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
Putin: Trump And I Agreed To Meet In Buenos Aires
At the conclusion of his three-day state visit to Singapore, Russian President Vladimir Putin answered questions from the Russian media.
Vladimir Putin answering questions from Russian media. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Question: "Mr. President, you said that you had a brief discussion with [U.S.] Vice President Pence. Perhaps, you can share with us some details about this exchange. Did you talk about preparing a meeting with President Trump?
"I have one more question on this subject. In light of the threat of the Americans imposing a second wave of sanctions in connection with the Skripal case, could they in any way affect the preparations for your meeting with President Trump in Buenos Aires and mutual visits next year?"
Vladimir Putin: "All unfriendly moves affect in some way the work schedule and the schedule of our meetings. We were ready to meet in Paris, but we already mentioned that we did not want to be in the way of the big event organized by the government and the President of France.
"This was indeed a major event attended by 90 heads of state and government, so it was fairly difficult to schedule a full-fledged meeting. We agreed to meet in Buenos Aires. On our part, we are willing to do so. The Vice President said that the United States is also getting ready for this meeting. Let's see what comes out of it.
"Indeed, we have things to discuss. During a working lunch in Paris, it was a general and quite intense discussion. President Trump and I were able to participate in this general discussion quite substantively.
"We spoke about security issues, economic growth and regional issues. The Vice President of the United States and I touched upon the same issues here.
"Of course, strategic stability is one of the key issues, as we need to understand what will become of the New START Treaty and how the events will unfold with the INF Treaty.
"There are other issues, including those related to bilateral economic relations, which are fairly limited but include promising areas that are of interest for the United States and Russia.
"Finally, we talked about the hotbeds of tension, such as Syria, the North Korean nuclear program, and our relations with Iran under the JCPOA – all these and other issues in which the United States and Russia are involved.
"Of course, we need a dialogue at the highest level and at the expert level. We are ready to restore full-scale work to the extent that our U.S. partners are ready to match."
(Kremlin.ru, November 15, 2018)
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:
Zakharova: The U.S. Wants To Control Europe
Question: "I would like to thank the Foreign Ministry on behalf of our readers for its heroic peacemaking activities which we regard as a contribution to Russia's sovereignty.
"On November 6, President Emmanuel Macron of France, speaking live on Radio Europe 1, said that we needed a common European army. He expanded on this point while addressing TF1 Channel, saying that they were not vassals and should have a European army. German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel went on record as saying the same thing. Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that this European desire was normal in a multipolar world format. At the same time, your counterpart, Heather Nauert, declared that the U.S. would not allow the weakening of NATO positions in Europe. Can Russia help Europe strengthen its military sovereignty? After all, this will only strengthen peace."
Maria Zakharova: "I think there should be a different relationship here. If I can get philosophical for a moment, it is not peacemaking that contributes to sovereignty, but Russia's sovereignty that contributes to peacemaking and generally to activities aimed at achieving peace and cooperation the world over. I think this is the right way of thinking about it.
"As for the heads of European countries saying that a united Europe would like to have armed forces of its own, the issue, as you rightly said, is the sovereign right of states to decide how they should organize their defense policy. States and unions of states have this sovereign right. Of course, we proceed from the premise that this is precisely a defense policy.
"As far as the U.S. reaction is concerned, I was updating you for 20 minutes or so, earlier today, on the deployment of NATO forces and the infrastructure used by NATO, or more precisely by the US, the country that leads and controls that organization. I also spoke about the presence, strength and deployment of US armed forces in Europe. Who do you think will be pleased with Europe starting to say that its states are not vassals in a country that continues to build up its presence in Europe? I don't think that the mass of arms and equipment they have as well as their military contingents are an indicator of cooperation. Their function is to control Europe. This is a 24/7 performance meant to show who is the boss and who is responsible for their future. Many analysts say as much. Statements that we heard coming from European capitals can please no one in the United States because the US has an agenda and plans of its own with regard to Europe.
