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:
Commenting about Russia-US relations, Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov stated:
"The relations are worse than ever. Nothing in the context of their improvement has happened yet."
(Tass.com, January 16, 2019)
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated that the global trend of abandoning the dollar in the world will only grow. Medvedev said: "Obviously, the trend to reduce dependence of national economies on the dollar will only increase. Economic actions such as sanctions and protectionism of the most powerful player in the economic arena only increase tensions."
(Tass.com, January 15, 2019)
In The News
- Belarus-Russia Relations
- Putin Goes To Serbia
- Russian Military Base In Central African Republic?
- INF Treaty
- "Center -2019" Drill In The Artic
- 60 Anniversary Of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces
- News In Brief – Defense – Sanctions - Orthodox Church - Cold War - US Withdrawal From Syria - Domestic Policy - LGBTQ
Tensions between Belarus and Russia keep on growing. During the Old New Year reception, on January 11, Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko stressed that 2019 will not be easy for Belarus, since Russia is going to put the country under pressure. Lukashenko said: "The upcoming year will be different for all of you: easy for some, hard for others. Yet, I may tell you for sure that for our country, our people, 2019 and 2020 are not going to be easy. It's not going to be easy, because - frankly speaking - they will seriously 'try their teeth on us', in order to check whether we are worthy of that independence, which we talk about always and everywhere."
(President.gov.by, January 11, 2019)
See MEMRI Dispatch No. 7842, Russia's Orbit – Belarus President Lukashenko: The Issue Of Unifying Belarus With Russia Is Not On The Current Agenda, January 13, 2019.
MEMRI Dispatch No. 7843, Russia's Orbit – Ukrainian Expert Khara: Why Share Power And Money With Lukashenko If It Is Better To Swallow His Country? Russia's Expansionist Policy Will Exhaust Its Resources, January 14, 2019.
MEMRI Dispatch No. 7846, Russia's Orbit - Influential Russian Blogger El-Murid: The Kremlin's Blackmailing Leaves Lukashenko With No Other Choice But To Seek Out Other Centers Of Power In The West, January 15, 2019.
- Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei: Belarus' sovereignty is common achievement and greatest value. (Belta.by, January 17, 2019; read the full article)
- Belarus and Russia intend to sign an intergovernmental agreement on the processing of spent nuclear fuel of the Belarusian nuclear power plant. (Belta.by, January 14, 2019; read the full article)
- Book about Belarusian statehood history launched in Minsk. (Belta.by, January 16, 2019; read the full article)
Putin Goes To Serbia
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Serbia on January 17.
Ahead of Putin's official trip to Belgrade, interviewed on Serbian radio and television, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called the visit "extremely important" for Serbia and expressed confidence that a large number of citizens would go out into the streets to greet Putin.
In Putin's New Year's greetings to Vucic he noted that bilateral relations are "developing dynamically in the spirit of strategic partnership."
The Bosnian Serbs expressed interest in a visit to the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Moscow's envoy to Sarajevo Petr Ivantsov advised them "to make a new year's wish and possibly the wish would come true."
(Rg.ru, December 28, 2018)
Earlier in December, speaking to Studio B channel, Vucic announced that his country would not abandon Russian gas to please the West.
"I will not pay double the price for LNG, to please someone in the West. I will buy cheap gas so the citizens can live and industry can develop. This is not my money but the citizens' money, government money." Vucic said that gas prices would be a major topic in Putin's visit to Belgrade."
(Iz.ru, December 30, 2018)
In an article in the Russian media outlet Vesti, titled "Serbia Knows That Russia Will Not Leave It High And Dry As Opposed To Britain And The US," it was reported that Ivitsa Dacic the head of the Serb Foreign Ministry announced that on any possible problem he can count on Russia's help. The Putin visit was by itself an important signal dispelling rumors that Russia would not support Serbian actions and proposals relative to Kosovo. Dacic was certain that Russia would back any official Serb decision.
"I would like to call both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the British Foreign Secretary but I am unsure whether they would answer the call. And I am particularly uncertain whether they would help," Dacic said.
(Vesti.ru, January 6, 2019)
More news on Putin's visit to Serbia will be published in MEMRI's upcoming report.
A Russian Military Base In The Central African Republic?
According to CAR Minister of Defense, Marie-Noëlle Koyara, Russia may establish a military base in the country: "We have not had talks on the specific development of the base, but such a possibility is not ruled out in the framework agreement, which was concluded by our countries. If the Presidents decide on deploying the bases, then we, as ministers, will implement [the decision]", said the minister in an interview with RIA.
(Kommersant.ru, January 10, 2019)
Russian Deputy FM Ryabkov: The United States Exacerbates Tensions
After consultations between Russia and the US in Geneva, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov stated:
"Generally, we have to state that there is no progress. The US has remained frozen in its position of uncompromising and categorical demands to Russia… [these demands] are not substantiated by context and contain no elements of novelty that could allow us to expect rapprochement."
He added: "We believe that Russia strictly complies with the treaty, while the United States exacerbates tensions and is reluctant to listen to our arguments… After the Geneva contacts we can see the United States’ clear intention to ruin the treaty."
Ryabkov also said that the responsibility for what is happening "is fully with the US side, no matter how much the colleagues from Washington would try to ascribe to Russia actions not fitting within the terms of the treaty".
(Tass.com, January 15, 2019)
Senator Kosachev: Will Ground Based Missiles Be Deployed in Europe Or Asia?
