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.
Photos Of The Week
EU Leaders With Putin
From the upper left, Russian President Vladimir Putin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, having a drink at the Schloss Meseberg, a Baroque palace situated at 65 kilometers north of Berlin, August 18, 2018. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Italian Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini in Moscow, wearing a Putin t-shirt (Source: Twitter.com)
On August 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, in Austria’s Styria region. In the photo, Putin dances with Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl to "The Last Waltz". (Source: Kommersant.ru)
On July 15, ahead of the World Cup final, President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic presented a Croatian national team shirt to Putin. (Source: Facebook.com)
On May 30, 2018, Putin welcomed Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov with a hug. (Source: Novinite.com)
On July 15, 2018, ahead of the World Cup final, Putin met with President of France Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron in the Kremlin. (Source: Rt.com)
On August 22, 2018, Putin and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö took a sea tour aboard the yacht Chaika. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
During a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked about the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
Question: "The United States is also threatening with more sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. What do you think?"
Vladimir Putin: "Europe needs Nord Stream 2."
(Kremlin.ru, August 22, 2018)
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7640, Reactions To The Russia-Germany Talks – Senator Kosachev: Russia–Germany Dialogue Is As Important As Russia-US Relations, August 26, 2018.
In The News:
- Russia-Finland Relations – Finnish President Niinistö: You Can Describe Our Talks As 'Sunny' – Putin's Views On Finland-NATO Relations
- Russia-Austria Relations – Putin: Austria Plays A Positive Role By Trying To Promote A Russia-EU Dialogue
- Russia-Italy Relations – Italy's European Affairs Minister Savona: Without The ECB, It Is Possible The Russian Aid
- Russia-UK Relations – Reactions To UK Foreign Secretary Hunt's Statements On Russia – Russian Embassy To The UK: The UK Authorities May Prefer To Continue Their Policy Of Scaremongering – Russian FM Lavrov: The UK Is Leaving The EU, But Wants To Dictate The EU Foreign Policy
- Russia-Turkey Relations – Russian Expert Buzhinsky: 'Russian-Turkish S-400 Deal Is Unlikely To Be Finalized'
- How To Counter The West, According To LDPR Leader Zhirinovsky
- Freedom Of Speech In Russia
Finnish President Niinistö: You Can Describe Our Talks As 'Sunny'
Putin and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö (Source: Kremlin.ru)
On August 22, Putin and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö held a joint news conference in Sochi, following Russia-Finland talks. This was not merely a meeting between neighbors. Finland will assume the presidency of the European Union, in the second half of 2019 and in the press conference Putin expressed his hope that during Finland’s presidency, relations between Russia and the EU will be restored.
Putin summarized the relations between the two countries as follows:
"Russian-Finnish relations are traditionally neighborly and mutually beneficial. This includes trade and economic ties, most importantly. At the end of 2017, bilateral trade grew 37 percent to almost $12.5 billion, followed by 27 percent more in the first six months of this year.
"Over 7,000 Finnish companies maintain business contacts with their Russian partners. Finland’s total direct cumulative investment in the Russian economy is $4.4 billion, but if we count Finnish affiliates in third countries this would be up to $14 billion. Russian companies have invested $3.4 billion in the Finnish economy…
"As you may know, Finland is taking part in the program to mitigate the Krasny Bor hazardous waste landfill site near St Petersburg. We will continue to expand our environmental cooperation with Finland. Tourism exchanges are also growing: in 2017 that growth was 15 percent.
"We also discussed international matters. I again thanked my Finnish colleague for organizing the Russia-US summit in Helsinki. We expressed mutual interest in cooperating to improve stability and security in the north of Europe. Russia supports the Finnish President’s proposal to improve the security of flights over the Baltic Sea…
"My colleague and I also discussed Arctic issues, first, regarding Finland’s current presidency in the Arctic Council. In all, talks with the President of Finland were quite constructive. Certainly, they will contribute to the further improvement of bilateral relations."
The President of Finland Sauli Niinistö concurred that Finland sees positive developments in the economic relations between Finland and Russia. "I say this despite the fact – a small reminder, you could say – that there is a trade deficit in favor of Russia, not Finland. I say this because it is in fashion to mention this during international contacts," said Niinistö.
He then added: "You could probably describe our conversation here as sunny."
(Kremlin.ru, August 22, 2018)
Putin's Views On Finland-NATO Relations
During the joint press conference, Putin was asked about Finland-NATO relations:
Question: "Sometime in late July, Defense Minister Shoigu said that Finland’s cooperation with NATO is forcing Russia to take countermeasures. How would you comment on this statement? This question is for both presidents."
