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
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to Russia on an official visit and to attend the Eastern Economic Forum. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
In The News:
News In Brief: Russia-Iran Relations; 80 Years Since The Start Of World War II; Survey On WWII; Nord Stream 2; Russia's Economy; Putin And Judo
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to Russia on an official visit and to attend the Eastern Economic Forum.
Putin and Modi met on the quay of Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island, where the Eastern Economic Forum is being held. After that, they boarded the corvette Uragan to sail from Ajax Bay to the Zvezda Shipyard in Bolshoi Kamen.
(Kremlin.ru, September 4, 2019)
Modi At Eastern Economic Forum: Why India Is So Interested In Russian Far East
Indian media outlet India Today columnist Prabhash K Dutta explained Modi's visit to Russia, noting that India and Russia had agreed to a sea link between Vladivostok and Chennai. "This Vladivostok-Chennai sea link is somewhat a counter to China's Maritime Silk Route (MSR) plan as part of the One Belt One Road project," Dutta stressed.
Below is Dutta's article:
How India is countering China's String of Pearls policy (Source: Indiatoday.in)
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day Russia visit, that concluded today, came as business as usual to most of us. After all, this was his 55th foreign visit and fourth one to Russia as the prime minister...
"This was the first instance of an Indian prime minister attending the East Economic Forum. The forum aims to bring investment and development to what is known as the Russian Far East, a region extending between Lake Baikal – world's largest freshwater lake and deepest lake – and the Pacific Ocean.
"This is a region situated in the cold Siberian climate, but, more significantly, it shares borders with China, Mongolia, North Korea, and Japan (maritime). On its own, it could be the eight largest – just behind India – in terms of area, and the fourth least densely populated country. Both China and the U.S. have been competing for the upper hand in this region.
"Realizing its geostrategic significance, India opened a consulate in Vladivostok in 1992. India was the first country to have a resident consulate in Vladivostok then. This time, PM Modi was the chief guest of the Eastern Economic Forum.
"PM Modi announced a credit line of $1 billion for the development of this region. During his visit, India and Russia agreed for a sea link between Vladivostok, the capital of Russian Far East and Chennai. This will reduce the transport time from the existing 40 days to 24 days. An understanding on the Vladivostok-Chennai sea link was reached last year, when the late Sushma Swaraj visited Russia as foreign minister.
"This Vladivostok-Chennai sea link is somewhat a counter to China's Maritime Silk Route (MSR) plan as part of One Belt One Road project. China's ambitious MSR plan is about establishing and hence directly controlling Asia-Africa sea route.
"'We are starting a new era of cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region,' PM Modi declared before Russian President Vladmir Putin hugged him on completion of his speech. China has been aggressively pushing to expand its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
"The Vladivostok-Chennai shipping link is likely to pass through or very close to the South China Sea, which China has turned into an international geostrategic hotspot by claiming exclusive control over the resource rich maritime zone in the Pacific Ocean. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the sea.
"There is an alternate possibility as well, that Vladivostok-Chennai link would become an extension of existing India-Japan Pacific to Indian Ocean Corridor, which China considers a challenge to its maritime OBOR plan in the region.
"In his speech, PM Modi said the Far East will become the bedrock of a strong Indo-Russia ties based on the principles of 'rules-based order, sovereignty, respect for territorial integrity and is against engaging in the internal matters of other countries'.
"The announcement of a $1 billion line of credit is not really an investment by India, but it still offers it [an opportunity] to gain a foothold in the Russian Far East. Seen from geostrategic lens, this gives India another vantage point to counter Chinese game of encircling India through what is called the String of Pearls policy.
"Russian Far East is a resource rich region in a hostile climate. It is rich in oil, natural gas, timber, gold and diamond among other resources. India requires all of them. A busy Vladivostok-Chennai link means India strengthening its checks and balances equation with China.
"The current engagement of India with this region is limited to select pockets such as Irkutsk, where the MiG and Sukhoi fighter planes are built, and in Sakhalin, where ONGC Videsh has invested over $ 6 billion in oil and gas and exploration. The maiden visit by an Indian prime minister to Vladivostok is set to strengthen India's position in Asia-Pacific that has emerged as the kernel of future geo-strategy."
