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June 25, 2019 No.
8140

Russia This Week – Focus On Russia's Foreign Relations – June 25, 2019

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


(Source: Kremlin.ru)

In The News

  • Putin's Direct Line

  • Putin: We Do Not Make Deals Involving Our Allies [i.e. Iran] Or Our Interests Or Our Principles;

  • Putin: The Objective Of The Sanctions Is To Hold Back The Development Of Russia; We Must Become Stronger, Above All, In The Economy

  • Putin: We Are Open To Dialogue With The US To The Extent That Our Partners Are;

  • Putin: The Communist Party Dissolved The Soviet People, Not The People; It Is Unlikely That The Country Can Return To Full-Scale Socialism, This Would Be Only Possible Through Grievous Domestic Conflict

  • Putin's Press Secretary Peskov: On The Basis Of The Direct Line A Meeting Is Being Prepared In Order Not To Forget Even A Single Promise;

  • Liberal Politician Gozman: The Feeling Emerges That The President Is Living Outside Of Time

  • Georgia-Russia Relations

  • Kommersant Columnist Yusin: The Moldovan Scenario May Be Applicable To Ukraine

  • News In Brief: Defense; INF-Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons - New Start; Russophobia; Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17; Domestic News

Putin's Direct Line


(Source: Kremlin.ru)

On June 20, the annual special Direct Line with Vladimir Putin was broadcast live by Channel One, Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, NTV, Public Television of Russia (OTR) and Mir TV channels, and Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations. About 5.4 million Russians watched Putin's "Direct Line". This year's "Direct Line" lasted four hours and eight minutes.

Putin: We Do Not Make Deals Involving Our Allies [i.e. Iran] Or Our Interests Or Our Principles

Pavel Zarubin: "On with the military theme. The situation in Syria seems to be quieter. Will there be a big deal with America?"

Vladimir Putin: "What do you mean by 'a deal'? This is not a commercial enterprise."

Pavel Zarubin: "These days, deal is used to call anything …"

Vladimir Putin: "No, we do not do deals involving our allies or our interests or our principles. We can agree with our partners on resolving certain urgent issues.

"Some of the problems that we must address together, primarily with our colleagues with whom we have made tangible progress, that is, Turkey, Iran, and other countries involved in the conflict, and above all the US, are related to the political settlement and the formation of the constitutional committee, the rules governing its work and getting that work underway.

"Can this be done or not? I think it can, given the goodwill of all stakeholder countries. I have already named them, but there are more countries in the region that are involved, primarily Israel, Egypt, and the European countries that are suffering from the flow of migrants and have a stake in securing a settlement. To sum up, we must pool our efforts and work together."

(Kremlin.ru, June 20, 2019)

See the Video

Putin: The Objective Of The Sanctions Is To Hold Back The Development Of Russia; We Must Become Stronger, Above All, In The Economy

Pavel Zarubin: "Let's go back to economic issues. Many people link these difficulties with the Western sanctions. By the way, the European Union again extended them today. Sometimes, there are appeals to make peace with everyone. If Russia complied with the West's demands and agreed to everything, would this benefit our economy in any way?"

Vladimir Putin: "First, what does it mean 'to make peace'? We have not fought with anyone and have no desire to fight with anyone.

"Second, what would this give us and what would it not give us, and what would we lose? Look, according to expert analyses, Russia fell short by about $50 billion as a result of these restrictions during these years, starting in 2014. The European Union lost $240 billion, the US $17 billion (we have a small volume of trade with them) and Japan $27 billion. All this affects employment in these countries, including the EU: they are losing our market.

"I quoted our losses. They are tentative. Nevertheless, let's assume we have accepted this. But we also received something. What exactly? First, we had to change our thinking (and we did this) to understand what we needed to do in the high-tech economic sectors and how.

"Our so-called import substitution programs are worth 667 billion rubles. This compelled us to develop even those areas where we lacked competence before.

