Russia This Week is a weekly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest Russia-related news and analysis from media in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.
Photo Of The Week
In The News:
- NATO Meeting
- Russia-US Relations
- Gas Pipeline From Siberia To China
- Meeting With Defense Ministry Leadership And Heads Of Defense Industry Enterprises
- TV Host Vladimir Solovyov: Gorbachev's Career - From USSR Leader To Pizza Advertiser
- Meeting With Defense Ministry Leadership And Heads Of Defense Industry Enterprises
News In Brief: Russia-Belarus Relations; WADA; The Killing Of A Georgian National In Berlin; Domestic Violence in Russia; Media
On December 3-4, the NATO leaders' summit meeting took place in London. The meeting marked the alliance's 70th anniversary.
On December 3, the Russian media outlet Rbc.ru published the remarks by Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov:
"Let us not forget that the Alliance is a product of cold war confrontation. It was created and imprisoned in ideological confrontation and it cannot bear anything else. As regards the expiry or non-expiry of parts of the body [ a reference to Macron's description of NATO as "brain dead" that is not our business."
(Rbc.ru, December 3)
Russian expert Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, wrote:
"The sixth and seventh rounds of NATO enlargement into the chronically unstable and explosive region of the Western Balkans (Albania, Croatia and Montenegro) created more problems than significant new opportunities for the organization.
"The planned eighth round of enlargement (to include North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina) also raises a number of questions as to the ability of the new members to strengthen the organization's military potential and increase its overall security. The possible accession of Cyprus, not to mention that of Georgia and Ukraine, posits just as many questions."
(Russiancouncil.ru, December 3, 2019)
At the meeting with senior Russia's Defense Ministry officials and defense industry executives, Russian President Vladimir Putin said:
"I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the NATO summit is being held in London on November 3–4. It is devoted to NATO's 70th anniversary. Let me recall that it was established on April 4, 1949 as a major component of the unfolding Cold War and in opposition to the Soviet Union.
"The Soviet Union does not exist any longer and there is no Warsaw Pact, either. The military pact was set up in response to the creation of NATO but today NATO not only exists but is continually being developed. It was created with 12 states and now includes 29 countries. The aggregate military expenses of its members exceed 70 percent of the world's total military spending.
"Needless to say, the bloc mentality stereotypes of the past cannot be a good instrument for searching for and adopting effective decisions in the rapidly changing conditions of the modern world.
"At the same time, as you know, we have repeatedly expressed our willingness to cooperate with NATO for jointly countering real threats, such as international terrorism, local armed conflicts, and WMD proliferation. We have repeatedly taken steps to meet the alliance halfway and offered it a positive agenda. We held a number of joint events but after 2008 cooperation was actually curtailed because the alliance's actions towards Russia were inappropriate, if not blatant, and didn't take into account Russia's interests. Nevertheless, I hope that the interests of common security, as well as the stable and peaceful future of the planet will still prevail.
"Right now we have to proceed from the fact that NATO's expansion, and the development of its military infrastructure near the Russian border pose a potential threat to our national security. Therefore, coming back to this meeting's agenda, I would like to note that the technical overhaul of the Russian Armed Forces has been and will remain the focus of our closest attention."
(Kremlin.ru, December 3, 2019)
- The Kremlin is keeping a close eye on developments in NATO but considers the events to be the alliance's internal affairs, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (Tass.com, December 3, 2019; read the full article)
- The decision to increase NATO countries' defense spending merely confirms Moscow's concerns over the alliance's expansionist activities, but Russia will not get involved in any races in this field, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media. (Tass.com, December 4, 2019; read the full article)
- NATO has not responded to Russian proposals on reducing tensions between Moscow and the alliance, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. (Tass.com, December 5, 2019; read the full article)
Russian expert Ivan Timofeev, a leading America-watcher, wrote an article, titled "Russia and the US: Where Will the Growing Alienation Lead to?" on Russia-US relations.
In the article Timofeev wrote:
"Amid the approaching presidential campaign, the US has been hit by an unprecedented domestic political crisis. Opponents of incumbent President Donald Trump are making tremendous efforts to discredit the head of state. The impeachment procedure is entering a crucial phase. Apparently, the Democrats count on it as the last opportunity to steal the thunder in the election race. Even if the Senate justifies the president dismissing the abuse of power allegations, the process itself will inevitably force him to defend himself, dilute his winning agenda and distract public opinion. Without a doubt, the Russian theme will be among the crucial components of the attack on Trump.
