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
Putin speaking at the plenary session of the Russia–Africa Economic Forum. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
In The News:
News In Brief: Russia In Syria; Russia-Iran-Turkey Relations; Russia-Egypt Relations; Defense; Russia-Gulf Relations; Kalashnikov's Anniversary; Thefts In Construction Of President Putin’s Residence
Putin meeting with President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, African Union Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Russia-Africa Summit Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: Russia And Africa Are Bound By Traditionally Friendly Ties
The Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum were held on October 23-24, 2019 in Sochi. During the summit, Putin delivered an address speech, stressing Russia-African ties.
Putin said: "… Russia and Africa are bound by traditionally friendly ties. Our country has consistently supported the national liberation movements of the peoples of Africa, we have made a significant contribution to the formation of young states and the development of their economies, as well as building up combat-ready armed forces.
"Our cooperation, rooted in the period of the joint fight against colonialism, is strategic and long-standing. Of course, there are significant opportunities for intensifying Russian-African cooperation in various fields…
"We are grateful to our African partners for supporting the resolutions that are of priority for us, namely, to combat the glorification of Nazism, the non-deployment of weapons first in outer space, confidence-building measures in outer space, and international information security.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is determined to continue taking an active part in charting the strategic line of the international community and practical measures as regards strengthening peace and stability in Africa and maintaining regional security…"
(Kremlin.ru, October 24, 2019)
Putin: 'Our Country Is Participating In An Initiative To Ease The African Countries’ Debt Burden'
At the plenary session of the Russia–Africa Economic Forum, Putin said: "Our country is participating in an initiative to ease the African countries’ debt burden. To date, the total amount of write-offs stands at over $20 billion. Joint programs have been launched with a number of countries involving the use of debt to finance national economic growth projects."
(Kremlin.ru, October 23, 2019)
Kommersant Columnist Drize: 'For Guests Even Billions Are Not A Problem'
In an article, titled "For guests even billions are not a problem", Kommersant columnist Dmitry Drize commented on the assets that Russia expended on the Russia-Africa Summit. Drize noted that the Russia-Africa summit cost the national budget about 4.5 billion rubles (according to the “RBC” investigation). This sum exceeded the amount spent on the annual St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which cost approximately 2 billion rubles. On October 25, the summit was officially closed. One of the most discussed topics was the words of Vladimir Putin about writing off debts to African countries in the amount of $ 20 billion. Kommersant's political observer Drize believes that the Soviet past still haunts Russia.
Below is Drize's article:
"The Russia-Africa Summit is one of the three most expensive events paid by the state budget over the past ten years according to the RBC calculations. The World Festival of Youth and Students in 2017 and the APEC Summit in Vladivostok in 2012 were more expensive. At the same time, the amount of concluded contracts is also impressive - 800 billion rubles. Although the money for the organization of the event has already been spent, and the contracts still need to be fulfilled, so far these are virtual funds.
"Strange as it may seem, the main news of the summit was not the unprecedented event itself, but the cancellation of debts owed by African countries in the amount of 20 billion USD. All this was so mindboggling that Dmitry Peskov had to make a separate explanation that this money anyway would not come back anyway … and it was worthwhile [for Russia] to enter the [African] continent and we would get more as a result. Companies will earn and pay the budget money written off via taxes.
"In fairness, it is worth noting that Russia has not just written off $ 20 billion, but participated in an international program to help poor countries.
"Every other country wrote off everything - and so did we only the total amount is so big. Nevertheless, the sheer size was a "hit". Indeed, in today's Russia, such money would come in handy. The 4.5 billion rubles that went to the reception of numerous African delegations in Sochi would not hurt as well. And that's not all. Some malicious tongues are asking themselves: is it only about the economy or is there something else?
"Of course it would be nice for Russia to return to its former greatness: what we showed the Americans in Syria, we are showing them in Africa. Let’s show Washington that the whole continent has come to us, everyone is ready to be friends with us. But on the other hand, why not come if one has been invited and generously accommodated? Russia is a hospitable country - we don’t feel sorry for the guests and billions spent. But did the greatness ever exist? The Soviet Union at once pumped billions into Africa to help national liberation movements.