(Indiatoday.in, September 5, 2019)
Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to restoring the G8 club. At the same time, he said that Moscow is willing to host the leaders of the group in Russia for a summit. (Tass.com, September 5, 2019; read the full article)
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has pointed out that Indian partners are interested in discussing military-technical cooperation between the countries and lauded the "favorable" situation around Russian S-400 missile systems' supply to India, he told the Russian TV. (Tass.com, September 4, 2019; read the full article)
Russia and India plan to launch joint development and production of military equipment, spare parts and components, according to the statement "Reaching New Heights of Cooperation through Trust and Partnership" signed by Putin and Modi on the outcomes of their talks in Vladivostok on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF). (Tass.com, September 4, 2019; read the full article)
India has ordered from Russia a total of $14.5 billion worth of weapons and other military equipment, the chief of the federal service for military-technical cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, said. (Tass.com, September 4, 2019; read the full article)
Russia is ready to develop cooperation with India in the field of nuclear energy; in 20 years it is planned to build at least 12 nuclear power units, Putin said at a press conference following talks with Modi. (Tass.com, September 4, 2019; read the full article)
Tour of Fort de Bregancon, the official presidential residence in the south of France. With President of France Emmanuel Macron. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Macron: Europe Stretches From Lisbon To Vladivostok
On August 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with French President Emmanuel Macron in France. Echoing Charles de Gaulle, Macron stressed once again in his social media:
"I am convinced that the future of Russia is fully European. We believe in a Europe, stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok."
(Twitter.com/EmmanuelMacron, August 20, 2019)
At the joint press conference with Putin, Macron said: "I am thinking about everything that has happened over the past few decades, what has managed to drive us apart. I know that Russia is a European country in its heart of hearts. And we believe in a Europe that spreads from Lisbon to Vladivostok."
(Kremlin.ru, August 19, 2019)
Putin: If Europe Wants To Preserve Itself As A Center Of Civilization Then, Sooner Or Later, We Will Come Close To Achieving This
Commenting on Macron's statement, Putin said: "Regarding the prospects for creating a common Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok, this was not our idea. It was General Charles De Gaulle who voiced this idea while talking about Europe stretching from Lisbon to the Urals. But Russia extends all the way to the Pacific Ocean, and this entire territory is European cultural space. It is important that we understand this.
"And it does not matter that this seems impossible today. Anything that seems impossible today can become inevitable tomorrow. We proceed from this assumption. I believe that, if we think about this today, and if we set such goals, which are very important for Europe in the strategic long-term context (if it wants to preserve itself as a center of civilization), and also for Russia, and if we work on this together, then, sooner or later, we will come close to achieving this. It is important to choose a way in one form or another (it does not matter how) and to move slowly in the right direction, in line with the present-day conditions…"
(Kremlin.ru, August 19, 2019)
Russian FM Lavrov: 'Russia's Future As Part Of Europe Largely Depends On Europe's Willingness To Preserve The Civilizational Identity Of This Area'
During a joint news conference following talks with Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany Heiko Maas, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov answered a question on Macron's statement:
Question: "Following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron said he believed in Russia's future as part of Europe, and expressed his vision for Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Do you share this vision? Have today's talks contributed to making this idea come true?"
Sergey Lavrov: "Regarding yesterday's talks and the statements made during the talks in favor of a large single Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, French President Emmanuel Macron is not the only one who believes this can be achieved.
"We hear statements like these from our German colleagues, and they can also be heard in many other European countries. They reflect one simple truth: today, there is unprecedented demand for the processes unfolding across our common territory – the huge Eurasian continent – as well as the agreements made about 30 years ago in the OSCE format, which said it was necessary to establish a single and safe European space and a single European humanitarian space, given that today, due to a number of subjective factors, the prospects for creating this large European home are becoming more illusory, while the risk that this space will split up is increasing, thereby posing a threat to our common European civilization as it may lose its position in the global arena.
"Responsible politicians are interested in avoiding this scenario and taking, instead, the path of building our common economic, humanitarian and security space. One can talk at length about this but when in 2010 the latest OSCE summit took place in Astana, the heads of the OSCE member countries signed the declaration which solemnly reaffirmed the need for creating this common space in the Euro-Atlantic area and Eurasia.
"We continue to work in the OSCE format to push this issue through in concrete agreements. I will mention one of these initiatives – the Structured Dialogue on security which was initiated by Germany and is now in its third year. Hopefully, we will be able to achieve results sometime soon, so we can specify the tasks set before us. Russia's future as part of Europe largely depends on Europe's willingness to preserve the civilizational identity of this area."
(Mid.ru, August 21, 2019)
Russian Expert Sergey Fedorov: France Is Interested In Russia Moving Closer To Europe Rather Than To China
Russian expert Sergey Fedorov, Senior Scientific Associate Department of social and political studies, at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, commented:
"Despite the disagreements between our countries, France believes that the international order is being reformed. France is interested in Russia moving closer to Europe rather than to China, otherwise Europeans simply will not be able to achieve stability in the military, economic and other spheres. France now plays a key role in this dialogue, especially since German leader Angela Merkel is now weakened and cannot be a leader, and Britain is dealing with Brexit. Therefore, Macron spoke to Putin on behalf of all of Europe."