"His opponents have failed to use the Mueller investigation report on Russia's interference in the 2016 elections due to insufficient evidence and ambiguity of conclusions. The ongoing impeachment is based on Ukraine, not Russia. Nevertheless, Russia remains a win-win option for attaining a variety of domestic policy goals. Democrats will increasingly blame Donald Trump for insufficient effort to restrain the "authoritarian and aggressive regime of Vladimir Putin." Both parties may also use Russia to advance a consolidating agenda. Opposing Moscow is one of the few issues enjoying consensus in Congress. The Kremlin is a convenient bugbear for everyone. On the other hand, the American intervention rhetoric is also gaining momentum in Russia. Radicals and hawks on both sides are actually supporting and amplifying each other."
(Valdaiclub.com, November 26, 2091; read the full article)
- Moscow believes that Washington potentially withdrawing from the Treaty on Open Skies would be a "big mistake", Russia's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Grushko told Kommersant. (Tass.com, November 29, 2019; read the full article)
Gas Pipeline From Siberia To China
Vesti Ekonomika captioned its report on the opening of the gas pipeline from Siberia to China "Check and mate to the West."
(Vestifinance.ru, December 2, 2019)
Putin said that the launch of the Force of Siberia pipeline would lead relations between China and Russia in the energy sphere to a qualitative new level.
(Regnum.ru, December 2, 2019)
Russian experts believe that the pipeline is timely for China that is transitioning from coal to oil and gas. Expert analyst Alexei Kalachev believes that Russia can take 10% of the Chinese gas market but to hope for more would be overoptimistic given China's policy of diversifying its sources.
It would contribute to the resilience of the Russian economy said Alexei Grivach by reducing Russia's dependence on experts to Europe. Grivach doubted that China could become a complete alternative to Europe. Sergey Suverov another analyst believed it would strengthen Russia's bargaining power as another major buyer for Russian gas has appeared. Kalachev however warned against using the China card with Europe because these were different markets that were not unified and gas that did not go to Europe had nowhere else to go.
(Iz.ru, December 2, 2019)
Russian expert Aleksandr Lomanov wrote that the launch of the new Power of Siberia gas pipeline, through which Russian natural gas will flow to China, symbolizes the establishment of a new type of relationship between the partner countries. Within the framework of these relations, economic interdependence is combined with political understanding. These components support and reinforce each other.
(Valdaiclub.com, December 2, 2019; read the full article)
Russian expert Alexei Grivach wrote that the largest gas exporter and the fastest growing large market in the world will be connected by a pipeline system that will link the gas fields of Eastern Siberia with Shanghai; the pipeline network will extend more than 6,000 km. Russian gas exports, of course, will not turn to the East (the European market remains the most important area), but they will acquire a second foothold, and its importance will grow in the long term.
(Valdaiclub.com, November 29, 2019; read the full article)
Read More On Russia-China Relations:
- Moscow and Beijing plan to step up bilateral cooperation in strategic security issues, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said. (Tass.com, December 4, 2019; read the full article)
- Beijing's position on a new Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty finds full understanding in Moscow, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (Tass.com, December 4, 2019; read the full article)
Meeting With Defense Ministry Leadership And Heads Of Defense Industry Enterprises
On December 5, Putin held the final meeting in a series of meetings on the development of the Armed Forces and the defense industry.
"… Our current agenda includes the development and implementation of advanced technologies, including AI-based solutions. As I have already noted, these days they are widely used to create modern types of weapons and equipment, robotic systems, weapons based on innovative physical principles that will largely determine the future of our Army and Navy.
"We need to comprehensively analyze and evaluate the test results of promising weapons systems. Successful research and development in the aforementioned high-tech areas are of crucial importance for the development of civilian sector, for increasing the competitiveness of the national science, and creating advanced industries and infrastructure for the digital economy.
"Today, we will also discuss measures to counter potential threats stemming from the United States' withdrawal from the INF Treaty.
