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.
Cartoon Of The Week
Vitaly Podvitsky, Vk.com/13studiya, December 19, 2016.
Caption: [Russian ambassador] Karlov Andrey Gennadyevich 4.02.1954-19.12.2016
died defending his country in the war with terrorism.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova is one of the most-quoted Russian officials. She is known for using colorful language when describing Russian foreign policy in her weekly press briefings. The following are Zakharova's quotes of the week:
Commenting on the killing of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov, Zakharova said: "We qualify the events as a terrorist attack, we stay in contact with Turkish officials, who have pledged that a thorough all-round investigation will be carried out. The assassinators will be punished. Today this issue will be brought up at the UN Security Council. Terrorism shall not pass we will take resolute efforts against it."
Responding to a question from the media about the opening of a U.S. advanced military storage facility in the Netherlands, Zakharova said: "…It seems that the West is seeking to make the military and political deterrence of Russia a long-term effort. The implementation of such plans is another indication that the Netherlands is at the forefront of NATO activities to implement the decisions of NATO summits held in the UK and Poland, which can hardly be described as exclusively defensive. Under the guise of a mythical 'threat from the East', the Hague is participating in air, sea and land-based components of the expanding military presence of coalition forces near the Russian border, such as patrolling the airspace of the Baltic countries and the NATO multinational battalion in Lithuania. The Netherlands has made its territory available for storing U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe.
"We believe that such decisions in the military sphere are in keeping with the numerous hostile attacks made by Dutch officials regarding Russia, designed to dial up the anti-Russian hysteria among the Dutch public.
"That includes questionable initiatives to create 'independent Russian media' to fight so-called 'Kremlin propaganda', the direct financing by the Dutch Foreign Ministry of Russian opposition NGOs, the constant use by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Foreign Minister Bert Koenders of the specter of the 'Russian military threat' in their public statements, in order to push through, contrary to Dutch public opinion, the ratification of the EU-Ukraine association agreement.
"The same kind of thinking is also responsible for the unfair and unjust ruling by the District Court of Amsterdam to transfer items from the exhibition, Crimea: Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea, to Ukraine, rather than museums of Crimea, which, in our opinion, puts an end to the Hague's cherished ambitions to establish itself as the legal capital of the world. It seems that the Dutch leaders have acquired a taste for these headlong efforts to intentionally destroy their country's relations with Russia. Now, it is reinforcing its belligerent anti-Russian policy with 'steel'."
(Mid.ru, December 21)
Quotes Of The Week
Senator Franz Klintsevich said in an interview with Lenta.ru : "I'm wondering which NATO special service provided them [Karlov's murderers] assistance. The fact that their ears began sticking out [behind the scenes] is visible to the naked eye." He then added that the West's goal is to have Russia suspect Turkey as part of a double game. "This is very delicate and elaboarate" Klintsevich said.
(Lenta.ru, December 21)
According to another source Klintsevich said: "I undoubtedly trace the complicity of the NATO countries' special services, including the U.S., in the murder of Andrey Karlov. It's hard to prove, but it is true. Perhaps the State Department was uninvolved in issuing direct orders, but this was unnecessary– because there special services for such purposes."
(Nsn.fm, December 21)
Senator Franz Klintsevich (Source: Rusarminfo.ru)
Pushkov's Tweet Storm:
Senator Alexey Pushkov (@Alexey_Pushkov) wrote on his Twitter account: "The Obama's administration is still striving to overthrow Assad, thus it needs ISIS and [Jabhat] Al-Nusra. That's why sitting with them [the administration] is fruitless, while the dialogue is sterile."
(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, December 14, 2016)
Pushkov wrote on his Twitter account: "The death of Russian ambassador in a terror attack – is a result of the political and media hysteria, unleashed by Russia's opponents following Aleppo."
(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, December 19, 2016)
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In The News:
Reactions To The Murder Of Russia's Ambassador To Turkey
On December 19, 2016, Russia's ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was assassinated at a photography exhibition in Ankara. The attacker was a 22-year-old police officer, who was identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas. The attacker reportedly shouted "Don't forget Aleppo! Don't forget Syria! As long as our brothers are not safe, you will not enjoy safety." He then added: "Whoever has a share in this oppression will pay for it one-by-one."
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6716, Russia's Official Reactions To The Killing Of The Russian Ambassador To Turkey, December 20, 2016.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6718, Russia's Official Reactions To The Killing Of The Russian Ambassador To Turkey - Part II, December 21, 2016.