(Nation-news.ru, August 20, 2019)
Svpressa.ru: The Ukrainian Issue Prevents Russia's European Future
Russian media outlet Svpressa.ru stressed that there is a "stumbling block" in Russia's path to a European future: the Ukraine issue.
"There are two main political topics of the meeting. The first concerns the change of power in Ukraine – both at personal (presidential) and political levels; that is, a change of majority in the Verkhovna Rada. President Zelensky has repeatedly voiced a desire to resume dialogue in the Normandy format regarding Donbass. Naturally, both Paris and Moscow would like to see what issues can be resolved. It is unlikely that Zelensky's proposal to include the U.S. in the negotiations will be implemented, first of all, because U.S. President Trump is not eager. But this does not mean that there is no need to look for any progress, first of all, with regard to the ceasefire and the exchange of detainees. Separate issue is the question of Ukrainian sailors detained in the Strait of Kerch," Yuri Rubinsky, Head of the Center for French Studies at the Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences, said.
(Svpressa.ru, August 20, 2019)
Ukrainian Columnist Leontiev: From The Neo-Liberal Macron, Hearing This Statement Was, At The Least, Unexpected
Ukrainian columnist Alexander Leontiev wrote in the Ukrainian weekly 2000:
"Macron slightly changed the famous statement of Charles de Gaulle, 'Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.' From the neoliberal Macron, hearing this was, at the least, unexpected…
"Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok (which, of course, includes the 'independent Ukraine') – it is unlikely that many in Ukraine will like this idea of unity. But what about their European aspirations? Bloody aspirations, if we talk about the last five years. In a rational aspect, it's hard to understand. Unless in the metaphysical sense.
"Completely different geopolitical ideas and completely different geopolitical means for these ideas were developed during state visits in Paris and Kiev. In Paris, it was a conditional idea of geopolitical unity. And what idea (and means for it) were developed during the presidential visit to Kiev?"
(Svpressa.ru, August 21, 2019)
Turkish Commentator Demirtas: With His Russia Visit, Erdogan Sent A Message To Washington That 'Turkey Is Not Without Alternatives In Finding New Suppliers... If It Is Denied American Weapons'
On August 27, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Zhukovsky, southeast of central Moscow, at the 14th International Aviation and Space Salon (MAKS 2019).
Putin's visit to Russia came after Turkish authorities reported that the Syrian Air Force had attacked a convoy of Turkish soldiers that was en route to Border Checkpoint 9 in Idlib province, Syria, on August 19.
An August 19 statement by the Turkish Defense Ministry's August 19 blamed Russia for the attack. The ministry stated: "Despite repeated warnings we made to the authorities of the Russian Federation, the military operations by the regime forces continue in Idlib region in violation of the existing memorandums and agreements with the Russian Federation." Nothing that Russia had been told in advance about the convoy, it added: "We strongly condemn this attack which contradicts the existing agreements, cooperation and dialogue with the Russian Federation. Without prejudice to our rights to self-defense, we expect the necessary measures to be taken to prevent recurrence of such incidents."
In an August 23 phone call, Putin and Erdogan discussed various aspects of Russian-Turkish cooperation for stabilizing the Idlib de-escalation zone. According to the Kremlin website, the two leaders agreed to step up their joint efforts to eliminate the terrorist threat emanating from that region and to ensure the implementation of the Sochi Memorandum of September 17, 2018. On the same day, it was announced that Erdogan would be paying a one-day visit to Russia on August 27.
Ahead of Erdogan's visit, Russian analyst Boris Dolgov, a senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Science, said: "The mere fact that the Turkish president is coming to Russia in such haste shows that Turkey does not want a confrontation at the moment."
Indeed, Mehmet Acet, columnist for the AKP mouthpiece Yeni Safak, wrote that the meeting showed that the Russia-Turkey alliance has not been damaged: "Erdogan and Putin made an appearance at the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2019. The most striking detail of the exhibition was the photos of Erdogan examining the Russian fifth-generation Su-57 warplanes [and] the photos of Putin describing the details of the fighter jets and Erdogan listening to him closely. So... Can we consider this picture the start of a new partnership for the Su-57s, just as the one that took place in Sochi for the S-400s? This may very well be possible in a couple of years."