"I talked about this and can repeat it now. Say, the RSFSR (the Soviet Union) and new Russia never had domestic marine engine manufacturing. We bought these engines abroad.

"It turned out that it was not enough to manufacture engines, generally speaking. Marine engines are a special story, a separate technology, a separate branch, and a separate competence.

"We learned that in just a few years. We made our own engines that were not only not inferior but even superior to their Western counterparts in some respects. We also made progress in many other areas – for instance, transport engineering, power engineering, not to mention agriculture.

"Look, if ten years ago I or anyone else in this hall had been told that we would be exporting agricultural products worth $25.7 billion, like we did last year, I would have laughed in the face of the person who said this. We would shake hands and I would thank them for their kind but unrealistic intentions.

"Today this is a fact. Moreover, we want to reach $45 billion in agricultural exports by 2024, and I believe we can do this. Of course, it is still a question whether we will achieve this or not, but we must work on it; this is a realistic plan. So we were mobilized in many areas."

"Now to the question of whether some things would be different if we give in and abandon our fundamental national interests. We are not talking about reconciliation here. Perhaps there will be some external signals, but no drastic change. Look, the People's Republic of China has nothing to do with Crimea and Donbass, does it? We are accused of occupying Donbass, which is nonsense and a lie. But China has nothing to do with it, and yet the tariffs for Chinese goods are rising, which is almost the same as sanctions.

"Now, the attack on Huawei: where does it come from and what is its objective? The objective is to hold back the development of China, the country that has become a global rival of another power, the United States. The same is happening with Russia, and will continue to happen, so if we want to occupy a worthy place under the sun, we must become stronger, including, and above all, in the economy."

Pavel Zarubin: "But voices in Europe are growing stronger saying it is time to stop…"

Vladimir Putin: "Excuse me, but this is because nobody really likes this. We have lost 50 billion, and Europe has lost 240 billion. This affects many economic sectors in Europe, in European countries, so what's good about it?

"In fact, even though we have gained something from these external restrictions, personally I believe that it is better to live in normal economic conditions, going by some general rules that everyone abides by."

(Kremlin.ru, June 20, 2019)

See the Video

Putin: We Are Open To Dialogue With The US To The Extent That Our Partners Are

Yevgeny Grabchak (director of the online control and electronics department at the country's Energy Ministry): "Mr President, I have been under individual sanctions for several years now. This is why I am so interested in international affairs, international diplomacy. The US President has lately been engaged in a strange diplomatic game: Twitter diplomacy. This is what my question relates to. He wrote on Twitter more than once that he would very much like to meet with you. Do you want to meet with him? And if you do, do you think the meeting will benefit this country in any way? Is he capable of improving our bilateral relations?"

Vladimir Putin: "Dialogue is always good. There is always need for it. And, of course, if the US is interested in it – I have said this many times – we are open to dialogue to the extent that our partners are.

"However, we understand, we see what is happening in US domestic politics. Even if the President wants to meet us halfway in some respects, wants to talk about something, there is a host of restrictions related to the actions of other government institutions. This is especially true now that the incumbent President will be keeping one eye on the demands of the election campaign that he has already started.

"So I believe not everything will be simple in our relations, considering that part of the US establishment is exploiting Russia-US relations, trying to catch something for itself in this turbid water and inventing, as was mentioned here, groundless fakes by exerting efforts that are worthy of better use. And on and on, always the same.

"Therefore, as soon as our colleagues are ready we will respond accordingly, all the more so since we have a lot to discuss in international security and disarmament. I am referring to the New START Treaty that is about to expire and, in general, to the need to cultivate normal interstate relations in all areas, including the economy.

"After all, US companies are not leaving the Russian market. They are working on it although the turnover is not big. But, as I have already said, under Trump our trade grew by $5 billion. It fell under Obama to $20 billion but under Trump, it increased despite all the restrictions and sanctions.

"As for sanctions, I think this is a big mistake on the part of the US. I hope they realize this eventually and fix it."