"Take Egypt for example, how many weapons we gave and even helped the country implement the great project - the Aswan Dam. Where is the return on the investment made? The proud Arab Republic has safely lost numerous wars. As a result, she made peace with Israel and established relations with the Americans, built up hotels and now is making money on tourism. The USSR, as a result, was torn apart.
"Money is being written off as part of assistance to poor countries. And in modern Russia people are perplexed: 'these funds would be useful back home.'
"We are drawn to former power, which was never there.
"One could say: we are doing a good deed - saving the world, building a new architecture of international relations, destroying the monopoly of one country and its influence on other states. But I would like it to be not so expensive just in the case it does not work out in the end."
(Kommersant.ru, October 25, 2019)
Arms, Oil and Influence: What You Need to Know About Russia's First-Ever Africa Summit. (Themoscowtimes.com, October 24, 2019; read the full article)
Russia Delivers New Batch of Weapons to Central African Republic. (Themoscowtimes.com, September 27, 2019; read the full article)
We Are Convinced That The Real Reason That Prompted Washington To Unilaterally Withdraw From The INF Treaty Is The Deterrence Of China And Russia
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu spoke at the IX Xiangshan Forum, held on October 21 and 22 in Beijing. “We are convinced that the real reason that prompted Washington to unilaterally withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is the deterrence of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation”, Sergey Shoigu specified, adding that “the Treaty ceased to be in the interests of the United States amid growing "China’s military and economic power, the restoration of Russia's defence potential and the expansion of military and military-technical cooperation between the two states".
(Mil.ru, October 21, 2019; read the full article)
Putin with the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Cuban President Diaz-Canel: We Are Closely Monitoring The Growing Role That Russia Is Playing In Order To Break The Superiority That The United States Is Trying To Establish
On October 29, Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with President of Cuba Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez who arrived in Russia on a working visit.
During the meeting Putin said:
"… Our permanent contacts continue at the highest level as well as at a high level. We are actively cooperating and supporting one another on the international arena. Russia has always had a particularly good understanding for Cuba’s independent stand and sovereign policy…"
The President of Cuba Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez stated: "… For us, the visit by Mr Medvedev in October meant a lot. It was a very interesting and positive visit marked by the fact that a top official visited our country in challenging times when the United States is escalating its aggression against Cuba. This visit showed that Russia and Cuba’s positions remain unchanged under threats from the United States. Also, we had the opportunity to evaluate the progress in implementing our projects during his visit. More ideas about new areas of cooperation and new projects appeared during the visit.
"I would like to say that there are moments dedicated to Russia in our daily routine and feelings. Primarily, because we are closely monitoring the growing role that Russia is playing in order to break the superiority that the United States is trying to establish. We are also monitoring Russia’s progress and our projects with Russia on a daily basis.
"I am grateful to you for the opportunity to carry out this working visit.
"I am grateful for the invitation to take part in celebrating the 75th anniversary of Victory over Nazism next year, and I am here to confirm that we will attend this event. It is a holiday for Russia, but it is also a holiday for the entire world, mainly in terms of its importance to the entire world.
"New areas of cooperation are opening up. We devoted part of our visit to gaining information about these issues. This is also why we visited the Baltic Shipyard in St Petersburg. Our Minister of Energy visited the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant. We have ideas and proposals that we will work through together.
"We are very happy to be in Russia and to be able to speak with you. We are very excited by how our projects and programs are being implemented."
Putin the concluded: "Thank you very much for the invitation. I will definitely use it. Please convey my best wishes to Comrade Castro."
(Kremlin.ru, October 29, 2019)
The President of Cuba in Moscow: A Litmus Test for Russia-US Relations. Russian expert Stanislav Tkachenko said: "… Today, just like many years ago, US leaders are inclined to consider the strengthening of Moscow's military presence on Cuban territory an existential threat that requires immediate and decisive action." (Valdaiclub.com, October, 28, 2019; read the full article)
On October 30, Putin met with Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban in Budapest.
The two leaders discussed Russian-Hungarian cooperation, above all in the field of trade, the economy and culture, as well as several topical international and regional matters.
Following the meeting, a package of agreements was signed in the presence of the leaders, including a plan of measures on implementing a comprehensive program of Russian-Hungarian interregional cooperation and a treaty between the Russian Federation and Hungary on social security.
