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
Quote Of The Week:
Yuri Shvytkin, deputy chairman of the Duma's defense committee, stated: "In two months the stability and calm will be impaired. This may ultimately lead to an escalation of tensions in Europe. The European countries are becoming hostages of the irresponsible and ill-conceived American policy on this issue."
(Ria.ru, December 4, 2018)
In The News:
- INF Treaty
- Russia's Iskander-M Units Hold Operational Tests
- Russian Chief of General Staff General of the Army Gerasimov: Washington Is Taking Comprehensive Measures To Contain Russia And Discredit Its Role In International Affairs
- News In Brief: Trump-Putin Meeting - Plans To Deploy US Military Infrastructure In Cyprus - US-Russia Naval Tensions - Russia Warns Poland's Potential 'Fort Trump' Can Be Targeted For Strike - Human Rights
Trump Warns About The Uncontrollable Arms Race
On December 3, US President Donald Trump wrote in his Twitter account that he's worried about the arms race. Trump stated: "I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!"
(Twitter.com/realDonaldTrump, December 3, 2018)
Kremlin Spokesperson Peskov: We Welcome Trump's Position
Commenting on the tweet, Dmitry Peskov, presidential spokesperson, declared to the RIA news agency that Moscow will welcome this position if the US administration actions will not diverge from Trump's words on the necessity of a dialog on halting the arms race. He also reminded people that Putin has previously cautioned his colleague against pulling out of the INF treaty, since this was likely to provoke a new arms race.
(Ria.ru, December 3, 2018)
Russian MP Shvytkin: Trump's Words Do Not Coincide With His Actions
MP Yuri Shvytkin, deputy chairman of the defense committee of the Duma, said: "Definitely, this statement is worth paying attention to, though, unfortunately, Trump's words don't coincide with his actions...Of course, we welcome such intention [to stop the arms race], we have always said that we are against any kind of arms race." Yet, Shvytkin mentioned that Trump's words are in contradiction with his intention to pull out of the INF.
(Ria.ru, December 3, 2018)
Pompeo Gave Russia A 60-Day Deadline
On December 4, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave Russia a 60-day deadline to correct alleged violations of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty otherwise he said the U.S. would quit the accord.
Speaking at a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where he attended a meeting of the alliance's foreign ministers, Pompeo said the U.S. has found Russia in "material breach" of the 1987 treaty, under which Washington and Moscow agreed to eliminate all nuclear missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
(Politico.eu, December 4, 2018)
Russian MFA Spokesperson Zakharova: We Reaffirm Our Steadfast Commitment To The INF Treaty As One Of The Cornerstones Of Strategic Stability
Russian MFA spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated: "… In the evening of December 4, the US Embassy in Moscow delivered an official note to the Foreign Ministry notifying us that the US intends to suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty within 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance. We accepted these documents for further consideration.
"This notice reproduces groundless accusations of alleged violations by Russia without any evidence to back these claims.
"Today, I would like to take this opportunity to stress that Russia has repeatedly said that these are far-fetched allegations. We have yet to see evidence confirming the position of the US. If this evidence was presented to NATO members, why is the US not willing to share it with Russia? Let me emphasize that Russia has never received any materials, data or facts from anyone proving that Moscow was in breach of this treaty or failed to comply in good faith with its provisions.
"We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the INF Treaty as one of the cornerstones of strategic stability and international security. Russia is categorically opposed to the breakdown of this framework. We are ready to continue dialogue in the relevant formats on all matters related to the treaty. Of course, this must be a mutually respectful and professional dialogue free from groundless accusations or ultimatums. Our proposals to this effect are well known and remain on the table."
(Mid.ru, December 5, 2018)
Putin: The US Is Trying To Find Someone To Blame To Step Out Of The INF Treaty; The US Wants To Have Nuclear Weapons, So We Will Have Them Too
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to questions about the INF Treaty:
Question: "Mr President, back to the international agenda: yesterday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo basically issued an ultimatum, saying that Russia has 60 days to correct the alleged violations of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. The Americans state that we created missiles that violate the terms of the treaty.