Pavel Zarubin: "We have been working in conditions of cyber-attacks today; meanwhile The New York Times reported that US intelligence agencies are trying to penetrate Russia's power grid. President Trump even accused them of treason. Anyhow, these are their problems, while we are left wondering if it is indeed possible to switch off the lights across the whole of Russia from inside US territory. Do they have such a switch?"

Vladimir Putin: "You know, the modern world is very interconnected and interdependent. I certainly heard about the article in the New York Times and saw the President's reaction, calling them traitors.

"I am not sure how we should interpret that – if it means that they disclosed real information or it was a planted story. But in any case, we have to respond one way or another; we must understand what this is about.

"This is what I want to say on this matter. First, we suggested a number of times to our American partners that we should begin a dialogue to develop some rules in cyberspace including those affecting critical infrastructure and mass media, but we have yet to get any rational response from them.

"At the outset of his political career President Obama seemed to agree with that but he subsequently did not have time to do anything about it. We also informed the current administration about it. The response was generally positive but it did not go any further either.

"As to the operation of our critical infrastructure including power and other areas, we must certainly think about how to protect ourselves from any cyber-attacks, from any negative impact. We are not only contemplating this but also addressing it."

(Kremlin.ru, June 20, 2019)

See the Video

Putin: The Communist Party Dissolved The Soviet People, Not The People; It Is Unlikely That The Country Can Return To Full-Scale Socialism, This Would Be Only Possible Through Grievous Domestic Conflict

Putin: "… Here is a rhetorical question: 'There is no way back to socialism, and capitalism has not given me anything. Why did they not ask the people?' To begin with, people were asked about this in the early 1990s and although 74 percent voted to preserve the Soviet Union (by the way, later on nobody recalled this fact for some reason), the RSFSR Supreme Soviet actually voted to dissolve it. These people were representatives of the nation and this is how they voted. Incidentally, as I see it, this question was asked by a leftist, maybe a Communist Party supporter. But who dissolved the Soviet Union if not the Communist Party? This is exactly how it was done. Both General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev, and his then opponent, came from the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee. So what? What is the question?

"Is it possible to return to full-scale socialism? I personally think this is unlikely, simply unlikely, because the country has changed. This is only possible through grievous domestic conflict. Do we need such conflict? I do not rule out that political forces with leftist views and socialist ideas can control the country and the supreme political power.

"By conducting an open political discussion and addressing the people, the population, the voters, any legal political force is capable of winning their sympathies and establishing itself in the upper echelons of power. Will this be good for the country? I do not know because it is one thing to nationalize everything and another thing to make nationalized industries work well. These are completely different things. As for the elements of state influence and state regulation, they are present in this country anyway. This is a separate big discussion."

(Kremlin.ru, June 20, 2019)

See the Video

Putin's Press Secretary Peskov: On The Basis Of The Direct Line A Meeting Is Being Prepared In Order Not To Forget Even A Single Promise

Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that a meeting is being prepared on the basis of the Direct Line program. "Already now in the (presidential) administration they have begun work of formulating a checklist of assignment. Today at a meeting with [Anton] Vaino corresponding assignments were handed to the administrative units."

An assignment list was exhaustively being prepared "in order not to forget even a single promise," which the president talked about during Direct Line.

(Vz.ru, June 21, 2019)

Liberal Politician Gozman: The Feeling Emerges That The President Is Living Outside Of Time

(Source: Kremlin.ru)

Commenting on Putin's Direct Line, veteran Russian liberal politician Leonid Gozman, president of the Union of Rightist forces, stated:

"It is clear that the country's high political leadership understands how deep popular dissatisfaction is with daily life – salary, health care, garbage and the like and precisely with this the discussion with the president began  and these are exactly the subjects about which he never likes to talk about. But he had to.

"That is good news. There is another bit of good news, the sharply  declining number of miracles on live TV. The president of course reviewed running water somewhere and killer whales were released, even without awaiting instructions, but  the level of this fairy tale miracle, meaning also the level of its comic occurrence was substantially lower than in preceding years. Yes and the playacting official were on the whole less wooden than before.