The documents signed also include memorandums on cooperation in oncology, physical fitness and sports, and railway transport. In addition, the sides signed a number of agreements on cooperation between Russian oil companies LUKOIL and Transneft and the Hungarian oil and gas corporation MOL Group.
Orban: 'Hungary Is A NATO And EU Member, And It Will Stay There. However, This Does Not Rule Out The Possibility Of Cooperation With Russia On The Political Level Too'
During the press conference Orban said: "… Hungary’s policy is to get every country in the world interested in Hungary’s success, particularly the countries which play a decisive part for us from a regional point of view. Cooperation between Hungary and the Russian Federation fits this description.
"Of course, Hungary is a NATO and EU member, and it will stay there. However, this does not rule out the possibility of cooperation with Russia on the political level too. We are seeking it now and will seek it in the future.
"Our political cooperation has many important areas. Today we will also meet with the hierarchs of Christian churches in the Middle East, because protecting Christian values is important for us. It is a continuation of the traditions started by Saint Stephen, the first King of Hungary.
"We understand each other, we know what dangers it is fraught with. We know about the 96,000 migrants on the Balkan route which are heading north. It poses challenges for us and forces us to provide our borders with special protection. Of course, Russia also has such problems of a different nature concerning border protection and migrants.
"Hungary absolutely knows its size, its importance and its place, but it knows its interests too. Hungary also has interests in the Middle East, because if that territory is destabilized, then a great number of migrants will move to Europe and will try to get there via Hungary. Hungary is interested in military and political stability in the Middle East and Syria.
"The press usually overlooks it, but I want to emphasize that our cooperation also extends to the Kurds because Hungary is supporting the Kurds in Erbil.
"In addition, Hungary is interested in the improvement of relations between NATO and the Russian Federation.
"We have such a historical and political experience that if relations between Western and Eastern Europe are tense, Hungary always loses, but if these relations are good, then Hungary stands to gain. Therefore, we are interested (and will be interested in the future) in seeing the best possible relations between Western entities and the Russian Federation…"
Following Orban's speech, Putin said: "… As you have seen, during this visit, LUKOIL, Transneft and the Hungarian oil and gas corporation MOL Group have signed various agreements. Their implementation will make it possible to increase Russian fuel exports to Hungary via the Druzhba [Friendship] pipeline until 2025.
"Russian gas is delivered to Western Europe via Hungary. Its underground gas storage facilities hold enough gas for uninterrupted delivery to customers, including at a time of peak demand.
"We view Hungary as one of our priority partners in the field of gas distribution in Europe via both the existing and new northern and southern routes.
"We set a high value on Rosatom’s project of building two new power units for the Paks nuclear power station in Hungary. The station’s four power units currently produce over 40 percent of the electricity consumed in Hungary.
"The commissioning of additional power units will make it possible to double electricity production and met the growing requirements of the Hungarian economy…
"We touched upon various international and regional matters during the talks. In particular, we exchanged opinions on prospects for normalizing relations between Russia and the European Union. We also discussed the resolution of the crisis in Ukraine. This primarily concerns energy routes and Russian fuel and energy supplies for Hungary and our main consumers in Europe. We informed the Prime Minister of Russia’s efforts to facilitate the resolution of the Syrian conflict. We will have another opportunity, and we will discuss this matter once again at a meeting with the heads of churches.
"The work of the Constitutional Committee will facilitate the political resolution of the Syrian crisis. Russia made a major contribution to establishing the Constitutional Committee, together with its partners from Turkey and Iran. As you may know, the Committee’s members gathered for their first meeting in Geneva several hours ago.
"Within the Committee, Syrian Government and the opposition, as well as representatives of Syrian civil society, will be able to work directly and without external interference on a constitutional reform, national state building tasks and the country’s sustained development. I believe that this is also important for Hungary, in the context of migration processes, and for Europe in general.
"The agenda of our talks with Mr Orban also included a discussion of the position of Christian communities living in the Middle East and North Africa. We will also review this subject in greater detail right after this press conference at a meeting with heads of the region’s Christian churches. This meeting was organized at the initiative of the Prime Minister of Hungary, and I would like to thank him for this.
