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
On June 27, Vladimir Putin received Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs John Bolton in the Kremlin. Russian participants at the meeting included Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The discussion focused on the prospects for developing Russian-U.S. relations, disarmament, the Syria and Ukraine crises, and the situation on the Korean Peninsula. In addition, an agreement was reached on a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. (Kremlin.ru)
During the meeting with Bolton, Putin said:
"I regret to have to point out that Russian-U.S. relations are not at their best. I have mentioned this publicly more than once, and I want to say it again at this meeting as well.
"I believe that this is largely due to sharp domestic political strife in the United States, but your visit to Moscow gives us hope that we can make at least the first steps towards restoring full-fledged relations between our states. Russia has never sought confrontation.
"I hope that today we can discuss what could be done on both sides to restore full-fledged relations based on equality and respect for each other's interests."
(Kremlin.ru, June 27, 2018)
Op-Ed Of The Week
Commenting on Russia-U.S. relations, Mikhail Rostovsky wrote in his column for MK.ru:
"Trump and his Republican party's elections campaign has already featured Kim Jong Un (as a new acquired friend, who just yesterday was an implacable foe), leaders of the EU, Canada and China (as economic partners and gluttonous friends, who should be firmly requested to share their 'fat surplus' with America). Now Trump wants to make Putin as well a part of his advertising campaign: look, no one managed to reach agreement with this fierce tough guy, but I succeeded…
"Don't build illusions: there will be no retreat form U.S.-Russian confrontation under any circumstances. The spiral of conflict is spinning fast – you can't stop it quickly. Yet, we may hope for 'regulating' the conflict, the emergency of clearly understood 'rules of the game'. This is in contrast to the current 'fights without rules' that Russian–U.S. relations have become, this will already constitute an achievement."
(Mk.ru, June 21, 2018)
In The News
Bolton's Visit To Russia
On June 27, Vladimir Putin received Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs John Bolton in the Kremlin.
Commenting on the visit, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said:
"We are satisfied with the exchange [of opinions] that took place. It was especially useful precisely in the context of preparing a summit meeting."
Ushakov also stated that Bolton and Putin discussed the following topics: strategic stability in the world, control of nuclear armaments and the disarmament dossier in general. "This was followed by regional issues with the focus on Syria, the intra-Ukrainian crisis, North Korea and the situation resulting from the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action under the Iranian nuclear program," the Kremlin aide said.
Ushakov also pointed out the Putin raised the need to implement the Minsk agreements. "The Ukrainian issue was brought up, and we pointed to the need to comply with the Minsk agreements and talked about our principled approach. The Americans did comment [on the issue], but that was not a priority issue at the talks," Ushakov stated
During the talks, Putin also emphasized that Moscow did not interfere in the U.S. presidential elections. Ushakov then added: "The issue of sanctions was not touched upon, but the general situation that causes concern in our bilateral relations was…"
(Tass.com, June 27, 2018)
Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Valdai Discussion Club's, Russia in Global Affairs journal commented on Bolton's visit as well as the future Putin-Trump summit and said that it's crucial to understand "the limits of the possible":
"The goal is to form a basic agenda for the Putin-Trump meeting. Oddly enough, no such agenda currently exists. There are a set of topics, which must be discussed (nuclear strategic stability, Syria, Ukraine, the Korean peninsula, cybersecurity, a range bilateral questions), but there are absolutely no discussions on those issues".
According to Lukyanov, "this meeting is seemingly important for Trump, as a demonstration that he is really a strong leader, who ignores a very negative atmosphere and does what should be done".
"For Putin, it's important to grasp the character of his interlocutor and, ideally, to 'stake' Russia's claim as an indispensable and in some areas equal partner for the US", said Lukyanov.
"Some parameters of the forthcoming Putin-Trump meeting are clear. First, there can't be and will be no breakthroughs. Qualitative change in the relations should be prepared long and hard. It's only possible when the will of the leaders converges with political elites' search for positive change. At the moment, the summit will take place starting with an empty slate – no time to prepare something except general announcements, moreover – in the current atmosphere it's hardly possible (to prepare substantive understandings)", said Lukyanov.
He also added that to a great extent this will be a meeting between two personalities, rather than between "two machineries of government".
(Interfax.ru, June 27, 2018)
A brief meeting between Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump took place on the sidelines of the G20 summit in 2017.