"The remaining news was bad. The feeling emerges that the president is living outside of time.

"When they directed a question to him about salaries, he was clearly surprised that such low salaries actually exist, and spun a tale that everything  was not that bad, but only on average. Now all this may be true, but he does not remember the figures repeatedly defined by himself concerning salaries or anything else that causes a strain. And doesn't this mean that he wants to shield himself or somebody else from  responsibility...

"No real contact was established between him and his interlocutors. He did not answer question although he spoke in detail and with numbers. And we are not talking about the fact that in a series of cases he deliberately evaded the questions such as when he was asked about the law about insulting the authorities, he said that that the law protected national symbols – the flag and the like, but it does not harm to criticize power. It is not credible that he is actually unfamiliar with the letter of the law, and the already established practice of its use. Or when he explained the high salaries of officials and bosses of state companied by the necessity to win the competition over them in the international labor market well should he not know that 'over there' the corresponding salaries are lower as a rule."

(Novayagazeta.ru, June 21, 2019)

Georgia-Russia Relations

"On June 20, several thousand protesters converged on the parliament in downtown Tbilisi, demanding the resignation of the interior minister and the parliament's speaker, and tried to storm the building. In response, police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators. According to Georgian media, dozens were detained, 240 people suffered injuries and 55 of them remain in hospitals.

"The protests were sparked by an uproar over a Russian State Duma delegation's participation in the 26th session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO). On June 20 morning, IAO President Gavrilov opened the session in the Georgian parliament building. Opposition lawmakers were outraged by the fact that Gavrilov addressed the event's participants from the parliament speaker's seat. In protest, they did not allow the IAO session to continue."

(Tass.com, June 20, 2019)

Russian MFA: We Are Seriously Concerned Over The Aggravation Of The Internal Political Situation In Georgia

The Russian MFA commented: "We are seriously concerned over the aggravation of the internal political situation in Georgia. Our compatriots – members of the official delegation of the Russian Federation Federal Assembly that took part in the session of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy – were injured as a result of the actions of the radical Georgian opposition employing anti-Russian slogans. Mass disturbances continue in Tbilisi.

"Therefore, the Foreign Ministry strongly recommends that Russian citizens refrain from travel to Georgia for their own personal safety."

(Mid.ru, June 21, 2019)

Russian FM Lavrov: Another Example Of The Consequences Of Geopolitical Engineering That Our Western Colleagues Engage In Is Georgia

Russian Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "Another example of the consequences of geopolitical engineering that our Western colleagues engage in is Georgia, where Western curators are willing to turn a blind eye to ultranationalist acts of violence and anti-Russian sentiment just to sever the entire Georgian people's ties with our country and re-write our common history.

"We have a rational view of the role the US and its closest allies play in the global arena. However, we do not fence ourselves from anyone, we do not withdraw into isolation, we do not shy away from dialogue on issues which offer a chance for mutually beneficial cooperation in order to curb threats common to the whole of humankind, such as terrorism, illegal drug trafficking, organized crime, WMD proliferation risks."

(Mid.ru, June 24, 2019)

Russian Presenter Kiselev:

In his commentary on Rossiya-1 TV (Russia), pro-Kremlin presenter Dmitry Kiselev said: "… Up to 1.5 million tourists from Russia alone visit Georgia per year. Yes, but if at the same time, in Georgia, such an unfriendly reception is given to deputies from Russia, deputies who are part of an international organization, then I'd like to ask something like this: Why do we need Borjomi [mineral water] in Russia? And why do we need Georgian wine? Certainly, without all these bottles on our shelves, no one here will die of thirst. I think that the supplies of wine and Borjomi mineral water from Georgia to Russia are now under threat… For the economy of Georgia, the consequences of such unfriendly actions toward Russia will be tangible, becauseRussians lead in the number of tourists in the country."