Vladimir Putin: "My comment is very simple. We are not deploying our military contingents far away from our borders and close to NATO countries whereas NATO military infrastructure is moving closer to our borders. The number of personnel and materiel near our borders is increasing. More military exercises are being conducted. Major NATO exercises are being planned right here, next to this place, as well as in the Baltic region. Of course, we must be aware of what is happening there, and improve our infrastructure. We must respond to US missile defense assets deployed next to our borders.
"Please note that these are not just regular anti-missile systems. These systems can also be used for medium-range missile launches. As I mentioned, we welcome the proposal of the President of Finland to reduce all tensions, including combat aircraft flights.
"The International Civil Aviation Organization has developed certain rules but they do not apply to military aviation. They are recommendations. We are willing to discuss this with our partners from NATO, but they refuse to do so. We think that this is not a constructive position and hope that this will change."
Sauli Niinistö: "I think about six years ago, I told Mr. Putin that like any self-respecting nation Finland provides itself with the best self-defense capabilities. I have not heard a single word of criticism with regard to Finland during my trip. However, President Putin, for example, mentioned missiles of a certain type. There are no such missiles in Finland at all, none. I think it is critical that we all work to promote mutual understanding across the world. This is my approach to this visit."
(Kremlin.ru, August 22, 2018)
During the press conference, the Finnish President was asked about his proposal of having military aircraft use their transponders over the Baltic Sea so that flights can be monitored.
Question: "If we may, let us return to a topic that has already been mentioned. I am speaking about your initiative to secure flights above the Baltics. This means that military aircrafts should fly in this region with their transponders turned on.
"Russia has said many times, and President Putin has said again today, that Russia agrees with your proposal, but the problem lies in NATO’s position: the alliance in not ready to follow these recommendations and will not agree to do this. Can you say, considering NATO’s position, that your initiative has failed and should be given up?"
Sauli Niinistö: "My view on this issue is not as gloomy as you have described it.
"Which stage or phase are we in right now? The stage when all the parties have delegated this issue to the ICAO as a civil aviation organization. Some progress has been made in this work. We have developed good practices that can be applied; these mechanisms can also be used in military aviation.
"This spring Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and his US colleague Joseph Dunford had a meeting in Helsinki, and I had meetings with both of them. I was surprised by how clear the interaction is in Syria in order to avoid any collisions or incidents. And, of course, the risks in that region are higher than in the Baltics. So I still hope that we will succeed in the Baltic Region and the situation will stabilize there."
Vladimir Putin: "I agree with President of Finland. I do not think that the idea of scaling back confrontation and improving security in the Baltic Sea has failed. Of course not, just the opposite, it has become even more relevant lately. There are some technical problems, because the Russian army, Russian aviation and NATO countries’ aviation use slightly different equipment, which should be discussed by experts. But I believe the idea itself is important right now, and we will carefully continue to discuss it with our partners."
(Kremlin.ru, August 22, 2018)
Russia-Austria Relations – Putin: Austria Plays A Positive Role By Trying To Promote A Russia-EU Dialogue
Putin with Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Austria Sebastian Kurz. (Source: Kremlin.ru, August 18, 2018)
At the wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl and Wolfgang Meilinger. (Source: Kremlin.ru, August 18, 2018)
In the joint press conference with the Finnish President, Putin answered a question about his trip to Austria, to attend Austrian FM Karin Kneissl's wedding.
Vladimir Putin: "The trip to Austria – it was strictly private. I would like to thank my Austrian friends for the invitation once again. I have to say that all of them are adults in important positions in society and the state, but they are also a very open and lively bunch. I would like to congratulate them with all my heart on the occasion I was fortunate enough to take part in, the wedding ceremony. In addition, the groom [Wolfgang Meilinger] is someone I know: a former athlete and judoka, which is always a bond.
"However, while this was a celebration, of course I found time to briefly discuss business with the Foreign Minister and the Chancellor of the Republic of Austria. I would like to note that Austria plays a very positive role in general by trying to advance bilateral relations while also promoting dialogue between Russia and the entire European Union."
(Kremlin.ru, August 22, 2018)
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7638, Russia In The World – Russia-Austria Relations – Reactions To Putin's Attendance At Wedding Of Austrian Foreign Minister Kneissl, August 24, 2018.
Russia-Italy Relations – Italy's European Affairs Minister Savona: Without The ECB, It Is Possible The Russian Aid
Italian Minister Paolo Savona (Source: Politicheeuropee.gov.it)
On August 21, the Italian newspaper La Stampa published an article, titled "Without The ECB, Is Russian Aid Possible ", penned by the Italian journalist Marco Zatterin.
