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
(Source: Vk.com/politics_today, January 22, 2018)
Quotes Of The Week
On January 24, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave a speech at the opening ceremony of the 26th International Educational Christmas Readings. Lavrov said:
"Obviously, the revision of basic standards of morality, a permissive environment and tolerance reduced to an absurdity are doing irreparable damage to the moral health of people and depriving them of their cultural and civilizational roots. Thus, a number of EU countries are banning religious paraphernalia and depriving parents of the right to bring up their children in the spirit of Christian morality… I would like to recall that at one time the EU refused to include in its charter documents the idea that European civilization has Christian roots. I believe those who are ashamed of their moral roots cannot respect those of other religions. Likewise, the latter have no respect of the former. This is creating a breeding ground for xenophobia and intolerance and opening the way to society’s self-destruction. It is important to vigorously oppose this pseudo-liberal policy that encourages destructive models of behavior.
"Aggressive attempts to impose alien values on other nations are a source of deep concern.
"The example of the Middle East and North Africa shows the consequences of irresponsible 'social engineering.' Western interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states – Iraq, Libya and Syria – has created a political, legal and largely spiritual vacuum that has been filled by terrorists that challenge all of humanity. Representatives of all religions are being subjected to harassment and persecution. Christians are the hardest hit – being threatened with physical destruction, they have had to leave places of their historical residence on a massive scale."
(Mid.ru, January 24, 2018)
Sergey Lavrov (Source: Mid.ru, January 24, 2018)
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova is one of the most-quoted Russian officials. She is known for using colorful language when describing Russian foreign policy in her weekly press briefings. The following are Zakharova's quotes of the week from her press briefing:
"We have information that some countries plan to destructively interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs during the presidential election campaign. I would like to reiterate that all such attempts will be suppressed and if they continue, we will have to take retaliatory measures, particularly by making the information we have public."
(Tass.com, January 25, 2018)
In The News
Russia-China Defense Relations
Russian news agency TASS reported that Moscow per the 2014 contract has begun delivery of the S-400 Triumf air defense missile systems to China.
(Tass.com, January 18, 2018)
On January 19, TASS reported that the first shipment of the S-400 air defense missile systems to China was damaged by a storm and returned to Russia.
(Tass.com, January 19, 2018)
Russia-India Defense Relations
In an interview with Rossiya-24 TV Channel, Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin said: "We hope that the S-400 deal will be signed with India soon."
TASS further reported: "The Indian news agency PTI reported in mid-December citing Russia’s Rostec Corporation Director for International Cooperation Viktor Kladov that Russia and India were agreeing the technical details of the contract for the delivery of S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile systems and were 'at a very advanced stage' of negotiations."
(Tass.com, December 27, 2017)
On January 22, 2018, the Times of India wrote: "India has now begun final contract negotiations with Russia for the Rs 39,000 crore (over $5.5 billion) acquisition of five advanced S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems, which can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, stealth fighters, spy planes, missiles and drones at a range of up to 400 km and altitude of 30 km.
"India wants to conclude the major deal in the 2018-19 financial year, with the first S-400 surface-to-air (SAM) missile system, with its associated battle-management system of command post and launchers, acquisition and engagement radars, and all-terrain transporter-erector-launcher vehicles, slated for delivery two years after the contract is inked."
(Timesofindia.indiatimes.com, January 22, 2018)
Sergey Chemezov, CEO of Rostec Corporation said: "Discussions on this contract are at an advanced stage. Currently, the technical details of the contract are being discussed… The inter-governmental agreement on this project was signed in Goa just one year ago… It is important not to rush things and give both parties time for negotiations."
(Economictimes.indiatimes.com, January 25, 2018)
Qatar- Russia Defense Relations
Qatar's Ambassador to Russia Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said in an interview with TASS that his country is interested in buying S-400 Triumf He also added that negotiations are in "advanced" stages.
(Tass.com, January 25, 2018)
Myanmar-Russia Defense Relations
On January 20-22, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu visited Myanmar. Commenting on the visit, Russian Deputy Defense Minister, Lieutenant General Alexander Fomin said:
"During the Russian defense minister’s visit an agreement was reached under which Myanmar would purchase six Su-30 planes… [Thwill become the main fighter aircraft of Myanmar’s air force to protect the country’s territorial integrity and repel any terror threats."
(Tass.com, January 22, 2018)
The Russian MFA commented on comments by U.S. representatives that were critical of Russia-Myanmar military-technical cooperation: "We have taken note of a statement made by the U.S. State Department spokesperson criticizing the recent Russia-Myanmar agreements on further expanding their military and military-technical cooperation. In this connection, we would like to point out the following.
"Russia is actively involved in the international community’s efforts to facilitate the normalization of the situation in Myanmar and is contributing to the search for various options to resolve the complicated issues concerning the country’s Rakhine State by political methods, while respecting the sovereignty of Myanmar and pledging non-interference in the domestic affairs of this state. Russia’s well-thought-out position helped find mutually acceptable compromises and stabilize the situation in Rakhine State. We are also providing the required humanitarian aid to the government of Myanmar.
"At the same time, we believe that military-technical cooperation is a legitimate component of interstate relations, unless it contradicts the decisions of the UN Security Council. Deliveries of Russian military products to Myanmar aim to boost the country’s defense capability. Only a very vivid imagination of our State Department colleagues can perceive a link between this task and the threat of even greater sufferings of civilians.
"In this connection, we would like to recall that the people of Southeast Asia have hardly forgotten the casualties and destruction inflicted on them by US weapons during numerous recent wars conducted by the United States in the region. However, this does not prevent Washington from selling lethal weapons to Southeast Asian countries and building up its military presence in direct proximity to this region."