"I would like to note that Russia is ready to collaborate with Hungary and other parties concerned for the purpose of supporting Christians in conflict-ridden areas of the Middle East and North Africa. We consider it unacceptable that representatives of any denomination are persecuted for their religious beliefs.
"In conclusion, I would like to once again thank my colleague, the Prime Minister, for his invitation and for the very friendly and business-like atmosphere that was created during today’s work. Thank you."
(Kremlin.ru, October 30, 2019)
Meeting with heads of Middle East Christian churches. Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban had a meeting with the heads of Christian churches of the Middle East held with the assistance of Hungary. (Kremlin.ru, October 30, 2019; read the full article)
News In Brief
Russia In Syria
The United States smuggles Syrian oil to other countries, the convoys are guarded by US private military companies and special operations forces, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. "Tank trucks guarded by US military servicemen and private military companies smuggle oil from fields in eastern Syria to other countries. In the event of any attack on such a convoy, US special operations forces and combat aviation are immediately used to protect it," Konashenkov stressed. (Tass.com, October 26, 2019; read the full article)
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu following trilateral talks on Syria, Geneva, October 29, 2019. Lavrov said: "… Today we will distribute the text of the trilateral statement approved by the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran. This statement reaffirms our full commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, our resolve to root out terrorism in all its forms in Syria and our rejection of any separatist aspirations in that country…" (Mid.ru, October 30, 2019; read the full remarks)
The first Russian-Egyptian air defense drills, the Arrow of Friendship-2019, kicked off at a practice range of the Egyptian air defense troops’ training tactical center on Sunday, the press service of the Southern Military District has said. (Tass.com, October 27, 2019; read the full article)
The US must begin the discussion of the conditions for the prolongation of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) without delay, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, nominated for the position of US Ambassador to Russia, said during a hearing of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on reviewing his candidacy. (Tass.com, October 30, 2019; read the full article)
Commenting on Sullivan's remarks, first deputy chair of the State Duma defense committee Andrey Krasov said: "…It’s about dialogue and not a monologue, Russia will be ready for cooperation, when the both sides listen and hear each other." (Ria.ru, October 30, 2019; read the full article)
Commenting on the START agreement, Senator Franz Klintsevich, member of the Federation Council's Committee on Defense and Security, said: "The US once again wants to deceive Russia, weaken it and then accuse Moscow of breaching the treaty." (Ria.ru, October 30, 2019; read the full article)
Commenting on Sullivan's statement, Evgeny Buzhinsky, a former Russian lieutenant general, said: "… Are we talking about negotiations on one-sided disarmament of Russia? That cannot happen." (Ria.ru, October 30, 2019; read the full article)
Moscow never avoided discussing Russia’s 9M729 missile, it was Washington that did it, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, addressing participants in the Ninth Dialogue in the Name of the Future event, hosted by the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund. (Tass.com, October 25, 2019; read the full article)
Moscow is keeping an eye on Washington’s developing its cruise missiles program, which causes serious concern, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said. (Tass.com, October 29, 2019; read the full article)
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev criticized the US concept of a "free and open Indo-Pacific region." It is a serious challenge for ASEAN, he noted in an interview with Bangkok Post on the eve of the ASEAN Business Investment Summit and the 14th East Asia Summit. (Tass.com, November 3, 2019; read the full article)
The Russian business newspaper Vedomosti reported, citing an anonymous source, that the Saudi military is interested in discussing the purchase of Pantsir systems (NATO reporting name SA-22 Greyhound) with Moscow, without specifying which model. The source said that the UAE, in turn, is eying buying the Tor missile system (NATO reporting name SA-15 Gauntlet), specifically the latest model – Tor-M2E.
Russia's Education Ministry releases plans for anniversary lessons on Kalashnikov that involve assembling rifles in school. (Meduza.io, October 29, 3019; read the full article)
Embezzlements In The Construction Of Putin’s Presidential Residence
The court will consider the case of embezzlement during the reconstruction of the presidential residence behind closed doors. At the first hearing, the judge decided that there were materials in the case that should be classified. (Crimerussia.com, October 30, 2019; read the full article)