According to the article, Italy's European Affairs Minister Paolo Savona has suggested that in case of an economic storm, he expected the European Central Bank (ECB) to buy Italian securities to bolster the Italian financial market. If the ECB refused to step in, If this would not happen, Savona envisioned an "external alternative": to have a Russian sovereign investment fund prop up the Italian economy.
(Lastampa.it, August 21, 2018)
Russia-UK Relations – Reactions To UK Foreign Secretary Hunt's Statements On Russia
On the occasion of his first visit to Washington D.C. as British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt gave a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace, in which he called for tougher EU sanctions against Russia.
See the full speech
Russian Embassy To The UK: The UK Authorities May Prefer To Continue Their Policy Of Scaremongering
The Russian Embassy to the UK in London slams the remarks by British Foreign Minister Hunt:
Question: "How would you comment on the anti-Russian remarks made by the UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt during his US visit?"
Russian Embassy to the UK: "Those statements follow the general line of the current Conservative government towards Russia. It is highly symbolic that Foreign Secretary Hunt has chosen the US Institute of Peace as a venue for his attacks. There is not much about peace. The UK authorities may prefer to continue their policy of scaremongering, using the so-called 'Russian threat' in order to distract the British public from those urgent domestic and international problems the UK currently faces. But this “enemy search” is a flawed and shortsighted policy.
"Its clear result is further undermining of the international authority of the country, who willfully closes channels for communication and thus loses opportunities for efficient cooperation with a wide range of states. This is done against the background of the declared 'Global Britain' policy, aimed to demonstrate the British openness to the world.
"We consider any tightening of sanctions to be illegitimate, dictated by a strive for global domination by means of protectionism and unfair competition. Today restrictive measures are aimed not only at Russia and a whole range of other countries. Allies are being as easily punished, in this regard the UK is not an exception.
"This kind of policy cannot become a basis for international communication. It cannot serve as a foundation for a long-term course – sanctions mechanisms have their objective limitations due to the limited potential of the countries using them."
(Rusemb.org.uk, August 21, 2018)
Russian FM Lavrov: The UK Is Leaving The EU, But Wants To Dictate The EU's Foreign Policy
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov also commented on Hunt's statements:
Question: "UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged European partners to slap their own sanctions on Russia in connection with the Salisbury incident. Could you comment on this?"
Sergey Lavrov: "As for Britain, I heard the statements by the new UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who, as far as I understand, is heading for Washington. He declared that he would try to persuade President Trump to toughen sanctions against Russia. London is pressing the same thing in relations with Europeans, citing the Salisbury incident, which has not yet been investigated. A while ago, Secretary Hunt was asked in Britain if any progress had been made in identifying the suspects. He did not know what to say to his own journalists.
"Our British colleagues have a fairly high opinion of themselves. The country that is leaving the EU – the so-called Brexit – is trying to dictate EU foreign policy. And now it appears that London wants to dictate Washington’s policy towards Russia as well.
"We have repeatedly urged our British colleagues to come to the negotiating table, lay down all their concerns and figure out where we are in our relations. The response was a haughty refusal. Our proposal stands. Neither on the issue of the investigation of the Salisbury incident, nor on any other matter that the British side is trying to spin in an anti-Russian way, can there be any “highly likely” any more. Lay the facts on the table, please."
(Rusemb.org.uk, August 27, 2018)
Russia-Turkey Relations – Russian Expert Buzhinsky: 'Russian-Turkish S-400 Deal Is Unlikely To Be Finalized'
Lieutenant-General (Retired) Evgeny Buzhinsky wrote an article, titled "Buying Russian Missile Systems Would Be A Political Breakthrough For Turkey," published by the Valdai Club.
Buzhinsky wrote that the Russian-Turkish S-400 deal is "unlikely" to be finalized.
Buzhinsky opined: "This is a very sensitive issue. One of the US deputy defense secretaries, back in the days of Donald Rumsfeld, told me: 'You can sell rifles, automatic weapons, armored vehicles, even tanks to a NATO member state, but you will never sell aircraft, warships, air defense systems, because this is not military-technical cooperation, not commerce – this is politics'." He then added: "Therefore, if Russia succeeds to supply the S-400s to Turkey, it will be a fundamental political breakthrough."