"How will we react to these statements? How will we respond?"
Vladimir Putin: "It is very simple. First of all, it is obvious and known to all by now – Mr Pompeo's statement is somewhat late. It was the American side that announced its plans to quit the INF treaty first; only then they started casting about for a justification for doing this. The most important justification is that we violated something. At the same time, as always, no actual proof of violations on our part has been provided.
"As a reminder, in 2002, the United States, just as in this case, unilaterally withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty. The ABM treaty is one of the cornerstones of the international security system. Nevertheless, they just walked out without any second thoughts. By the way, they did not even bother to invent any reasons – just withdrew, and that was that.
"Now, in fact, the same thing is happening, only they are trying to find someone to blame for this decision – I would say a rather reckless decision.
"The arguments cited are essentially clear: Russia and the United States are the only countries that do not produce weapons of this kind. This is actually true. Many other countries – probably about a dozen already – make such weapons, while Russia and the United States have limited themselves bilaterally. Now, apparently, our American partners decided that the situation has changed so much that the United States should also have such weapons.
"What will our response be? Simple: then we will do it too.
"Allow me to remind you that this year, I think, the US Congress earmarked funds for R&D projects to create these missiles, even before they announced withdrawal from this treaty. That is, the decision was made a long time ago, only quietly.
"They thought we would not notice, but we did – the Pentagon budget includes the development of these missiles. Only after that they publicly announced that they were withdrawing from the deal. Their next step was to look for someone to blame; 'Russia' is the first word that comes to mind and sounds familiar to a regular Westerner's ear.
"This is not true. We do not agree with the destruction of this deal. But if this happens, we will react accordingly."
(Kremlin.ru, December 5, 2018)
Senator Kosachev: Pompeo's Statement Is A Blatant Ultimatum
Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council's Committee, wrote in his Facebook account:
"US Secretary of State Pompeo's call to Russia to resume compliance with the INF within sixty days is far from an invitation to discuss the means of keeping it intact. This is a crude ultimatum, presented by the US with a single aim – to show to their allies and to the whole world that it's not the US which is destroying one of the most important pillars of international security, it is Russia, which presumably failed to comply with it although [Russia] was given a chance to do so.
"The latest most revealing, not to say insolent, remarks by NATO's secretary general Stoltenberg, who literally said that NATO 'provides Russia with the last chance to save the INF treaty and that otherwise Russia will have to live in a world without the INF, proves the point.
"Their arguments are appalling for their cynicism: 'The US have evidence that Russia is breaching the treaty. [However] I can't get into the details of the intelligence which was provided', said US Department of State representative Vanessa Asker. We are certain that you've breached the treaty, but we are not going to show you anything. It seems that the logic of Western behavior, adopted for the most serious international issues has been turned into a continuous theater of the absurd of the 'highly likely'.
"Another statement by the same State Department representative was even more revealing. [She said that] the latest decision of the US and NATO allies were affected by 'Russian activities in the Kerch straits'. Exactly so. It turns out that the Ukrainian provocation had a very long target..
"It should be recalled that, back in 2014, the European position (FRG Chancellor Merkel's in fact) regarding sanctions on Russia had been affected by the tragedy of the Malaysian Boeing in Ukraine. In those days [the Europeans] had been influenced by yet another incident with Ukrainian participation.
"I can only commiserate the Europeans if they so easily and thoughtlessly give up the INF treaty that is much more important to them than for the US and are left at the mercy of the Americans, who are now ready to bring down many of the most important agreements of previous years."
(Facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002123135703, December 5, 2018)
Senator Pushkov: Washington Knows That Moscow Won't Accept Pompeo's Ultimatum
Senator Aleksey Pushkov wrote in his Twitter account: "Pompeo's ultimatum is the US mechanism for pulling out of the INF: Washington understands full well that Moscow will reject such an ultimatum. Then they will tell aloud the world that Russia is again responsible for everything and therefore they will quit the treaty. They need justification. This is the point behind Pompeo's ultimatum."