In Hurriyet, Turkish columnist Serkan Demirtas concurred with this view. Commenting on Putin's Moscow visit, he wrote that Erdogan's presence at MAKS 2019 constituted a strong message to Washington, and added: "The message is clear: Turkey is not without alternatives in finding new suppliers if it is excluded from the U.S.-led international projects and denied American weapons. This can also include Russia's fifth-generation SU-57 aircraft instead of Lockheed Martin's F-35s, as Turkey will need to upgrade its aerial defense in the next decade… The fact that Putin promoted the SU-57 to Erdogan at the aviation fair makes the latter's message even stronger. It is, of course, very premature to speculate whether Turkey would choose to buy SU-57s from Russia, but our experience concerning the purchase of the S-400 systems proves that this option may be on the table."
(See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8257, Turkish Commentator Demirtas: With His Russia Visit, Erdogan Sent A Message To Washington That 'Turkey Is Not Without Alternatives In Finding New Suppliers... If It Is Denied American Weapons', September 3, 2019)
Russian president Putin and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan inspect the Su-57 cockpit at MAKS 2019. (Source: Tccb.gov.tr)
Russian Exper Subbotin: The Double Game Can't End Positively For Turkey
Russian expert Igor Subbotin stated in Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie (Independent Military Review): "The double game can't end positively for Turkey. At the beginning of August, there was information that, highly likely, Washington and Ankara got to an agreement regarding a safe-zone and establishing the joint operational center for eastern Euphrates. Mildly put, this is dissatisfactory for Moscow, which holds the fate of Idlib in its hands."
(Ng.ru, August 26, 2019)
Russian Expert Semenov: The Rebels In Idlib Started A New Offensive On The Day Of The Visit To Moscow]
Kirill Semenov, Director of the Centre of Islamic Research at the Institute of Innovative Development, said: "The rebels in Idlib started a new offensive today [the day of Erdoğan's Moscow visit] and captured three villages from the Syrian forces. The operation was highly likely 'ordered' by the Turks ahead of Erdogan's visit to Moscow, in order to magnify his negotiation starting positions."
Semenov said that although many experts assert that Putin's words regarding Ankara's right to create a secure zone on Turkish southern borders was a reference to Idlib, it might be that he meant broadening the "Euphrates shield" operation on a part of the de-escalation zone.
Semenov thinks that Putin was referring to the only zone that the Turks are creating with the Americans in the northeast. Thus, approving the creation of this specific zone might be the maximum concession by Moscow. "Let's say, you may create your zone with the Americans, we are no longer against that, but we will do whatever we want in Idlib – that might be [the real] Russian position," Semenov wrote.
Putin: Both Our Turkish Partners And We Are Seriously Concerned About The Situation In The Idlib De-Escalation Zone
During the joint press conference with Erdogan, Putin said:
"… First of all, I would like to thank the President of Turkey, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for accepting the invitation to be with us at the 14th MAKS-2019 International Aerospace Salon.
"Mr. President is accompanied by a delegation of high-ranking Turkish military, and industry and business representatives. Our guests from Turkey had a chance to see the achievements of the Russian aviation industry and watch the air show, which featured Su-35 multipurpose fighters, and the fifth-generation Su-57 fighter. We are also ready to offer flights on Su-30SM fighters to Turkish pilots.
"We have certainly used Mr. Erdogan's visit to MAKS as an opportunity to hold bilateral talks and discuss, among other things, promising joint projects not only in aerospace, but also in other areas of military-technical cooperation. I am specifically referring to the contract with Turkey for the S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft weapon systems...
"During the discussion of current international issues, primary attention was certainly given to the situation in Syria. Russia and Turkey cooperate closely in the Astana format along with Iran. We believe this format is the most effective tool for overcoming the crisis in Syria. We think that at this point the most important task is to focus on finally stabilizing the situation on the ground and promoting a political settlement in conformity with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. In this context, Mr. Erdogan and I discussed issues related to the creation and initiation of the Syrian Constitutional Committee that, we hope, will start functioning in Geneva soon.
"Both our Turkish partners and we are seriously concerned about the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone. The terrorists continue shelling Syrian government troop positions and trying to attack Russian military facilities. We are convinced that the de-escalation zone should not serve as a shelter for militants, or be a bridgehead for new attacks. In this context, the President of Turkey and I mapped out additional joint measures for neutralizing terrorist hotbeds in Idlib and normalizing the situation both in this zone and in the rest of Syria.
"The president and I spoke about this today in detail and agreed on what we should do to resolve these issues together and how to do it. In this process, we proceed from the immutable principles of preserving the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria, and the unacceptability of dividing it into spheres of influence."