During the meeting with Bolton, an agreement was reached on a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. The two leaders will meet in Finland's capital, Helsinki, on July 16.
Conservative Media Outlet Tsagrad.tv: Putin And Trump Have Nothing To Agree About Despite The Possible Personal 'Chemistry'
The conservative and strongly nationalist Tsargrad.Tv writes in an editorial on the forthcoming Putin-Trump meeting:
"For the Russian 'Tsar,' it is unimportant to cope with his obligations to the American 'manager' of the ruling class. They have nothing to agree about despite the possible personal 'chemistry' and sympathy and the genuine desire to get along with each other. First, Trump has to prove that he has real presidential powers by returning for example to Russia's control its diplomatic property, confiscated in the US.
"If that is not done, and the meeting takes place nevertheless, then there will no more than a show, needed by both presidents for external reasons. Actually, Putin needs that more than Trump - how will the Americans force their closest European allies to continue extending sanctions on Russia if the presidents of the two world power smile at each other? For the sake of this the only thing Putin will need is to allow the posturing Trump to show off in front of the whole world by repeating on a grander scale the show conducted in Singapore with Kim Jong Un. "
(Tsargrad.tv, June 29, 2018)
Russian Analyst Troitsky: The Probability Of Mutual Disappointment Is Quite High
Mikhail Troitsky, RBC columnist, opined:
"The major problem is that the mutual interest, which propel Moscow and Washington in their desire to stage a summit, is primarily related to how the results of the meeting are perceived by the public in the U.S., Russia and other countries and therefore those interests are short-term and transient. There is far less agreement between the sides on the substantive aspects of the agenda issues that could have laid the foundation for a 'new course' in mutual relations. Thus, the probability of mutual disappointment, negative internal political reactions in both countries and further deterioration of relations is quite high."
(Rbc.ru, June 26, 2018)
Russian Expert Kortunov: 'There Is An Element Of Trump’s Provocation [To EU Leaders]: 'You Discourage Me, Warn Me, And You Meet With Putin Yourselves, That’s Why I Will Also Meet With Him, Because Your Point Of View Is Not Relevant For Me'
Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, explained: "President Trump wants to make use of his visit to Europe for the NATO summit which will be held in Brussels just before the meeting with Putin. The NATO summit will probably bring some clarity to the relations of the United States with its European allies and on this background there is a certain logic to hold the summit with the Russian president, too.
"We can assume that the current US readiness to improve relations with Russia is a kind of reaction to the aggravation of relations with other leading powers. Trump is a businessman, for him the international policy is a set of investment opportunities. If he loses these opportunities in relations with one partner or another, then he seeks these opportunities with others. However, Trump is unlikely to feel squeezed and isolated. On the contrary, he believes that his foreign policy is successful enough, he can press for the decisions he needs, and his partners, albeit without much desire, are forced to follow the general pattern of American policy and American interests. Over the past year and a half, Trump has strengthened his position as an international figure, and now he can launch dialogue with the potentially most difficult partner, Vladimir Putin.
"Of course, the forthcoming summit is a kind of irritant in relations between the US and its partners in Europe. Angela Merkel said that Russia’s return to the G7 is unrealistic. The next day Trump purposely expressed his opinion: Russia must be back. Thus, perhaps, there is an element of Trump’s provocation: 'You discourage me, warn me, and you meet with Putin yourselves, that’s why I will also meet with him, because your point of view is not relevant for me.'
"We understand that the schedule is very tight and there is very little time left to prepare for the summit. Therefore, it is difficult to expect that the summit will end with the adoption of a detailed package of documents on specific issues.
"The forthcoming summit will be something like the first meeting between Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush, when the agenda was open and there was no task to achieve any specific agreements. In any case, the summit did set a certain tone in the relationship. At that time, crisis trends also existed: there was expulsion of diplomats in the early 2001, and the meeting between the two presidents served to reverse this negative tendency. Probably, similar tasks are set before the forthcoming meeting between Trump and Putin."
(Valdaiclub.com, June 28, 2018)
Lukashenko Voices Fears For Belarus Following Lukashenko-Putin Summit
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko apparently fears his country will eventually be absorbed by another state or face regime change a la Ukraine or Armenia. Lukashenko's fears were aggravated by the state's poor economic showing. Notably, Lukashenko's remarks came right after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov. Earlier, on April 24, Lukashenko blamed Russia for starting a trade war and banned export to Russia of selective Belarussian goods.
