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memri
July 16, 2017 No.
7012

Russia This Week – July 15, 2017

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.

Description: http://www.memri.org/image/30641.jpg

Cartoon Of The Week:

Description: Показательные бои
Ria.ru, July 13, 2017

Pushkov's Tweet Storm

Senator Alexey Pushkov (@Alexey_Pushkov) tweeted: "Moscow and Beijing propose to exchange North Korean halt of missiles' launches for South Korean and American halt of [military] maneuvers in the peninsula. A possible beginning to exit the crisis."

(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, July 4, 2017)


(Source: Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, July 4, 2017)

Pushkov wrote: "It will be very difficult to persuade the U.S. and S. Korea to give up their [military] maneuvers, and to persuade North Korea to halt missile launches. But there is a chance. It's better than sanctions and mutual threats."

(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, July 4, 2017)

Pushkov wrote: "The U.S. administration insists on new harsh measures against the North Korea, as if they don't see that this is a dead end with no result. Russia and China have a different approach."

(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, July 4, 2017)

Pushkov also tweeted: "Kim Jong Un should demonstrate flexibility: there are lots of those in the U.S. who want to start the next war, using the pretext of self-defense. Russia and China propose a way out."

(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, July 4, 2017)

Pushkov tweeted: "The U.S. won't cancel their military exercises on the Korean Peninsula. Bush-Jr. had Iraq, Obama had Libya. Trump risks getting his own war – the Korean one."

(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, July 4, 2017)

In The News

Seized Russian Diplomatic Property In The U.S.

Russian FM Lavrov: Russia Will Not Tolerate The Seizure Of Its Diplomatic Property In The U.S., 'Reciprocity Is The Foundation Of All Relations'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently stressed that Russia will respond to the seizure of its diplomatic properties in the U.S. In December 2016, the Obama administration declared 35 staff members of the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Consulate General in San Francisco persona-non-grata, and closed two Russian compounds in the States of New York and Maryland.

Earlier, Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the properties enjoyed diplomatic immunity, so their seizure constituted a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

(Tass.com, July 11, 2017)

During her weekly briefing on June 29, Zakharova said: "Having failed to occupy Wall Street, they probably decided to occupy Russian property in the United States. It cannot be ruled out that some secret service agents could stage a provocation and set up 'evidence' to prove that intelligence equipment had been installed at these facilities at some point. These agents have unattended access to our facilities. As I said, there was no such equipment at our facilities. U.S. media claim that the equipment was dismantled, but our diplomats had less than 24 hours before their departure. Is this sufficient time to dismantle complicated espionage equipment? But there was indeed a great deal of household and other equipment that was dismantled to mothball these facilities. And while Russian diplomats were removing their belongings and mothballing these facilities, they were closely watched by the police and FBI agents. They not only looked on but used a powerful searchlight to better see what went on in our territory… The US administration and security services have never questioned our ownership of facilities before, not even during the Cold War… Give us our property back. Otherwise, we will have the grounds for a similar response with regard to U.S. property in Russia. As we said before, and as I can confirm today, we are working on these response measures."

(Mid.ru, June 29, 2017)

The following are recent Russian official reactions to the seizure of Russian diplomatic property:

Description: A fence encloses an estate in the village of Upper Brookville in the town of Oyster Bay, on Long Island, after the Obama administration closed this compound for Russian diplomats
Seized diplomatic property in Brookville in the town of Oyster Bay, on Long Island. (Source: Tass.com)

Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Matviyenko: 'These Actions Cannot Be Left Unanswered'

Matviyenko Duma Speaker
Valentina Matviyenko (Source: Interaffairs.ru)

The Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko said: "We are seeking to find a diplomatic solution to this issue, but if that fails to be done, we would have every right to provide an appropriate response, proceeding from the practice of international relations." She then added: "The thing the United States did [to seize Russia's diplomatic compounds] is a gross violation of international law and of all conventions on diplomats' status… Naturally, these actions cannot be left unanswered. We have enough patience. We demonstrate it so as to persuade the U.S. to amend the situation and get it back to the legal field."

