the two countries on Syria," after the summit in St. Petersburg. Before the meeting with Putin, Erdogan announced: "We said we would send [Russia] a tripartite committee featuring an intelligence [officer], a soldier and a diplomat, and in response to this tripartite committee, you will name your counterparts and they will conduct intense work." The Turkish tripartite committee was scheduled to leave for Russia on August 10 and would hold its first meetings on August 11.
Commenting on Russia-Turkey cooperation on Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu said: "[This is] the first concrete step [between Turkey and Russia]: Previously, there were different mechanisms between us on Syria, between the militaries, foreign ministries and intelligence services. Now, we [will] establish a threefold mechanism."
(Hurriyetdailynews.com, August 11)
Tensions Between Ukraine And Russia
On August 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the permanent members of the Security Council in Crimea. In the meeting, Putin said: "Apparently, our partners in Kiev decided to aggravate the situation, and it is clear why they are doing this: they do not want to, or cannot for whatever reasons, honor the Minsk agreements and, secondly, they cannot explain to their own people the significant mistakes they have made in their socio-economic policies. This method of aggravating the situation is not new. It has been used since time immemorial, sometimes successfully, but not always. I hope that this will not be the ultimate choice of our partners, and that common sense will eventually prevail. For our part, while discussing the issues of additional security measures in Crimea, we should also say, and I would like to mention this once again, that we are not going to cut off relations. Despite the reluctance of the current government in Kiev to have full-fledged diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level, we nevertheless will leave them opportunities to develop and maintain contacts."
(Kremlin.ru, August 19)
Despite the recent announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the upcoming Normandy Four meeting in China has been cancelled, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev's remarks about the possible severing of diplomatic relations with Ukraine, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia is currently uninterested in a rupture of diplomatic relations. Lavrov said: "I don't think this is a situation where anyone is interested in breaking off diplomatic relations. That would be an extreme measure. I think the main goal now is to avoid succumbing to emotions or taking extreme courses of action but to work for stabilization in a restrained and consistent manner. As I said, we will and are already doing this in Crimea regardless of what conclusions our Western partners and colleagues in Kiev will draw from the events of ten days ago. I am in favor of focusing efforts on returning to the sequencing and the substance of the Minsk agreements in all aspects of the situation - security and political settlement."
(Mid.ru, August 15)
At the opening of the Russian-German summer school "Ways of Developing the Energy Sector: Modern Challenges", in Yekaterinburg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's said:
"The current state of affairs stems from the long-standing problems which came to the surface during the Ukraine crisis. They reflect the profound system-wide failures in the European architecture. Unfortunately, our numerous proposals to harmonize the international legal principles underlying equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic area have for many years been rejected by NATO members.
"Sadly, even today, a NATO-centric philosophy, I would even say an arrogance, prevails over the spirit of the Helsinki Final Act. NATO's policy of eastward expansion at any cost deepens, without exaggeration, the dividing lines on the continent. When this policy, which undermines the balance of interests and stability in Europe, stumbled badly in Ukraine, attempts were made to put the blame on Russia. There were no efforts to force the organizers of the armed coup to comply with the agreement on a peaceful settlement and the creation of a national unity government, which they signed with Germany, France and Poland acting as intermediaries. Moreover, to our profound regret, our Western partners turned a blind eye to the ultra-radical nationalist positions of those who seized power in Kiev and who called for the elimination of everything that is Russian in Ukraine..."
(Mid.ru, August 15)
The newspaper Moskovskii Komsomolets published a commentary by Igor Korotchenko, editor in chief of National Defense Magazine and Duma Nominee from Rodina (Homeland) nationalist party: "When it comes to Ukraine, I think, Moscow should deliver a missile strike against the bases of international terrorists, located in Ukraine's territory. Also we need to strike the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense Intelligence Directorate headquarters if the trial (against alleged infiltrators to Crimea) proves that its officials were behind the training and dispatch of those terrorists to Crimea. That's exactly what the US does when fighting international terrorists".
(Mk.ru, August 15)
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius published a statement on the Foreign Ministry's website, following a conversation with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin on the rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
Linkevicius wrote: "The provocative methods and accusations by Russia threaten the Normandy format [which comprises Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany] and constitute a challenge for the international effort to end external aggression and military action in Eastern Ukraine. The international community should respond very seriously to such fabricated accusations and prevent any further provocations by Russia, if such are planned."