"As for Russia-EU military and defense cooperation and interaction, as well as cooperation between Russia and individual member-states and other European countries, we are always open to it. I think our military experts are better qualified to talk about this, but we also regularly update you on the subject. Let me give you a few examples. We hold joint military exercises and are ready for openness and interaction in this area. We also inform our partners, even those that don't reciprocate, about upcoming exercises. We do this in order to remove concerns in a number of countries. We call for more intensive cooperation between secret services and defense ministries, between counterterrorism agencies, bilaterally, and at the international organizations we belong to. We repeatedly offered NATO the assistance of the CSTO and SCO in dealing with its objectives. You know well that we worked together quite successfully within the framework of Russia-NATO dialogue until this dialogue was blocked by the alliance."
(Mid.ru, November 15, 2018)
In The News:
- International Conference On Libya
- Libyan National Army Commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's Visit To Russia Ahead Of The Conference On Libya
- Second Meeting Of Moscow Format Consultations On Afghanistan
- Russia Is Winning The Battle For The Energy Of The Future
- News In Brief
International Conference On Libya
The Russian delegation to the November 12-13 International Conference on Libya, in Palermo, Italy, was headed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
The following are reactions to the conference:
Dmitry Medvedev briefs media following the International Conference on Libya (Source: Government.ru)
Russian Expert Lukyanov: Unclear Why Medvedev Participated In Libya Conference
Russian expert Fyodor Lukyanov wrote on his Telegram channel: "An international conference took place in Palermo, devoted to a Libyan settlement – Russia was quite unexpectedly represented by the prime minister [Medvedev]. The Italians wanted to organize an ambitious forum, but the general representation [of the participants] was eventually quite modest: the leaders of Egypt, Tunis and Niger, which share a border with Libya, and representatives of Libyan confronting groups. Other participants consisted of second tier and lower officials.
"True, the French Foreign Minister and the European Commission chair attended, yet their tool kit for influencing the Libyan situation was limited. Besides, there was a scandal: The Tripoli delegation demonstratively left the room when its opponent from Tobruk, Libyan [National Army commander Field] Marshal Khalifa Haftar commander, began delivering his speech. The Turkish delegation also left, after blaming all the others for the conference's failure. Italy is literally moving heaven and earth in order to confirm its leading role in the Libyan process. This is understandable. Italy does not have too much leverage, but (involvement in Libya) is a longtime tradition. Why Russia participated at such a high-level representation is not quite clear. It was easy to predict that the conference results would be zero. Yet, apparently, Russian prime-minister has special feelings for Libya."
Russian Media Outlet News.ru: Medvedev Talks With Haftar Infuriated Tripoli
Russian media outlet News.ru reported: "The two-hour negotiations among the Russian prime minister, [Libyan Field Marshal] Khalifa Haftar, and the Egyptian, Italian and Tunisian representatives infuriated the official Tripoli delegation, and the Turkish vice president lost his temper as well [after being excluded from a mini-summit on the sidelines of the event]. As a consequence, the Libyan National Reconciliation Government and the Ankara delegation left the meeting. Hence, the conference effectively proved to be a failure, while open negotiations were replaced by behind-the-scenes negotiations.
"Timur Akhmentov, of the Russian International Affairs Council, notes that in recent years Turkey has been trying boost its influence in the Libya situation: 'A week prior to the conference in Palermo, and two days before Haftar's visit to Moscow, Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar visited Tripoli, to meet with Fayez Sarraj.' Aside from its desire to maintain political influence, Turkey hopes to gain lucrative construction contracts in Libya. Yet Turkey and Qatar are distancing themselves from Haftar, on whom Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt are betting. Thus, the dismay of the Turkish delegation at Haftar's conduct in Palermo is fully explicable.