"To reiterate, Russia is not interested in launching an arms race or deploying missiles in environments where no missiles are currently deployed. As you may be aware, we announced a unilateral moratorium on deploying such missiles and invited our colleagues in Europe and the United States to join in. So far, only the President of the French Republic, Mr Macron, has responded. There is no response from our other partners. This forces us to take measures to counter these threats.
"By the way, we are all well aware of the fact that the United States unilaterally withdrew from another major treaty on limiting missile defense systems from 2002. They acted in a straightforward manner back then and took responsibility for this step and did not even try to shift the blame to Russia. This was fairly difficult to do back then, it seemed.
"Now, they have also withdrawn from that unilaterally, but as we can see, attempts are being made to shift the responsibility onto us. This position has no grounds whatsoever, but nevertheless, the attempt is being made.
"The New START treaty, which expires soon, is another item on the disarmament agenda. All of our proposals to renew this treaty are on the table. So far, we have not received any response from our partners. In this regard, I would like to reiterate our position: Russia is willing to immediately, as soon as possible, before the year is out, renew this treaty without any preconditions. I am stating this officially so that there are no double or triple interpretations of our position later on.
"We will discuss today ways to oppose any unfriendly step, and the best and the least expensive operational decisions."
(Kremlin.ru, December 5, 2019)
Putin's general opening remarks during his annual meeting with Defense Ministry officials and defense industry top executives, on bolstering Russian military with emphasis on the Navy capabilities can be read in the following links:
TV Host Vladimir Solovyov: Gorbachev's Career - From USSR Leader To Pizza Advertiser
(Source: YouTube.com; watch the full video)
The TV presenter Vladimir Solovyov told VZGLYAD newspaper said that the advertising of the American pizza with the participation of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was the latest blow to his reputation.
Recently, the American media reported that Gorbachev, in 1997, received $1 million for appearing in a commercial for "Pizza Hut", as he needed the money "due to poverty." Gorbachev himself said that he did not need money and that such articles offended him.
"When this advertisement appeared, it bothered me as a citizen. The president of my country, although he was already former president, stars in commercials for pizza. This is how much he disrespected his previous life experience and country. It is however obvious that Gorbachev did not respect the country, otherwise he would have never allowed his presidency to end like this," Solovyov said.
Solovyov then added that, for many people, the Pizza Hut commercial was the last blow to what remained of Gorbachev's reputation. He stressed that in Russia it is considered unacceptable to disrespect the office of the President, and traditions.
"A person must have at least some self-respect. To go down from being the president of the USSR to be a character advertising pizza. Well, Mikhail Sergeyevich made a career," said Solovyov.
Journalist Anatoly Wasserman added that he does not believe in Gorbachev's words, when he said that he did not need money. He stressed that Gorbachev's pension, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, fell to two dollars a month, and his fund needed financial support.
Gorbachev was repeatedly criticized for shooting commercials. In addition to advertising pizza, he also starred in a video for the Austrian Railways and participated in a photo session dedicated to Louis Vuitton travel bags.
(Vz.ru, December 3, 2019)
News in Brief:
- Belarus will never join another state, including Russia, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting with the country's lawmakers. (Tass.com, December 5, 2019; read the full article)
- PM Medvedev: Doping accusations against Russia resemble 'endless anti-Russian soap opera'. (Meduza.io, December 5, 2019; read the full article)
The Killing Of A Georgian National In Berlin
- There is no evidence proving Russia's involvement in the August killing of a Georgian national in Berlin, Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergei Nechayev said. A 40-year-old Georgian national was killed in the German capital on August 23. The Berlin prosecution said later that same day that a 49-year-old Russian suspect had been detained. (Tass.com, December 4, 2019; read the full article)
- Moscow is planning to take tit-for-tat steps following Germany's move to expel Russian embassy staff, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. (Tass.com, December 4, 2019; read the full article)
- Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has dismissed the suspicions that Russia could have something to do with the murder of a Georgian citizen in Berlin as "totally groundless." (Tass.com, December 4, 2091; read the full article)
Domestic Violence in Russia
- The Russian Orthodox Church now formally opposes new legislation against domestic violence. (Meduza.io, December 4, 2019; read the full article)
- Russia's Council of Judges advocates new protections for the judiciary against 'biased journalists'. (Meduza.io, December 5, 2091; read the full article)