(Kremlin.ru, August 27, 2019)
Putin: We Believe Creating A Security Zone On The Southern Borders Of The Republic Of Turkey Will Help Ensure The Territorial Integrity Of Syria Itself
During the Q&A, Putin was asked about Turkey's cooperation with the U.S. in Syria.
Question: "Can you tell us anything about Turkey's cooperation with America on creating a security zone?"
Vladimir Putin: "Turkey is shouldering a huge refugee burden. We are well aware of this; there are more than 3 million people. Incidentally, normalization in Syria is prompting many people to return home. Over 300,000 refugees from abroad and 1 million internally displaced persons have returned to their homes. But we understand Turkey's concern over the security of its southern borders. We believe these are the lawful concerns of the Republic of Turkey. Today, the president spoke in detail about this. He made his position clear, and in my opinion, very understandable.
"We believe creating a security zone on the southern borders of the Republic of Turkey will help ensure the territorial integrity of Syria itself. In this respect, we support all measures aimed at de-escalation in this zone."
(Kremlin.ru, August 27, 2019)
Putin: We Discussed Cooperation On The Su-35 (Generation 4++) And Even On The New Su-57
Putin also answered a question about Russia-Turkey military cooperation.
Question: "You spent a lot of time today looking at the exposition in detail. I think Mr. Putin showed Mr. Erdogan almost the entire range of achievements of our aviation industry.
"You also said that during your talks you discussed military-technical cooperation and mentioned that a regular delivery of the S-400 system took place today. Did you discuss any new contracts?"
Vladimir Putin: "I could hardly show all the achievements of Russia's missile, space and aviation industry in such a short amount of time. We are proud of our advanced developments in this area and our new prototypes for arms and equipment, and not just military but also civilian produce.
"We also demonstrated the MS-21, a new civilian aircraft, which, I believe, the president liked. Our friends liked the helicopters, especially the MI-38. These are light helicopters that are used, in part, for medical purposes. The president intends to carry out a large program for the development of medical airlift services in Turkey. We also have plans like this on our agenda in Russia.
"Thus, we talked not only about military or military-technical cooperation but also about civilian related cooperation, both in space and aviation. As for military aviation, we discussed cooperation on the Su-35 (generation 4++) and even on the new Su-57. We have many opportunities. We showed a new weapons system and a new system for radio electronic warfare. In my opinion, our Turkish partners were interested in many things. I am referring not just to procurement but also to joint production. Incidentally, we are open to this and, in certain areas, we will be actively discussing it with our partners."
(Kremlin.ru, August 27, 2019)
News In Brief
- Crimea Invites Iran to Use Its Ports as a U.S. Sanctions Workaround – Official. (Themoscowtimes.com, September 2, 2019; read the full article)
80 Years Since The Start Of World War II
'Poland Started WWII': Russia Reacts to 80th Commemoration Snub. World leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday marked 80 years since the start of World War II in Poland. Russia, however, was not invited to Sunday's commemorations because of its 2014 annexation of Crimea and actions in eastern Ukraine, a decision that Moscow had called baffling. (Themoscowtimes.com, September 2, 2019; read the full article)
After Poland announced that Putin's attendance at the 80th anniversary commemoration would be inappropriate, Armenia announced that it would boycott the ceremony "on principle" despite its sensitivity to such commemorations as in that war it was part of the USSR. Lukashenko previously announced that he would not attend the ceremony out of solidarity with Russia. (Vz.ru, August 29, 2019)
Survey On WWII
- The Russian governmental public opinion survey tested the knowledge about WWII. While 90% correctly named September 1 as the day the war started only a third said it began in 1939 the rest said it began in 1941 or in other years. Asked about the cause of the war, 14% said it started as a struggle for spheres of influence, 13% Germany's striving for hegemony, 10% mentioned Germany's policy to occupy Russia and a third of those surveyed found it difficult to give an answer. (Aif.ru, August 29, 2019)
Nord Stream 2
- Responding to Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski who compared Nordstream 2 to the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact, Senator Pushkov called the comparison "stupid".(Rg.ru, August 28, 2019)
- The Ministry for Economic Growth has lowered its estimate of the growth of Russian real income in 2019 from 1% to 0.1%. In 2020, a more modest GDP growth is expected than in the previous forecast, and in 2021 the ministry even acknowledges a recession. (Rbc.ru, August 26, 2019)
Putin And Judo
- Russian President Putin reveals how his judo training helps him in foreign relations. (Sputniknews.com, September 2, 2019; read the full article)