"Kirill Semenov, CEO of the Center for Islamic Studies at the Institute of Innovational Development, also deems the conference a failure: '... Haftar is a field commander who came to Palermo almost as a private person – his delegation conducted behind-the-scenes negotiations with representative of various countries instead of participating in a fully open conference.' Semenov added that some states, including Russia, are trying to reach an agreement with Tobruk behind Tripoli's back: 'This was confirmed by Haftar's latest visit to Moscow, while Sarraj has not been invited.'"
(News.ru, November 13, 2018)
Russian Academic: Moscow Showed That Russia Has No Military Expansion Plans In Libya
Grigory Lukyanov, senior lecturer at the School of Political Science of the National Research University – (Higher School of Economics), wrote on the website of the Valdai Discussion Club: "Back at the early stages of preparations for the Palermo conference, the Russian Foreign Ministry supported the idea of the conference in light of the long-standing need for a constructive dialogue, which all sides felt. Russian diplomats issued official press statements in support of Italy's initiatives in the fall of 2018. Moreover, for the first time in the long history of the Libyan confrontation, Russian experts and academics have been invited to provide analytical support at the consultations held ahead of the Palermo conference. The Italian initiative was also discussed during the talks and consultations held by the concerned Russian ministries with members of Libya's military authorities and political establishment who visited Moscow during the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Oriental Studies.
"By sending a strong delegation to Palermo, the Russian authorities have confirmed their stand on the Libyan settlement and their resolve to support any initiatives aimed at looking for and improving non-military solutions to the seven-year-long Libyan crisis. The fact that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev led the Russian delegation speaks volumes. First, showed that Russia has no military expansion plans in Libya, contrary to numerous allegations including those made by the British tabloid The Sun, which tried to question Russia's right to attend the conference. Second, Medvedev's attendance has shown that the Russian Defense Ministry has no monopoly over decisions regarding Libya, and that the Russian government is willing to do its utmost to help Libyans overcome hostility and start rebuilding the country. And lastly, it has shown Russia's appreciation for the personal invitation Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte brought to Moscow during his official visit in October 2018."
(Valdaiclub.com, November 16, 2018)
- Dmitry Medvedev's press briefing after the conference (Government.ru, November 13, 2018; read the full article)
- Russia ready to help restore Libya's economy — PM Medvedev said. (Tass.com, November 13, 2018; read the full article)
- Russian companies may continue participating in joint investment projects together with Libya when the security situation in the North African country normalizes and unified government institutions are established, Sergei Prikhodko, first deputy head of the Russian government office, told reporters. (Tass.com, November 13, 2018; read the full article)
Libyan National Army Commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's Visit To Russia Ahead Of The Libya Conference
Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar with Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu, in 2017. (Source: Mil.ru, August 14, 2018)
Ahead of the Palermo conference, Field Marshal Haftar visited Moscow and met with Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoygu: "On Wednesday, November 7, the Russian Defense Ministry hosted a meeting between Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoygu and Libyan National Army commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, The parties discussed security issues, focusing on the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the fight against international terrorism and ways to resolve the Libyan crisis," the Russian MOD statement read.
(Tass.com, November 7, 2018)
The Russian Novaya Gazeta newspaper stressed that during Haftar's meeting with Shoygu, the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as "Putin's chef," was present. Prigozhin has been sanctioned by the U.S. for funding the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, which is accused of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
According to Novaya Gazeta, Prigozhin's attendance at the meeting would confirm rumors of the possible transfer to Libya of the Private Military Company's units controlled by "Putin's chef."
(Novayagazeta.ru, November 9, 2018)
Later, the official Russian news agency RIA quoted an unidentified source as claiming that Prigozhin was present in his capacity as caterer.
(Ria.ru, November 9, 2018)
Second Meeting Of Moscow Format Consultations On Afghanistan
The second meeting of the Moscow-hosted consultations on Afghanistan, on November 9 was, for the first time, attended by delegates from both the Afghan government and the Taliban. However, the Afghan government sent not its own representatives, but members of the High Peace Council, a non-state organization. Senior diplomats, special representatives, and supervisors from Russia, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, the U.S., Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan participated in the event. The meeting was also attended by a U.S. observer.