(Ria.ru, December 5, 2018)
Russian Expert Sivkov: This Ultimatum Implies That Russia Will Stop Producing Iskander Missiles Systems
Konstantin Sivkov, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, stated: "This is nothing more than an ultimatum implies that we scrap production of Iskander missiles systems. Yet the US is deploying in its forward regions [Eastern Europe] MK-41 launch platforms under the pretext of defense purposes. Those launch platform might be used for launching Tomahawks." Sivkov added that the ultimatum was unacceptable..
(Ria.ru, December 5, 2018)
Senator Dzhabarov: 'Our Response Will Be Mirror-Like'
Senator Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the Federation Council's international affairs committee, stated: "Our response will be mirror-like: if the US pulls out of the treaty and deploys short and intermediate range missiles in Europe, we will bolster the quantity of missiles of same class in the European part of its territory."
(Ria.ru, December 4, 2018)
Senator Bondarev: Today's Russia Is Strong And Does Not Accept Any Other Type Of Dialogue Except One On Equal Basis
Senator Viktor Bondarev (former RUAF chief of Staff), chairman of the Federation Council's Defense and Security Committee, stated: "In it is entire geopolitical conduct the US convey its unwillingness to have a dialogue of equals. I'll remind them that our country is no longer the same with which the [United] States concluded the INF treaty. Today's strong and robust Russia rejects any other type of dialogue except for one based on parity and any form of concession aside from mutual."
He added that Russia prefers easing international tensions on a contractual basis but not at the expense of its own national interests.
(Ria.ru, December 5, 2018)
He then added that in case the US actually quits the treaty Russia will have no other choice but to accelerate its own research and development [of short/medium range missiles] and introduce the "unique weapons systems."
(Ria.ru, December 4, 2018)
Russian Defense Minister Shoigu Considers Increasing Combat Capabilities Of Troops Amid The Growing Arms Race Related To US Plans To Withdraw From The INF Treaty
Russia's National Centre for State Defense Control in Moscow hosted a Defense Ministry teleconference chaired by the Russian General of the Army Sergei Shoigu. During the teleconference, Shoigu said that Putin was informed about the Armed Forces' development and their ability to ensure military security of the state and "resist the technologically advanced enemy." Measures were considered to increase combat capabilities of troops amid the growing arms race related to US plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It was noted that the new state armament program until 2027 allows maintaining the necessary pace of rearmament of the armed forces.
(Mil.ru December 4, 2018)
Lavrov Meets Mogherini, Who Says INF's Preservation A Common Interest Of Russia And EU
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with the EU's High Representative for Foreign Relations Federica Mogherini in Milan. Mogherini called the INF a key element of European security but said "its full implementation was in the interest of all sides". The last part could be seen as a nod to the American position that Russia has not fully implemented the treaty.
(Argumenti I Fakti, December 6, 2018)
- The Kremlin believes that Washington manipulates the facts, accusing Russia of breaching the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, but its true goal is to withdraw from the arms control deal, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. (Tass.com, December 5, 2018; read the full article)
- The Kremlin has nothing to do with the idea of deploying Russian missiles in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela, Russian President Vladimir Putin's Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "We have nothing to do with this idea," he stressed. Several experts previously said that the deployment of such missiles in Latin American countries is possible if the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) is not preserved… Top NATO diplomats urged Russia to urgently return to full and verifiable compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), pointing out that now the ball is in Moscow's court to preserve the deal. (Tass.com, December 5, 2018; read the full article)
Russia's Iskander-M Units Hold Operational Tests
On December 6, Russian head of the district's press service Colonel Alexander Gordeyev said that units of the Iskander-M tactic ballistic missile system of the Eastern Military District have carried out a test missile launch in the Astrakhan Region. The target was hit at a distance of 80 km.