Commenting on the killing, Oleg Glazunov of the Moscow-based Plekhanov Russian University of Economics said: "The killer may belong to Islamist radicals and may have been connected to Jabhat Al-Nusra. We cannot rule out a Saudi link to the assassination."
(Regnum.ru, December 20)
Alexander Ignatenko, head of the Russian Institute of Religion and Politics, said: "It can't be ruled out that the terrorist 's hand was guided by those who do not want the Aleppo crisis to be resolved with a lead role for Russia and Turkey, while excluding other power centers such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran."(Mk.ru, December 19)
Col. (ret.) Igor Korotchenko, Editor-in-Chief of Russia's National Security Magazine, said that "the Obama administration benefits from [the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey]," although refraining from leveling a direct accusation against the U.S. He was speaking on the "Meeting Spot" talk show on Russia's NTV channel a day after the assassination.
(See MEMRI Clip No. 5801, Russian Military Expert: Obama Administration Benefits from Murder of Our Ambassador to Turkey, December 19, 2016)
Russia-Iran-Turkey Meeting On Syria
On December 20, Moscow hosted talks between the foreign and defense ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey, focusing on the Syrian conflict. In his opening remarks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the "barbaric crime" reminded everyone once again that "fighting terrorism must be uncompromising and relentless". Lavrov added: "If the organizers of the terrorist act thus wanted to foil the fight against terrorism in general, and our today's meeting, in particular, they failed to do so, and will always fail. It is an absolutely provocative, perverse and unacceptable logic when people try to justify terrorists and stop the fight against them by using such acts of intimidation." He then stressed: "The attempts by some members of the international community to represent the matter in a way that supporting the legal government of Syria, which is a UN member, in its fight against terrorism only reinforces the terrorist threat, are absolutely unacceptable. Clearly, it is an attempt to let the terrorists off the hook."
Lavrov and Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu paying tribute to Karlov. (Source: Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167)
Russia In Syria
Talking at a meeting in Moscow with participants in the Dialogue for the Future research and education program and active members of the Gorchakov Fund's Club of Friends, Lavrov said: "Unfortunately, some of our colleagues cannot resist the temptation to try to maintain their once dominant positions, to change political regimes in sovereign states to their own liking, to export not just revolutions but democracy, which results in bloodshed in most cases. Of course, this policy contradicts the standards of international law and the need to maintain a democratic world order. This policy also runs counter to historical experience. We have seen many times over the past decades that the dream of global domination is a dangerous chimera. Attempts to enforce development models at all costs and without due regard for national traditions, including by provoking revolts and through direct military intervention, have destroyed statehood in several countries and turned vast regions, primarily the Middle East and North Africa, into zones of chaos and anarchy and a source of terrorist threat and extremism. As I said, all of this is a direct result of the untenable policy of interference in internal affairs, manipulation of the development models of states and a passion for geopolitical engineering."
Discussing Syria, Lavrov added: "As it often happens in this world, the sole purpose of the propaganda machine is to demonize the Syrian Government, as well as Russia and Iran as supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his fight against terrorism, and to make up all kinds of fake stories to prove war crimes allegedly committed in eastern Aleppo. When western countries want to demonize someone, they use outright lies. They later acknowledge it, but it is too late. Outright lies and forgery have long been used, and our Western colleagues have mastered them. But having lied once, you can hardly expect others to believe you in the future." He then stressed: "While the UN has been literally held by the hand and not allowed to do things they are paid to do in accordance with UN Security Council resolution, we, together with our colleagues, have already begun to work with those who are really in control of what happens on the ground. We are talking with all the militant groups, except ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, which are on the terrorist list. We are in dialogue with all the countries of the region, including our Turkish colleagues, who also have contacts with the militants on the ground, including the armed opposition. I think that this channel can be more effective than the many months of fruitless gatherings with our U.S. colleagues. We maintain contacts with them, but every time we reach an agreement on something, the Americans walk away from it."
(Mid.ru, December 14)
Discussing Russia-NATO relations, Colonel-General (ret) Leonid Ivashov, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, said: "The outgoing US administration, and the political and business establishments backing the Obama team need an enemy. An enemy is required for waging an aggressive policy and justifying it. Let me remind you that last year [July 2015] the US administration adopted the National Military Strategy [NMS] and its development into military doctrine, and there Russia is mentioned over 10 times as 'the main threat to the US' and the 'main threat to mankind'. The doctrine essentially is an act of law approved by Congress. That's why the military and power structures are developing a plan of measures to pressure Russia." He also added: "NATO is a U.S. domain and its tool in a global policy of world domination, so the US simply employs NATO countries so if some incident occurs, the US will be 'above battle' on the sidelines. The Americans' wet dream is a EU-Russia confrontation."