(Tass.com, November 12, 2018)
Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan and Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Second Asian Department Zamir Kabulov said that the Taliban movement is ready to take part in the next round of Moscow consultations on Afghanistan. Kabulov said: "Principally, the Taliban is ready. They like the idea very much, they are ready to take part."
(Tass.com, November 12, 2018)
Russian Special Presidential Envoy For Afghanistan Comments On The Results Of The Conference
Envoy Zamir Kabulov commented in detail on the results of the second meeting of the consultations on Afghanistan "in the Moscow format." According to Kabulov, the event can be considered unique because the Taliban at the meeting were present, with an important delegation.
Kabulov also openly expressed dissatisfaction with the actions of the Afghan government, which, he said, "sometimes forgot that Russia provides good services and is not a party in the conflict." He stated: "The Afghan government demanded that direct talks with the Taliban movement should take place on the margins of the Moscow consultations... We ourselves would be happy if this happened, and we asked the Taliban leadership to respond positively to this request, however after some reflection, we were informed that the Taliban leadership categorically refuses to speak with the current government of Afghanistan, considered as a puppet, set in Kabul by the Americans."
When Russian diplomats reported this to the Afghan government, Kabulov said that Afghan government officials had begun to set a whole range of conditions that were not acceptable to Moscow.
A Russian diplomat said that only one representative of the Afghan government had participated in the conference – Afghanistan Ambassador to Russia Abdul Qayyum Kochai.
Although some experts believe that the political office of the Taliban organization in Doha, which sent its representatives to Moscow, cannot negotiate on behalf of the entire movement, Kabulov said: "The political office in Doha represents the top leadership of the Taliban movement... Through other channels that we have, the top management confirmed that the political office was entrusted to make contacts on behalf of the leadership. Therefore, the question of the legitimacy of the office for us does not exist."
Mr. Kabulov also said that U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad may visit Moscow "in early December."
(Kommersant.ru, November 12, 2018)
- Moscow renders no support to the Taliban militant group, said Mohammad Suhail Shahin, spokesman for the group's Doha office, on the sidelines of the second meeting of the Moscow consultations on Afghanistan. (Tass.com, November 9, 2018; read the full article)
- Russian FM Sergey Lavrov has called for not using Afghanistan for geopolitical games and stressed the importance of preserving the country's territorial integrity. (Tass.com, November 9, 2018; read the full article)
- The Taliban is ready to negotiate with the government of Afghanistan only after reaching a deal with the U.S. on a timetable for the pullout of foreign troops from the country, the director of the Ministry's Second Asia Department and Kremlin Special Envoy for Afghanistan told a press conference on Monday after the second meeting of the Moscow-hosted consultations on Afghanistan. (Tass.com, November 12, 2018; read the full article)
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks at the second meeting of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan. (Mid.ru, November 9, 2018; read the full article)
- The Russian Foreign Ministry said, commenting on U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale's statements on Afghanistan: "We have taken note of the remarks delivered by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale at the conference of the Middle East Institute held in Washington on November 8. He said, in particular, that Russia allegedly 'continues to destruct Afghan-led peace negotiations with the Taliban.'" (Mid.ru, November 3, 2018; read the full article)
Russia Is Winning The Battle For The Energy Of The Future
Russian news agency Ria.ru reported: "Experts from the International Energy Agency (IEA), reporting on prospects for global energy, indicated that Russia will continue having a leading role in this area until at least 2040.
"IEA experts note that in the long run, Russia is unlikely to have serious competitors in the gas market. Even despite the fact that Europe's demand for this type of fuel will decrease in mid-2020 and reach 408 billion cubic meters by 2040 (16.4% less than in 2017), by that time European imports will increase to 86%. This is due to the fact that the EU countries are gradually reducing their own production.