(Tass.com, July 12, 2017)

Kremlin Spokesman Peskov: 'Russia Won't Be Able To Tolerate This For Long'

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov: "There is no particular timeline, there is understanding that patience is running out indeed and that's why the situation is unprecedented - both in regard to bilateral Russian-U.S. relations and international law… Russia won't be able to tolerate this for long, without giving a tit-for-tat response." He then added: "We, undoubtedly, expect that our counterparts in the U.S. will show some sort of political will to remedy the committed violations of international law."

(Tass.com, July 12, 2017)

Russian FM Lavrov: 'We Understand That The U.S. Congress Is Suffused With Russophobia'

Description: http://www.mid.ru/documents/10180/2811780/pess-conf.jpg/fb074538-e3d8-454d-823d-dadf761cc858?t=1499777769780
Lavrov (Source: Mid.ru)

During a joint press conference with the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was asked about Russian diplomatic property in the U.S.

Quesstion: "Could you please comment on the situation with Russian diplomatic property in the United States? What reciprocal measures can be taken if this property remains blocked?"

Sergey Lavrov: "We still hope that a country that has always advocated the supremacy of law will respect its international commitments. If this does not happen and we see that Washington does not deem it necessary to take such a step, we will certainly take reciprocal measures. This is the law of diplomacy and international life. Reciprocity is the foundation of all relations."

Question: "Could you please explain whether Russia will expel 30 U.S. diplomats and seize U.S. property? If so, when will this happen?"

Sergey Lavrov: "My answer is very simple. You should have written down my answer to the previous question. I suggest you listen to it once again."

Question: "I listened to it, Mr. Minister. Could you tell me exactly whether diplomats will be expelled?"

Sergey Lavrov: "I have answered this question."

(Mid.ru, July 11, 2017)

In another press conference, following the OSCE Informal Ministerial Meeting, Lavrov was asked again about how Russia will respond the seizure of diplomatic property.

Question: "Can you confirm that Russia intends to expel 30 U.S. diplomats and seize U.S. diplomatic property? What is the deadline? When can we expect Russia to respond, if the situation is not resolved?"

Sergey Lavrov: "The situation is outrageous. I think it is shameful for such a great country as the United States, the champion of international law, to leave the situation in a suspended state.

"We understand that the U.S. Congress is suffused with Russophobia. We understand that the decision to expel our diplomats and confiscate diplomatic property was adopted by former President Barack Obama's administration. These were (let me use precisely this word) the convulsions of the outgoing administration that wanted to poison Russian-American relations to the maximum degree and do whatever it could to have the Trump administration land in a trap.

"As is only natural, we will work to make the truth come to light. Justice and international law should be restored. We are thinking of concrete steps. For all my respect for the media and your desire to get the information, I do not think that this subject should be discussed in public. We will inform you about everything later."

(Mid.ru, July 11, 2017)

North Korean Crisis

On July 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with President of China Xi Jinping in Moscow. During the meeting, the two leaders discussed the crisis in the Korean Peninsula. During his visit, Xi declared: "We believe that the world is turbulent, local conflicts are emerging constantly, and issues such as the Korean peninsula problem and the Syrian question remain very complex… We have agreed to promote our joint initiative, based on Russian step-by-step Korean settlement plan and Chinese ideas to simultaneously freeze North Korean nuclear and missile activities, and US and South Korean joint military drills." It is worth noting that on the same day, North Korea launched an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 test. The test had been timed to America's 4th of July.

