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.
Photos Of The Week
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump as the latter arrives for a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. (Source: Tass.com)
At the ceremony marking Armistice Day centennial Day. Left to right: U.S. President Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Macron and his wife Brigitte with Putin at the ceremony. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
At the wreath-laying ceremony at the Monument to Soldiers of the Russian Expeditionary Force Who Fought in France in WWI. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Essay Of The Week
Russian Experts: Now, As In 1918, The World Has Entered An Interlude: The Old Order No Longer Exists, But The New One Has Yet To Take Shape
In an essay titled "Living In A Crumbling World," Russian experts Oleg Barabanov, Timofei Bordachev, Yaroslav Lissovolik, Fyodor Lukyanov, Andrey Sushentsov, and Ivan Timofeev analyzed the need to restore global governance.
Below are excerpts of the essay:
"One hundred years ago, in the late fall of 1918, Europe was overwhelmed by a feeling of total devastation. This was true in the literal sense because the recently ended war had caused unprecedented sacrifices and destruction to the Old World. But it was also true in the figurative sense because the four-year bloodbath had shaken the foundations of states and societies. Some of those structures simply did not survive in their original form, while the members of those that endured gazed in horror at the price of their victory.
"To paraphrase a statement that gained popularity almost a century later, the First World War was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. It wiped several empires from the face of the earth, caused mass relocations – including forced migrations – and spawned totalitarian ideologies, and yet failed to resolve the underlying differences that, 20 years later, once again erupted and thrust the world into turmoil. Most importantly, the war destroyed the existing order, the principles on which European politics (essentially synonymous with world policy) had been built over the previous 100 years.
"The victorious powers failed to build a new and sustainable model of world order after the hostilities ended. The vindictive triumphalism of the winners, the desire of the defeated for revenge, the outbreak of social cataclysms among the European powers, and the rise of new players and forces created the conditions for an even bloodier mass slaughter. Only by mid-century did humanity manage to restore a balance and establish institutions that could help reduce the risk of confrontation and maintain the peace.
"On the one hand, the international situation today has nothing in common with the world of 1918. Humanity has learned to avoid major wars and their attendant horrors. The abominable experience of the first half of the 20th century has not been forgotten…
"On the other hand, the current situation in the world paradoxically resembles that of a century ago. The rise of nationalism – now pitted against globalism – and the resurgence of an aggressive form of economic behavior in the spirit of neo-mercantilism invariably calls to mind the atmosphere that prevailed in Europe and the world at the beginning of the last century. Back then, the world also experienced a surge in global trade that at certain point aggravated relations between powers. And the 'strategic frivolity' that we spoke of in last year's report evokes an unpleasant association with the 'sleepwalking' that historian Christopher Clark has said led reckless leaders into a world war.
"However, all of this is largely a nominal similarity of circumstances, mere background to the main feature common to both historical periods. Now, as then, the world has entered an interlude: the old order no longer exists, but the new one has yet to take shape.
"Those who remained in 1918 saw nothing but smoking ruins – both literally and figuratively. By contrast, today's world order still stands but has begun to crumble before our eyes. Its framework is deforming into a twisted skeleton of a once strong structure. That edifice was erected after 1945 – that is, following the second phase of the destruction that had its beginnings in 1914. The great powers had learned from their previous failure to establish peace during the interim between the two world wars. They managed to agree on a system that would prevent disagreements from escalating out of control. This is the model that is now in serious crisis.
"Now the discussion is not about whether that system is failing, but why. According to the nearly universal consensus in the West, the 'rules-based liberal order' – with the U.S. as its standard-bearer – has maintained the world's peace and security since 1945. The West views the fact that the Soviet Union existed until the early 1990s but did not in the least share the principles of the 'liberal order' as an annoying aberration, a temporary setback. The disappearance of that rival seemed to confirm the correctness of the Western order – now free to encompass the globe.
"Adherents of the school of realism attribute the stability of the second half of the 20th century to the sharply defined and well-grounded balance of power that existed. Nuclear deterrence checked the rivalry between two equally powerful 'bosses' and ensured a period of stability that was unprecedented in political history. When one party to that confrontation withdrew from the struggle, it left the other feeling as though it had won. However, with the grinding tensions between the two superpowers now ended, that remaining power now faced a host of players embarking on every possible form of action.