(Urm.lt, August 12)
In his twitter account, the Lithuanian FM wrote the following: "[The] aggressor accused the victim of an attack. Old KGB methods. Russia's false accusations towards Ukraine to justify future 'retaliation'?"
(Twitter.com/LinkeviciusL, August 10)
(See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6573, An Overview Of The Rising Tensions In Russian-Ukrainian Relations, August 12, 2016)
Vk.com/13studiya, August 12, 2016.
US President Barack Obama is portrayed as Morpheus, a fictional character in The Matrix franchise.
Obama says to the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: If you take the yellow pill you'll have hallucinations. If you take the blue pill, you'll speak nonsense.
Poroshenko: I'll take both.
On August 5, Head of the Defense Ministry's Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation Sergei Koshelev announced that Russia's Defense Ministry proposed to its counterparts from the Baltic States to discuss the use of transponders by combat aircraft and interaction with NATO in Moscow this September.
During Putin's visit to Finland on July 1, the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto recommended enhancing confidence building measures in the Baltic region. Putin said: "The Finnish president came up with the proposals today on the first steps aimed at enhancing confidence and preventing conflicts [in the Baltic airspace]. I have already said that I agree with this... We welcome the Finnish President's proposal [to ban flights over the Baltics with transponders off]."
However, Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini recently said that Moscow's invitation to Baltic States to discuss confidence building should take place within a broader framework encompassing additional countries. Soini said: "Such kind of [handling of] bilateral issues within an international system is not possibly the best, rather they should be handled together ...Finland has not yet received a written invitation, but the idea has become clear to us."
In a press release, the Finnish Ministry of Defense said: "The initiative is interesting. Without more information about Russia's plans to invite countries to talks, it is impossible to comment more closely on the issue. On a general level, it can be concluded that the issue of flight safety in the Baltic Sea region is both topical and important."
The Russian news agency Tass.ru reported that Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said earlier that the flights by NATO's and Russia's warplanes over the Baltic Sea with switched-on transponders wouldn't improve security in the region.
(Finlandtimes.fi, August 18; defmin.fi; Tass.ru; August 5)
In an interview with the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, stated that Sweden was unlikely to extend an invitation to Putin, as Finland did (Putin and the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto met on July 1). Commenting on the interview, Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said: "I think it's important that we also engage in bilateral discussions with Russia, and I think it's excellent that President [Sauli Niinisto] invited Putin to Finland...If Sweden makes another kind of decision, I'll respect that."
(Helsinkitimes.fi, August 23)
On August 24, Finnish-US combat aircraft drills started in Finland's southern Kanta-Hame and Paijat-Hame regions. Earlier, Finland provided its territory for the Baltops-2016 military exercises for the amphibious landing of NATO's forces. The Finnish defense minister stated that the preparations for a framework military agreement between Helsinki and Washington were caused, among other things, by "the growing discontent in the Scandinavian countries with Russia's military activity in the region." However, the minister said that the document will not contain military assistance obligations that would imply membership in NATO. Leading expert at the MGIMO Center for Military and Political Studies Mikhail Alexandrov said: "Finland is now taking part in NATO's policy of pressure on Russia... Although Finland supports NATO's policy of pressure on Russia, it does not want to join the North Atlantic alliance, understanding that it is one thing to exert virtual reality, information and psychological pressure and it is quite another thing to join NATO... Russia will undoubtedly respond to this, the relations will deteriorate and trade ties will be frozen."
(Tass.ru, August 24)
Russia's Drills And Defense News
Russian logistics and maintenance units launched missions to provide support for force groups at ground and sea practice ranges in Crimea.
(Tass.ru August 19)
The Russian news agency Tass.ru reported that about 10,000 troops and 2,000 pieces of armored equipment are involved in the command and staff exercises of Russia's Eastern Military District that kicked off in the Amur Region and the Trans-Baikal Territory. District spokesman Colonel Alexander Gordeyev stated: "The exercises will be conducted in several stages spread over August 17-20. Up to 10,000 servicemen and 2,000 pieces of armament and military hardware, including aircraft and helicopters, will be involved in maneuvers at practice ranges in the Trans-Baikal Territory and the Amur Region". He then added that the maneuvers' goal is to test new automated troop control systems.