(Scmp.com, July 5, 2017)

Description: With President of China Xi Jinping.
Putin with Xi Jinping (Source: Kremlin.ru)

The following is the joint statement issued by the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries on the Korean Peninsula’s problems:


North Korean host announcing ICBM Hwasong-14 test on July 4. (Source: Scmp.com, July 5, 2017)

Joint Statement By Russia And China On North Korea

"The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are the Korean Peninsula’s neighbors, therefore the development of the situation in the region concerns the national interests of both countries. Russia and China will closely coordinate their efforts in order to promote a complex solution to the Korean Peninsula’s problems, including that of the nuclear issue, for the sake of achieving a lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia. In the spirit of strategic cooperation the foreign ministries of Russia and China (hereinafter referred to as Parties) state the following:

"1. The Parties are seriously worried by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s statement of July 4, 2017 about a ballistic missile launch and consider this statement unacceptable and in disharmony with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

"2. The Parties express serious concern about the development of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and around it. Mounting political and military tension in that region, fraught with the eruption of an armed conflict, are calling on the international community to adopt collective measures to settle the situation peacefully through dialogue and consultations. The Parties oppose any statements or moves that might escalate tension or aggravate the contradictions and urge all countries concerned to maintain calm, renounce provocative moves or bellicose rhetoric, demonstrate readiness for dialogue without preconditions and work actively together to defuse tension.

"3.The Parties are putting forward a joint initiative, which is based on the Chinese-proposed ideas of “double freezing” (missile and nuclear activities by the DPRK and large-scale joint exercises by the United States and the Republic of Korea) and 'parallel advancement' towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the creation of peace mechanisms on the peninsula, and the Russian-proposed stage-by-stage Korean settlement plan.

"The Parties propose the following:

"The DPRK, by way of a voluntary political decision, announces a moratorium on the testing of nuclear explosive devices and ballistic missile tests, and the United States and the Republic of Korea should, accordingly, refrain from large-scale joint exercises. Simultaneously, the conflicting parties begin talks and assert common principles of their relations, including the non-use of force, the renunciation of aggression, peaceful coexistence and determination to do all they can to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula with a view to promoting a complex resolution of all problems, including the nuclear issue. During the negotiating process, all parties concerned push forward, in a format suitable to them, the creation on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia of a peace and security mechanism and consequently normalize relations between the countries in question.

"The Parties urge the international community to support the aforementioned initiative that paves the real way for resolving the Korean Peninsula’s problems.

"4. The Parties are resolutely committed to the international non-proliferation regime and are firmly aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a comprehensive and full implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. The Parties intend, jointly with other parties concerned, to continue making efforts to facilitate the balanced removal of the existing concerns via dialogue and consultations.

"The Parties confirm that the DPRK’s justified concerns should be respected. Other states must make relevant efforts to have talks resumed and jointly to create an atmosphere of peacefulness and mutual trust.

"The Parties are calling on all parties involved to comply with the commitments formulated in the Joint Statement of September 19, 2005, and to re-launch, as soon as possible, the dialogue on the comprehensive resolution of problems on the Korean Peninsula. Any possibility of using military means to solve the problems of the Korean Peninsula should be ruled out.

"5. The Parties express support for the North and the South of the Korean Peninsula to conduct dialogue and consultations, display benevolence towards each other, improve relations, cooperate in the matter of a peaceful settlement, and play a due role in defusing the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in resolving its problems in a proper manner.

"6. The Parties confirm that they are paying sufficient attention to the maintenance of the international and regional balance and stability, and emphasize that allied relations between separate states should not inflict damage on the interests of third parties. They are against any military presence of extra-regional forces in Northeast Asia and its build-up under the pretext of counteracting the DPRK’s missile and nuclear programs.

"The Parties confirm that the deployment of THAAD antimissile systems in Northeast Asia is inflicting serious damage on strategic security interests of regional states, including Russia and China, and does nothing to help achieve the aims of the Korean Peninsula’s denuclearization, nor to ensure peace and stability in the region.

"Russia and China are against the deployment of the said systems, call on the relevant countries to immediately stop and cancel the deployment process, and have agreed to adopt the necessary measures to protect the two countries’ security interests and to ensure a strategic balance in the region.

"This statement was signed on July 4, 2017, in Moscow.

