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.
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In The News
- INF Treaty
- New 9M729 Missile
- Arms Race
- Russia-Venezuela Relations
- News In Brief: More On Russia-US Relations - Russia-Japan Relations - Russia-Turkey Relations - Defense
Russia's Suspends The INF Treaty – Putin: Our Response Will Be Symmetrical
Putin with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
On February 2, during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow suspended the INF Treaty.
The decision came in response to the announcement on February 1 that Washington would suspend its liabilities under the INF Treaty starting February 2 and threated to quit it within six months if Moscow will not comply with the agreement.
During the meeting, Lavrov said: "In coordination with the Defense Ministry, we proposed unprecedented transparency measures that went far beyond our obligations under the INF Treaty in order to persuade the US that Russia was not in violation of this essential instrument. However, the US torpedoed these proposals. Instead, the US presented yet another ultimatum. It is obvious that we cannot accept it since it contradicts the INF Treaty in both letter and spirit.
"The US announced that it was suspending its participation in the INF Treaty, launched the official withdrawal from it, and said that it will no longer consider itself restricted by the INF Treaty. As far as we can see, this means that the US will make missiles in addition to engaging in research and development activities that have already been factored into the current budget.
"There is no doubt that these developments make things worse overall in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and strategic stability. It all started with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, when the US decided to withdraw from it in 2002, as you know all too well. This was done despite numerous initiatives by the Russian Federation at the UN General Assembly to save the ABM Treaty. The UN General Assembly passed a number of resolutions supporting the ABM Treaty. However, this did not stop the United States from withdrawing from it…
"Apart from the INF Treaty, there is the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty [START] that remains in force. It is also essential for preserving at least some measure of strategic stability and global parity. It is also under threat, since its effective functioning has come into question after the recent move by the United States to remove from accountability under the treaty 56 submarine based Trident launchers and 41 heavy bombers by declaring them converted into nun-nuclear…
"All in all, the situation is quite alarming. Let me reiterate that the decision taken by the United States on the INF Treaty is of course a matter of serious concern for the entire world, especially for Europe. Nevertheless, the Europeans followed in the footsteps of the United States with all NATO members speaking out in explicit support of the position adopted by the United States to refrain from any discussions on mutual concerns. All we hear are groundless ultimatums requiring us to take unilateral measures without any evidence to support unfounded accusations…"
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated: "It is obvious to us, despite the murky language that we hear, that apart from openly conducting research and development on the production of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, there have been actual violations of the INF Treaty, and this has been going on for several years. To put it simply, the United States has started producing missiles of this kind.
"In this connection, we have the following proposals regarding retaliatory measures.
"First, we propose launching in the coming months research and development, as well as development and engineering with a view to creating land-based modifications of the sea-based Kalibr launching systems.
"Second, we propose launching research and development, followed by development and engineering to create land-based launchers for hypersonic intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.
"We ask you [i.e. to President Putin] to support these proposals."
Responding to Shoigu, Putin said: "I agree. This is what we will do. Our response will be symmetrical. Our US partners announced that they are suspending their participation in the INF Treaty, and we are suspending it too. They said that they are engaged in research, development and design work, and we will do the same.
"I agree with the Defense Ministry’s proposals to create a land-based version of the Kalibr launchers and work on a new project to develop a land-based hypersonic intermediate-range missile.
"At the same time, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we must not and will not let ourselves be drawn into an expensive arms race…"
(Kremlin.ru, February 2, 2019)
Reactions To The Washington's Suspension Of The INF Treaty
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev tweeted: The unilateral and totally unprovoked US withdrawal from the INF treaty worsens the situation in the realm of international security and strategic stability."
Medvedev promised an effective answer to the American decision
(Aif.ru, February 2, 2019)
Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin: "By this decision the US destroys the world's global security architecture designed for decades...
"America has made the European countries into targets, and has put world security under a threat."
(Rambler.ru, February 2, 2019)
Senator Alexey Pushkov claimed that when Trump speaks about a readiness to conclude a new treaty to liquidate short and intermediate range missiles he is doing so to "calm down" his European allies.
"Trump wants to conclude a new INF treaty? These are words not deeds," tweeted Pushkov. "Essentially the US has already destroyed the 1987 treaty."
(Iz.ru, February 3, 2019)
Russia's government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta published an article, titled "The US For A Long Time Wanted To Return To Arsenals Of Prohibited Rockets."