"However, despite disagreements over the nature of the longstanding world order, supporters of both interpretations agree that is has become increasingly unsteady. Both call for restoring the capacity of the former institutions, with neo-realists focusing on Cold War-era mechanisms for maintaining stability and neo-liberalists
advocating a return to the late 20th–early 21st-century principles of an open global system…"
(Valdaiclub.com, October 2018)
In The News:
- Putin Participates To WWI Armistice Ceremony; Putin: A European Army Would Be Positive For a Multipolar World; Russia's Participation to the Celebrations Restores Historical Justice
- Border Dispute: The Sea Of Azov
- Interview Of The Week. Russian FM Lavrov: The U.S. Refuse To Accept The Objective Realities Of The Nascent Polycentric World Order
- News In Brief
Putin Participates To WWI Armistice Ceremony
Putin: A European Army Would Be Positive For a Multipolar World
On November 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in large-scale events in Paris marking the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice.
On November 6, French President Emmanuel Macron called for the creation of a European army.
During his Paris visit, Putin said that Europe's desire to create its own army and stop relying on Washington for defense is not only understandable, but would be "positive" for the multipolar world.
Putin said: "Europe is... a powerful economic union and it is only natural that they want to be independent and... sovereign in the field of defense and security."
(Rt.com, November 12, 2018; view the video)
It is worth noting that the guests of honor at the 2018 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum included French President Emmanuel Macron. During the plenary session, Putin told Macron that Russia could ensure France and Europe's security, in order for Europe to be independent from the U.S. Putin said: "Emmanuel said that Europe and the United States have mutual obligations. Europe depends on the U.S. in terms of security. But there is no need to worry, we can help with security. At any rate, we will do everything we can to prevent any new threats. I think we need to take this road. This is the first thing."
Macron answered Putin, underlining France's military independence and hinting that France is also independent from Washington. Macron stated: "I would like to assure Vladimir that I am not at all afraid, because France has an army that alone can defend the country. However, I have certain obligations with regard to other European allies. I think that the European security architecture I just spoke about is our responsibility. But in any case, we will not turn our backs, and this should not be done to the detriment of other European states. I think we can act this way, so I am not afraid and I want to fulfill my responsibility."
(See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7504, At St. Petersburg International Economic Forum – Part II: Putin: 'Europe Depends On The U.S. In Terms Of Security – But There Is No Need To Worry, We Can Help With Security'; Macron: 'We Really Need To Build A Useful World Order', June 4, 2018)
Russia's Participation In Armistice Ceremony Restores Historical Justice
Commenting on the armistice ceremony in Paris, former Russian Ambassador to France Alexander Orlov said that the fact that Russia was invited was very symbolic and restored historical justice. Orlov stated: "This event is also important for us, as you remember, because of the February Revolution, Russia left the war, and despite the fact that it lost more than 3 million people, it was excluded from the list of winners. The fact that President Putin has arrived today for these celebrations to some extent restores historical justice."
(Tass.com, November 12, 2018)
- Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists after a working breakfast at the Elysee Palace he has had a chance to speak with U.S. President Donald Trump. (Tass.com, November 11, 2018; read the full article. See also the video of Putin confirming talk with Trump )
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced the hope that the negotiation process on resumption of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) would start again. He said this in an interview with RT France TV channel. In his opinion, it is crucial to maintain dialogue at a top level as well as at the level of experts. (Russkiymir.ru, November 12, 2018; read the full article)
- "The initiative to create a joint EU army independent from the U.S.'s dominance is a kind of alarm bell signaling that the United States' auspices is no longer a shield for the Europeans but a gripper tightening up more and more year after year," Viktor Bondarev, chairman of the defense and security committee of Russia's Federation Council, told journalists. (Tass.com, November 6, 2018; read the full article)
Border Dispute: The Sea Of Azov
Rostislav Ischenko, President of the Center of System Analysis and Prognosis, does not believe that the situation around the Sea of Azov will escalate. However, the problem will not be solved quickly, because it is hard to find even a single issue on which the Ukrainian authorities will meet Russia halfway.
Ischenko said: "We have already begun to respond to the Ukrainians for the provocations in the Azov Sea and obviously we will continue to do so... Now everything transpiring in Azov are common border disputes. I don't think that in the near term they can escalate into something bigger."
When asked about the European Parliament's threats to impose sanctions due to the situation in the Sea of Azov Ischenko replied.
"The European Parliament does not impose sanctions; it is the EU that imposes sanctions. For that a consensus of all the European governments is required. I believe that now they are not prepared to impose new limitations on Russia due to the situation in the Sea of Azov because in the current situation we are not speaking of something that will lead to an armed conflict. This is a local level dispute between two sovereign countries. Far from all the EU countries are prepared to interfere in it and court the foreign policy risks tied to new sanctions."