"For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs             For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

         of the Russian Federation                       of the People’s Republic of China"

(Mid.ru, July 4, 2917)

Senator Kosachev: The U.S, Japan And North Korea Are Provoking South Korea

Senator Konstantin Kosachev said that the North Korean standoff can't be solved by military methods. Kosachev said: "The way out lies in breaking the vicious circle of mutual threats. It's about politics, diplomacy and guarantees… The U.S., Japan and South Korea pressure North Korea economically, politically and militarily. Many of those methods appear extremely provocative – testing the attack doctrine on the North Korean capital, deploying the THAAD system and the threats to topple the regime by force as a last resort."

The senator proposed introducing mutual guarantees: "Guarantees of non-intervention on the one hand, provided in a collective manner and certified by the UNSC. On the other – there should be guarantees of [North Korea's] adhering to UNSC resolutions, rejoining the non-proliferation regime and renewal of cooperation with the surrounding world."

(Ria.ru, May 29, 2017)

Putin-Trump Meeting At the G-20

Since Donald Trump's surprise victory in the 2016 presidential elections, Russian expectations from the new administration have experienced a roller coaster ride. It began with lavish expectations about the imminent abrogation of sanctions and the abandonment of the anti-Russian policies of Trump's predecessor Barack Obama. The wild expectations were soon replaced by more sober and somber expectations that at best viewed Trump as well intentioned towards Russia but stymied by a Russophobic establishment that included key figures within his own party. Therefore the outlook for improved relations had turned bleak. Now following the meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G20, the first tranche of responses reflects a sense of restored optimism in Russia about Trump. 

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7002, Russia Upbeat Again About Trump, July 10, 2017.

Description: Putin meets Trump
Putin and Trump (Source: Ntv.ru)

Cooperation In Cyber Security Discussed By Putin And Trump

Russia’s G20 Sherpa Svetlana Lukash said that during their meeting, Putin and Trump discussed cooperation in cyber security. Lukash noted: "No doubt, cyber security issues are the key in Russian-U.S. relations, as far as I know; this issue was discussed at least for 40 minutes at the meeting between the two presidents… [The two presidents] worked out issues of joint cooperation in this area… This does not mean that it should immediately start working tomorrow; most likely these are expectations of media representatives of a kind of interpretation… It is most important that this issue has been worked out and the United States is ready to consider cooperation in this area."

(Tass.com, July 10, 2017)

However, on July 9, Trump tweeted: "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen."

(Twitter.com/realDonaldTrump, July 9, 2017)

Trump tweet on cyber security
(Source: Twitter.com/realDonaldTrump, July 9, 2017)

Commenting on Trump's tweet, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: "No one promised anything to one another, and there was no such a goal. The positive outcome is that the readiness to work in this direction was stated [at Putin’s meeting with Trump in Hamburg on July 7]… Why should this [Trump’s tweet] affect [Putin's] confidence [in him]? It cannot affect it."

(Tass.com, July 10, 2017)

 

According to the newspaper, Kommersant quoting a source close to the Kremlin, Moscow's reaction to Trump's tweet was quite calm. The source claimed that Moscow understands full well that Trump has found himself under enormous pressure and thus some of his "signals" are intended for "domestic consumption". 

The newspaper also quotes Andrey Krutskih, Russia's Presidential special representative for international cyber security cooperation, who claimed that the most important thing is that Putin and Trump agreed to continue a dialogue on the issue.

(Kommersant.ru, July 11, 2017)

U.S. Sanctions Against Russian Company Kaspersky Lab


Kaspersky logo (Source: Usa.kaspersky.com)

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that U.S. sanctions against cyber security firms Kaspersky Lab are politically motivated. Peskov stressed: "Of course, we believe that this is a politically motivated decision… We regret seeing such decisions. However, the company has the necessary legal means to protect its interests and, of course, Russia as a state will also continue to do everything possible to protect the interests of our companies abroad."

(Tass.com, July 12, 2017)

The Chairman of the Duma Committee for Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communication Leonid Levin said: "The situation around the domestic company is extension of the anti-Russian hysteria, but this time it is used to withdraw a tough competitor for American produces from the U.S. market… This decision can be interpreted as new sanctions against our companies that are successfully operating abroad."