"Although Russia cannot fully master this volume due to the politically motivated EU's desire to diversify fuel supplies, the key role of Moscow in supplying Europe with gas is not questioned by any of the IEA experts.
"Russia will remain the largest gas supplier in the region and one of the cheapest, but the IEA predicts that the effect of this will not be felt very much in a more integrated European gas market, where buyers will have access to different sources of gas.
"There are controversial issues. One of them just concerns the security of supply, that is, the supplies involved in the said diversification. Analysts clearly overestimate its possible volumes, because the only alternative to Russian gas for the EU is the American LNG, which, contrary to Washington's hopes, has not become the engine of the European energy.
"This year, Gazprom plans to once again break the record for pipeline gas supplies to non-CIS countries, sending 205 billion cubic meters of fuel for export. This is ten times more than all the gas produced by Ukraine in 2017.
"These results were largely due to European consumers. As of the middle of the year, deliveries to Germany increased by 12.3%; to Austria by 48.3%; to the Netherlands by 53.8%; to France by 11.8%; to Croatia by 40.1%; to Denmark by 11.9%, and to Poland by 6.6%.
"And it is quite clear why this is happening. In October, the cost of American LNG was $352 per 1,000 cubic meters ($ 9.6 per million BTU), and Gazprom offered the same amount for an average of $230 during the course of a year.
"Clearly, the position of European consumers can be understood by the infrastructure projects under way. The construction of the Nord Stream-2 [pipeline] continues in the EU. At the same time, the Turkish Stream is being built, and by the end of October, the prospect of extending it to Rome was discussed by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.
"At the same time, the construction of new terminals for receiving star-striped LNG at the price of Nord Stream-2 remains at the level of promises which European politicians regularly receive from Donald Trump...:
(Ria.ru, November 15, 2018)
News In Brief:
- Embassy's statement concerning Prime Minister Theresa May's speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in London. "We hope that the British authorities, with their 'Global Britain' ambition, will stop their destructive Russia policy and live up to their own call for a dialogue. Pragmatic cooperation between our countries is in the best interests of the British people." (Rusemb.org.uk, November 13, 2018)
Nord Stream 2
- The United States and Ukraine will cooperate on halting the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin in Washington, DC. (Sputniknews.com, November 17, 2018; read the full article)
- Russia has been implementing a comprehensive plan to diminish the country's reliance on the dollar as a proactive measure amid the Trump administration's sanctions spree. Moscow is not alone in seeking to de-dollarize its economy. Market players from Europe to Asia are increasingly switching to national currencies. (Sputniknews.com, November 12, 2018; read the full article)
- The volume of purchases of U.S. government bonds (U.S. Treasuries) by the Russian authorities is not of great importance and is rather a technical issue, whereas the yield of U.S. Treasury bonds is at an attractive level, analysts told RIA Novosti. Russia, after a long time of reducing its investment in this asset, again acquired bonds, in September, for $419 million. Now Russia has $14.41 billion in bonds, according to the U.S. Treasury. (Ria.ru, November 17, 2018; read the full article in Russian)
- The return of Russia and Japan to the 1956 joint declaration on negotiations on a peace treaty does not mean an automatic transfer of the Kuril Islands to the Japanese side, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (Sputniknews.com, November 18, 2018; read the full article)
- Russia may launch settlements with Iran in national currencies in order to continue bilateral cooperation despite the U.S. sanctions against Tehran, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in an interview with the Turkish Anadolu news agency. (Tass.com, November 18, 2018; read the full article)
- Turkish prosecutors have completed an investigation of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov's assassination in December 2016, Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported. According to the agency's sources, an indictment into the case is ready, and, once it is approved by Ankara Prosecutor's Office, the case will be sent to the court. (Tass.com, November 16, 2018; read the full article)