Buzhinsky explained that the integration of the Russian systems into NATO’s air defense is "technically feasible", but very "difficult organizationally." "It is necessary to combine software and allow the Russian systems to penetrate the heart of NATO’s unified air defense system (and this is not only software, there are codes, and friend-or-foe identification – a whole complex). That is why the S-400 is one of the reasons why the Americans suspended the delivery of the F-35 aircraft to Turkey. And I cannot imagine the situation when Turkey will enter into an open confrontation with the US and thereby put under question its membership in the alliance. There is the consolidated decision of the alliance from 2014 to cease any cooperation with Russia in the military sphere, and everyone adheres to it. The intra-NATO discipline is not an empty phrase," Buzhinsky wrote.
Concerning Russia-Turkey relations, Buzhinsky said that economic cooperation will increase. "The Turks will not impose sanctions against Russia, no matter how hard the Americans will pressure them. Our relations are very good now, and they will remain the same: the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, South Stream, tourism, trade, tomatoes... But Erdogan would refuse the S-400 supplies at the last moment. There are big doubts that he will begin such a close military cooperation with Russia in the face of the US and NATO," Buzhinsky concluded.
(Valdaiclub.com, August 15, 2018; read the full analysis)
How To Counter The West, According To LDPR Leader Zhirinovsky
Zhirinovsky with a group of students. (Source: Facebook.com/Zhirinovskiy)
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of LDPR party, proposed a change to the educational system in order to combat the West. According to Zhirinovky, the student should have to pay for all foreign language studies.
In his Facebook account, Zhirinovky wrote:
" English language [study] in schools should be on a paid basis! I will explain why English is harmful to Russia.
"In the West – especially the US – they have organized a very profitable system of labor for talented people. Scientific geniuses, engineers, software engineers and doctors study in countries with a good educational system. Like in Russia or India. Then, the trained specialist, after the state has heavily invested in him for 15 years, is poached by high salaries to [emigrate] to Europe or the US. Thus, the West not only strengthens its economy, it also bleeds its competitors dry.
"To ensure the theft of the best minds proceeds without problems, they have forced English language instruction upon the entire world in schools and universities. By their 20s, most of the planet's well-educated inhabitants have a good command of the language, which means they are fully ready to emigrate to the West! Europe and America are in the black, Russia and Asian countries bear the damages and losses.
"How to we combat counter this? All languages, with the exception of Russian, should cease being compulsory subjects [in schools and universities]. Native local languages and foreign languages studies should be not only electives but also on a paid basis. First of all, we should deprive English language of its status as a 'commonly available and studie language'. Why should we educate future immigrants at our own expense?"
(Facebook.com/Zhirinovskiy, August 19, 2018)
MEMRI TV Clip No. 5883, Russian Presidential Candidate: I Would Like to Be Tsar and Will Eliminate Those Who Impede Russia's Development, February 4, 2017
MEMRI TV Clip No. 6095, Russian LDPR Party Leader: Trump Is Politically Impotent, Melania Is a Bitch, June 18, 2017
Freedom Of Speech In Russia
The prosecution demands compulsory psychiatric treatment for Eduard Nikitin, a 42-year-old, who has been accused of extremism. In 2015, Nikitin published in his social media account a joke that conveyed pessimism about the results of the presidential/parliamentary elections. Nikitin also published a cartoon depicting a dead body with St. George ribbon with the following caption: "A good vatnik [padded jacket] is a cold vatnik". (Vatnik is a nickname for Russian ultra-patriots who uncritically support government policies. Generally vatnik is the padded outerwear favored by the lower classes and peasants during the Soviet era. Cold vatnik equals a dead Vatnik, while the St. George ribbon symbolizes Russian military victories and serves as a patriotic symbol).
Nikitin is an unemployed and physically disabled individual.
(Interfax.ru, August 20, 2018)
Screenshot from the prosecution files as presented during the trial: 1) cartoon 2) joke
The joke's translation
Son: "Dad, do you think anything is going to change in our country after the elections?"
Dad: "No, I don't think anything will change."
Dad: "You see, son… If you put a couple of cherries on a pile of shit, the shit will not become a cherry pie"
According to the prosecution, psychologic-linguistic experts reached the conclusion that "taking into consideration the context and the wording, the text contains implicit and covert distrust towards any elected officials, members of the parliament and the president... the text also expresses distrust that any positive changes in the country [are possible]".
Having analyzed the context in Nikitin's social media page, the psycho-linguists came to the conclusion that "the suspect's activities demonstrate disregard for Russia and show signs of humiliating the dignity of a social group on the basis of its being part of a state entity [Russia] and ethnicity [Russians]".
(Fotanka.ru, August 20, 2018)