Talking to agricultural officials during a work meeting, Lukashenko said that the only [acceptable] reason for failure to achieve the set economic goals was death.
"We are on the front line of battle. If we do not make it through the coming years, if we fail, it means that we'll become a member of some other state or they will make us into a doormat". Moreover, God forbid, they might unleash a war as in Ukraine", said Lukashenko.
Stressing that Belarus needs a competitive and effective production and not loss-making and subsidized enterprises, Lukashenko told the meeting's participants: "If you want it – line up and start marching, or take a gun and whip this place into shape. It's your own problems".
(Gazeta.ru, June 23, 2018)
Comment By The Embassy Of Russia In Israel On The Situation In Southern Syria
Commenting on the situation in Southern Syria, the Russian Embassy in Israel wrote in its Facebook page: "The Embassy notes with concern another round of distortion by some Israeli and foreign media regarding actions and objectives of the governments of #Russia and #Syria in the southwestern de-escalation zone.
"The Embassy reaffirms Russia’s commitment to the de-escalation conditions, agreed with the US and Jordan in 2017.
"Military offensive, launched on June 24 by the Syrian troops supported by Russian Air Force, is a long awaited part of job to be done by the US according to the agreed de-escalation regime. The mission is to eradicate Jubhat al-Nusrah, ISIS and Al-Qaida, which still control over 40% of the area. Violating the truce, these terrorists have used it to target civilians and military positions by rockets and artillery in recent months.
"According to the de-escalation terms, the rebels must be separated from terrorists; all foreign gunmen must be out the area. We are pleased to announce that thousands of moderate local rebels have already joined the ranks of the Syrian army in the south of the country thanks to a rising Russian mediation.
"The ongoing liberation of the area will create safe conditions for its economic and social rehabilitation, which is a key for permanent return and absorption of IDPs, as well as refugees from abroad.
"For a daily updated coverage of the Russian activity in #Syria you can follow:
"Finally, we remind that Russia is committed to legitimate security interests of Israel."
(Source: Facebook.com/RusEmbassyIsr, June 29, 2018)
- US President Donald Trump told reporters he planned to discuss the situation in Syria and Ukraine, as well as Russia’s alleged meddling in the US presidential vote with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during their upcoming meeting. (Tass.com, June 30, 2018; read the full article)
- President Donald Trump left the door open to recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, telling reporters that such a move would be up for discussion when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month. 'We’re going to have to see,' Trump told reporters Friday on Air Force One when asked if the U.S. would accept Russia’s claim on the territory it seized from Ukraine in 2014. (Bloomberg.com, June 30, 2018; read the full article)
Yet Another Russian Magic Weapon?
The former chief engineer of Russian torpedo production Shamil Aliev: "Currently there is a tendency to revisit previously unimplemented ideas… There is a reexamination of [Soviet nuclear physicist Andrei] Sakharov's views regarding the production of a 24 meter-long torpedo, with 1.5 meter diameter, nuclear warhead and 50 kilometers effective distance." According to Aliev, the goal of such a weapon is to destroy coastal objects by creating a nuclear blast in the water. Aliev also said that this idea has not been implemented earlier due to a lack of funds and not because it wouldn't have worked properly.
(Ria.ru, June 25, 2018)
MP Vladimir Shamanov, (general, reserve), chair of the Duma Defense committee, was less optimistic regarding the aforementioned torpedo:
"Strictly in my professional view, our current existing arsenal provides us with the ability to perform any task in near and distant maritime areas. I don't honestly see a real necessity (to create the aforementioned nuclear torpedo) at the moment".
(Ria.ru, June 25, 2018)
News In Brief:
- Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the State Duma committee for international relations, said that Russia is prepared to become the major sponsor of the Council of Europe [CoE] once again and to resume the payments of membership fees in full if changes are made in the regulations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] and the clauses allowing national delegations to be stripped of powers go. (Tass.com, June 27, 2018; read the full article)
- Moscow voices regret over the European Union’s decision to extend the anti-Russian sanctions. (Tass.com, June 29; read the full article)