(Tass.ru, August 17)
Mobile ground missile complexes RS-24 Yars of the Russian Strategic Missile Force's Teikovskaya division will be involved for the first time in special drills of radiological, chemical and biological troop protection. (Tass.ru, August 17)
The Russian Northern Fleet's large anti-submarine warfare ships Vice-Admiral Kulakov and Severomorsk have teamed up with aviation in exercises to detect and sink hypothetical enemy submarines.
(Tass.ru, August 16)
Recently, a Collective Security Treaty Organization's (CSTO) drill in Pskov and Leningrad regions kicked off. According to the operational scenario "unlawful armed units" invaded the territory of one of the treaty's states and the attack was expected to be repelled by CSTO rapid response forces. According to the Russian news agency Ria.ru, during the drill, loudspeakers in the field communicated the following message in Russian, German and English: "NATO soldiers! You are being fooled. You are no peacekeepers. Lay down your weapons. You fight on a foreign territory. You have invaded a peaceful country. You'll be haunted by the vengeance and the outrage of the people which have never lost in a war. Lay down your weapons; stop being marionettes in your leaders 'hands."
(Ria.ru, August 18)
A ballistic missile Iskander was launched during a drill in the Jewish Autonomous Area in the Far East. Eastern Military District's spokesman, Aleksandr Gordeyev, said: "The launch was performed from a training site in the Jewish Autonomous area [Birobidjan]. The missile hit a target at a proving ground in the Amur region 300 kilometers away." The Russian news agency Tass.ru reported that "more than 400 officers and men and 100 pieces of military equipment from a missile unit of the Eastern Military District" are involved in the drill.
(Tass.ru, August 19)
This year, Russian paratroopers will perform several joint exercises with their colleagues from the armies of Egypt and Serbia. Counter-terrorism training exercises with the Russian National Guard have finished on the range near Volgograd. In September, Russia will participate in the "Slavic Brotherhood 2016" exercises together with the Belarusians and Serbs. The drills will take place at the Nikinci military training field, in Serbia, just 30 km from the border with Croatia, and NATO. In October, Russia has scheduled joint exercises with the special ops army units in Egypt. In September, the "Caucasus-2016" strategic exercises will take place.
(Life.ru, July 30; B29.net, August 5)
The International Army Games were held between July 30 and August 13. The Russian-owned media outlet, Rbth.com, reports that the games were simultaneously taking place at 20 training grounds, 19 of which are located within three of Russia's military districts: the Western, Southern and Central districts, meaning from Siberia to Kaliningrad in the west and from St. Petersburg to Sevastopol in Crimea. The media outlet reports that naval competitions are taking place in the Baltic, Black and Caspian Sea waters. Russia and Kazakhstan are hosting a total of 121 teams from 19 countries, including China, Venezuela, and Iran, who competed in 23 of the games' contests. Reportedly, Russia had previously invited 47 countries, including the U.S. and NATO members, but Greece was the only NATO member to accept the invitation. It is worth noting that, last May, Putin visited Greece and said that the Hellenic Republic is "an important partner in Europe" for Russia. Moscow is considering investing in Greece's energy and transport sectors.
(Rbth.com, August 5; Rbth.com, March 29; Greekreporter.com, May 26; May 30)
Despite economic shortages, the Russian Navy does not plan to curtail its spending. The Navy is developing a new nuclear-powered stealth destroyer "Leader". In the future, it could be armed with laser and rail-gun weapons. Moreover the fleet continues to develop an aircraft carrier and "Mistral" type helicopter carriers.
Commenting on the news, Gazeta.ru quotes an unidentified military source, who claims that Russia currently has no technical facilities to build an aircraft carrier.
(Izvestia.ru, August 1; Gazeta.ru, July 31)
Interview Of The Month:
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov (Source: Sputniknews.com)
On August 10, the Russian magazine Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn published an interview with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on Russian foreign policy and on Russia-NATO relations.