"The announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin of a mirror response by Moscow to the US actions violating the INF treaty appears not only justified and logical but also fully predictable," Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote.
According to the editorial, since the conclusion of the treaty in the 1980s, other countries including the two Koreas, China, India Pakistan, and Iran possess missiles of this class. "But instead of listening to Moscow's opinion and instead of working to broaden the agreement's geography Washington embarked on the habitual path for American politicians. The US without proof accused us of violating the bilateral obligations under the INF. Essentially the history with the ABM [that George W. Bush withdrew from] repeated itself."
(Rg.ru, February 2, 2019)
The Russian Ministry of Defense tweeted a photo presumably of an American missile factory in Arizona where the American were planning to manufacture INF missiles in violation of the treaty. "According to information in the hands of the defense ministry, already two years before accusing Russia of violating the INF treaty, the US was going ahead with preparation for the manufacture of intermediate and short range missiles."
(Twitter.com/mod_russia, February 2, 2019)
The picture is presumably from Raytheon's missile factory in Tucson Arizona. (Source: Twitter.com/mod_russia, February 2, 2019)
Ryabkov: We Insist That The Americans Take Practical Steps To Allay Our Concerns About The Aegis Ashore Systems In Eastern Europe
On January 22, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov discussed the treaty in an interview with International Affairs Editor-in-Chief, Armen Oganesyan.
"We are about the see the end of the 60-day period the United States has given Russia to scrap the missile, which allegedly breaches the terms of the INF accord. The nature and tonality of this ultimatum is clearly unacceptable to us, primarily because there is no proof whatsoever that Russia has violated any of its provisions. This missile does not violate the treaty and has never been tested for a range prohibited by the treaty. Therefore, all US claims to the contrary only show that the Americans are looking for excuses to get rid of the restrictions imposed on them by the INF treaty."
Ryabkov expressed his belief that the INF treaty must be adhered to:
"We do not recognize the United States' unilateral decision to suspend the INF treaty, and consider this decision legally null and void. We believe that we should look for negotiated solutions and this is exactly what we were trying to do at the January 15 Interagency Consultations in Geneva. We are ready to show unprecedented openness when it comes to the 9M729 missile the Americans are so much concerned about. We have even offered to let them see the missile itself and provide them with necessary information about it, which is even more than the terms of the INF treaty actually provide for. However, we insist that the Americans take practical steps to allay our concerns about the Aegis Ashore systems deployed in Romania, and which may soon be deployed also in Poland. And also about ballistic missile targets whose characteristics are actually identical to those prohibited by the treaty, as well as for UAVs, whose definition as cruise missiles is indisputable, if only the text of the treaty is read in a normal and legally unbiased manner. The Americans are not ready to take any of these steps."
Ryabkov added: "With Washington's decision to suspend the implementation of the INF treaty already made, its withdrawal from the accord looks like a done deal now. I am almost 100-percent sure about that, judging by what US officials are telling us and the tonality of their statements."
(Interaffairs.ru, January 22, 2019)
- The majority of US political elite does not need any arms control deals over Washington's wish to ensure the position of a military hegemon, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told International Affairs magazine. (Tass.com, January 22, 2019; read the full article)
Russia's new 9M729 missile of the Iskander tactical missile system has a range capability of 480 km and does not violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Chief of the Russian Missile and Artillery Force Lieutenant-General Mikhail Matveyevsky said.
(Tass.com, January 23, 2019; read the full article)
In a conference dedicated to Russia's 9M729 missile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said:
"It is no secret that research and development activities concerning various missile systems that would be contrary to the spirit and the letter of the INF Treaty have been going in the US on for a long time… According to available information, the US military-industrial corporations for a long time have been actively developing a capacity to produce new missiles."
(Tass.com, January 23, 2019)
The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also addressed a joint briefing of the Foreign and Defense and charged: "Certain forces in the US do not want Moscow to prove that Washington's allegations concerning the 9M729 missile are wrong, Ministries …
Ryabkov pointed out that five years ago, Washington had decided to resume talks with Moscow on compliance with the INF Treaty "only to groundlessly accuse" Russia of violating the document. According to Ryabkov, the US "alleged that we had created and tested a ground-based missile with a range of more than 500 kilometers However, during later discussions, which lasted for five years and particularly involved a special control commission, Americans failed to present evidence to prove their allegations that would make it possible to start searching for an expert solution to the issue".