Senator Konstantin Kosachev commented: "The second question upon the US pullout from the INF treaty is less obvious namely what will happen in practical terms with the deployment of the relevant ground based missile systems in Europe or Asia? Anyway, it will happen in immediate proximity to Russian borders. Apparently this is a part of American operational planning, but it is far from obvious whether this actually corresponds to the agenda of the US; European or Asian allies."
He further explained that any European or Asian state that deploys US missiles on its soil will automatically constitute a target for Russian military. "Those countries, who will get such requests from the US, must understand that. I find the trend of developments less predictable, yet I do hope that sanity and a sense of self- preservation will prevail over their allied commitments to the US," Kosachev said.
(Ria.ru, January 17, 2019)
"Center -2019" Drill In The Artic
According to Izvestia, strategic "Center -2019" drills will be conducted during August-September 2019 and partly will cover extensive ranges in the Arctic. The Northern Military Command will allocate two mechanized "Arctic" divisions who will field test new military technology developed for the polar region. The drills will focus on enduring severe climate conditions and solving tactical goals such as logistics and technical supply. According to Igor Boltenkov, a military historian, the Northern command will drill the defense of the northern naval route with the active engagement of anti-aircraft units, marines and attack aviation. Moreover, according to the military officials nuclear submarines will also take part in the drills.
According to military expert Viktor Murakhovsky, Russia has succeeded in creating a full-fledged air, naval and subsurface –control system in the Arctic. The northern route is strategically important because it is the shortest way to redeploy Northern fleet forces to the Pacific and vice-versa.
According to the newspaper, during the last four years Russia has built more than 500 military facilities in the Arctic, while the in 2018 alone the military received 400 pieces of new heavy equipment.
(Iz.ru, December 18. 2018)
Russian cadets train in the Arctic (Source: Sputnik.com)
60th Anniversary Of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces
Russia will produce a "limited "series of stamps and coins dedicated to the history of rocket building to commemorate the 60 anniversary of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces that falls on December, 17, 2019. The coins and the stamps will feature the strategic Topol, Topol –M and Yars missiles. Moreover, the ministry of defense is contemplating the issuance of postcards featuring strategic missile forces garrisons. The postcards reportedly will reflect "the [details] of service by officers at the various missile garrisons".
(Lenta.ru, January 6, 2018)
News In Brief:
- A new Kalibr-M cruise missile with a range of over 4,500 km is currently under development in Russia for the Russian Navy. (Tass.com, January 8, 2019; read the full article)
- The Russian Navy plans to place more than 30 Poseidon strategic nuclear-capable underwater drones on combat duty, a source in the domestic defense industry told TASS. "Two Poseidon-carrying submarines are expected to enter service with the Northern Fleet and the other two will join the Pacific Fleet. Each of the submarines will carry a maximum of eight drones and, therefore, the total number of Poseidons on combat duty may reach 32 vehicles," the source said. (Tass.com, January 12, 2019; read the full article)
- Warships of the Russian Baltic Fleet are due to make more than ten long-distance voyages in the World Ocean in 2019, Baltic Fleet Commander Admiral Aleksandr Nosatov told reporters. "In 2019, over ten combat missions are scheduled for the fleet’s ships," the admiral said adding that they would take place in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas and the Atlantic along with other remote areas of the World Ocean. (Tass.com, January 12, 2019; read the full article)
- Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko, said: "We cannot expect that sanctions or political pressure exerted on our country will be weakened. Despite this, we will continue our independent foreign policy which serves our national interests and our national security." (Tass.com, January 16, 2019; read the full article)
- Russian deputy refers to signing of Tomos for Ukraine as blatant action supported by US. (Tass.com, January 6, 2019; read the full article)
- The crisis in the Russia-US relations won't lead to a new cold war because other players on the international scene are unwilling to take sides, Director of the Foundation for the Valdai Club Development and Support for Scientific Work Fyodor Lukyanov told TASS. "There will be no structured stand-off that was observed during the epoch after World War Two and almost until the end of the 20th century… Those who are talking about the cold war and are trying to somehow reproduce this scheme, are doing this only because it is typical for humans to look for explanations understandable for them. This completely does not work," the expert said. (Tass.com, January 9, 2019; read the full article)
US Withdrawal From Syria
- Moscow harbors no illusions regarding US troops' withdrawal from Syria, which is going to take a long time, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told TASS. The diplomat considers the issue to be one of most relevant as of today. "Controversial signals are coming, the schedule and overall the consequence of respective steps in the area," he said, noting that the ministry is "monitoring the process assuming that the US contingent's staying on the Syrian territory is illegal in any case." "We harbor no illusions regarding the rates of implementation of that line. We expect the process to be long, rather uncertain and controversial, but we'll see," Ryabkov stressed. According to the diplomat, the sooner the American troops leave Syria, the "safer and calmer it will become in the region." (Tass.co, January 5, 2019; read the full article)
- Economist and columnist Vladislav Inozemtsev argues that it’s too soon to expect a major overhaul of Russia’s elite. He rejects the idea that growing social discontent necessitates significant reforms, such as a mass crackdown on corrupt governors or a wider "reformation" of the country’s ruling class. (Meduza.io, January 16, 2019; read the full article)
- New details emerge about what one source calls an anti-LGBTQ ‘genocide’. The LGBTQ community reports dozens imprisoned and up to 20 killed in Chechnya within past month. (Meduza.io, January 14, 2019; read the full article)