- Moscow is ready to consider any option for settling the Kosovo crisis that will be acceptable to Belgrade, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said in an interview with The Serbian Telegraph newspaper. "Our position regarding Kosovo is well known; it relies on the international law, first of all the UN Security Council's Resolution 1244. We consistently provide comprehensive support to the Serbian friends in the efforts aimed at advocating Serbia's legal interests both through the bilateral line and in international organizations. If Belgrade finds any settlement option appropriate for Serbia, we will be ready to consider it constructively," he said, when asked whether Moscow is ready to support Belgrade's proposal to settle the Kosovo issue through demarcation between Serbians and Albanians. (Tass.com, November 17, 2018; read the full article)
- The Western states are doing their utmost to turn the Balkan Peninsula into a springboard against Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said in an interview with The Serbian Telegraph. "After the end of the Cold War, Western countries refused to join efforts in shaping an architecture of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic space, which Russia had been persistently urging to do," Lavrov said. "They opted for a dead-end way of expanding their geopolitical space and of mapping new divisive lines on the European continent." (Tass.com, November 17, 2018; read the full article)
Sea Of Azov
- Russia could block the Sea of Azov and impede the passage of Ukrainian vessels in response to Ukraine's detention of 15 ships that had previously docked at the ports of Crimea. This statement was issued by Senator Franz Klintsevich, member of the Federation Council Committee on defense. "We are literally pushed to give a sharp response," he said, adding that it would be possible to close the Sea of Azov to all Ukrainian vessels in a matter of minutes. "And I do not rule out that such actions may follow," he said. (Ria.ru, November 16, 2018; read the full article in Russian)
- Ukraine is ready to respond to threats not only in the Azov Sea, but also in other areas, says Ukraine's Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak. "We have heard such threats many times, and they were not only about the Sea of Azov, but also about reaching Kiev within two hours, destroying our major cities, including the capital. I think we need to draw conclusions. We, including myself, as Minister of Defense, are drawing such conclusions, taking measures and preparing to respond if necessary, in accordance with our capabilities, our tasks, and our strategy," Poltorak said, according to 112 Ukraine TV channel. (Unian.info, November 17, 2018; read the full article)
- The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) wrote that the new fighter of the Bundeswehr, the Eurofighter, is powerless when confronted with the Russian S-400 Triumph. As FAZ emphasizes, the Eurofighter was developed exclusively to counter enemy fighters, and, in the event of Russian aggression, will not be able to withstand the S-400. (Ria.ru, November 15, 2018; read the full article in Russia)
- At least 13 countries have expressed their interest in purchasing the Russian S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missile systems instead of U.S. equipment, despite the likelihood of provoking Washington sanctions, media reported, citing people with first-hand knowledge of a U.S. intelligence assessment. Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam were among the countries that had already engaged in talks on buying the Russian missile systems. (Sputniknews.com, November 15, 2018; read the full article)
Conquest Of Space
- Soyuz-FG performs first blastoff after failed October launch. (Tass.com, November 16, 2018; read the full article)
- The Polish Orthodox Church's Bishops' Council has declined to recognize the Constantinople Patriarchate's decision to resume the Eucharistic communication with Ukrainian "non-canonical churches," the Polish Orthodox Church said on its website on November 16."The Holy Bishops' Council bans priests of the Polish Orthodox Church from having liturgical and prayer contacts with the 'clergy' of the so-called Kiev Patriarchate and the so-called 'autocephalic Orthodox church,' which have done much evil in the past," the Bishops' Council said in a statement. (Kyivpost.com, November 16, 2018; read the full article)
- The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine has been concerned about an incident at Kiev's St. Andrew's Church, which unidentified attackers tried to set on fire. As reported, unknown assailants on Thursday morning, November 15, threw Molotov cocktails into the St. Andrew's Church building, which is currently under reconstruction in Kiev and had been handed over to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. (Interfax-religion.com, November 15, 2018; read the full article)