(Aif.ru, November 2, 2018)
- NATO is not going to conduct joint exercises with Ukraine in the Sea of Azov to avoid provoking Russia, Vadym Prystaiko, head of Ukraine's Mission to NATO, has said. (Interfax.com.ua, November 13, 2018; read the full article)
- European Parliament resolution on the situation in the Sea of Azov. (Europarl.europa.eu, October 22, 2018; read the full resolution)
Interview Of The Week
Russian FM Lavrov: The U.S. Refuses To Accept The Objective Realities Of The Nascent Polycentric World Order
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov discussed US-Russia relations with Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
Question: "Ideology was the main cause of confrontation between the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War. What is the main reason for the Russia-West differences now?"
Sergey Lavrov: "In brief, the main reason is the striving of some Western countries to preserve their leading international positions at all costs, to continue to force their will and values on everyone and to attain their mercenary goals at the expense of other members of the international community.
"These sentiments are especially strong in the U.S. political establishment, which is stubbornly refusing to accept the objective realities of the nascent polycentric world order and continues to see the United States as the one and only global leader whose orders all other countries must follow.
"Logically, they see Russia's independent foreign policy and independent stand on the main current problems as a threat to the U.S. and, on a broader scale, to Western domination. This is why unilateral economic sanctions and other restrictions have been applied against Russia, including the military build-up near our borders and the unprecedented anti-Russia information campaign.
"We would like to hope that the Western capitals will eventually see that this is a dead-end track. For our part, we have always been and remain open to a constructive and pragmatic dialogue and relations based on international law and mutual respect and in the best interests of each other."
(Mid.ru, November 5, 2018)
News In Brief:
- Units for planning the use of long-range precision weapons and preparing flight assignments for cruise missiles have been set up in the Russian Army, the Defense Ministry's newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda reported. As a result, Russia has created the groupings of precision weapon carriers capable of using missiles against targets at a range of up to 4,000 km, the paper reported… Warships armed with Kalibr cruise missiles make up the basis of these groupings in strategically important areas of the Baltic, Barents, Black and Mediterranean Seas. Also, the defense industry continues the serial deliveries of Iskander-M tactical ballistic missiles, submarines and surface ships armed with Kalibr cruise missiles, Krasnaya Zvezda reported. (Tass.com, November 6, 2018; read the full article)
- Russia has made a breakthrough in furnishing its Armed Forces with long-range precision weaponry and its groupings can now destroy targets at a distance of up to 4,000 km, Chief of Russia's General Staff Valery Gerasimov said. (Tass.com, November 7, 2018; read the full article)
- The order book of Russia's state arms seller Rosoboronexport (part of the state hi-tech corporation Rostec) has exceeded $50 billion, Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov said. (Tass.com, November 1, 2018; read the full article)
- Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSVTS) believes that it will be economically viable to set up a maintenance center for S-300 and S-400 missile systems in China, FSVTS head Dmitry Shugaev stated. (Tass.com, November 7, 2018; read the full article)
- U.S. sanctions pose no threat to the implementation of contracts concerning the supplies of the Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft and the S-400 air defense systems to China, Head of Russia's Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugayev told reporters. (Tass.com, November 7, 2018; read the full article)
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called U.S. pressure on the SWIFT payment system unacceptable. "Now, within a joint group of participants of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) [i.e. the Iran nuclear deal], mechanisms are being worked out that will make it possible to continue implementing the provisions of this document, primarily with regard to economic ties with Iran and without U.S. participation," Lavrov said. (Tass.com, November 6, 2018; read the full article)
- Five reasons why Russians just donated 25.4 million rubles to save an independent news magazine. On October 26, Moscow's Tverskoy District Court fined The New Times 22.3 million rubles ($329,150) for late paperwork (plus a fine of an additional 30,000 rubles, or $490, on chief editor Yevgenia Albats), after the magazine failed to report its foreign funding to Russia's media regulator on time. Editors at The New Times say the fine – the biggest in the history of Russian media regulation – is is politically motivated, and lawyers for the outlet will challenge the ruling in appellate court on November 20. The magazine also announced a crowdfunding initiative to raise the money needed to pay the fine. Four days later, at 8:31 a.m. EST, Albats announced that supporters had donated 25,443,090 rubles ($376,293). Meduza recalls the stories over the years that made The New Times one of Russia's top independent news outlets. (Meduza.io, November 13, 2018; read the full article)