Moreover added Ryabkov: "There was a long period of time when they refused even to clarify which missile they referred to, making hints and citing some intelligence data. Only about a year ago, the United States finally said that the missile in question was the 9M729." he said. Ryabkov claimed that the Americans had provided no explanations "why Washington came to the conclusion that the missile had been tested at a range banned by the INF Treaty."
Ryabkov rejected the US demand for Russia’s verifiable elimination of all 9M729 cruise missiles.
(Tass.com, January 23, 2019)
In a bid to win the information war, the Russian Defense Ministry conducted a briefing in the Patriot theme park. There the ministry demonstrated the Iskander-M system armed with four 9M729 missiles and the missile's transportation and launch container to foreign military attaches and Russian and foreign media.
"A special configuration of the self-propelled launcher was developed for the 9M729 missile. It accommodates four 9M729 missiles, while the previous launcher carries two 9M728 missiles," the commander of Russia's Missile and Artillery Force, Lieutenant-General Mikhail Matveyevsky told a news briefing.
He explained that the 9M729 missile was 530 mm longer than its predecessor, which required upgrading the Iskander-M launcher.
(Tass.com, January 23, 2019; read the full article)
Russia's MFA On Space-Based Elements Outlined In The US Missile Defense Review: The US Preferred To Return To The Implementation Of Another Version Of Reagan's Star Wars Program
On January 25, the Russian MFA commented:
"We have taken note that in the US Missile Defense Review (MDR) published on January 17, a serious emphasis is placed on the formation of a space-based missile defense group, including missile interceptors. Deployment of such systems in space is ostensibly designed to make it easier to destroy different types of missiles in the boost phase over enemy territory. To achieve this, the US Defense Department has been instructed to study the most advanced technology, as well as draw up a time schedule, costs and personnel requirements.
"We consider this to be further evidence (on a par with the decision to create space-based armed forces and the allocation of funds for the development of space-based missile defense) of Washington's real intention to use outer space for combat operations and ensuring US domination in space in the near future. We are deeply disappointed that instead of developing constructive dialogue on the issues of strategic stability and preventing an arms race in space the US preferred to return to the implementation of yet another version of Ronald Reagan's Star Wars program.
"We again urge Washington to display prudence and give up such irresponsible ventures that could have extremely adverse consequences for the entire international community and the United States itself. Obviously, the appearance of weapons in outer space would run counter to the established practice of international cooperation in space exploration and the use of outer space for peaceful purposes.
"The potential implementation of US military plans in space will deal a blow at the current system of ensuring the security of space activities, which was shaped by the development of international space law. All of Washington's previous attempts to ensure military supremacy invariably ended in the escalation of tensions and new rounds of the arms race.
"Russia gives priority to space exploration and use exclusively for peaceful purposes and, unlike the United States, does not nurture plans to use attack weapons in orbit. This is proved by many initiatives made by Russia with the support of a solid group of like-minded countries on preventing an arms race in space, including elaborating a binding international instrument on keeping outer space free from any types of weapons based on the Russia-China draft treaty on the prevention of the deployment of weapons in outer space and the threat or use of force against outer space objects. In particular, we intend to continue active work in the Group of Government Experts on the further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space, which was established by UN General Assembly Resolution 72/250. The group's final session will take place in Geneva on March 18-29."
(Mid.ru, January 25, 2019)
- The US new missile shield strategy testifies to Washington's readiness to use all the resources to bring the arms race to a new level, Chairman of the Council of the Valdai International Discussion Club Andrei Bystritsky told TASS.
"Of course, this [the presentation of the new US missile defense strategy] is a step towards intensifying the arms race. But it is necessary to take into account that many statements have been made in this sphere lately: the Chinese land a rover on the Moon, talk about Taiwan, tell about their new achievements in weaponry and there are a lot of publications in the American press that the arms race is already underway. So, these words should have been expected," the expert said. (Tass.com, January 18, 2019; read the full article)
Nicolas Maduro (Source: Vk.com/politics_today)
On January 23, the Speaker of the Venezuelan Parliament and opposition leader Juan Guaido, 35 years old, declared himself president ad interim, during an opposition rally in Caracas. President Donald Trump, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro, Canada and several Latin American countries quickly recognized Guaido as acting head of state of Venezuela. EU countries (Spain, France, Germany and Britain) announced their readiness to recognize Guaido, unless elections are held within eight days.