(Tass.com, July 12, 2017)

Kaspersky Lab's press service wrote: "Kaspersky Lab is a private company and has no political ties with any countries anywhere in the world. The company has never assisted the governments of any countries in carrying out cyber espionage."

(Tass.com, July 12, 2017)

The President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Alexander Shokhin, said: "This [restrictions concerning the use of Kaspersky Lab products in the U.S.] is a step in the wrong direction, and it is especially vexing that this [occurred] after the meeting in Hamburg where Trump said just the opposite… The U.S. administration and Congress are wrong in believing that cooperation with Russia in cyber security is impossible. Although Trump said in Hamburg he is willing to cooperate with Russia, after returning to Washington he was quick to agree with Congress, and steps against Kaspersky confirm that… We too are trying to switch to our own software and are deploying servers on Russian soil. However, since Kaspersky Lab said it was prepared to uncover encryption keys, that is, to provide all control channels, here [in the U.S. administration’s actions] there is a clear restraint on a business, which is willing to be open and transparent."

(Tass.com, July 12, 2017)

Russia's Drills

The Russian news agency TASS reported that a "massive command and staff exercise in aviation and troops management" started in Russia's Western Military District.

The military drills involve: 5,000 troops, 2,000 pieces of military hardware, and 100 planes and helicopters.

The scenario: To fight an enemy’s missile strikes and airstrikes. "Radar troops, radiological, chemical and biological protection units will counter the simulated enemy’s weapons targeting systems, while combat units of the Iskander-M tactical missile systems will launch missiles on targets located on various distances from the launch sites," the Western Military District’s press service explained.

(Tass.com, July 3, 2017)

Russian Business In Syria

According to the Russian media outlet Fontanka.ru, Syria and Russia have signed a memorandum regarding liberation and protection of the oil and gas field in Palmyra region. According to Fontanka.ru, a private military company from Russia, supposedly the so called Vagner group, will liberate and defend the fields in exchange of 25 % of future revenues, while the Syrian government will also cover the direct costs of the fighting (i/e equipment/salaries. Vagner group is supposedly close to Putin's favorite restaurant owner Evgeny Prigozhin, who also supplies catering services to the Ministry of Defense. The Russian Ministry of Energy declined to comment on the publication, saying that the information regarding the memorandum is "a corporate secret."

(Fotanka.ru, June 26, 2017)

Russia and Saudi Arabia Reach Preliminary Agreement On $3.5 Billion Arms Deal

According to Kommersant Russia and Saudi Arabia signed a Memorandum of Understanding, regarding potential Saudi arms acquisitions in Russia. The contract cost is an estimated 3.5 billion dollars. According to the newspaper the Saudis requested localizing the joint production and receiving access to technology. The Russian side assumed that the easiest way to facilitate these requests is to build a production line in Saudi Arabia for Kalashnikov assault rifles. Despite the MOU the Russian side remains quite skeptical about the prospects of the contract. According to Sergey Chemezov, the head of the Rostech state corporation, Saudi Arabia previously signed an MOU worth  20 billion dollars but did not spend a dime on the Russian weapons: "To face the reality: the Saudis were tricking us back then, requesting us not to provide S-300 air defense systems to Iran in exchange for massive deals – purchasing tanks and other equipment."

(Kommersant.ru, July 11, 2017)

The Moscow Times also reported: "Russia tried to broker a lucrative arms deal with Saudi Arabia in 2012, when the Gulf kingdom signed a preliminary agreement worth $20 billion… That deal stalled when Saudi Arabia attached stipulations contrary to Russian interests, including a demand that Russia not sell C-300 long-range surface-to-air missiles to Iran. In an act of defiance President Putin removed all legal barriers to the export of the C-300 and sold the system to Iran for an estimated $1 billion."

(Themoscowtimes.com, July 11, 2017)