(See the Video, June 24, 2019)

Read more:

  • Meeting with permanent members of Security Council. "During a discussion on Georgia, they agreed on the dangerous nature of the Russophobic provocation against Russian lawmakers that had been orchestrated by local radicals. The Foreign Ministry was instructed to warn Russian citizens, including tourists who plan to travel to Georgia or who are already there, about the potential dangers created by the radicals' actions." (Kremlin.ru, June 21, 2019; read the full statement)

  • The President signed the Executive Order On Certain Measures to Ensure the National Security of the Russian Federation and the Protection of Russian Citizens from Criminal and Other Illegal Actions. (Kremlin.ru, June 21, 2019; read the full order)

Kommersant Columnist Yusin: The Moldovan Scenario May Be Applicable To Ukraine

Commenting on the constitutional crisis in Moldova and on the Ukrainian crisis, Kommersant columnist Maxim Yusin wrote in an article titled "The Moldovan Scenario May Be Applicable For Ukraine," about cooperation among Russia, the EU, and the US, that the Moldovan experience, once the West and Russia have jointly resolved the crisis, may be applicable to Ukraine under certain conditions. Yusin wrote:

"What happened the other day in Moldova could be a crucial precedent for the entire post-Soviet area. The seemingly unthinkable happened: the eternal opponents – Moscow, Washington, and the European Union – joined forces to enable this Republic to get rid of oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, an individual, who controlled everything – namely, the government, the Constitutional Court, the security forces, major media outlets and TV channels,  and, of course, the financial flows. It seemed as though there was no way to get away from Plahotniuc, who in fact privatized Moldova, who considered the whole country his private property, his hunting farm. It looked like he would remain in power forever.

"But yet, all of a sudden, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn, and US State Department Office of Eastern European Affairs director Bradley Freden flew to Chisinau almost simultaneously. Then the miracles began unfolding. Yesterday's enemies – supporters of Moscow-oriented President Igor Dodon and pro-European parties – form an alliance, form a government, and deprive Plahotniuc and his acolytes of power. The oligarch tried to counterattack: His muscular semi-gangster-lookalike supporters were brought to the capital, while the Constitutional Court dismissed both the new government and the parliament as unconstitutional. It looked as if there were two powers, a stalemate, the eve of a Maidan in Chisinau. But it was none of that: After a short meeting with US Ambassador Derek Hogan, Plahotniuc capitulated and shortly thereafter left Chisinau. After that, the Constitutional Court obediently cancelled all its previous decisions regarding the case.

"Thus, apparently, Russia and the West were able to function in concert, when it was necessary to put an end to the chaos that almost emerged from one of the post-Soviet republics.

"It turns out that there is a force capable of restoring order in a country that has all the signs of a failed state – a country whose elites are either hopelessly corrupt or intimidated. If this trend continues, as Moscow and the West cooperate instead of competing over Moldova, they may be able to propose and, more importantly, implement a peace and settlement plan for Transnistria, the status of which has remained uncertain for almost three decades.

"Of course, this is an ideal scenario. [But there are] too many nuances, too many pitfalls. There are too many diverse problems between Moscow and the West to expect that they will suddenly begin acting in amusing tandem in Moldova.

"But on the other hand, at some point, you have to start from somewhere. And if the Moldovan experiment succeeds, who knows, maybe over time, Moscow, Washington, and the European Union will try to launch a similar operation in a country neighboring Moldova – in Ukraine, and specifically in the Donbass. This operation might be described as whatever:  peace enforcement, common sense enforcement, or external control in action.

"Of course, there is nothing good about external control, except for the moment when only means can cut the Gordian knot of insoluble problems and bring the situation out of the impasse. In Moldova it was carried out. Time will tell whether the Moldovan scenario may be applied to Ukraine. In any case, a precedent has been set.

If Russia and the West do not impede each other's efforts – as has rarely happened in recent years – and act together, they will be able to achieve amazing results."