"The events are being held as part of a tactical exercise under the plan of the final stage of the testing of the new Iskander-M tactic ballistic missile system, which joined the missile formation of the Eastern Military District located in the Jewish Autonomous Region," Gordeyev specified.
(Tass.com, December 6, 2018)
Russia did not test missiles for the Iskander-M tactical missile systems with a range that would violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), Chairman of Russia's State Duma Defence Committee and former Commander of the Russian Airborne Troops, Vladimir Shamanov, said at a State Duma plenary meeting.
"They have one claim against us, about the Iskander-M missile. They allege that, according to their classified data, there is evidence that we tested it," the lawmaker said. "I declare with full responsibility that we did not test any missiles of such a range (more than 500 km - TASS)... and Mr [US Secretary of State Michael] Pompeo is aware of that," he stressed.
(Tass.com, December 6, 2018)
Russian Army's Chief of General Staff Gerasimov: Washington Is Taking Comprehensive Measures To Contain Russia And Discredit Its Role In International Affairs
During a meeting with Russia's foreign military attaches, Russian Chief of General Staff General of the Army Valery Gerasimov stated:
"The current international situation is characterized by the increasing potential for confliction in relations between the main 'centers of power'…
"The activity of the United States of America aimed at retaining its dominant role in the world and excluding other countries from competition is one of the main destructive factors complicating the international situation.
"That is why Washington and its allies are taking comprehensive, coordinated measures to contain Russia and discredit its role in international affairs.
"In response to allegedly growing threat from Russia, NATO increases its military presence close to Russian borders. In Eastern Europe, countries enlarge the strength of response forces, establish anti-missile defense elements, prepare advanced aerodromes, enhance logistics of cross-border military transport, and create a system of advance weapon and property storage.
"Under these conditions, we take all the necessary response measures to ensure military security of the state. Meanwhile, we are not increasing the strength of the Armed Forces and are not getting involved in a ruinous arms race…
"In the context of enhancing global missile defense system by the US, the combat capabilities of ground-based strategic nuclear forces have been increased. We continued to rearm them with modern Yars missile systems equipped with highly effective means to overwhelm ABM defense.
"Russian industrial enterprises have launched mass production of Avangard missile complex equipped with hypersonic glide vehicle.
"To replace the Voevoda missile system the most powerful in service with Russian strategic nuclear forces, the Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile has been developed. This year the missile has successfully undergone drop test.
"In naval strategic nuclear forces, strategic missile submarines ensured permanent combat duty. They carry out serial patrolling missions including those under the Arctic ice.
"Further development of the Naval Strategic Nuclear Forces includes construction of the Borey-A-class submarines equipped with ballistic missiles to overwhelm ABM defense systems.
"Potential of Air Strategic Nuclear Forces was maintained by upgrading the Tu-160 and Tu-95ms bombers, equipping them with more powerful engines, modern onboard equipment, and also by expanding the range of weapons.
"At the same time, the development of strategic weapons is conducted in strict compliance with international obligations, as defined by the treaties on strategic offensive arms.
"To guarantee defense of the Russian Federation from airspace attacks, we also steadily develop the aerospace defense.
"Increasing ability to detect attacking ballistic missiles is fostered by enhancing space and ground echelons of missile attack early warning system.