In contrast, Russia, along with Bolivia, Iran, Cuba, Nicaragua and Turkey, accused the US of interference in Venezuela domestic affairs in gross violation of international law, stating that they continue to recognize the Maduro government as the sole legitimate government of Venezuela.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7865, Russia In The World – Official Russian Reactions To The Venezuela Crisis – Russian FM Lavrov: The U.S. Interfered So Blatantly In Venezuela's Domestic Affairs That A Mueller-Type Commission Is Superfluous – Part I, January 29, 2019.
Russian officials blamed the Venezuela crisis almost exclusively on the US. However, some Russian commentators are convinced that the "American blitzkrieg has failed" and that Maduro will remain in power, strengthened by the support of the Venezuelan army and the international community. Other commentators are more critical and view the Venezuelan crisis as the biggest failure of Russia's foreign policy.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7869, Russia In The World – Reactions To The Venezuelan Crisis: The American Blitzkrieg Has Failed – Part II, January 31, 2019.
On January 31, 2019, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that Russia may have helped Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sell Venezuela's gold. It stated that on January 29, a Boeing 757 cargo plane loaded with gold took off from Moscow and flew via Dubai, where it unloaded the gold and U.S. dollars were taken on, and then it took off again and flew via Morocco and Venezuela with cash, to finance Maduro.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7871, Russia In The World – Russia's Moscow-Caracas 'Golden Flight', February 1, 2019.
News In Brief
More On Russia-US Relations
- Russia's Foreign Ministry warns Russians going abroad of security threats posed by US agencies. (Tass.com, January 25, 2019; read the full article)
- Russia's MFA commented on the US initiative to hold a conference on the Middle East in Warsaw on February 13-14, 2019: "We view with concern the United States' continued attempts to promote its unilateral geopolitical interests through initiatives that are presented as the opinion of the international community. The latest political project of this kind is the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, which is scheduled to be held in Warsaw on February 13-14, 2019. Following a thorough analysis of the provisional agenda and program of this conference provided by the organizers, Russia has decided not to attend it..." (Mid.ru, January 22, 2019; read the full article)
- Abe-Putin Summit in Moscow: No Sensations, Moderation Prevails. The latest Russian-Japanese summit brought back the everyday tonality to the discussion over the territorial issue after a surge of hype in the media and the public in both countries in December-January. Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed moderation in their final press statements, refraining from harsh language and unrealistic promises. The Russian side negatively perceived a series of publications in the Japanese media, considering them public pressure. The lack of information on the negotiations progress after the 25th Putin-Abe summit is not a surprise - it is rather a correction of the preceding media hype. Even the number counting of these meetings in the Japanese media (which is practically not conducted in relation to Abe's meetings with other foreign leaders) indicates that they are still getting used to the new intensity of bilateral interaction between Russia in Japan. (Valdaiclub.com, January 23, 2019; read the full article)
- Talks with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. Vladimir Putin held talks at the Kremlin with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, who arrived in Russia on a working visit at the invitation of the Russian President. (Kremlin.ru, January 22, 2019; read the full transcript)
- Press statements following talks with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. Following the talks, Vladimir Putin and Shinzo Abe made statements for the press. Putin: "We discussed the prospects for concluding a peace treaty. The Prime Minister and I spent a lot of time discussing this issue… In Singapore, we agreed with the Prime Minister to base the negotiation process on the 1956 Joint Declaration of the Soviet Union and Japan. This primarily provides for the conclusion of a peace treaty. We reiterated our interest in having this document signed… I emphasize that there is long and painstaking work ahead to create proper conditions for reaching mutually acceptable solutions." (Kremlin.ru, January 22, read the full transcript)
- The top-level Russian-Japanese talks in Moscow continued for more than three hours, but the two leaders only made brief statements for the media after the negotiations. (Tass.com, January 23, 2019; read the full article)
- On February 2, a delegation of Turkey's Ministry of National Defense concluded talks with Russian officials over recent developments in Syria. According to a statement on its website, the Turkish ministry said the discussion included recent developments in Syria within the framework of the Astana and Sochi agreements and especially the opposition-held northwestern city of Idlib. (Yesisafak.com, February 3, 2019; read the full article)
- On January 23, Vladimir Putin and President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Moscow and held a joint news conference after Russian-Turkish consultations. (Kremlin.ru, January 23, 2019; read the full transcript)