(Kommersant.ru, June 18, 2019)

News In Brief

Defense

  • American Drones in Poland: Tensions Rise on Russia's Borders. On June 12, while Russia was celebrating a national holiday, the presidents of the United States and Poland, Donald Trump and Andrzej Duda, signed a joint declaration on defense cooperation, which included, among other things, the deployment in Poland of a reconnaissance squadron of grimly-named MQ-9 Reaper strike drones. These multifunctional UAVs have already proved themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, naturally, they cannot but strengthen the defense capabilities of Poland. Although, to be more precise, they will reinforce the positions of Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), which was slightly shaken during the European Parliamentary elections, demonstrating this party's readiness to do everything possible to protect Poland from the alleged Russian threat. (Valdaiclub.com, June 19, 2091; read the full article)

  • Moscow is concerned about Washington's plans to deploy a drone squadron to Poland, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters. (Tass.com, June 13, 2019; read the full article)

  • Moscow is ready to respond if the US stations military bases near Russian borders, chairman of the Russian State Duma's International Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky told Rossiya-24 TV channel. (Tass.com, June 18, 2019; read the full article)

  • Comment by the Russian MFA on a decision to deploy an additional US military contingent in Poland. "These actions undermine one of the few remaining documents that are called on to ensure military stability in Europe. Russia cannot but take this into account in its defense planning and practical activities," the Russian MFA stated. (Mid.ru, June 13, 2019; read the full statement)

INF-Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons-New Start

  • The creation and possible deployment by the United States of low-yield nuclear weapons in order to 'contain' Russia may actually result in using nuclear weapons, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told reporters. (Tass.com, July 19, 2019; read the full article)

  • There is a need to maintain New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) in order to ensure global peace and security, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters, commenting on US National Security Adviser John Bolton's statement that the Treaty was unlikely to be extended. (Tass.com, July 19, 2019; read the full article)

  • Russia's State Duma (the lower house of parliament) has passed a bill suspending the country's compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty submitted by President Vladimir Putin. A total of 417 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, while one abstained from voting. (Tass.com, June 18, 2019; read the full article)

  • Russia's suspension of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty does not mean that an arms race will start, chairman of the Russian State Duma's International Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky told Rossiya-24 TV channel. (Tass.com, July 18, 2019; read the full article)

  • Russia will be ready, if the United States further aggravates the situation by deploying intermediate-range missiles, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. (Tass.com, June 18, 2091; read the full article)

  • Comment by the Russian MFA regarding unacceptable US allegations of Russia exceeding the "zero-yield" standard. (Tass.com, June 17, 2019; read the full article)

Russophobia

  • Russians residing in the US must join efforts to combat Russophobia and improve the Russian-US relations, Russian Ambassador to the USA Anatoly Antonov said during the conference of compatriots "Maintaining Russian cultural-historical heritage and the Russian language in the USA" held at the Russian Cultural Center in Washington. (Tass.com, June 15, 2019; read the full article)

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

  • Moscow has presented hard evidence in the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash case, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said in response to a TASS question. "We presented information, including technical and other data, it is hard evidence but it is not being taken into account," he noted. "We would like this evidence to be considered but they have no wish to assess it," Patrushev added. (Tass.com, June 20, 2019; read the full article)

  • "The statements made by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) at a news conference on June 19 about the alleged involvement of Russian servicemen in the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash were utterly regrettable. The Russian Federation once again finds itself the target of completely unfounded accusations intended to discredit it in the eyes of the international community," the Russian Foreign Ministry stated. (Mid.ru, June 19, 2019; read the full statement)

Domestic News

  • How Moscow and St. Petersburg protested against police overreach and political repressions on June 23. (Meduza.io, June 24, 2019; read the full article)

  • 'The emperor has no clothes' Russian political scientist Valery Solovey says he lost his prestigious job in Moscow academia 'for political reasons'. (Meduza.io, June 25, 2019, read the full article)