"A solid radar field has been created along the Russian borders. As a result, it ensures detection of ballistic missiles from all missile-prone directions and on various flight trajectories…"
(Mil.ru, December 5, 2018)
News In Brief:
- Russian President Vladimir Putin's possible meeting with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, in Washington is ruled out in the current situation, Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. "De facto, the easiest option is to meet on the sidelines of international multilateral forums," he said. "The next such event will be held in Osaka. It will be the next Group of Twenty summit, in six months. And it is an untenable pause both for our bilateral relations and for international security and stability." (Tass.com, December 3, 2018; read the full article)
- The Kremlin is ready to hold a new meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump, but it is not going to impose itself and urge the White House, Russian Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters. (Tass.com, December 4, 2018; read the full article)
Russia Warns Against US Military Deployment In Cyprus
- Russian MFA spokesperson Maria Zakharoza said: "A number of sources have reported that the US is proactively exploring a military build-up in Cyprus, making little secret of the fact that this effort is designed to counter Russia's growing influence in the region in light of the progress in the Syrian operation by the Russian Aerospace Forces… Moscow cannot turn a blind eye to the anti-Russia nature of these plans and, should they materialize, will be forced to take retaliatory action." (Mid.ru, December 5, 2018; read the full article)
US-Russia Naval Tensions
- The United States' guided missile destroyer McCampbell entered the Sea of Japan, US Navy spokesperson Rachel McMarr said in a statement. McMarr pointed out that the move is not against Russia or other countries, and is not linked to the recent incident in Kerch Strait when Russia detained three Ukrainian naval vessels that entered its territorial waters in violation of international law. (Sputniknews.com, December 6, 2018; read the full article)
- The USS McCampbell guided missile destroyer did not come closer than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Russian territorial waters, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov stated. The US destroyer was moving under the control of the big anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs, the aircraft of Russian Pacific fleet aviation, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. "In reality, the USS McCampbell destroyer did not even approach Russian territorial waters closer than by 100 kilometers. What is more, during all its passage through the international waters, the US destroyer was moving under control of the Russian Admiral Tributs large anti-submarine ship, which was in close proximity, as well as of the Pacific Fleet naval aircraft", Konashenkov said. He then noted: "The only thing 'demonstrated' by the crew of the US destroyer was a failed attempt to get away at maximum speed from the Pacific Fleet forces that were escorting it. Currently, the crew of the US McCampbell destroyer 'is demonstrating' its courage at a distance of more than 400 kilometers from the territorial waters of the Russian Federation in the central part of the Sea of Japan", Konashenkov said. (Sputniknews.com, December 6, 2018; read the full article)
- Aleksandr Vorontsov, head of the Department of Korea and Mongolia at the Institute of Oriental Studies, said: "They [the US] made a loud statement. Why has it been done? It seems out of impotence. The US wants to demonstrate that they are the master of the high seas, as Great Britain used to be. Yet, what can the US demonstrate to Russia? Nothing. US sailors understand full well that throughout their passage along Peter the Great Bay they are in the crosshairs of our shore anti-naval missile forces. In case something happened, they would not have been able to send out “SOS” radio signal. Thus, this demarche is aimed at their allies and hesitating countries. It's like we are so tough, we consider the Japanese Sea as our domain and we threaten the naughty Russians with our on board missiles. I would like to see Washington's reaction if our naval forces would begin strolling around the Gulf of Mexico, our strategic bombers would resume overflights of the US western coast and our submarines would surface opposite Norfolk, New York, Boston and Portland…" (Vladnews.ru, December 6, 2018; read the full article)
Russia Warns Poland's Potential 'Fort Trump' Can Be Targeted For Strike
- According to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, Warsaw and Washington are holding active consultations on establishing a US military base in Poland, which could be located in Orzysz near Russia's Kaliningrad. The projected US military outpost near Russia's border is intended to protect Poland as well as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia from external threats. Moscow has stated many times that it is ready to take tit-for-tat steps in case a US military base would be set up in Poland. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia would not turn a blind eye to the break in parity. According to Frants Klintsevich, member of the Defense and Security Committee of Russia's Federation Council, Poland's decision is an absolutely "irresponsible step." "If a facility is really created on Polish territory, it will immediately become a target for a strike. These are the rules of the war," the senator stressed. (Tass.com, December 6, 2018; read the full article)
- A Moscow court has sentenced a 77-year-old human rights icon to 25 days in jail for promoting an 'unpermitted rally' in support of youths charged with extremism. (Meduza.io, December 5, 2018; read the full article)
- 'Mocking Putin is tantamount to extremism' Students at a grade school in Vologda are reported to the police after posting memes about teachers and Russia's president. (Meduza.io, December 7, 2018, read the full article)