(Mid.ru, January 26, 2018)
Sanctions Against Russia
VTB Bank CEO Andrey Kostin: U.S. Sanctions On Russian Institutions, Are A Declaration Of War
In an interview with the Financial Times, Andrey Kostin, the head of Russia's leading bank, VTB bank, warned that if the U.S. continued applying economic sanctions on Russian institutions, it would constitute "a declaration of war".
Speaking to the Russian news agency Ria.ru, Kostin further stated:
"What do such lists [of sanctions] mean? To identify businessmen, who are close to Putin, remote from him? Putin is a lawfully elected president of a great country, and sanctions [based] on intimacy or friendship [with him] are insane. I have no other words."
(Ria.ru, January 23, 2018)
Kostin added: "I think this is what the West is seeking. I think they are trying to apply major pressure on Russia through sanctions in order to make Russia change its government and president for some one more suitable for them [i.e. the West]. I think this is an economic war; it's not merely a trade war… This is indeed a full scale attack on Russia, on Russian society with major pressure on the economy. This is a huge economic war. I'm speaking seriously and we will treat it most seriously".
(Ria.ru, January 24, 2018)
Andrey Kostin (Source: Kp.ru)
Kostin gave his explanation: "I can't influence the situation since the sanctions are not a result of my work nor of my activity. I'm a banker, I do have good banking practices in my bank, I did break any rules in the US or anywhere in the world, and if they are punishing me- they are punishing for purely political reasons, since I think there are people who do not particularly like Mr. Trump and who try to play the Russian card against him."
(Ria.ru, January 24, 208)
Russian Senator Klimov: The Aim Of The U.S. Sanctions Is To Change The Political System In Russia
In an interview with the media outlet Eadaily.com, Senator Andrey Klimov, the deputy chairman of the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee gave the following responses:
Q: "Andrey Arkadievich, why does the U.S. introduce new sanctions against our country just ahead of the presidential elections in Russia, what do they want to achieve?"
Klimov: "This is a conscious action, they have not concealed it. The aim of all those actions is to change the political system in Russia. They talked about it in the U.S. for a long time. Already back in 2003, President Bush Jr. proposed conducting a so called geopolitical democratic revolution. Currently it's merely progressing. Pay attention, it happened much before Ukrainian events – 11 years prior. Naïve people say if we just had not done this or that we would be living happily. Nothing of the sort. Back in 2003, 50 countries were designated in the U.S. which in their opinion merited having their political system changed. They earmarked money for that, adopted legislation. Unfortunately this is just going at a faster pace..."
Q: "Is the Federation Council concerned? They talk about cutting Russia off from the SWIFT international banking system for transmitting information and performing payments."
Klimov: "First of all, in that bundle of documents signed by the U.S. on August 2 and which will be made public on January 29, does not contain a word about disconnection from SWIFT. It's just very fast spreading delusions of Capitol Hill people. Second, SWIFT is an international system, operated directly from the U.S. Congress. If our partners cut it off, they will also sustain damage. The Americans are buying rockets from us, and 40% of 'Boeing' consists of parts, produced in [our] Ural region [plants]. I don't know how the Americans are going to settle accounts with us if they cut off the SWIFT. Are they ready to stop their airspace program completely and fly on a broomstick afterwards?"
(Eadaily.com, January 27, 2018)
Andrey Klimov (Source: Rg.ru)
The French Ambassador To Russia Denounces The Extra-Territoriality Of U.S. Sanctions
French Ambassador to Russia Sylvie Bermann with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov (Source: Rt.com)
According to the French version of the Russian media outlet RT, the French ambassador to Moscow, Sylvie Bermann, bluntly denounced the self-proclaimed extra-territoriality of the American judiciary. "We do not accept the extra-territorial nature of the American sanctions," she declared on last January 16th on the occasion of the Gaidar Forum, which annually assembles academicians and economists in Moscow. "The interests of the Europeans, and of France in particular, must be preserved" added the diplomat.
RT added: "Ever since the election of Emmanuel Macron, this is not the first time that French Authorities denounce the extra-territoriality of American laws, at a moment when the French government is trying to revive trade exchanges with Russia. In October 2017, [French Finance Minister] Bruno Le Maire called on the European Union to establish some 'response tools' for these problems.
"We should add that several French flagship enterprises, such as Alstom – prior to its dismantlement – Technip or Crédit Agricole, in the past, were obliged to comply with the decisions of the American Justice Department. In 2015, [the French bank] BNP Paribas was hit by a record fine of 8,9 billion dollars for having carried out a forbidden transaction using American currency. This was a sufficient reason for the American judiciary to go after the French banking giant, staging what resembles to a commercial war by Washington against its allies.
"In 2014, the European Union had followed the United States in its policy of economic sanctions against Russia, however, the new American unilateral sanctions of July 2017 encountered a different reaction. At a time when Brussels began sounding the alarm bell, denouncing the lack of consultation on such decisions, and even threatening to retaliate against Washington, Paris went as far as to say that the American sanctions contradicted international law."
(Francais.rt.com, January 17, 2018)
News In Brief
- The annual forecast Global Threats in 2018 presented at the Valdai discussion club states that the U.S.' relations with the rest of the world are in disorder. (Tass.com, January 22, 2018; Read full article)
- Russian senator Andrey Klimov accuses Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America of promoting the idea of boycotting the upcoming Russian presidential election (Tass.com, January 24, 2018; Read full article)