Below are excerpts from Ryabkov's interview:
'[NATO] Take[s] Great Pains...To Persuade Everyone That All Of This Is In Response To Russia's Aggressive Behavior'
Ryabkov: "We were concerned by the decisions taken to deploy an increased rotating military presence and by what amounts to permanently stationed NATO forces right close to our borders in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. Let me note that this does not stop at just four multinational battalions. The plan is to ensure stocks of equipment for several mechanized US ground forces brigades in Europe over the coming years. They are also establishing headquarters and bolstering air force groups with planes that will patrol the airspace, including in the Baltic states. From our observations, the NATO countries' naval forces are carrying out training and combat patrol operations in waters that are much closer to Russia's borders than was previously the case. The frequency of NATO military exercises has increased and their scale is very significant.
"They take great pains - adding all sorts of menacing passages to the NATO Warsaw summit's final communiqué - to persuade everyone that all of this is in response to Russia's 'aggressive behavior', in particular its 'support for separatists' in southeast Ukraine and so on. To be honest, this NATO 'through the looking glass' leaves us quite stupefied. The militia operations in Donbass (let the NATO countries continue chewing away on their own term of 'separatists') are taking place in a region where Russians and Russian-speaking people have lived for centuries. This is happening at the heart of Eurasia, where families have become so interwoven over centuries that it is impossible to see now who came from where, considers where home is, married whom and so on.
'If A NATO-Centric Attitude Is Allowed To Exist, Why Do You Deny Our Right To A Russia-Centric View?'
Ryabkov: "When we see an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, equipped with missile defense systems, cruise missiles and intermediate-range Tomahawk attack missiles, 30 nautical miles from Kaliningrad, or, like during the recent [joint US-Ukrainian military] Sea Breeze exercises [that started in Black sea on July 18], when we saw a whole line-up of NATO vessels led by large US naval ships in the port of Odessa, when we see that NATO is deploying its newest fighter planes only 7-10 minutes' flight time from St Petersburg, we have to ask the question, was it 'aggressive Russia' that invited them so close? Have we done anything similar 30 miles of the Norfolk naval base in the US or stationed planes at five minutes' flight time from Long Island, New York?
"This is not even a case of double standards. Rather, there is no eradicating from the consciousness of those 'on the other side' a NATO-centric and American-centric view. When you realize that they have this inborn sense of representing Western civilization, which, as they see it, is the center of the world, you start to understand how it comes to be that they have reached the point of asserting that Russia has encroached on NATO's borders rather than the other way round.
"But I would ask the smug NATO strategists, if a NATO-centric attitude is allowed to exist, why do you deny our right to a Russia-centric view? It is like projections on the globe. Depending on the angle taken, different regions and territories can be placed at the center. It is a clear and indisputable fact for us that the military capability of others is coming closer to our borders and that [these same] others are encircling us with bases and developing missile defense systems. It is valid to view the issue from this angle too, and indeed, this is the only real angle we can take when faced with the task of taking effective care of our own security. This is the angle we look from and you cannot change it."
'NATO Is Directly And Unambiguously Violating The Obligations In The Founding Act'
Ryabkov: "Some of our neighbors even called on NATO to officially abandon the Founding Act in the run-up to the Warsaw summit and during the event. In other words, they were asking for NATO to unilaterally declare that this document is no longer in force. It makes me want to thank them for their honesty at least. We didn't doubt that these countries' governments consciously pursued the goal of dismantling the West's and NATO's relations with Russia...We see an increase in tension, rejection of not only Russian policy, but of Russia simply as a neighbor, let alone as a partner. This is coming through particularly clearly in these countries' policy on hard security issues and military security...They tell us, in particular, that these are not permanently stationed forces. As we see it, though, rotation is even worse than a permanent presence because rotation makes it possible for a much higher number of service personnel and contingents from the different countries to get to know these regions, get a feel for them in operations terms, learn how best to work there. Ultimately, NATO is directly and unambiguously violating the obligations in the Founding Act, even if it is trying to assert the opposite.
'I Am Sure There Will Be No War'
Ryabkov: "I am sure there will be no war. These developments are [part of] the West's usual game of flexing its muscles and just another attempt to 'put Russia in its place.' This is simply an attempt to capitalize on the current difficult period in Russia's relations with the West and play up issues on NATO's eastern and northeastern flanks, putting them to use for opportunistic motives and obtaining in this way some bonus in the form a beefed-up physical foreign military presence, construction of particular facilities and so on. The politicians in these countries seize on these developments to tie themselves and their voters more tightly to Western roots and the roots of the Western community..."
(Mid.ru, August 10)