(Ria.ru, December 12)
Russia and Cuba signed a program of technology cooperation in the defense sector until 2020. The document was signed at the meeting of the Russian-Cuban intergovernmental commission in Havana by Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and a vice president of Cuba's Council of Ministers, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz. Rogozin said: "It's not military deliveries, it's methodological assistance. We will offer general guidance on how to organize the long-term planning program of the development of the armed forces and all the work related to the maintenance of equipment." He then added: "This is the first time that we, on the request from the Cuban side, took part in creating a long-term program of modernization, upgrade and refurbishment of equipment that was previously delivered to Cuba."
(Tass.com, December 9)
Interview Of The Week - Gorbachev: 'The Soviet Union Cannot Be Restored. But A New Union Can Be Established'
In an interview with TASS, the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev discussed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Q: "Who remains responsible for the Soviet Union's collapse?"
Gorbachev: "I do not shed my share of responsibility. But my conscience is clear. I was defending the [Soviet] Union till the very end. Reforming and renewing the Soviet Union was necessary and possible."
Q: "When did it go wrong and what could have been changed?"
Gorbachev: "I think the coup attempt (in August 1991) had most serious consequences. The coup was a protest of bureaucracy. I had to break up with that gang, that's the only word that describes them. Boris Yeltsin got ill-tempered, he just did not realize that his role was important but it does not imply what he started to do. And what he started to do was the struggle against the Union's center.
"He was a very power-hungry person, endlessly power-hungry. He was very disappointed and displeased that he was not a Politburo member. That was the reason for all his protests. Once he got into a temper at a plenum (of the Communist Party's Central Committee). He even said our political situation was reminiscent of the creation of 'Gorbachev's personality cult.' He was seeking such (words) to strike a chord, to make people react to him.
I think he was a man of great potential but his uncontrollable striving for power, it never stopped... I left him a plenum member but dismissed him from the post of the Central Committee's Secretary, I left him on the post similar to ministerial. He had to be dealt with... That's all.
"Everyone should recall how he behaved, what he was doing or not doing during those fatal days. I'd like to remind you that the overwhelming majority of the Russian Supreme Council's deputies voted for the Belavezha Accords, including Communists, who are now crying foul about the catastrophic consequences and accusing Gorbachev of everything."
Q: "A question is often raised during the discussion on the causes of the Soviet Union's collapse - why Gorbachev did not order the arrest of Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian leader Leonid Kravchuk and Belarusian parliament chairman Stanislav Shushkevich in Belavezha Forest."
Gorbachev: "I did not know what the purpose of that gathering was."
Q: "So, the special services did not report anything?"
Gorbachev: "No. And I talked with Yeltsin. He said he was going there (to the Belovezha Forest) at the invitation of the locals, Shushkevich. The Ukrainian leader was also supposed to go there. I said that he should talk to them, especially, the Ukrainian leader Kravchuk as the Soviet Union was impossible without Ukraine. Meanwhile, he (Yeltsin) took part in the drafting of the new treaty, and there are his signatures and he agreed to everything. But he was playing along..."
Q: "But could you have arrested them?"
Gorbachev: "I think this would smell of a civil war. It would have been dangerous to do this to retain power instead of using democratic methods.
"My credo is democracy, resolute changes in favor of democracy, a bloodless expulsion of the totalitarian regime. But there was blood. There were local conflicts. And we see what happens when very resolute people set to work. The resolution should be different. The resolution should be in the defense of principles. That's what happened at the Congress (of the USSR People's Deputies).
"The price of preserving the Soviet Union in a way that you are talking about... I think it would smell of big trouble. The fire would have engulfed the whole country. I did a different thing ― I relinquished power. I resigned to avoid bloodshed. That's all. And they became the leaders."
Q: "Did Washington support the collapse of the USSR, was it their goal?"
Gorbachev: "I cannot say they were doing this, especially, in the beginning. No one thought that the Soviet Union could be eliminated. And then they started helping... And were rubbing their hands as they were fighting with Russia for almost 100 years and it fell into pieces by itself..."
Q: "Is the Soviet Union's restoration possible? What do you think?"
Gorbachev: "The Soviet Union cannot be restored. But a new Union can be established."
Q: "In the former borders?"
Gorbachev: "In the former borders, with the same members, on the basis of free will. I think a new Union is possible."
(Tass.com, December 13)